The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series powers back to Sonoma Raceway, the scenic facility in the heart of Northern California’s wine country for the second of three races in the famed Western Swing. Courtesy of NHRA
The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series powers back to Sonoma Raceway for the 32nd annual NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 26-28. The scenic facility in the heart of Northern California’s wine country provides a breathtaking backdrop for the second of three races in the famed Western Swing, as the NHRA will again deliver three days of ground-shaking 11,000-horsepower nitro-burning excitement.
It is the 15th of 24 events during the 2019 season, serving as the middle race in the iconic Western Swing. With Prime Time nitro qualifying under the lights on Friday, the Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle on Saturday, and eliminations on Sunday at one of the fastest tracks on the NHRA circuit, the annual trip to Sonoma will be chocked full of thrilling action as Sonoma Raceway celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Only three races follow the trip to wine country before the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship begins, putting a premium on performing well for top competitors in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. Blake Alexander (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Jeg Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX, including live final eliminations coverage starting at 5:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 28.
Top Fuel defending world champion Steve Torrence is again on a championship path in the loaded class, posting six wins already in 2019. He is the current points leader and a 2017 winner at Sonoma but winning again won’t come easy for Torrence. He’ll face off with the likes of Doug Kalitta, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Leah Pritchett, three-time world champ Antron Brown, Clay Millican, Mike Salinas, Terry McMillen, Richie Crampton and rookie Austin Prock.
Funny Car’s Hight, the defending event winner in Sonoma, is back in a common spot, currently holding the points lead in the class on the strength of four wins in 2019. To get a repeat win in Sonoma, Hight will have to get past a slew of standouts in Funny Car, including reigning world champ J.R. Todd, 16-time world champ John Force, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Shawn Langdon, Bob Tasca III, who’s posted back-to-back wins in the last two events, Tim Wilkerson and Tommy Johnson Jr.
Three-time Sonoma winner Jeg Coughlin Jr. aims to add another in the competitive Pro Stock ranks. The five-time world champ will try to pick up steam in Sonoma as he tries to make a title push following an early-season finals appearance in Phoenix. Plenty of standouts will try to prevent that, including points leader Bo Butner, who has four wins in 2019, Deric Kramer, two-time world champ Erica Enders, Greg Anderson, Alex Laughlin, Chris McGaha and Jason Line.
Pro Stock Motorcycle takes center stage on Saturday with the NHRA Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle as part of the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. The special race-within-a-race pits eight of the top riders in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class in a must-see event on Saturday. Matt Smith is the defending Pro Bike Battle winner. Fans can get prepared for the thrilling battle with a pair of autograph sessions, the first on Friday at 1:45 p.m. and the second on Saturday morning at 10:45 a.m. At 12:45 p.m., the eight riders will be introduced with the pairs determined during using Mickey Thompson tires. A day later, Smith will try to double-up, but it won’t be easy against talents like points leader Andrew Hines, Eddie Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr. and Ryan Oehler.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:15 and 6:15 p.m. on Friday, July 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 27 at 1:20 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 28.
The first round of the NHRA Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle takes place at 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, July 27. The semifinals follow at 4:15 p.m. with the finals slated for 5:30 p.m.