By Lee Elder
SONOMA (July 29, 2018) – Blake Alexander left second and finished first, winning the Top Fuel final at the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.
It was Alexander’s second career Top Fuel victory. His victim, Tony Schumacher, remains the winningest Top Fuel racer of all time.
Alexander was joined by Funny Car ace Robert Hight, Pro Stock great Jeg Coughlin and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s L.E. Tonglet in the NHRA’s victory celebration.
“We’re a part-time team but we come here trying to win every race and try to hang out and have fun,” Alexander told reporters. “We always do both. Not always, but most of the time we’re close to doing both.”
In six appearances this season, Alexander has won twice. His team’s next appearance will be the NHRA’s US Nationals in Indiana over the Labor Day Weekend.
Alexander added, “My life has changed a little bit with the car running so well. I need to book my flights later. … It’s stressful trying to win every weekend but I’m learning how to do it.”
Schumacher left the starting line first, then Alexander and Schumacher both experienced trouble about midway down the 1,000-foot racing surface. First Schumacher’s car spun its tires and the veteran pedaled the car quickly, then Alexander’s car spun its tires and he also had to let the car recover before standing on the gas again. Alexander finished in 4.004 seconds at 287.41 mph. Schumacher’s numbers were 4.345 seconds, 219.65 mph.
The event left Steve Torrence with the unofficial lead in the Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship standings with 1,168 points. Schumacher is next at 1,031 and Clay Millican is third with 1,025.
Hight scored his second win at Sonoma and his 43rd Funny Car victory overall. The win tied him with Tony Pedregon for third on the all-time Funny Car win list. He beat Ron Capps in the final round with a stellar 3.984-second, 319.75 mph performance. Capps finished in 4.077 seconds.
Hight, who had not won at Sonoma in a decade, said, “As the day goes on, my confidence gets better and better, especially the way our car was running. But, I’ll be honest, I had my worst light of the day in the final against Capps. If he had just made a good run, he’d probably have got us because I didn’t have a great light and that bothers me.”
Hight said he has been at every national event at Sonoma. The track is the closest on the national circuit to where he grew up.
Unofficially, Courtney Force leads the NHRA’s Funny Car standings with 1,197 points. Capps is next at 1,032 and Hight is third with 1,024.
“This is the time of the year that you have to get it together,” Hight said. “If you want to win the championship … you’re looking forward to the countdown. It’s only three races away.”
Coughlin scored the 61st Pro Stock victory of his career and knocked off Deric Kramer in the final. Coughlin left first and ran off to a 6.532-second, 212.16 mph finish. Kramer was timed at 6.534 seconds.
“It feels great to win here at Sonoma again, it’s been a couple of years,” Coughlin said. “My son, Jeg the third, is here today. … I think the last time we won together was in, like, 2009, so it’s been quite a spell.”
Anderson used his berth in the finals to retain his lead in the Pro Stock standings. Anderson has 1,126 points, unofficially. Tanner Gray is next at 1,031 and Erica Enders is next at 1,023.
Tonglet has won the last three national events at Sonoma and he has four wins here overall. He beat Andrew Hines in the PSM final.
“We just seem to always come out on top here,” Tonglet said. The win was his 18th in PSM racing.
It was a busy weekend for Tonglet, who raced in the Pro Bike Battle on Saturday.
“We came here to fight and we’re going to fight to the very end,” Tonglet said. “I made a bad run in the semis of the Pro Bike Battle and I said that wasn’t going to happen to day and we’re standing here with the trophy.”
Hines leads the standings, unofficially, with 687 points. Eddie Krawiec has 651 and Tonglet is next with 609.
NOTES: The drivers/riders now locked into the Countdown include: Steve Torrence, Clay Millican, Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel; Courtney Force in Funny Car; Greg Anderson in Pro Stock; Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle. … The top 3 drivers in the Top Fuel standings were eliminated by the second round. … Eight of the top 10 in Funny Car made it to the second round. … Five of the first seven in Pro Stock points appeared in the second round. … The top six in the PSM points all made it to the second round. …Eddie Krawiec became the second PSM rider to surpass 200 mph in the second round when he recorded a pass at 200.08 mph. … Doug Kalitta raced Tony Schumacher for the 90th time in the Top Fuel semis, John Force raced Ron Capps for the 96th time in the Funny Car semis, Greg Anderson and Jeg Coughlin met for the 95th time in the Pro Stock semis. Each of those parings represent the most meetings between drivers in their category. … Sonoma Raceway announced Sunday’s attendance was a sellout.