SONOMA, CA – July 25, 2016 – (Motor Sports Newswire) – Sweeping the famed Western Swing is no longer possible for reigning Top Fuel world champion Antron Brown but there is plenty that remains on the line for the two-time world champion at this weekend’s 29th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway.
Brown is the defending event winner of the second of three races on the Western Swing and a win this year would tie Doug Kalitta for the most in Top Fuel history at the track with five. There is also the matter of maintaining the points lead in the star-studded class heading into the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship, which is just four races away.
Those two aspects will have Brown in top form in his 10,000-horsepower Matco Tools/U.S. Army dragster, along with the fact he considers Sonoma Raceway one of his favorites on the NHRA circuit.
“Our game plan is just to keep going rounds and keep putting rounds between us (and Kalitta) and to go into the Countdown with the points lead,” said Brown, who stretched his points lead over Kalitta with a final round appearance in Denver. “We’re trying to win another championship; that’s our goal and it starts right now.
“The mountain (in Denver) tried to kick our butt a little bit in qualifying, but (crew chiefs) Mark (Oswald), Brian (Corradi), and this whole Matco crew did what they always do and that’s figure it out, and we always put our best foot forward to race competitively on race day. I couldn’t be more proud to be on this team and doing what we are doing. We are looking forward to Sonoma.”
Jack Beckman (Funny Car), Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were also last year’s winner of an event that will be televised by the FOX national broadcast network for the first time. It is the 15th of 24 events during the 2016 season and the track, a favorite for fans and racers alike, has yielded some incredible performances over the years.
That includes Brown’s win a year ago, which is something he doesn’t take for granted. He has three more wins in 2016, giving him 57 for his career, but visiting the winner’s circle never gets old for Brown, in part because of how difficult it always is to get there.
“It is so easy to lose in NHRA racing, but that is what makes it so rewarding and just so great to win,” said Brown, who has 41 career Top Fuel wins. “That is why when you win you know you have done something special and you make part of history within the NHRA because wins don’t come every day to everybody. When you win that is why it is so special. We win and work hard and do that together.”
Brown’s Matco Tools team has once again been brilliant throughout the season, giving Brown the performance and consistency to lead a Top Fuel class loaded with talent. They battled through the challenges of racing at an altitude of more than 5,800 feet in Denver this past weekend, and will have Brown’s dragster set to run fast this weekend in Sonoma. It’s all part of a group effort that also brings out the best in Brown when it counts.
“They have the will and when you have the will it will overcome everything,” Brown said. “You can be talented, you can be a natural but when you have the will and the work ethic, you make the great things happen, like our team has. Since 2009 we have been together, Brian and Mark as our two crew chiefs, Brad (Mason) my assistant crew chief and all my Matco guys, we have been together and have that will. I think that is what makes us go out and compete the way we do.”
Staying at the forefront of the class won’t be easy and Brown appreciates every round win. Kalitta’s five Top Fuel victories in Sonoma leads the class and he won three straight races earlier this season, but Brown knows the challenges don’t stop there.
Don Schumacher Racing teammate and eight-time Top Fuel world champion Tony Schumacher knocked off Brown in Denver for his first win of the year, while other challengers in Sonoma include Steve Torrence, Brittany Force and Shawn Langdon, who each have two wins this year, J.R. Todd, Clay Millican and Richie Crampton.
“To just get to the semifinals is like you won a race this year,” Brown said. “To bring a Wally home has been extremely tough. We thought we could have a couple more wins than we have this year but we are just happy to pull off three of them. There are a lot of great teams. I think we still have a lot more room to grow and have a lot to do to be competitive in this Countdown to the Championship.”
Jack Beckman outlasted Tommy Johnson Jr. last year in the Funny Car final round at Sonoma and went on to win two more races in 2015, finishing second to reigning world champion Del Worsham. Beckman picked up his first win of 2016 in Chicago, but everyone is chasing points leader Ron Capps, who has four wins at Sonoma in his career and four victories this year. John Force will look to claim his eighth Sonoma win coming off his win on Sunday in Denver, while others gunning for the win include Courtney Force, two-time 2016 event winner Matt Hagan, Alexis DeJoria, Tim Wilkerson and Robert Hight.
Points leader Jason Line and teammate Greg Anderson, who is in second, have dominated in Pro Stock. Line, a three-time Sonoma winner, has raced to seven victories in 2016 while Anderson, a four-time Sonoma winner, has six. Catching up will be difficult in the redesigned Pro Stock class, which features fuel-injected engines, flat hoods, 10,500 RPM rev-limiters and shortened wheelie-bars. Those looking to knock down Line and Anderson include Chris McGaha, who raced to his first career victory at Sonoma last year, Allen Johnson, who won in Denver, Drew Skillman, Vincent Nobile, five-time world champ Jeg Coughlin Jr., Bo Butner and two-time and reigning world champ Erica Enders.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Eddie Krawiec defeated Jerry Savoie in the final round a year ago, and holds the points lead in 2016 on the strength of three victories. His teammate, reigning world champion Andrew Hines, has won back-to-back races, is second in points and is a two-time event winner in Sonoma. Savoie, a Louisiana alligator farmer, has raced to two runner-up finishes this season and others to watch in the two-wheeled category include recent Englishtown, N.J., and 2004 Sonoma winner Angelle Sampey, Chip Ellis, Hector Arana, Matt Smith, LE Tonglet, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana Jr. and Scotty Pollacheck.
The Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where the future stars of the sport earn their racing stripes.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand how the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, July 29, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 30, at 1:10 and 5 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 31.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 800-870-RACE (7223). Tickets also are available online at www.sonomaraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are admitted free on Saturday, July 30, in general admission areas with a paid adult (advance only). For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
WHAT: 29th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, the 15th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2016 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships. The NHRA Lucas Oil Series also will be featured at this event.
WHERE: Sonoma Raceway, Sonoma, Calif. The track is located at the intersection of Highways 37 and 121.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 15 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Friday through Sunday, July 29-31
FRIDAY, July 29 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 4:30 and 7 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 30 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:10 and 4:15 p.m.
NHRA PRO BIKE BATTLE AT SONOMA RACEWAY at 1, 3 and 4:50 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 31 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.
Friday, July 29, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
Saturday, July 30, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 10 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 31, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
2015 EVENT WINNERS: Antron Brown, Top Fuel; Jack Beckman, Funny Car; Chris McGaha, Pro Stock, Eddie Krawiec, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Doug Kalitta, 5, TF; Greg Anderson, 4, PS; Antron Brown, 4, TF; Ron Capps, 4, FC; Darrell Alderman, 3, PS; Warren Johnson, 3, PS; Eddie Krawiec, 3, PSM; Jason Line, 3, PS; Jim Yates, 3, PS.
Top Fuel – 3.707 sec. by Antron Brown, July ‘15; 329.10 mph by Dave Connolly, July ’15.
Funny Car – 3.921 sec. by Jack Beckman, July ‘15; 325.77 mph by Matt Hagan, July ‘15.
Pro Stock – 6.499 sec. by Chris McGaha, July ’15; 213.00 mph by Shane Gray, July ‘15.
PS Motorcycle – 6.785 sec. by Eddie Krawiec, July ’12; 198.79 mph by Hector Arana Jr., July ’15.
Top Fuel – 3.676 sec. by Brittany Force, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.; 332.75 mph by Spencer Massey, Aug. ’15, Brainerd, Minn.
Funny Car – 3.862 sec. and 335.57 mph by Matt Hagan, May ’16, Topeka, Kan.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ‘14, Englishtown N.J.
PS Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12, Reading, Pa.; 199.88 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.
TICKETS: For tickets call (800) 870-RACE (7223). Tickets may also be purchased online at www.sonomaraceway.com.
GLENDORA, CA — Point standings (top 10) following the 14th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series –
1. Antron Brown, 1,145; 2. Doug Kalitta, 1,088; 3. Steve Torrence, 982; 4. Brittany Force, 953; 5. Tony Schumacher, 916; 6. Shawn Langdon, 800; 7. J.R. Todd, 799; 8. Clay Millican, 681; 9. Richie Crampton, 660; 10. Leah Pritchett, 553.
1. Ron Capps, 1,120; 2. Courtney Force, 998; 3. Jack Beckman, 976; 4. Matt Hagan, 881; 5. (tie) Robert Hight, 877; Del Worsham, 877; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 855; 8. John Force, 821; 9. Tim Wilkerson, 793; 10. Alexis DeJoria, 733.
1. Jason Line, 1,548; 2. Greg Anderson, 1,466; 3. Bo Butner, 955; 4. Allen Johnson, 885; 5. Vincent Nobile, 758; 6. Drew Skillman, 753; 7. Chris McGaha, 661; 8. Shane Gray, 658; 9. Jeg Coughlin, 613; 10. Alex Laughlin, 595.
Pro Stock Motorcycle
1. Eddie Krawiec, 742; 2. Andrew Hines, 633; 3. Angelle Sampey, 534; 4. Jerry Savoie, 500; 5. Chip Ellis, 386; 6. Hector Arana, 375; 7. LE Tonglet, 364; 8. Matt Smith, 290; 9. Steve Johnson, 268; 10. Michael Ray, 262.