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John Force seeks 150th career win
Bulletin racing 2018
Clay Millican set the fast time in Friday’s qualifying for Top Fuel. - photo by File photo by DALE BOSOWSKI

SONORA — The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series returned to the dragstrip at Sonoma Raceway on Friday to qualify for this Sunday’s for the 31st Annual Toyota Sonoma Nationals.
The 15th stop of the 24-round 2018 NHRA schedule, Sonoma is traditionally the middle stop on the annual three-week Western Swing.
Sandwiched between Denver and Seattle, Sonoma offers near-perfect atmospheric conditions with low humidity and a track elevation of only 15 feet above sea level, much to the relief of the tuners who had to deal with the nightmare mile-high Colorado quarter-mile last weekend.
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners at Sonoma.
The track has proven to be one of the quickest and fastest on the circuit, although this week’s excessive heat could cause some problems with getting the maximum power from the 10,000 horsepower nitro cars down to the track.
Last year at Sonoma, five track records were set, plus Robert Hight set a national speed record of 339.87 in Funny Car.
With only four events remaining to make the top 10 and become eligible for the six race playoffs, Torrence holds a comfortable lead in Top Fuel over Clay Millican.
The Pro Stock division has been a dogfight all season long with nine drives posting wins. Veteran Greg Anderson leads the division over Tanner Gray while Courtney Force holds the top spot in nitro Funny Car over Matt Hagan and Ron Capps.
Fan favorite John Force, age 69 of Yorba Linda, showed he still has plenty of fuel left in the tank after he used a hole shot to drive to his first victory of the season and career record 149th overall last week in Denver.
Force has suffered through one of his toughest seasons, enduring several crashes and explosions.
“I had to beat a lot of great racers today: Hagan, Cruz (Pedregon), Capps. I am fighting, and I got tired of hearing me snivel to myself,” Force said after his win. “I am working through rehab to get out here to win races. I don’t know why I won this race but I have a lot more fight in my belly.”
Force, currently eighth in the standings, is chasing his 17th career NHRA Funny Car championship and first since 2013. He has a record eight wins at Sonoma.
Friday’s fast qualifiers were Clay Millican in Top Fuel (3.700 seconds, 327.98 mph), Courtney Force in Funny Car (3.910/326.16) and Greg Anderson in Pro Stock (6.515/211.16).
Robert Townsend, of Oakdale, was 10th in Funny Car with a run of 4.055/307.72) in which his shoots failed to open causing him to clip a wall and run into the sandpit. Townsend was unhurt and the car sustained only minor damage.
The Toyota Sonoma Nationals continue on Saturday with the final two rounds of qualifying at 1:10 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday and will be televised on FOX, including live finals coverage starting at 1:00 p.m.
For more information, visit or call 800.870-7223.
The Stockton 99 Speedway will be dark this weekend, but local fans can make the trek down to the Madera Speedway which will be holding the $5,000 to win Summer Speedfest 100 for the RPM Mortgage Pro Late Model Series tonight, marking the sixth race of the MAVTV-televised series

To reach Dale Bosowski email