Antron Brown raced to his third Top Fuel victory of the season Sunday at Infineon Raceway and clinched a berth in the Full Throttle Countdown to the Championship, NHRA's playoffs.Ron Capps (Funny Car), Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were winners at the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.
Brown outran seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher for the victory, the 28th of his career. Brown's Matco Tools dragster finished with a 3.883sec run at 314.61mph, just in front of Schumacher's U.S. Army machine, which trailed with a 3.919 at 311.41.
“You can't say it went to plan because nothing is expected in this sport,” said Brown, who beat Ron August Jr., David Grubnic and Del Worsham in earlier rounds. “Tony and that Army team have been on mean lately. He's our teammate, but deep in his heart he wants to kick our butts. It was a great drag race. We stepped it up and had nothing to lose. The car stuck and we snuck away with that win. I have been energized ever since I got here. We love coming out here to race at Sonoma. It was our day.”
Larry Dixon and Schumacher joined Brown in securing their spots in the Countdown over the weekend. Al-Anabi Racing driver Worsham maintained his series lead with the semifinal effort and now sits 82 in front of Spencer Massey. Brown moved to third with the win and Schumacher remained in fifth place.
In Funny Car, Capps claimed his first win in more than a year and the 32nd of his career when he posted a 4.145 at 303.57 in his NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger to defeat Tim Wilkerson, who finished in 4.175 at 300.93 in his Levi Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang. It was the second consecutive win and third overall for Capps here at Infineon Raceway, a drag strip that he considers his home track.
“After every run I looked out in the pits today and it was like a high school reunion,” said San Luis Obispo native Capps, who entertained a lot of family and friends over the weekend. “It's hard to win at your home track and I am glad we were able to do it today. The competition is so tough right now. With every win you start to wonder if you can win again because it is so tough to do.”
Capps beat Bob Tasca, Johnny Gray and Cruz Pedregon to advance to the final round. He said he and new crew chief Tim Richards are starting to click at just the right time.
“Tim Richards is a lot like (former crew chief) Ed McCulloch and you can get in a comfort zone,” Capps said. “He always has that intense look. He's all business. He's funny and a great guy when you get to know him. We are hitting our stride and it's the perfect time to make a run for the championship.”
Series points leader Mike Neff lost in the second round but held on to the series lead and is now 63 ahead of second-place Robert Hight. With the victory, Capps moved to sixth in the standings.
Anderson took his third Pro Stock win of the season and 68th of his career with a 6.562 at 210.28 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP, while Edwards ran 6.576 at 210.14 in his Penhall/Interstate Batteries GXP in the runner-up effort.
“I'm just having a blast right now,” said Anderson, who has now won at this track four times. “It's fun to race in our class right now because it's a killer. Everyone is so close anyone can win once the race starts. It's a great feeling to come out on top at the end of the day. I feel honored to race with the guys I am racing with now. I didn't have a great day as a driver, but somehow we found a way to win each round. It was a great drag race with Mike and he's a great champion. I respect him a lot. Somebody had to win today and today was our day.”
With the runner-up finish Edwards moved into the series points lead, 15 ahead of Jason Line, who lost in the semifinals. Anderson moved to third with the victory. All three drivers clinched berths in the Countdown with their performances this weekend.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, defending world champ Tonglet beat defending event winner Michael Phillips. Tonglet ran 7.001 at 189.76 on his Autolite/Nitro Fish Suzuki to claim his third win of the season and hold off Phillips, who finished in 7.016 at 192.63 on his Racers Edge Suzuki.
“We've been running really good and the season has been up and down and we're trying to find that happy medium right before the Countdown starts,” Tonglet said. “We want to be consistent at every track. That's our goal and that's what it takes to win a championship.”
Karen Stoffer continues to lead the two-wheel class and clinched a spot in the Countdown this weekend along with second-place Eddie Kraweic, who trails Stoffer by five points.
The NHRA Full Throttle Series continues Aug. 5-7 with the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways near Seattle.
1. Antron Brown; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Larry Dixon; 4. Del Worsham; 5. Spencer Massey; 6. Doug Kalitta; 7. David Grubnic; 8. Terry McMillen; 9. Brandon Bernstein; 10. Morgan Lucas; 11. Shawn Langdon; 12. Clay Millican; 13. Steven Chrisman; 14. Bob Vandergriff; 15. Ron August; 16. Troy Buff.
1. Ron Capps; 2. Tim Wilkerson; 3. Cruz Pedregon; 4. John Force; 5. Gary Densham; 6. Paul Lee; 7. Robert Hight; 8. Johnny Gray; 9. Matt Hagan; 10. Bob Tasca III; 11. Tony Pedregon; 12. Mike Neff; 13. Melanie Troxel; 14. Jack Beckman; 15. Brian Thiel; 16. Jeff Diehl.
1. Greg Anderson; 2. Mike Edwards; 3. Jason Line; 4. Erica Enders; 5. Allen Johnson; 6. Greg Stanfield; 7. Rodger Brogdon; 8. Vincent Nobile; 9. Kurt Johnson; 10. Shane Gray; 11. Warren Johnson; 12. Ronnie Humphrey; 13. Larry Morgan; 14. Ron Krisher; 15. V. Gaines; 16. Gordie Rivera.
PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE:
1. LE Tonglet; 2. Michael Phillips; 3. Eddie Krawiec; 4. Angie Smith; 5. Andrew Hines; 6. Karen Stoffer; 7. Mike Berry; 8. Hector Arana Jr; 9. David Hope; 10. Matt Smith; 11. Jim Underdahl; 12. Jerry Savoie; 13. Chip Ellis; 14. Justin Finley; 15. Hector Arana; 16. Steve Johnson.