Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan raced to the qualifying lead in dominating fashion Friday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. David Grubnic (Top Fuel), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Sr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also were qualifying leaders in their respective categories during the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event at the scenic facility just north of San Francisco.
Hagan's track record performance of 3.986 seconds at 320.51mph in his Magneti Marelli/Rocky Boots Dodge Charger tied the second-quickest and sixth-fastest runs for a Funny Car in NHRA history and it capped an exciting and fast first day of qualifying where several track records were reset. Qualifying continues on Saturday at 12:15 p.m. and 2:15 p.m. Eliminations are scheduled for Sunday at 11 a.m.
Sonoma Raceway became the fifth NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series track to showcase four-second Funny Car runs. Jack Beckman drove his Valvoline/MTS Dodge Charger to a performance of 3.994 at 319.67 to join Hagan in the three-second zone.
“The only word to describe it is awesome,” Hagan said. “Dickie [Venables, crew chief] went back and put a new [fuel] pump on it and said, ‘Hey, kid. Hold on.' Dickie was swinging for the fence, and it stuck. I wish everyone could feel how it feels to go that fast. It's one of the coolest things on earth. As soon as the clutch went 1:1, it put me back in the seat and just kept climbing.”
In Top Fuel, Grubnic powered his Optima Batteries dragster to the front of the order in Top Fuel with a track record time of 3.765 at 324.28. Native Australian Grubnic has yet to record a No. 1 position this season and has nine in his career.
“We've been No. 1 in the past, and it's great to be No. 1 again,” Grubnic said. “It's a great job by [owner/tuner] Connie Kalitta. I can't thank him and the crew enough. For me to come here and represent Optima Batteries and longtime sponsor Red Line Oil at their home race is fantastic. I used that whole lane. We were getting every little bit of it that we could out there. I think it can hold up, but we're not going to count our chickens before they hatch. It only takes a thousandth of a second to drop it.”
In Pro Stock, Edwards continued his qualifying mastery by powering his K&N Filters/I Am Second Chevy Camaro to the qualifying lead with a run of 6.526 at 212.23. Edwards, who has never won at Sonoma, has 10 No. 1 qualifying positions this season and 51 in his career.
“We made a lot better run the second time around,” Edwards said. “We had transmission problems there going into fourth gear and we need to look at that and see what's going on. If not for that, I think I could have run a low 6.51. It does feel good to come here and run well. We've run good here before. We didn't do so well in Denver, but that's over and done with. Hopefully we can move on.”
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Arana Sr. was quickest on his Lucas Oil Products Buell with a run of 6.894 seconds at 190.86 mph. His two sons, Adam and Hector Jr., were second and third in the qualifying order.
“It's cool,” Arana Sr. said. “This is something I wanted to see happen. Now we just need to stay calm and collected tomorrow and keep the same pace. We want to stay No. 1, 2, and 3 that's my dream. Before we ran, I walked over to Adam and told him to stay calm and don't let anything bother you. Then I kept seeing the numbers dropping and thought that I needed to listen to myself. When Adam ran that 6.90 I was tickled to death. I didn't think I ran better because I had been struggling. I was happy to see a 6.89.”