SONOMA, Calif. – L.E. Tonglet raced to his first career NHRA Mickey Thompson Tire Pro Bike Battle win during the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday.
Tonglet received a $7,500 payday in the all-star bonus race featuring the top eight Pro Stock Motorcycles in the category.
In other racing, Leah Pritchett (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) earned No. 1 qualifying positions and will lead their classes into Sunday’s 11 a.m. eliminations at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series event.
In his first appearance in the Pro Bike Battle, Tonglet, on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki, defeated Angelle Sampey and Andrew Hines before facing Eddie Krawiec in the finals. Tonglet’s pass of 6.827-seconds at 196.07 mph earned him the victory.
“This is the first time I’ve been in the battle,” Tonglet stated. “To be able to win it on the first go-around is pretty amazing. My brother (GT Tonglet) won it back in 2005 and to be able to follow in his footsteps just means a lot to me.”
In Top Fuel, no one was able to best the track record E.T. that Pritchett ran on Friday. She earned her fifth No. 1 qualifying position of the season and sixth of her career with a run of 3.669 at 304.80 mph in her Papa John’s dragster. She’ll face Terry Haddock in the first round.
“This is the highest confidence we can have heading into a Sunday,” Pritchett said. “Keeping in mind that anything can happen on Sunday; no matter who you’re racing. Today we took this track extremely serious trying to get down it in similar conditions for tomorrow.”
Brittany Force piloted her Monster Energy dragster to the No. 2 spot after a pass of 3.689 at 330.63 mph and is paired against Steve Chrisman.
Hight’s national record speed of 339.87 with a time of 3.807 in his Auto Club of Southern California / California Highway Patrol Chevrolet Camaro from Friday earned him back-to-back No. 1 qualifying positions. This is his third of the season and 52nd of his career. He’ll line up against Tim Gibbons to open eliminations.
“Things are definitely going in the right direction for us,” Hight stated. “It’s a big deal. Everyone wants to talk about sweeping the swing. We’ve got one leg down and coming here to make the quickest run in history is pretty awesome.”
Hight’s team owner and 16-time world champion, John Force, powered his PEAK Chevrolet Camaro to a pass of 3.848 at 337.16 mph to secure the No. 2 slot. He will face Jeff Diehl in the first round of eliminations.
Skillman, in his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro, earned the top spot in Pro Stock with his run of 6.538 at 211.36 mph during the third qualifying session. This is his second No. 1 qualifying position of the season and fifth of his career.
“Momentum is the word of the weekend for us,” Skillman said. “Team is really positive, momentum is moving forward and engine is really strong. Our Chevrolet Camaro is really strong right now.”
Points leader Bo Butner drove his Jim Butner’s Auto Chevrolet Camaro to a pass of 6.546 at 211.63 mph for second and will see two-time world champion Erica Enders in eliminations.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Smith powered his Polaris Victory Magnum to a pass of 6.771 at 198.70 mph during the final qualifying session. This is his second No. 1 qualifier of the season and 26th of his career. He will face Steve Johnson in the first round of eliminations.
“I feel good, very good heading into tomorrow,” Smith stated. “We struggled all weekend and blowing the tire way in. We were running big speeds, but just couldn’t get off the line. Ended up being a tire problem, but we’re excited for tomorrow.”
Hector Arana Jr. secured second after a 6.773 at 197.91 mph on his Lucas Oil Buell, while Tonglet sits at third with a 6.783 at 196.73 mph on his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki.