SONOMA, Calif. (July 28, 2023) – Austin Prock (Top Fuel), Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the low qualifiers after the opening day of the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, the final stop of the three-race Western Swing.
Prock and the Montana Brand team didn’t open qualifying at Sonoma Raceway the way they wanted dropping a cylinder and losing traction to run only 4.557-seconds at 166.74 mph. Prock would start the session under the lights from the No. 10 spot. With header flames lit the Montana Brand dragster would lay down a solid 3.704 run at 331.36 to take over the top spot. If the run holds through Saturday’s two runs, it will be Prock’s first No. 1 of the season and second of his three-year career.
“This Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team just overcame the conditions. We struggled on the first run. We’ve really been struggling to try to keep this thing on eight cylinders. We did that tonight and it put up a great number. That feels really promising. My crew chiefs Chris Cunningham and Joe Barlam really do a great job and I’m happy to work with my Montana Brand boys. There was a lot of high-fiving going on in the pit when we stayed number one,” Prock said. “This definitely gives us confidence. Drag racing is very much a mental game. The conditions are going to be totally different tomorrow and you’re not going to see conditions like this again this weekend. Really proud of what we did, you can’t take anything bad away from going number one, I hope it sticks. We will just roll in tomorrow and have a little bit more confidence than we did today.”
Alexis DeJoria powered the Bandero Premium Tequila Toyota GR Supra Funny Car to the provisional pole on Friday at the NHRA Sonoma Nationals. Right out of the gate, DeJoria and her Del Worsham-led team unloaded with the quickest pass in the opening qualifying session, recording a 3.942 E.T. at 326.56 MPH to go to the top of the timing sheets.
As the No. 1 qualifier after the first round, DeJoria was in the final pairing of Funny Cars to run during what is typically considered the ‘field setting’ Q2 night session under the Sonoma Raceway lights. DeJoria and the Bandero team watched as every single Funny Car ahead of them struggled to make a full pull down the track. With no sub-four-second runs on the board, DeJoria’s Q1 pass remained in the top spot when she pulled up to make her second qualifying run. The three-time finalist in 2023 laid down another stout pass, clocking a 3.966 at 327.82 MPH. For posting the two quickest runs of the day, the Bandero team was rewarded with six bonus points, scooping up all points available to them.
“Del Worsham, Nicky Boninfante, and our whole team have done such a great job with making this car consistent. We have one of the best race cars out here, we’re just missing that Wally on race day. We were hoping to run a bit faster tonight; we were on track to run an 84 but it just ate up the clutch. But hey, we still made it down the track when no one else did, and that says a lot,” explained DeJoria.
“Going to the top in that first session was so important,” she added. “It sets the tone and gives us a little room, and of course, we have the luxury of seeing what every other car is doing ahead of us, and are able to adapt. We’ve had one of our best starts to the season this year. We’re capable of winning on any given Sunday. Our car is running so strong, we just need it all to come together on race day, but this is definitely a really good start to the weekend so far.”
Gaige Herrera stole the provisional top spot by a thousandth of a second with a 6.728 aboard the Vance & Hines Mission Foods Suzuki. This was after Matt Smith made a great pass of 6.729 on his Denso Suzuki. Smith and Herrera are the only riders to venture into the 6.7-second zone. Herrera has not only won five of seven Pro Stock Motorcycle races this season, he’s also been the low qualifier six times.
“Matt laid down an awesome pass and to barely get him by a thousandth of a second shows that the competition is getting closer and closer,” said Herrera, who also clinched his spot in the Countdown to the Championship playoffs. The class keeps getting better and better and the Countdown is going to be incredible. I was very pleased with the second pass. On the first one, I hit the rev limiter and then I watched Matt make his run ahead of me so I knew I needed a good run to beat it.”
“Today was really busy with all the Callout stuff but I actually enjoyed it more,” said Herrera. “It takes me back to where I came from with my grudge racing because you’re always busy. Hopefully, me and Ed [Krawiec] can do well as a team tomorrow and race in the final of the Callout.”
The DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway continues with qualifying Saturday at 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. Eliminations will begin Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Television coverage of the event begins with two qualifying shows Saturday at 12:00 p.m. and Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Eliminations will be on FOX Broadcast Network Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET.
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