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Austin Prock, Bob Tasca III & Gaige Herrera #1 Qualifiers At Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma

SONOMA, Calif. (July 29, 2023) – After two days of qualifying with four passes down Sonoma Raceway, Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist Chevrolet dragster team earned their first No. 1 qualifier of the season at the DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals.

With Prock securing the No. 1 spot, the John Force Racing team swept the top spots on the NHRA’s famed Western Swing. Brittany Force started things off in Denver when she took No. 1 while setting the track speed record at 337.33 mph and in Seattle, John Force earned the No. 1 spot to extend to 32 the number of seasons he’s had at least one No. 1 qualifying position.

Now in Sonoma, Austin Prock and the Montana Brand team earned the second No. 1 qualifier of Prock’s career with their impressive 3.701-second pass from Friday night. Coming into Saturday, the Montana Brand team had tire smoke during their first run for only a 4.923 at 166.05. They managed to turn things back up on their last try with a 3.869 at 311.92. Their efforts earned them a bye in the first round.

“I’m really comfortable right now and confident in this Montana Brand team. We made a pretty good run in the fourth session there. It trucked along pretty good. I think it put a cylinder out that scrubbed some ET off of it but it was fun to race, that right lane has been pretty tricky,” Prock said. “I’m really proud of this team, this goes out to my Montanan Brand boys. These No. 1 qualifiers are hard to come by, only my second in three years. It’s all about the race team, your crew chiefs and crew outdid everyone else out here and that’s very special. This is the first No. 1 for Chris Cunningham as a Top Fuel crew chief and he and Joe Barlam are really working well together. There’s a lot of fun energy in our pit right now. I know this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team will get dialed in for race day, we’re going to go out there and win this thing tomorrow.”

DeJoria made two solid runs on Friday to lead the Funny Car field including a 3.942 and that wasn’t bettered until late in the day when Bob Tasca III ran a 3.938 to steal the top spot. Tasca’s weekend did not begin on a positive note when he was unable to make the first night run after the bracket that holds his starter broke. His team, led by Aaron Brooks and Todd Okuhara, rallied to make the best run of the weekend in what were arguably not the most favorable conditions.

Like Prock, Tasca will also benefit from a bye run due to the odd number of entries in Sonoma.

“We struggled a bit out of the gate especially after Seattle where we lost a clutch controller,” said Tasca. “In 13 years, I’ve never cracked a clutch controller but that’s what happened last week. We came here, smoked the tires in Q1 and then never got a chance to race in Q2 which might have been a blessing because of the conditions. We smoked the tires again today on Q3 and Aaron and Todd [Brooks and Ohuhara, tuners] pulled it back for Q4. They said they pulled it back to far that they crippled it but that run was so smooth that I didn’t think it ran 3.93. Honestly, if we had the data, I think we could have run 3.900.

“No one wants to go into Sunday after four bad runs in a row so that run gave us a lot of confidence,” said Tasca. “It’s just good to have a run like that in your pocket when you need it.”

The only Pro Stock Motorcycle rider to challenge Gaige Herrera’s 6.728 from Friday was Herrera, who made the quickest pass of the day on Saturday with a 6.732 on his Vance & Hines Mission Foods Suzuki Hayabusa. Herrera has been nearly unstoppable in all facets of the sport this season, but he’s been particularly effective in qualifying, where he has been the No. 1 seed in seven of eight events and has often put considerable distance between himself and the rest of the field.

“I thought it might be close today. I knew it would be hotter than yesterday, but I also thought Matt [Smith] might be a threat. Honestly, I was surprised to see him go out [in the Callout event]. I haven’t thought much about it but to win tomorrow and before the first [Pro Stock Motorcycle racer] to sweep the swing would be awesome. I’ve raced here a bunch, maybe 20 times when I was running the [Division 7 Sportsman Motorcycle series] and I like this place.”

Herrera was just a thousandth of a second quicker than reigning champ Matt Smith, but that was enough to seal the top spot, and a round one match with Scott Bottorff. Matt Smith will be paired with Lance Bonham while No. 3 qualifier Eddie Krawiec has drawn John Hall. Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the round will pit No. 7 qualifier Jianna Evaristo, who has been consistent all weekend, with Steve Johnson.

The DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway continues with eliminations Sunday at 10:30 a.m. Television coverage of the event continues with a second qualifying show Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 (FS1). Eliminations will be aired on FOX Broadcast Network Sunday at 4:00 p.m. ET.

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Photo's: NHRA

Content: John Force Racing PR | NHRA (Kevin McKenna)

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