LE Tonglet won for the second straight season at Sonoma Raceway a year ago, but the Pro Stock Motorcycle standout’s memorable weekend in 2017 had an added bonus as well. Tonglet also won the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, an exciting race-within-a-race that pits eight of the top riders in the class against each other. It’s a double-up Tonglet is aiming to repeat in 2018, especially as the purse has grown to $25,000 to the winner this year.
The Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle takes place as part of this weekend’s Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals, adding extra incentive for eight competitors at the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series stop. That includes Tonglet, who hopes his Sonoma success continues in 2018.
“We’re very fortunate to have a great sponsor like Mickey Thompson giving us a battle like this,” Tonglet said. “You can’t thank them enough. It gives you a little extra confidence when you have had good success last year, and we’re really confident going back down to sea level with our bike. We seem to run well at Sonoma every year and the bike is running great so far this year.”
Defending world champion Eddie Krawiec secured the top spot heading into the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle, and he will take on No. 8 Angie Smith, who is making her first appearance in the event. The rest of the first-round matchups include Tonglet facing off with Hector Arana Jr., 2016 winner Andrew Hines taking on Matt Smith, and Jerry Savoie racing Scotty Pollacheck.
Arana enters the event with plenty of momentum after winning on Sunday in Denver to kick off the NHRA’s famed Western Swing on his Lucas Oil Buell. It gave Arana his first victory in almost three years and after a number of standout performances throughout the course of the weekend, Arana is confident that win will translate well as the bikes move from the high altitudes of racing at Bandimere Speedway to the sea-level conditions at the fan favorite event in Sonoma.
“The bike is running great and we’ve got a great setup when we come back to sea level,” Arana said. “I’m looking forward to running some really fast runs and hopefully some career best runs. I’m really looking forward to it. We’ve just got to stay consistent and ride it like we did (in Denver).”
The first round of the Mickey Thompson Tires Pro Bike Battle takes place at 1 p.m. on Saturday. The semifinals follow at 4:15 p.m., with the final round slated for 5:30 p.m. On a day normally reserved for qualifying, Tonglet said it’s crucial to have a raceday mindset to be successful during a race-within-a-race scenario, something that worked perfectly for him a year ago.
“It’s basically just staying calm and trying to make the perfect run three more times on Saturday,” said Tonglet, the Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion in 2010. “You have to be perfect. That’s the only way you can double up. You have to go up there like it’s raceday and hopefully we can put ourselves in position to do it again.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals. This year’s event will be televised on FOX, including live finals coverage starting at 4:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.
The event features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series as well. After Nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular El Arabe Racing jet car driven by Juan Cantu. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals include Ed “Ace” McCulloch, Jim Dunn, Jeb Allen and more.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:15 and 7:00 p.m. on Friday, July 27 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 28 at 1:10 and 4:20 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 29.