Sonoma winners, from left: Alexander, Coughlin Jr., Hight, Tonglet. Photo and videos courtesy of NHRA

NHRA Sonoma winners: Alexander, Hight, Coughlin Jr., Tonglet; John Force makes 750th career start


John Force continued to set NHRA history Sunday, starting his 750th national event – a streak that extends over the last 42 seasons.

However, the 69-year-old, 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ fell short of what he had also hoped to accomplish during the day – winning the 150th national event of his career – in the Toyota NHRA Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, California.

Still, it was a good day overall for Force in the 15th race of the 24-race 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season.

He defeated his daughter, Funny Car points leader and Sonoma No. 1 qualifier Courtney Force, in the first round of eliminations, and advanced all the way to the semifinals before falling to 2016 Funny Car champ Ron Capps.

Here’s how the event played out:

In Top Fuel: Californian Blake Alexander did some home cooking, earning his second career win in front of Sunday’s sellout crowd.

Alexander (4.004 seconds at 287.41 mph) defeated the winningest driver in Top Fuel history, Tony Schumacher (4.345 seconds at 219.65 mph).

Sunday marked just the sixth time Alexander has competed in a race this season, but has compiled a lofty overall record in that stretch: two wins and a runner-up finish. He is now one of only four Top Fuel drivers to claim multiple wins this season.

“We may be a part-time team but we come out to the track trying to win every race, and so far this year we have had a lot of success with that,” Alexander said. “My life has changed this year with how well we have been running, and the opportunity that Bob [Vandergriff] has given me to drive his racecar has been paramount in my career to take me to higher levels.”

Alexander had a tough road to the win, defeating Mike Salinas in the first round, three-time Top Fuel world champ Antron Brown in the quarterfinals, Scott Palmer in the semifinals and then Schumacher in the finals.

Despite being part of a part-time team, by winning his second race of 2018, Alexander is closing in on clinching a spot in the upcoming six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Also of note in the final round, Schumacher has now finished three times as a runner-up and has closed the gap on points leader Steve Torrence.

Speaking of the Countdown to the Championship, Torrence, Schumacher, No. 1 qualifier Clay Millican, Doug Kalitta and Leah Pritchett have qualified for the playoffs.

In Funny Car: Even though John Force fell short of victory lane, one of his drivers – and president of John Force Racing — Robert Hight captured the overall win.

Last season’s Funny Car world champ, Hight (3.984 seconds at 319.75 mph) defeated Capps (4.077, 296.11) in the final round, earning his second win of the season and the second win of his career in Sonoma.

“This track is unbelievable and we were fortunate to have three great days of racing because of these conditions this weekend,” Hight said. “This is the time of year you have to get it together if you want to win a championship, and we know we need to keep clicking before we start off the Countdown to the Championship.”

Starting from the No. 11 qualifying position, Hight defeated Tim Wilkerson, Bob Tasca III, Tommy Johnson Jr. and Capps to lock up his spot in the upcoming Countdown. Also locking up their spots in the Countdown are Capps, teammate Matt Hagan and Courtney Force.

In Pro Stock: Jeg Coughlin Jr. (6.532 seconds at 212.16 mph) defeated Deric Kramer (6.534 seconds at 210.54 mph) to claim his third win of the season.

Coughlin, who is in pursuit of his sixth career Pro Stock championship, earned for the third time in his career at Sonoma.

“We’ve weathered a few storms over the past few seasons, but this team is a lot of fun and the fact that we are a threat to win every weekend is a real testament to how far this team has come,” Coughlin Jr. said. “We never once felt like we had to back-off because of these conditions, and seeing four win lights turn on at this track is an amazing feeling.”

Coughlin Jr. defeated Alex Laughlin, Tanner Gray, No. 1 qualifier Greg Anderson and Kramer to take home the winning “Wally” trophy.

Even though he fell to Coughlin in the semifinals, Anderson became the first driver in the Pro Stock class to qualify for the Countdown.

In Pro Stock Motorcycle: LE Tonglet (6.771 seconds at 198.52 mph) defeated points leader Andrew Hines (6.802 seconds at 197.48 mph) to capture the two-wheel class.

Not only was it Tonglet’s second win of the season, it also was his third consecutive PSM victory at Sonoma Raceway.

“We got lucky in the first round because I had a terrible light, but once we got that (first) round win we just kept rolling and turning on win lights,” Tonglet said. “We came off the trailer going fast this weekend and that kept going with each round, so that made today a great day.”

Tonglet defeated Cory Reed, Joey Gladstone, No. 1 qualifier Eddie Krawiec and Hines en route to the victory.

Hines is still winless this season, but has four runner-up finishes. Still, he’s already clinched his spot in the Countdown, along with Tonglet, Krawiec, Hector Arana Jr. and 2016 PSM champ Jerry Savoie.

The final leg of the annual “Western Swing” takes place next weekend (August 3-5) at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle.

Nine races remain in the 2018 season.



TOP FUEL: 1. Blake Alexander; 2. Tony Schumacher; 3. Doug Kalitta; 4. Scott Palmer; 5. Antron Brown; 6. Bill Litton; 7. Brittany Force; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Richie Crampton; 10. Steve Torrence; 11. Jim Maroney; 12. Terry McMillen; 13. Shawn Reed; 14. Leah Pritchett; 15. Mike Salinas.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Robert Hight; 2. Ron Capps; 3. Tommy Johnson Jr.; 4. John Force; 5. Jack Beckman; 6. Del Worsham; 7. Matt Hagan; 8. Bob Tasca III; 9. Shawn Langdon; 10. Tim Wilkerson; 11. Jonnie Lindberg; 12. Courtney Force; 13. Cruz Pedregon; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. J.R. Todd; 16. Richard Townsend.

PRO STOCK: 1. Jeg Coughlin; 2. Deric Kramer; 3. Jason Line; 4. Greg Anderson; 5. Tanner Gray; 6. Erica Enders; 7. Alex Laughlin; 8. Drew Skillman; 9. Vincent Nobile; 10. Chris McGaha; 11. Fernando Cuadra; 12. Steve Graham; 13. Alan Prusiensky; 14. Matt Hartford; 15. Bo Butner; 16. Joey Grose.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. LE Tonglet; 2. Andrew Hines; 3. Eddie Krawiec; 4. Jim Underdahl; 5. Joey Gladstone; 6. Jerry Savoie; 7. Hector Arana Jr.; 8. Matt Smith; 9. Hector Arana; 10. Steve Johnson; 11. Angie Smith; 12. Ryan Oehler; 13. Angelle Sampey; 14. Cory Reed; 15. Karen Stoffer; 16. Scotty Pollacheck.



TOP FUEL: Blake Alexander, 4.004 seconds, 287.41 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 4.345 seconds, 219.65 mph.

FUNNY CAR: Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.984, 319.75 def. Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 4.077, 296.11.

PRO STOCK: Jeg Coughlin, Chevy Camaro, 6.532, 212.16 def. Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.534, 210.54.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.771, 198.52 def. Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.802, 197.48.



TOP FUEL: ROUND ONE — Blake Alexander, 3.774, 330.15 def. Mike Salinas, Foul – Centerline; Clay Millican, 3.697, 332.75 was unopposed; Bill Litton, 4.169, 219.76 def. Leah Pritchett, Foul – Red Light; Antron Brown, 3.786, 326.87 def. Jim Maroney, 3.879, 302.96; Tony Schumacher, 3.743, 330.88 def. Shawn Reed, 4.776, 157.04; Brittany Force, 3.759, 329.91 def. Richie Crampton, 3.766, 325.14; Scott Palmer, 3.798, 329.34 def. Terry McMillen, 4.726, 133.46; Doug Kalitta, 3.746, 332.26 def. Steve Torrence, Foul – Red Light; QUARTERFINALS — Alexander, 3.791, 330.23 def. Brown, 3.822, 317.72; Kalitta, 3.772, 329.50 def. Millican, 5.111, 147.79; Schumacher, 4.375, 192.71 def. Force, 4.985, 144.77; Palmer, 3.811, 325.92 def. Litton, 4.163, 231.68; SEMIFINALS — Alexander, 3.878, 313.15 def. Palmer, 7.634, 106.52; Schumacher, 3.836, 317.42 def. Kalitta, 3.837, 274.44; FINAL — Alexander, 4.004, 287.41 def. Schumacher, 4.345, 219.65.

FUNNY CAR: ROUND ONE — Ron Capps, Dodge Charger, 3.995, 318.99 def. Richard Townsend, Toyota Camry, 10.192, 85.25; Del Worsham, Camry, 3.983, 325.22 def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 4.091, 300.00; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.973, 320.58 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.242, 225.18; Bob Tasca III, Ford Mustang, 4.004, 317.27 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Mustang, 4.022, 317.79; Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.958, 320.89 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.115, 310.13; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.974, 322.65 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.010, 321.96; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 4.012, 321.58 def. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 4.103, 306.40; John Force, Camaro, 4.026, 323.12 def. Shawn Langdon, Camry, 4.000, 321.27; QUARTERFINALS — Hight, 4.010, 317.19 def. Tasca III, 12.467, 67.36; Capps, 3.969, 322.65 def. Hagan, 4.512, 190.59; Johnson Jr., 4.016, 323.35 def. Beckman, 4.013, 314.83; J. Force, 4.069, 316.75 def. Worsham, 4.080, 268.87; SEMIFINALS — Hight, 3.956, 322.04 def. Johnson Jr., 3.990, 323.81; Capps, 4.000, 321.04 def. J. Force, 4.081, 321.42; FINAL — Hight, 3.984, 319.75 def. Capps, 4.077, 296.11.

PRO STOCK: ROUND ONE — Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.532, 211.79 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.560, 211.49; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.530, 211.56 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 7.155, 146.35; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.509, 211.79 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.553, 210.73; Jeg Coughlin, Camaro, 6.537, 211.86 def. Fernando Cuadra, Camaro, 6.582, 208.97; Deric Kramer, Camaro, 6.506, 211.16 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, Foul – Red Light; Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.558, 210.18 def. Bo Butner, Camaro, 8.274, 110.94; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.528, 211.49 def. Joey Grose, Camaro, 18.077, 43.99; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.505, 211.96 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.620, 209.62; QUARTERFINALS — Coughlin, 6.534, 211.43 def. Laughlin, 6.563, 210.28; Anderson, 6.534, 211.36 def. Skillman, 6.585, 211.33; Kramer, 6.523, 211.39 def. Gray, 6.532, 211.46; Line, 6.538, 211.10 def. Enders, 6.547, 211.96; SEMIFINALS — Coughlin, 6.548, 211.13 def. Anderson, 6.554, 212.43; Kramer, 6.525, 211.10 def. Line, 6.551, 211.26; FINAL — Coughlin, 6.532, 212.16 def. Kramer, 6.534, 210.54.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: ROUND ONE — Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.856, 194.91 def. Hector Arana, Buell, 6.853, 196.96; Jim Underdahl, Suzuki, 6.863, 196.82 def. Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.892, 194.46; Andrew Hines, Harley-Davidson, 6.778, 198.47 def. Scotty Pollacheck, Suzuki, 7.305, 145.89; LE Tonglet, Suzuki, 6.806, 197.48 def. Cory Reed, Buell, 6.914, 196.73; Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.814, 195.45 def. Angie Smith, Buell, 6.896, 194.46; Hector Arana Jr, Buell, 6.832, 200.35 def. Angelle Sampey, Buell, 6.906, 196.90; Eddie Krawiec, Harley-Davidson, 6.846, 199.05 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, 6.952, 193.90; Matt Smith, 6.803, 196.90 def. Ryan Oehler, Buell, 6.901, 195.90; QUARTERFINALS — Krawiec, 6.771, 200.08 def. Savoie, 6.876, 196.19; Underdahl, 7.004, 173.90 def. Arana Jr, 9.242, 96.10; Tonglet, 6.803, 198.32 def. Gladstone, 6.853, 194.72; Hines, 6.798, 197.94 def. M. Smith, 12.443, 64.66; SEMIFINALS — Hines, 6.820, 197.57 def. Underdahl, 6.907, 195.59; Tonglet, 6.796, 198.09 def. Krawiec, 6.769, 198.93; FINAL — Tonglet, 6.771, 198.52 def. Hines, 6.802, 197.48.


UPDATED POINT STNADINGS AFTER SONOMA (* = clinched spot in Countdown to the Championship playoffs):

TOP FUEL: 1. Steve Torrence, 1,168*; 2. Tony Schumacher, 1,031*; 3. Clay Millican, 1,025*; 4. Leah Pritchett, 989*; 5. Doug Kalitta, 951*; 6. Antron Brown, 809; 7. Terry McMillen, 728; 8. Brittany Force, 697; 9. Scott Palmer, 617; 10. Richie Crampton, 608.

FUNNY CAR: 1. Courtney Force, 1,197*; 2. Ron Capps, 1,032*; 3. Robert Hight, 1,024*; 4. Matt Hagan, 1,001*; 5. Jack Beckman, 967; 6. J.R. Todd, 863; 7. Tommy Johnson Jr., 819; 8. John Force, 807; 9. Shawn Langdon, 680; 10. Bob Tasca III, 656.

PRO STOCK: 1. Greg Anderson, 1,126*; 2. Tanner Gray, 1,031; 3. Erica Enders, 1,023; 4. Vincent Nobile, 979; 5. Jeg Coughlin, 956; 6. Chris McGaha, 907; 7. Drew Skillman, 895; 8. Jason Line, 857; 9. Deric Kramer, 828; 10. Bo Butner, 822.

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE: 1. Hines, 687*; 2. Eddie Krawiec, 651*; 3. LE Tonglet, 609*; 4. Hector Arana Jr, 562*; 5. Jerry Savoie, 534*; 6. Matt Smith, 473; 7. Scotty Pollacheck, 449; 8. Angie Smith, 336; 9. Hector Arana, 321; 10. Angelle Sampey, 320.

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IMSA’s Bill Auberlen joins NASCAR America to discuss this weekend’s race at Lime Rock

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Turner Motorsport GTD driver Bill Auberlen joined NBC Sports’ Marty Snyder on NASCAR America Presents the Motorsports Hour Thursday to discuss a variety of topics, including Saturday’s IMSA WeatherTech Sports Car Championship race at Lime Rock Park.

Auberlen, alongside co-driver Robby Foley, enters Lime Rock with a great amount of momentum after finishing on the GTD podium at Watkins Glen and taking the GTD class honors in the most recent IMSA race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

There’s also an extra incentive for the duo to win this weekend as well, as Auberlen is one win away from tying Scott Pruett for the most IMSA victories all-time.

Both drivers will have to be on their A-game this weekend, however, as Auberlen stated that Lime Rock is one of the tougher circuits on the IMSA calendar and compared the 1.5-mile Connecticut road course to a short track.

“It’s what we call the bullring of our season,” Auberlen said. “It is a 54-second lap and we’re going to go around it a million times before the end of the day. It’s going to be a hot one, and I think whoever survives this is going to be on the podium.”

Luckily for the GTD and GTLM teams, with no Protoype and LMP2 entries competing at Lime Rock this weekend, the worry of having to yield to entries from the faster classes is gone.

“These Protoypes are so fast now, that interacting with them, you can’t imagine,” Auberlen said. “We have radars in our car that can alert us when they are coming.

“They get on you so fast that if you’re not always looking or something is not telling you they’re coming, you could have a problem and catch into them. That’s gone. Now it’s going to be focus-forward. You’re going to be focused on everything ahead of you. You got GLTM in there at the same time, but they’re virtually the same speed as us – just a little bit faster.

“It’s going to be nice. When you stand on that podium you might be able to go for an overall victory.”

Live race coverage of IMSA’s Northeast Grand Prix at Lime Rock Park begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on and the NBC Sports app with an encore presentation of the race airing later in the evening at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter