Sonoma Raceway hosts the latest round of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, as the 15th of 24 rounds in this year’s championship sees the sport return to the West Coast. With just four races left before the Countdown to the Championship, it’s time for some of the drivers and riders on the outside looking in to start making moves to get themselves above the cutoff line.
Current second-place Top Fuel driver Clay Millican earned the pole on Saturday, while Leah Pritchett and Tony Schumacher also punched their tickets to the playoffs in third and fourth behind Millican and runaway points leader Steve Torrence on Saturday. While we’re set for another exciting Top Fuel battle as always on Sunday, here are three storylines we’ll be watching for with the other premier classes in California:
Can John Force earn a historic Sonoma Funny Car victory?
Last weekend in Colorado, Force earned the 149th Funny Car victory of his sport-defining career (and his eighth at Bandimere Speedway) when he defeated Ron Capps in the final. The win came in his 749th career start; for those of you who aren’t math majors, that means he could take his 150th win in his 750th NHRA event, an average of one win in every five tries. It’ll be a long road to get there, though; if he can win his first-round matchup, ninth-seed Force could have to face daughter Courtney, the polesitter.
Will last week’s win put Greg Anderson on a hot streak?
Despite earning pole after pole throughout the first half of the season, it took until last weekend for Anderson to finally earn his first Pro Stock win of 2018. The victory, the 91st of his career and third at Bandimere, gave Anderson a 68-point advantage over Tanner Gray in the tight Pro Stock points battle. Unsurprisingly, Anderson earned the pole in Sonoma, now totaling nine in the first 15 events of this year’s championship; that puts him up against part-timer Joey Grose in the first round.
Can Matt Smith sweep the weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle?
Smith heads into Sunday’s elimination rounds $25,000 richer after defeating Eddie Krawiec in Saturday’s Mickey Thompson Pro Bike Battle, his first-ever win in the eight-bike bonus event. But while polesitter Krawiec and points leader Andrew Hines clinched their spots in the Countdown to the Championship just by qualifying, Smith is still scrapping: not only is he seventh in the championship, 180 points back of Hines, he’ll probably also have to deal with an extra motivated Krawiec along the way to earn the sweep.