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Memorable NHRA victory for J.R. Todd

In this photo provided by NHRA, J.R. Todd competes in the Funny Car final round at the 30th annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., Sunday, July 30, 2017. Todd became the first black winner in NHRA Funny Car history Sunday, beating Tim Wilkerson in the Sonoma Nationals. (Marc Gewertz/NHRA via AP)

PETER FOURNIER,

The NHRA blasted through Sonoma Raceway on its western swing with some noteworthy winners reaching victory lane.

Perhaps the most memorable victory belongs to J.R. Todd, who captured his first career Funny Car victory Sunday against Tom Wilkerson. Todd cruised to a 4.049 elapsed time at 323.27 miles per hour as Wilkerson flamed out.

It’s Todd’s second straight year recording a victory at the raceway, as he won in Top Fuel last year.

The win propelled Todd into the top 10 in the Funny Car points standings, putting him in position to qualify for the NHRA’s playoffs — Countdown to the Championship — with just three events left until the cutoff. Funny car points leader Ron Capps was eliminated in the first round, but remains on top of the standings, holding a 183-point lead over Matt Hagan.

TOP FUEL

Points leader Steve Torrence continued his hot 2017 season as he defeated Antron Brown with a close finish in the Top Fuel final.

Torrence recorded his sixth victory of the season with an ET of 3.784 at 329.42 mph.

He currently leads Top Fuel by 75 points over Brown.

“It’s basically been just a dream season,” Torrence said in a statement.

“At the end of the day it’s just a testament to my guys. We will continue to do what we’re doing and we will do what we’ve done to get here.”

Brown catapulted from third to second in the standings. His teammate Leah Pritchett is currently third in the standings.

PRO STOCK

Rookie Tanner Gray cruised to a victory over points leader Bo Butner in the Pro Stock final. Gray recorded his third victory of the season and fourth final round appearance of the season.

In Pro Stock, rookie Gray drove to victory with a 6.572 run at 210.05 in his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro to defeat points leader Bo Butner in the final. This is his third victory of the season and fourth final round appearance.

“I’m proud of my guys,” Gray said in a statement.

“This is the best I’ve seen them run the car. We’ve got to go back and keep working, though. If I can go into the Countdown in the top three, then you have a legitimate chance of winning the Championship. That’s what my focus is now.”

PRO STOCK MOTORCYCLE

L.E. Tonglet captured the Pro Stock Motorcycle crown with a finals victory over Matt Smith. Tonglet recorded his fifth national event victory of 2017 and his 15th overall.

“I could hear him (Smith) the whole way and knew it was close,” Tonglet said in a statement. “I wanted to look over very badly, but I just stayed tucked in and just stared at the win light and it lit which was exciting.”

Tonglet leads the Pro Stock Motorcycle points and Eddie Krawiec, who finished ninth this weekend, is second 144 points back.

The hot rods head north to the Pacific Northwest, racing in the Seattle suburb of Kent for the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways from Aug. 4-6.

WEDNESDAY NIGHT DRAGS

The Wednesday Night Drags program is back. Currently in its 29th year, the program runs from March 15 to Nov. 8. Fans can race their vehicles down the quarter-mile drag strip in a controlled-environment away from city streets. Gates open at 3 p.m. with racing from 4-10 p.m.

Competitors must have a driver’s license to compete, their car must pass a technical inspection and all vehicles must have mufflers. Up to 300 cars are allowed to enter.

Running alongside the drags will be Sonoma Drift, where pros and amateurs can swing wheels to perfect their drifting techniques. Speed is secondary as competitors are judged on the style and execution of their drift through a marked course in the raceway’s paddock. Cars must pass a technical inspection before being allowed to drift.

Drifting starts at 4 p.m. Drivers can preregister for $40 or pay $50 at the gate. Spectators can watch for $10.

This week’s Sonoma Drift event is a “Red Baron Fun Competition.” It will highlight the more casual side of drifting, with other competitions including wall rides, table contests, backward entries and more. Winners of these events will get safety equipment from Red Baron Racing.

TOP THE COPS

High school students have an opportunity to race Bay Area law enforcement with the weekly Top The Cops program, which runs alongside the raceway’s weekly Wednesday Night Drags program. Among the agencies that participate are the Sonoma County Sheriffs Department, in addition to the Petaluma, Windsor and Sonoma police departments.

In its 23rd season, the raceway offers this as an alternative to street racing on Sonoma’s quarter-mile drag strip. It also offers teenagers the opportunity to speak to officers about safe driving practices.