Top Fuel’s Austin Prock powered to the provisional No. 1 qualifier position on Friday at Sonoma Raceway as he aims to pick up his first top spot of the year at the 35th annual Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals.
Alexis DeJoria (Funny Car) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are also the provisional No. 1 qualifiers at the 12th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.
Selections were also made for the first round of the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout. Top seed Herrera selected rookie Chase Van Sant, while Hector Arana Jr. picked Steve Johnson. Eddie Krawiec tabbed Mac Ingwersen as his opening-round opponent, leaving Matt Smith to race his wife, Angie, in the first round.
Prock went 3.704-seconds at 331.36 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Montana Brands/Rocky Mountain Twist Chevrolet dragster under the lights in Sonoma. If it holds, it would also be his second career No. 1 qualifier and Prock, who is currently fifth in points, is after his second win this season and first at Sonoma Raceway. It’s also his chance to finish the Western Swing on a high note after back-to-back first-round losses in Denver and Seattle.
“I haven’t been that quick in a while,” Prock said. “I love working with this team and I have not had much success on the Western Swing in my career. I was very proud of what we did tonight. We dropped a cylinder on the first run and I was pretty mad. But I knew we were going to go up there and make a good run, and it rebounded nicely.
“The conditions are going to be totally different tomorrow, but you can’t take anything bad out of going No. 1. We’ll just roll into tomorrow and have a little bit more confidence than we had today.”
Points leader Steve Torrence, who won last weekend in Seattle, is currently second after his run of 3.706 at 329.67 and Antron Brown is third with his run of 3.721 at 329.75.
Alexis DeJoria made the best run in both qualifying sessions in Funny Car, including a 3.942 at 326.56 in her 11,000-horsepower Bandero Tequila Toyota GR Supra that puts her on track for her first No. 1 qualifier in 2023. That No. 1 qualifying run came during the first session and DeJoria was the only driver to make a full run during the night session. She credited crew chief Del Worsham and her team for back-to-back strong runs on Friday, giving her momentum for the weekend. Currently third in points, DeJoria has been solid this year, but is still looking for her first win this season, something she hopes changes this weekend.
“Consistent runs are always good,” DeJoria said. “We were hoping to run a bit faster tonight, but we still made it down the track and I’m happy about that as well. Our team is just excellent. They’ve given me a great car this season and we’ve had the best start to a season yet. We’re just missing that win.
“All the stuff we learned through the trials and tribulations from last year has really paid off. We’ve come so close (to a race win) so many times. On a good day when everything lines up, we’re going to get that win. We’re so close – right on the cusp of it.”
Capps, the back-to-back world champ, is currently second with a run of 3.942 and points leader Matt Hagan is right behind in third after his pass of 3.951 at 333.49 during the opening session.
Gaige Herrera, who has a chance to sweep the Western Swing this weekend in Pro Stock Motorcycle, started the race on a strong note, going to the No. 1 position on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki with a run of 6.728 at 199.94. That puts the points leader on track for an impressive seventh No. 1 qualifier this season. It’s also the start of a busy weekend for the standout rider. Along with competing in the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout on Saturday, Herrera has a chance to make history on Sunday and he is excited to be part of it.
“We made some changes on the second pass and were able to go to the top,” Herrera said. “I would say I enjoy all this more. Being busy and running around, I like it, and hopefully I’m able to do well in the Callout. For me, it takes me back to where I came from when it comes to racing. It was always non-stop and I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be exciting. I never expected to have a chance (to sweep the Western Swing). I just have to mentally prepare myself and do my job.”
Defending world champ M. Smith is currently second after going 6.729 at 200.23, making the only 200-mph run of Friday. A. Smith is third thanks to her run of 6.818 at 199.64 in the opening session.
Qualifying continues at 12:40 p.m. PT on Saturday at the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway. The first round of the Pro Stock Motorcycle All-Star Callout begins at 12:30 p.m.