A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

A student-operated publication at Santa Rosa Junior College.

The Oak Leaf

Tasca III, Prock, Herrera Conquer Poor track Conditions, Claim Top Spots in Their Classes

Nick Vides
Funny Car Driver Bob Tasca III shoots down the line during the DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway on Saturday, July 29, 2023 in Sonoma.

The Sonoma Valley grape vines rattled as the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returned to Sonoma Raceway July 28. While poor track conditions caused havoc on most racers Friday and Saturday, the drivers managed to put on a wild nitro-fueled show for the fans.

Funny Car Driver Bob Tasca III, rolling out this year with a new team, repeated his greatness at Sonoma Raceway by running a whopping elapsed time (ET) of 3.938 to edge out Alexis Dejoria by just .004 of a second. 

“I was a little surprised to see that it held,” said Tasca III when describing his fastest run. “It’s exciting to go to the pole and it gives us a pretty good shot to win that first round tomorrow morning. We’d like to just do as good as we did last year.” Tasca III will have a first round bye Sunday and will face either eight-seed JR Todd or nine-seed Blake Alexander.

After a rough run at Sonoma last year, Top Fuel Driver Austin Prock peeked into the top spot, heading into the finals Sunday with an elapsed time of 3.704, just .002 of a second ahead of runner up, Steve Torrence. “This is the best I’ve done this early in the season by far. I feel like we keep getting better and better every weekend, even if it doesn’t show on the track,” Torrence said. “Sometimes we are picking away at certain things inside the pits and inside the car. I’m really proud of where we’re at this far in the season, and we’re getting out at the right time.” Prock will have a first round bye Sunday and will face either seven-seed Justin Ashley or 10-seed Doug Kalita. 

Pro Stock Motorcycle driver Gaige Herrera inched into top spot of his class with an elapsed time of 6.728, only .001 seconds in front of Karen Stoffer. “This win lies on the team,” Herrera said. “We did a lot of changes of transmission and gear changes, in between rounds, you know, five minutes before we made a pass. So this one was special as a call out for the team.” He will have a first round bye Sunday and faces 16-seed Ryan Oehler. 

Top Fuel Driver Alexis Dejoria escapes the chaos of the night-time nitro qualifying, ultimately resulting in her gaining second seed heading into the finals Friday, July 28, 2023 in Sonoma. (Nick Vides)

Freaky Friday

A synthetic oil spill in the right lane Friday afternoon wreaked havoc on the Funny Car runs late Friday night. “You want it to be cold out but have a good warm track and stick to it,” said Funny Car driver Alexis Dejoria. “We were good all the way down, no issues at all. A lot of guys suffered early [tire] shake.” Dejoria was one of the few Funny Car drivers to escape the poor track conditions.

Funny Car drivers Matt Hagan, John Force and Ron Capps, among others, all suffered problems due to track conditions Friday night, resulting in poor qualifying times.

It was a similar story in Top Fuel Friday night. “We just overcame the conditions,” said Top Fuel driver Austin Prock. “We’ve really been struggling trying to keep this thing on eight cylinders. And we did that tonight and [the car] put up a great number.”

The DENSO NHRA Sonoma Nationals continues Sunday, with the first elimination round starting at 10:30 a.m.

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About the Contributors
Michael Combs
Michael Combs, Editor
Michael Combs (he/him) is in his fifth semester writing for The Oak Leaf, and his second as co-Editor-In-Chief. He began taking natural resources management classes at Santa Rosa Junior College to pursue his love of nature and the environment but has shifted toward journalism so he can share those passions with the world. Besides the environment, Michael also likes to write about politics, social justice and mental health. He has a bachelor’s of science in neuroscience and mammalian physiology from the University of California, San Diego, and hopes to get back to his roots with more science journalism as well. In his off time Michael likes to read, write and hike as often as possible in beautiful Sonoma County and beyond.
Nick Vides
Nick Vides, Photo-Editor
Nicholas “Nick” Vides (he/him) Is a seasoned breaking news reporter dedicated to making sure every shutter click of his camera captures a moment worth sharing. Nick's itch for chasing fires has kept him busy over the past seven years, covering every major fire event in Northern California from the Paradise Fire to the Caldor Fire. Nick currently splits his time as a photojournalist with The Oak Leaf and as a Contract Photographer with The Press Democrat. He has more than nine years of experience with photography, has been director of photography for multiple short films with the SRJC Media Arts Center, directed numerous student-led broadcasts with his Media 19 class, and interned for The Sarah and Vinnie Show on Alice 97.3. In the little free time left, he works for Highway 12 Winery in Sonoma, California as a Cellar Hand.  

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