NHRA: Tonglet eyeing a return trip to BIR winner's circle
It's been six years since a Tonglet raised a Wally at Brainerd International Raceway.
LE Tonglet, the hottest Pro Stock Motorcycle driver on the NHRA circuit, will get a chance to return to the winner's circle Aug. 18-20 when the Lucas Oil Nationals return to BIR.
The odds are on Tonglet's side as he's won five of the eight motorcycle events this season.
"It's pretty amazing to be able to win five of the eight races in the pro bike battle," Tonglet said. "It's a great accomplishment for the team and everybody that's associated with it.
"To keep it going is going to be tough. We just got to keep doing what we have been doing in the past and we should be alright."
Tonglet and his Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki have wins at Charlotte, Atlanta, Norwalk, Chicago and Sonoma, which has translated into a 144-point lead in the standings.
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- Division: Pro Stock Motorcycle
- Hometown: Metairie, La.
- Crew Chief: Tim Kulungian
- Sponsor: Nitro Fish Racing Suzuki
- Career wins: 15
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Winning isn't anything new for Tonglet who stormed through the 2010 season to win the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock Motorcycle title as a rookie. He was just the third rookie to ever accomplish that feat.
It was the year after when Tonglet scored his first and only win at BIR with his win over Hector Arana Jr. in the finals.
"Winning there is pretty cool because of all the fans and everybody that comes out," Tonglet said. "GT (Tonglet) actually won there in 2005, I believe. So it was pretty cool to kind of share the same winning circle with him. It's just a great track."
GT Tonglet is LE's brother and the two along with father Gary comprised the Tonglet racing team until this year when the team combined forces with White Alligator Racing's Jerry Savoie.
The partnership has helped as Tonglet is sitting first and Savoie is fourth heading into the second-to-last regular-season event.
"After we won the first race in Charlotte, the first team win, we felt like we got lucky there because of all the people that messed up," said Tonglet. "Then we went on to Atlanta and had both bikes in the finals and that's where we started building all of the confidence.
"Tim (Kulungian, team crew chief) is doing a great job tuning and everybody working on the bike is just doing a phenomenal job. That's where it all starts."
Despite being no stranger to success, it's been awhile since Tonglet has enjoyed the taste of a title. He placed seventh in 2011 followed by a ninth and another seventh. In 2014, he competed in just two events and finished 20th. He was 12th in 2015 before returning to the sport full time in 2016 and finishing seventh again.
Despite his absence from the top of the leaderboard, Tonglet has a game plan for maintaining what he started this season.
"The best way to do it is to start out strong," Tonglet said. "You want to try and get a win in the Countdown as early as possible. Just to give you a point advantage. Starting No. 1 helps out a lot and you just have to be consistent at every race and just go rounds. That's what it's going to take."
Tonglet is not locked into the No. 1 spot. He's locked into the Countdown so nailing that No. 1 spot down will be Tonglet's goal this weekend. Eddie Krawiec is sitting second in the standings with Arana Jr. and Savoie close at third and fourth.
"That No. 1 spot is extremely important," Tonglet said. "If we are able to start the Countdown No. 1, we have a 20-point lead, I believe. Those 20 points are huge when you start adding up all the little points at the end of the year."
Tonglet has two No. 1 qualifiers to go with his five wins. He's 22-3 in rounds this season. His only losses were to Joey Gladstone at Gainesville, Angie Smith at Englishtown and Scotty Pollacheck at Denver.
"Winning is very tough and, like I said, it's going to take a lot of consistency," Tonglet said. "You just have to stay calm as a rider and not mess up. It's a lot easier said than done. You just can't let it get to you."