This spot for your company
July 22, 2004 Pacific Raceways, Kent Washington (NW Nationals photos courtesy Bill Jeffery and Robert Wilson)
Each class report starts with qualifying and goes through Sunday eliminations. The Funny Cars are 1st up, Top Fuel and Pro Stock follow.
"Survival of the Fittest"!...or..."Every year, we seem to battle something at Seattle"!
The Funny Cars had the toughest task on the weekend as Pacific Raceways this past weekend. But they always seem to be the red headed step child. The moniker at the aging NW facility has always has an asterisk beside it, due in part to the past operator, who shall stay nameless, and who in his greed, decided that race would always be held here because no other motorsport sanctioning body had an event in the 'emerald state', so repairs were not necessary. Thankfully the owners got the track back into their own hands, and everyone knew that the repairs and the revamping would be just around the corner. Well the corner has come and gone, and the first order of business was making a surface that the pro classes could compete on and get performance to the level that should prevail, at a tree surrounded track with an elevation that is close to sea level (280 ft.). Well the Fiorito's did the resurfacing necessary, and the track was pretty smooth by all accounts. They made the concrete launch pad 660 feet as well, so that in theory should have helped in making the 'potential' even closer to realization. The moniker given to the track "red headed step child" of the NHRA was no longer. Charlie Allen's Firebird Raceway now had that label all to itself. Even the TV ads promoting the race insinuated that the records could be shattered. Well something got in the way. What did I say about the red headed you know what? Now the NHRA turned against the NW facility, and instituted the "85%" rule (ya it was a safety issue, but how can I build up this story without putting some of the blame on Glendora). So earth shattering records were out of the question. But, "that new surface in the 'oxygen rich NW' would overcome the 85 wouldn't it?" Well, it could have if the weather had of been what has been the norm for this race on this date. For the past 10 years usually the conditions had included way more cloud cover than sunshine, and the rain was always part of the show. Mother Nature must be bipolar, as she was having some fun in 2004. All time heat record were set everywhere in the NW with air temperatures over 100 degrees. Track temps were over 140, and the corrected air was close to 4000 feet during the hottest time of the day both Friday and Saturday.
So, how did the Funny Cars do with the conditions given them. Well the old track record is a 4.82 (John Force 2001) and the record bump is a lowly 5.21 (set twice) believe it or not. The best overall showing (in 2001) had only 12 cars in the four second zone. A sad mark that every other track has annihilated (except Bandimere). The "Red Headed Step Child". This year the first session Friday was one of caution for the crew chiefs. The teams were pumping more volume through bigger pumps (according to the Force camp anyway), and the end result was one they were being very careful of. The quickest pass of that first session was a 5.11 by Tim Wilkerson. But the #16 qualifier was only three tenths back, not the usual 10 second bump spot that has been the norm for the past number of years. In the second session, which was run under what would have been the best atmospheric conditions of the weekend, 80 degrees and a track temp less than 110. Four driver, lead by John Force in the fours and only three tenth still separated the field. Saturday session #1 run under 85 degree temps, and a track surface around 120 yielded a better and track record bump spot of 5.19 (Jerry Toliver) but no other cars in the four's. The final session saw only Tony Pedregon on the outside (has qualified for every race since 2001), and that distinction ended when he ran a 5.185 which lowered the track record bump spot to a 5.188 (held by Terry Haddock, putting Toliver, who did not improve out of the field). Here are the final qualifying numbers:
Funny Car qualifying results:
Sunday dawned unlike the first two days, as clouds formed in the North West and pretty kept the conditions bearable for the fans (who deserve a round of applause as they came out in droves and sat through the sweltering conditions in the first two days), and the teams. The performance levels improved substantially for the FC class, which had 11 cars run in the fours in the first round of elimination's, and thirteen cars improve from their best qualifying effort. The big losers in round one were Tony Pedregon, who ran second low et of the first round (a 4.891), only to lose on a hole shot to his 'Castrol replacement', Eric Medlen. Team mates Ron Capp's and TJ Jr. also lost, despite running well into the 4.90's. In round two, Medlen had the favor returned to him, as he ran low et of round two only to lose on a 'HS' to Whit Bazemore, Tim Wilkerson was third quick of the round, but lost a Cruz Pedregon who was Pro Stock like (in rt's) in three of the four rounds of elimination's. Force faced Scelzi in one semi and Bazemore had Pedregon in the other. The sun started to show some of the strength it had in the first two days, but Force still had enough up his sleeve to defeat Scelzi in a close one, 4.95 to 5.01 and Pedregon left like he stole it (a .010 rt), but had to pedal the car for 2/3rds of the run, giving him a half second victory over Bazemore, who also pedaled his car for over 1000 feet. That set up a final round between the 'Man' and the only other surname to carry the championship banner in close to a decade and a half, the first Pedregon to hold the title, the Cruzer!
The final at the start looked to be in Pedregon's favor as he again had a great (.037rt) light, but tire smoke kept him from having the candles lit for the 1320, and Force in the other lane had a respectable .099 light but ran his best number of the weekend, a great 4.896/309 to get his 112 victory in his storied career.
Was the race a success, a resounding yes, given the extreme hot conditions everyone had to endure. The owners still have ALOT of work to do, primarily for the spectators sake, as the overall condition of the facility is still WAY below the standards expected for a National event calibre track. Especially one that is in the rich Pacific North West.
Sunday Elimination ladder
Winner-------- John Force
100 picture Funny Car Gallery is now up.
Top Fuel was much like Funny Car in that they had two substantially different looks to Pacific Raceways. 85% and a new surface, three if you count the heat wave, something that has not been on the crew chiefs itinerary like this year. They basically managed to do what the FC's did in round one of qualifying, and have a field (other than the #16 guy) bunched close to a half second apart. The second session, run after the sun had set behind the trees to the West, was as good as conditions would be until Sunday's first and second rounds. Tony Schumacher lead the attack of the new surface with a pretty stout 4.63/319 shot that had him .06 ahead of his closest competitor (Scott Kalitta). Mike Strasburg was #16 with an off pace 5.34. The track record bump spot is a solid 4.855 (set in 2000), so that was highly unlikely to be match this year. On Saturday, the top spot remained with 'the Army of One', but the bump spot improved in both session hitting the 4's in the final round with a 4.95 (Mitch King). Canadian Terry Capp made his revisit to Seattle (in Bob Vandergriff's car) a relative success qualifying #12 with a 4.91/293 (he went 4.73 319 at Edmonton three weeks ago). Local part timer Ron Smith only got one hit on his new look TF'er but could not get past the 60 foot clocks. Joe Hartley was the only other non qualifier. John Smith had the most excitement in qualifying when he grenaded the motor (below) right at the hit Friday night. Here is the field after final qualifying Saturday.
Top Fuel Final Qualifying:
Like Funny Car, the Top Fuel cars were rewarded with cooler conditions that made the performance levels a notch higher. Eight cars ran quicker than their qualifying best, including low et for the weekend, a 4.61 by David Grubnic. Two bottom half cars defeated their higher qualified opponents (the husband and wife team of Rhonda and John Smith both scores first round upsets). In round two, three of four matchups were very close especially the Cory Mac/Larry Dixon race which Cory won by 2/1000ths (4.683 - 4.679). He took on Tony Schumacher in one semi, and Scott Kalitta took on his team mate David Grubnic in the other. That semi was very close, with .015 separating the two at the finish. David Gubnic was going to his second final of the year. Tony Schumacher easily defeated Cory Mac in the other semi, when Cory smoked the tires and could not recover quick enough. Tony would have been real tough though, as he ran the second quickest lap of the weekend, a 4.62/319 that gave him lane choice. The final round was a good one with only the second side by side 4.60 race of the weekend. Grubnic left first with a .078 rt to Tony's .082. At half track, Grubnic was ahead of Schumacher by .011 but Tony caught David by the 1000 foot mark and won by .0435. The numbers were, 4.643/320.28 to 4.690/300.20. With his fifth win of the year, Tony extents his lead in the standings to 110 points over first round loser Doug Kalitta.
Sunday Elimination ladder
Winner------ Tony Schumacher
Top Fuel gallery is up.
Pro Stock was the least affected by the weather and of course the nitro rule did not affect them either. Their only roadblock was the weather. The new surface was just what the class needed to reach its potential. If the conditions were sea level like or 1000 ft or better the cars would fly. Proof of that came on Sunday, which we will get to later. In 3000+ feet of air, the cars ran as quick on the weekend as they did last season in air that was 1500 feet less. After the first round of qualifying, Greg Anderson under his new sponsor 'Summit' lead with a 6.827. Three other drivers were less than .007 behind though. The bump was a 6.917. After Friday's evening round, the field sped up by about 5/100ths, and Andersen still led the pack. Fernando Quadra was on the bubble with a 6.851. On Saturday they ran their usual morning qualifying round and Steve Johns took over #1 with a fine 6.762 @ 205.29. Greg Anderson shook and he had to abort what possibly was the best chance to run a low 6.70 or even better. The final round came in the heat of the day, and no changes were made to the field. Of note, the two NW Pro Stock drivers failed to qualify. JR Carr ran a 6.882 best good enough for the #22 spot. Nick Drzayich (below) was right behind Carr with a 6.883. Jim Yates, Ron Krisher and Troy Coughlin were all non qualifiers as well.
Pro Stock Final Qualifying:
Sunday final elimination's
Sunday the Pro Stock improved alot due to the 15 degree cooler weather and 40 degree cooler track temperature. And the performance level showed right off the bat in the opening round. In the second pairing, Mike Edwards reset the track record, V. Gaines lowered it further to a 6.738 and then it was Anderson's turn. He ran Bruce Allen and not only won, but Pacific Raceway became only the third track to lay claim to a 6.60 run as Anderson went 6.699/205 to crush the five minute old record. Notable in round one other than the lightning fast runs, were both WJ cars losing. In the 1/4's Anderson ran just over a hundredth slower but upped the speed mark to an awesome 206.10mph. Gaines, David Connelly and the upset king Mark Whisnant all advanced to the semi finals. Connelly ended Whisnant's run and Anderson beat Gaines on both ends of the track setting up the same final as Columbus and the King Demon Shoot-out at Chicago. This was Connelly's third final round of the year in Pro Stock and earlier in the day he won Super Comp, so he was going for the big double up. This was Anderson's 12th final and he was going for his 11th win at just past the half way point in the season. Connelly gave it a great effort with a solid .023 rt but Anderson's .031 was right there and he past Dave by the 60 foot clocks and never relinquished the lead the rest of the way down track. The 6.74 - 6.80 victory was #11 and sets him up to tie his own single season record for wins at Sonoma. He could go on to 16-20 wins for the season if in fact he can keep up the pace. Don't bet against him.
Left, David Connelly tried to double up.
The point standings for all the pro classes are here.
A Pro Stock photos gallery is here.
Top Alcohol Dragster
Top Alcohol Funny Car