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Seattle's O'Reilly Auto Parts North West Nationals

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(Bob Wilson photos)

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Sunday NHRA communications wrap-up

Points from DRC.

A pro gallery is here.
A sportsman gallery is here.


Tim Wilkerson ended a year long winless drought by racing to his third consecutive O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals Funny Car victory Sunday at Pacific Raceways.
Del Worsham (Top Fuel) and Jason Line (Pro Stock) also were winners of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event.

Wilkerson moved up to ninth in the point standings with his 17th career victory and greatly improved his chances for earning a berth in the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs which begin Sept. 15-18 in Charlotte, N.C.

Wilkerson powered his Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang to a 4.146 second run at 300.53 mph to defeat final round opponent Jack Beckman, whose Aaron’s/Valvoline Dodge Charger lost traction near mid-track and finished in 4.598 at 238.64.


Wilkerson beat Brian Thiel, Tony Pedregon and Robert Hight to advance to his second consecutive final round and third of the season.

“We’ve really got a good handle on this place for sure,” said Wilkerson, who also won here in 2009 and 2010. “This win really couldn’t come at a better time for this team. Hopefully we can stay on this roll and take it on to Brainerd and right into Indy (Mac Tools U.S. Nationals). This win is definitely a big morale boost for my team and really helps our position in the Countdown for sure.” Wilkerson moved to ninth in the standings with the win, while points leader Mike Neff lost in the first round, but holds a 125-point advantage over teammate Hight.

In Top Fuel, Worsham earned his sixth victory of the season and 31st of his career by outrunning Tony Schumacher in the final round. Worsham, who posted a 3.891 at 316.38 in his Al-Anabi Racing dragster to hold of Schumacher’s 3.915 at 313.95 in his U.S. Army dragster, joined Ron Capps as the only drivers to win in both nitro categories at the Seattle track.


Worsham, who beat Ron Smith, Shawn Langdon and Spencer Massey in the first three rounds, won Funny Car here in 1999.

“It’s been unreal,” said Worsham, who extended his series points lead to 126 over second place Massey. “To watch this Al-Anabi team work is amazing. They gave me a great car that could win. This team is so detail oriented and just really good at what they do.”

Line took his fourth Pro Stock win of the season and 25th of his career by beating teammate Greg Anderson in the final round. Line covered the distance in 6.553 at 210.87 in his Summit Racing Pontiac GXP to finish in front of defending world champ Anderson, who trailed with a 6.567 at 211.13, also in a Summit GXP.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” said Line, who beat Ron Krisher, Vincent Nobile and Rodger Brogdon in earlier rounds. “I had a great feeling that if I did my job today that we had a car that could win this race. We made some changes to the car from Sonoma and it ran good all weekend. It was phenomenal. I was able to let the clutch out on time today and it worked out for us.” With the victory, Line increased his series lead to 27 over Anderson.


Several drivers secured Countdown playoff berths, including Hight, Beckman and Cruz Pedregon in Funny Car, and Nobile, Erica Enders, Allen Johnson, Brogdon and Greg Stanfield in Pro Stock.

The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series continues Aug. 18-21 with the 30th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, the penultimate event in the regular season.

Sunday's final results from the 24th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways. The race is the 14th of 22 in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series-

Top Fuel -- Del Worsham, 3.891 seconds, 316.38 mph def. Tony Schumacher, 3.915 seconds, 313.95 mph.

Funny Car -- Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, 4.146, 300.53 def. Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 4.598, 238.64.

Pro Stock -- Jason Line, Pontiac GXP, 6.553, 210.87 def. Greg Anderson, GXP, 6.567, 211.13.

Speedzone Sunday results.

Del Worsham continued is amazing run in Top Fuel with his sixth win this season. He defeated Tony Schumacher in the final round. In round one Worsham took out local favorite Ron Smith, then Shawn Langdon and Spencer Massey in the semi finals. Worsham and four other drivers have all clinched spot in the countdown starting at Indy and has to be THE favorite for the 2011 title. He drives the car Dixon drove in his title run last year and had basically taken over the run Dixon had last season. Spencer Massey in s first year with the Schumacher team is the most consistent player on team DSR. The top five drivers are part of the two big teams and are light years ahead of the rest of the players in the class.

 

Top Fuel standings

1. Del Worsham 1,256*
2. Spencer Massey 1,130*
3. Antron Brown 1,086*
4. Tony Schumacher 1,061*
5. Larry Dixon 1,034*
6. Doug Kalitta 751
7. Brandon Bernstein 691
8. Shawn Langdon 662
9. Morgan Lucas 626
10. David Grubnic 550
11. Terry McMillen 532
12. Bob Vandergriff 511
13. Steve Torrence 207
14. Troy Buff 187
15. Doug Foley 182

The Funny Car winner, Tim Wilkerson got a big monkey off his back after a tough past 22 events. His last win came at Seattle last year. 'Wilk' may want the season to run exclusively in the West as he picked up 208 points in the last two events and is 141 points clear of 11th. He was only 14 points clear of 11th two events ago. Runner-up Jack Beckman has been near the top for most of the season and leads the DSR stable. Mike Neff still has a solid lead in the Funny Car standings. Johnny Gray in his return to Funny Car will have his work cut out for him as he trails 10th place driver Bob Tasca by 95 points with only two race left before the countdown.

Funny Car points

1. Mike Neff 1,132*
2. Robert Hight 1,007*
3. Jack Beckman 994*
4. Cruz Pedregon 909*
5. Matt Hagan 861
6. Ron Capps 828
7. John Force 827
8. Jeff Arend 729
9. Tim Wilkerson 711
10. Bob Tasca III 665
11. Johnny Gray 570
12. Tony Pedregon 546
13. Paul Lee 417
14. Jim Head 405
Melanie Troxel 405

Pro Stock saw Jason Line regain the point lead over Mike Edwards with his fourth win of the season. Teammate Greg Anderson moved ahead of last weeks point leader Edwards with a runner-up finish to Line. Edwards lost in round two. Erica Enders must wonder what she has to do to beat Greg Anderson as the young lady again lost to the multi year champion. SHe did solidify her spot in the countdown though, and sits fifth in the standings.

Pro Stock

1. Jason Line 1,110*
2. Greg Anderson 1,083*
3. Mike Edwards 1,059*
4. Vincent Nobile 905*
5. Erica Enders 874*
6. Allen Johnson 872*
7. Rodger Brogdon 845*
8. Greg Stanfield 840
9. Shane Gray 637
10. Ron Krisher 595
11. Larry Morgan 564
12. Ronnie Humphrey 552
13. V. Gaines 515
14. Kurt Johnson 461
15. Warren Johnson 422


Sunday pre race

It's eliminations day for the Northwest Nationals, starting SHARP at 11am (weather permitting), and today it's looking better than it has all weekend, with the clouds starting to break up already at just past 9am. The forecast is for sunny skies, but not too warm so the crew chiefs won't have to make terribly radical changes to their tuneups for raceday. The photographers and spectators will have to make some adjustments too, but again, nothing too far out of the norm.

It's been quite a nostalgic weekend here at Pacific Raceways, with some of the true legends of the sport, especially in the northwest, being featured and making themselves and some of their cars available for the fans to meet and see. A literal who's who of northwest drag racing history including Gary Beck, Jerry Ruth, Herm Petersen, Gordie Bonin, Hank Johnson and many others have graced the facility with their presence.

Speaking of these racers, Gary Beck is sitting behind me as I write this update, being interviewed for a feature story by Susan Wade of Competition Plus. It's difficult to concentrate on the task at hand, writing and still listening to the great stories being related in the background, but it's so much fun to be here and experiencing it.

With several rounds of sportsman eliminations completed last night, it's going to be pretty much non-stop racing today, starting with Top Fuel at 11am, then Funny Car, Pro Stock, the Top Alcohol classes, then straight back into the pro cars again for their second rounds, before getting back to the sportsman cars to allow the fuel cars to rebuild before the semi-finals.

 




The Saturday Report

The day began like deja vu all over again, with cool cloudy weather, accompanied by a light misting rain. It dissipated by the time we arrived at the race track, but began again before the first pair had run. 30 minutes later the track was dry, the racing began and the schedule changes started. First to fall by the wayside were the final qualifying sessions for Top Alcohol and Comp eliminator, as they were all a mere formality and the chance of more downtime due to an oildown or crash were just too great to risk running them.

The risk? How about the risk of entertaining the spectators, or giving the racers who had worked hard, spent lots of money and given up a lot of their leisure time to be here an opportunity to run and gather data from their cars? But the tight timelines dictated by an early broadcast of the qualifying highlights on ESPN2 at 3pm PDT, mandated the deletion of anything that could get in the way of completing the two pro qualifying sessions by that 3pm deadline. And we all know how very valuable that television exposure is to the sport....

After a very quick round of Super Street (only 48 cars), Pro Stock started a few minutes earlier than their scheduled 11:30 starting time, and with excellent atmospheric conditions the majority of the racers stayed in the 6.50 range, but only four drivers improved on yesterday's best times. Allen Johnson improved by two hundredths of a second and jumped four spots from #7 to #3 on the ladder, and only fell one spot through the session when the last pair down the track saw both Jason Line and Greg Anderson card 6.53 times to take hold of the #1 and #2 positions.

In a reversal of yesterday's run order, Top Fuel ran before the Funny Cars, giving the class that had suffered the most with traction difficulties on Friday some bonus "track prep" before they had to test the racing surface. Even though there was no admission by NHRA that any problems existed with the track on Friday, they did spend quite a bit of time working on the starting line area last night and it appeared that the concerns of the racers were heeded.

 

The side issue of the rear tire coming off the rim on Robert Hight's car and destroying the very expensive composite body - and scaring the heck out of everyone in the process - was not addressed, at least for public consumption, with everyone involved saying it was "just one of those things" and not wanting to blame anyone for the incident. There's more to this story to come I'm sure as the gathering of the pieces of tire scattered on the track was done in a high security fashion and the shrapnel was quickly removed from the scene.

 

The Nitro Guinea Pigs aka Top Fuel came out shortly after Pro Stock finished, with the obligatory track prep intermission that seems to precede and/or follow almost every qualifying session for virtually every category above Stock Eliminator. Are we ever going to see some common sense dictate that the level of preparation that is being offered currently is far above and beyond what is needed? And if the racers, and more to the point, the crew chiefs, feel that it's absolutely necessary, then maybe they need to take a very hard and very long look at just what direction fuel racing is heading.

 

Rants and raves aside, everyone's local favourite - mainly because he is the ONLY local fuel racer left in the Northwest - Ron Smith - came out in the first pair and laid down a clean run alongside a tiresmoking Scott Palmer. Even though Smith had a very soft launch (1.08 in 60') and shutoff early, he carded a creditable time to lift himself off the bottom of the heap and all the way up to the #13 spot on the charts.

The balance of the session saw hits and misses, with quite a bit of tire smoke, but also two side-by-side 3-second matches, and a new low e.t. and top speed as Antron Brown carded a very strong 3.809 at 321.58 mph. Another highlight of the round was the third consecutive 3-second pass for birthday boy David Grubnic (50-something we think) and solid backup runs to yesterday's qualifying numbers for McMillen, Schumacher and Massey. All 16 cars ran in the session and to their collective credit, no one oiled the track.

Bring on the floppers! And on the sixth day (of the week) lo and behold.... there were Funny Cars in the staging lanes, idling through the water box, burning out, backing up, staging and running.... sometimes well, sometimes not so well. The first pair showed this real dichotomy of results, as Jeff "The Surfer" Diehl jumped up and ran a very decent 4.28 pass at 291 mph to climb all the way into the #4 spot in the field. Hold on, Diehl is number four? Are you serious Wilson? Damn straight, and just to underline the point, in the other lane Terry Haddock put down another 7-second tire smoker.

 

Next up was yesterday's exploding tire victim, Robert Hight, with a brand-new car and he only ran quick enough to take over the #2 spot at 4.13 - 306. Quite a debut indeed. On the other side of the track Paul Lee smouldered the Goodyears to a 7.57. Then in a very abrupt change of fortune, the last seven pairs of cars carded side-by-side 4-second passes, with timeslips ranging from a worst of 4.62 by a pedaling Bob Tasca, to a new low e.t. of 4.109 by Tim Wilkerson, followed very closely by John Force's 4.115 and Mike Neff's 4.134.

The net result of all those good runs was a new bump spot of 4.62, held by Tasca, with Haddock and Lee as the two alternates. Even better was the top half of the field all in the 4-teens at more than 300 mph. Quite a turnaround from the two ill-fated sessions less than 24 hours ago. Maybe the complaints about track conditions did have some validity, even though I'll state again that several racers did manage to overcome the iffy traction and put down very credible times.

 

4:00 PM update

Well, they didn't quite make the 3:00 deadline to get the pro qualifying finished, but it would have been closer if Terry Haddock hadn't oiled the track for the third time in four tries on the weekend and cost 15 minutes of cleanup time which pushed the Funny Cars to a nearly 3:30 finish. Needless to say, Mr. H. failed to qualify and ended up owing NHRA money ($2000) and points (20) by the end of the day. But let's get back to the beginning with the final session of Pro Stock.

With nothing at stake, other than lane choice in the first round, bonus points for the quickest times of the round and pride, the racers went through their paces and Shane Gray got things off to a good start with his first respectable pass of the weekend, a 6.64 to stay one rung off the bottom of the ladder. In the next pair, Ron Krisher again failed to get down the track and the scoreboards showed a mid 7-second time to complete an eminently forgettable two days of his life.

With cool air and track temps and an adjusted altitude of just 1700 feet, the conditions were conducive to some great runs, and most cars kept up the pace they'd set in the previous three sessions, with Erica Enders being the only racer (other than Gray) to improve, picking up a hundredth of a second to move up two spots in the field, from #7 to #5. With only a short break for some more tire dragging in the right lane, the final round of Pro Stock qualifying was over in barely 15 minutes.

Pro Stock - Final Qualifying

1 Greg Anderson, Mooresville NC, '09 GXP 6.536 211.26
2 Jason Line, Mooresville NC, '09 GXP 6.538 211.06
3 Mike Edwards, Coweta OK, '09 GXP 6.541 210.97
4 Allen Johnson, Greeneville TN, '11 Avenger 6.543 211.69
5 Erica Enders, New Orleans LA, '10 Cobalt 6.544 210.67
6 Rodger Brogdon, Tomball TX, '09 GXP 6.545 210.67
7 Ronnie Humphrey, Jacksonville NC, '09 GXP 6.553 210.80
8 V. Gaines, Lakewood CO, '11 Avenger 6.564 210.77
9 Warren Johnson, Sugar Hill GA, '09 GXP 6.565 210.41
10 Vincent Nobile, Dix Hills NY, '11 Avenger 6.574 210.31
11 Greg Stanfield, Bossier City LA, '09 GXP 6.576 209.43
12 Kurt Johnson, Sugar Hill GA, '09 GXP 6.577 210.47
13 Larry Morgan, Newark OH, '11 Mustang 6.579 210.01
14 Shane Gray, Denver NC, '09 GXP 6.634 207.53
15 Ron Krisher, Warren OH, '09 GXP 7.483 130.68

Bring on the Top Fuel cars and punch up the volume had to be on the minds of the spectators in the fairly full grandstands. Not a capacity crowd, but definitely better than most had expected to see on this Seafair weekend. Again, with nothing at stake but bragging rights and lane choice, the dragsters - at least the 15 that appeared (Ron Smith stayed in the pits to savour his qualifying accomplishment from the previous session) - had no real pressure to perform. However, starting with the first pair, some racers did, with Steve Chrisman nearly breaking into the 3's with a 4.01 to move off the bump spot to #13 and push a tiresmoking Morgan Lucas down to the last spot in the field.

The shuffling of positions got serious in the next pairing as Larry Dixon improved from a previous 3.96 best to a very solid 3.85 and moved all the way to #5 (from #12) in the order. Bernstein and Kalitta ran together and both moved up the ladder into the top half of the field and David Grubnic blew out all the candles on his qualiying cake as he laid down his fourth consecutive 3-second lap (the only racer to do so) and moved into the top half, in the lucky #7 position. There were no advances in low e.t. but Del Worsham did bump up the top speed marginally, to 321.65 mph.

Top Fuel qualifying ended with a full 16-car field, with 12 of them in the 3's and only one car (Lucas) slower than a mid 4-second time. Here's the final results, courtesy of Drag Race Central:

Top Fuel - Final Qualifying

1 Antron Brown, Brownsburg IN, DSR-TFX 3.809 321.58
2 Del Worsham, Chino Hills CA, Hadman-TFX 3.823 321.65
3 Spencer Massey, Brownsburg IN, DSR-TFX 3.845 319.67
4 Tony Schumacher, Brownsburg IN, DSR-TFX 3.845 319.67
5 Brandon Bernstein, Fairview TX, McKinney-TFX 3.851 315.49
6 Larry Dixon, Brownsburg IN, Hadman-TFX 3.852 318.32
7 David Grubnic, Ypsilanti MI, Attac-TFX 3.891 314.17
8 Doug Kalitta, Ypsilanti MI, Attac-TFX 3.894 315.05
9 Terry McMillen, Elkhart IN, McKinney-TFX 3.898 317.94
10 Shawn Langdon, Brownsburg IN, Hadman-TFX 3.904 313.07
11 Bob Vandergriff, Alpharetta GA, Hadman-TFX 3.939 309.42
12 Troy Buff, Carson City NV, BME-BAE 3.940 301.47
13 Steven Chrisman, Anaheim CA, McKinney-TFX 4.010 286.86
14 Scott Palmer, Nixa MO, McKinney-BAE 4.263 211.56
15 Ron Smith, Renton WA, Hadman-TFX 4.547 240.42
16 Morgan Lucas, Brownsburg IN, Hadman-TFX 6.720 107.73

The tension inherent in the first pairing of the final Funny Car qualifying session was brought to a head very quickly as Paul Lee smoked the tires early, while Terry Haddock ran strong to half track, then blew up and oiled the track once more to put paid to his qualifying aspirations. And just like that, it was all over but the shuffling of positions and lane choice changes as the flopper field was finalized.

 

The next pair, Ron Capps and Bob Tasca ran nearly identical 4.20's to move up several places and set the tone for the round, which saw five more cars run very good 4-teen passes, including John Force with a best of the session 4.117 - 308.85 to just edge out Matt Hagan's 4.117 - 301 mph blast. The biggest position gains were by Tony Pedregon who climbed all the way to #8 from #12 and Matt Hagan who improved from #6 all the way to #3 as qualifying closed. And the top two remained Tim Wilkerson (#1) and John Force. It's shaping up to be quite a show during eliminations tomorrow.

Funny Car - Final Qualifying

1 Tim Wilkerson, Springfield IL, '11 Mustang 4.109 303.71
2 John Force, Yorba Linda CA, '11 Mustang 4.115 308.78
3 Matt Hagan, Brownsburg IN, '10 Charger 4.117 301.47
4 Robert Hight, Yorba Linda CA, '11 Mustang 4.125 305.84
5 Mike Neff, Yorba Linda CA, '11 Mustang 4.134 307.58
6 Johnny Gray, Artesia NM, '10 Charger 4.145 297.94
7 Cruz Pedregon, Brownsburg IN, '10 Solara 4.181 300.73
8 Tony Pedregon, Brownsburg IN, '10 Impala SS 4.190 295.46
9 Jeff Arend, San Dimas CA, '10 Solara 4.195 301.07
10 Jack Beckman, Norco CA, '10 Charger 4.201 298.67
11 Ron Capps, Carlsbad CA, '10 Charger 4.201 293.98
12 Bob Tasca III, Cranston RI, '11 Mustang 4.205 299.86
13 Gary Densham, Bellflower CA, '10 Charger 4.230 287.23
14 Melanie Troxel, Duluth GA, '10 Solara 4.238 303.30
15 Jeff Diehl, Salinas CA, '06 Monte Carlo 4.285 291.07
16 Brian Thiel, Brownsburg IN, '10 Charger 4.322 266.64

------------ Not Qualified ------------

17 Paul Lee, Anaheim CA, '10 Impala SS 6.649 81.68
18 Terry Haddock, Temple TX, '10 Solara 7.485 92.74




The Friday Report

This morning dawned cool, cloudy... and slightly wet in the Seattle area. What happened to the forecast of warm, sunny and cloudless skies for the weekend? It went away in a hurry, reminiscent of so many of the late, and mostly unlamented FallNationals races that Pacific Raceways (nee SIR) was once so (in)famous for. By the time we reached the race track though, the rain had stopped, the track was already dried and Super Street was running while a long parade of Stockers began to fill the staging lanes.

The weather should imrove throughout the day, but for now, the conditions are very good and this could be a day of great, even record-breaking, performances. Let's just hope the weather doesn't get "too good" before the Pro cars run, starting at 2:00 pm. Now, it's time to troop through the pits, do an inventory of the attendees and see what's going to shape this weekend of racing in the forests south of Seattle.

With just 15 Pro Stock and 16 Top Fuel cars in attendance, and 18 - yes, a full field and two unlucky alternates in Funny Car - the qualifying "battle" won't display much more drama than a professional wrestling match. Unless something really unfortunate befalls one of the well-funded professionally run teams, the odd men out in fuel flopper look very much like Terry Haddock and Jeff Diehl.

There's a slim chance that one of the bucks-up teams could falter, but after seeing Haddock stumble to a 7.6-second pass earlier this afternoon, then lose his second run entirely to an oildown penalty... it's looking like slim has left town for Mr. Haddock. Diehl on the other hand, ended the first round in the #5 position, with a slightly less than scintillating 5.18 pass, then still managed to cling to the #8 spot with that aforementioned 5-teen effort at the end of the day.

The first session of Pro Stock qualifying opened with a ho-hum 6.69 effort by Warren Johnson, then quickly saw the numbers improve, as pair after pair of cars laid down 6.5-second, 210 mph clockings. The round ended with 11 cars in the 6.50's - and only one of them timed at less than 210 mph in the traps - and only two of 15 drivers with anything less than a full pass to their credit.

And it just got better in the second session, with Greg Anderson and Mike Edwards leapfrogging over first session leader, Rodger Brogdon, to take the provisional pole at 6.541 to Brogdon's marginally slower 6.545. In fact, at the #12 first day cutoff, the magic number was just 6.579 - a gap of less than four hundredths of a second between the top and bottom of the field. Even the #13 and #14 cars clocked 6.59's, and only the very last driver in the field, Shane Gray, failed to get down the track on both attempts, carding a "best" of just 15.05 seconds.

Showing that the air was very good and the tuners were able to make the best use of it, every one of the 14 Pro Stock cars that made a representative run carded a 210+ mph timeslip, backed up with a 6.5-second elapsed time. Very close, very consistent, and simply very good. It will be quite interesting to see if they can back it up tomorrow, but if conditions are even remotely close to those of today, the results could be even better. In this instance: you really have to stay tuned!

Following the very good round of door car qualifying, the Funny Car contingent was positively lacklustre. Out of 17 shots at the track in that first session, only two could be described as anything approaching what the fans have come to expect from the nitro floppers. Two old pros led the field - by a ton(ne) - and that ol' truck driver hisself, John Force, led the way with a very good 4.12 pass, coupled with the only 300 mph speed (304.87) recorded, followed nearly a tenth back by Tim Wilkerson.

Two more cars put down a high 4-second time, two were in the 5's, one cranked out a 6, a grand total of nine cars were in the 7's, and the field was trailed by Jeff "Why Me?" Arend at an 8.05 - 77.50. Thankfully there were only two oildowns despite the raft of second-rate performances that saw most attempts end early before the really ugly damage could occur. We can only hope for a better - MUCH better - second session later this afternoon.

The Top Fuel cars set about to rectify the lack of great nitro performances with "Renton" Ron Smith first out of the staging lanes. Oops.... he's broken before he clears the burnout box, and Scott Palmer shuts off early to a low 4-second pass in the other lane. Not exactly an auspicious start, but at least the safety safari is still in the parked position.

The third pair of cars down the track put it all right however, with Bob Vandergriff trailing Terry McMillen across the finish line, with both cars well into the 3's at more than 310 mph. McMillen's 3.89 at 317 mph took the #1 spot temporarily, while Vandergriff's 3.93 at just under 310 mph grabbed the #2 slot for at least a few minutes.

The hits just kept on coming for the last five pairs, but almost all the 3-second passes came from the right lane (four of them) and just one good lap out of the left side of the track. Best of the bunch was Del Worsham's 3.83 at 319 mph, just a few ticks ahead of Antron Brown, Tony Schumacher and Brandon Bernstein, all in the mid 3.80's and in the 315+ mph range for the most part. Good, solid, not earth shaking, but good laps, especially considering the lack of performance results exhibited by the funny cars.

Like the short cars, the fuelers results dropped off fairly quickly after the seven cars in the 3's, with just one car (Scott Palmer at a blower belt tossing 4.26) in the 4's, and five cars in the 7's, trailed by two cars in the 8's and the final contestant, Ron Smith, in the nothings. As in, he didn't even get through the burnout, let alone stage, or get off the starting line.

The final tally for the Top Fuel cars was nothing to write home about, but it was definitely not nearly as sad a story as the one written by the Funny Cars. One can only hope for a much improved narrative in the second session this afternoon and the two shots tomorrow. Hang on for those results.

6:00 PM update

A few observations from my afternoon spent in "The Cheap(est) Seats" at the far end of the tower-side grandstands. Searching for the best vantage point to take some photos of the cars, I perched myself at the far end of the top row of the grandstand, nearly 800 feet from the starting line. While I'd noticed the shiny new grandstand next to the tower for the past few years, I didn't realize until I walked down there that the new stands had replaced all the crumbling crap that passed for spectator seating on the tower side for literally eons.

While the aluminum and steel stands are solid and impressive, the comfort level is certainly a little lacking, but with enough room to stand and shoot photos, wasn't a major problem for the few hours spent up there. It only dawned on me gradually as the fuel cars came out that the stands were much fuller than I'd expected, especially considering that it was Friday afternoon and there is a major competing event in the Seattle area this weekend: the Seafair hydroplane races on Lake Washington.

By the time the Funny Cars were in full swing, the stands on the pit side were nearly two-thirds full, and the stands on the tower side were similarly occupied. Quite impressive, and even more in light of the visions of nearly empty stands seen on so many of the NHRA Full Throttle series events on ESPN-TSN this year. And when you factor in the way the economy has been treating the Northwest for the past few years, the spectator turnout was truly impressive. Oh, did I mention the cost of tickets? They're certainly no bargain, as even a general admission was $41 today and rises to $49 for the weekend, plus another $12 for a reserved spot. Compare that to baseball or even football ducats.

One thing that I didn't see too much of - for a very pleasant change - were the endless amounts of track prep after every qualifying session. Only one round of tire-dragging before the pro cars, intermingled with the "march of the crew chiefs" that is surely an exercise in futility, along with the checking of the coefficient of friction with their ubiquitous stick-o-meters. Please folks, can we finally dispense with this nonsense and start focusing on things that have an actual affect on the racing?

And as the last Top Fuel car sputtered across the finish line, the mass evacuation of the stands began, even as the first pair of alcohol funny cars started up. The fans just don't want to sit through anything less than the nitro or pro stock cars, and I suspect that the pro stockers are watched more out of tradition than excitement value anymore. But it's truly sad to see loud, fast cars (i.e. top alcohol) virtually ignored by the vast majority of race fans. Maybe the average drag racing spectator (hard to call them true fans anymore) just wants to be entertained by nothing less than the loudest, fastest, scariest cars on the grounds, and will settle for nothing but that major adrenalin rush. Food for thought....

7:00 PM update

While the Super Comp cars go through their second time trial session, it's time to wrap up the second round of fuel qualifying. The Funny Cars went from bad to worse, believe it or not. In their second session, they managed to fall short of even the meagre performance standards displayed in the first round, with just four 4-second passes, one of which (by Terry Haddock) was thrown out for an oildown. Only one of the 18 drivers entered (Mike Neff) managed back to back 4-second laps, and he actually improved half a second in his second pass, from a very desultory 4.80 to a decent 4.30.

From there it just went downhill, with the sole exception of Jack Beckman's 4.20 - 298 mph number that slotted into the second spot on the ladder, directly behind John (smoked the tires on the second hit) Force. The #12 provisional bubble improved from an awful 7.46 to a merely bad 6.92, with the bottom of the pack being Paul Lee at a very mediocre 7.83.

So who's to blame for this seeming debacle? Have all the funny car crew chiefs suddenly gone senile? Have they forgotten how to tune, the drivers forgetting how to drive, or just what is the problem? The consensus among the habitues of the starting line is that the track is at fault, as it's just not capable of handling the horsepower generated under good atmospheric conditions by modern nitro-burning cars. No matter how much glue is laid down, no matter how well its scrubbed into the surface, no matter how hard the safety safari works on it, it's simply not going to handle the power - at least on a consistent basis.

I mention the consistency as an out because a couple of the fuel funny cars did get down the track in a respectable fashion, and the Top Fuel Cars managed to put 11 of their brethren into the hallowed 3-second zone by the end of the final qualifying session of the day, so it's definitely possible to get a car down the track quickly. Despite the statistics, the arguments will continue to rage as to who's at fault whenever a fuel car smokes the tires or otherwise fails to negotiate what is obviously a tricky surface for many of the racers. And just in case you're wondering: NO, it's not a case of a one-lane race track, as both lanes have seen their share of decent runs and tire smokers.

Funny Car - qualifying after 2 sessions

1. John Force Castrol GTX Mustang 4.124 304.87
2. Jack Beckman Aaron's Charger 4.201 298.67
3. Tim Wilkerson Levi Ray & Shoup Mustang 4.205 298.87
4. Mike Neff Ford Drive One Mustang 4.300 241.07
5. Jeff Arend DHL Solara 4.409 295.85
6. Melanie Troxel In-N-Out/ProCare RX Solara 4.950 206.73
7. Matt Hagan DieHard Charger 5.115 267.43
8. Jeff Diehl J.G. Parks & Son Monte Carlo 5.182 147.02
9. Johnny Gray Service Central Charger 5.435 133.26
10. Gary Densham Lawson Rock & Oil Charger 5.634 126.06
11. Cruz Pedregon Snap-On Solara 6.674 110.42
12. Tony Pedregon Charter Communications Impala 6.929 96.69

--------- Not Qualified ---------

13. Brian Thiel William Rast Charger 7.165 115.57
14. Bob Tasca III Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang 7.237 98.59
15. Ron Capps NAPA Charger 7.253 88.71
16. Robert Hight AAA of So. Cal Mustang 7.469 86.54
17. Terry Haddock Acme Refining Solara 7.634 102.90
18. Paul Lee Jim Dunn/Rislone/Bars Leaks Im 7.839 76.42

Summing up the second session of Top Fuel qualifying, only 13 of the 16 cars in the pits made the trek to the staging lanes. Missing from action were local racer Ron Smith (who rarely makes more than one lap a day, or two passes a year), Steve Chrisman and Scott Palmer. While Smith didn't receive a time, or spot on the ladder for his first round effort, Chrisman stayed at the bottom of the pack (#15), while Palmer hung onto the final (#12) provisional position.

Only five racers ventured into the suddenly rarefied air of the 3-second zone in that round, but the net effect was to improve the 12-car bump spot by a full three seconds, and provide at least a semblance of respectability to one half of the fuel-burning contingent. The biggest improver of the round was Spencer Massey, who leapfrogged eleven spots, all the way to #2 with a solid 3.845 at a best of the meet so far 319.67 mph speed. David Grubnic was the only racer to card back to back 3-second passes, improving from an opening 3.97 to a 3.89 in his second try.

Shawn Langdon, Doug Kalitta and Troy Buff all moved up substantially, posting 3.9-second runs to move into the field and give them something to work with for tomorrow's final pre-elimination time trials. It's difficult to call it qualifying as only four cars are on the outside at the moment and they simply have to stage their cars under power to earn a spot in eliminations on Sunday and the $10,000 that goes with that achievement.

Top Fuel - qualifying after 2 sessions

1. Del Worsham Al-Anabi Dragster 3.830 319.07
2. Spencer Massey Fram Dragster 3.845 319.67
3. Antron Brown Aaron's Dragster 3.849 318.54
4. Tony Schumacher U.S. Army Dragster 3.856 317.05
5. Brandon Bernstein Copart Dragster 3.867 314.02
6. Terry McMillen Amalie Oil/UNOH Dragster 3.898 317.94
7. David Grubnic Kalitta Air Dragster 3.899 310.98
8. Shawn Langdon Lucas Oil/Speedco Dragster 3.930 310.84
9. Doug Kalitta Kalitta Air Dragster 3.935 313.95
10. Bob Vandergriff C&J Energy Services Dragster 3.939 309.42
11. Troy Buff Bill Miller Racing/Okuma Drags 3.940 301.47
12. Scott Palmer Marck Industries Dragster 4.268 232.27

--------- Not Qualified ---------

13. Larry Dixon Al-Anabi Racing Dragster 6.406 92.59
14. Morgan Lucas Geico Powersport/ Lucas Oil Dr 6.446 107.71
15. Steven Chrisman NitroFish/Chrisman Driveline D 7.172 101.77

Pro Stock - qualifying after 2 sessions

1. Greg Anderson Summit Racing Equipment GXP 6.541 211.16
2. Mike Edwards Penhall/K&N/Interstae GXP 6.541 210.97
3. Rodger Brogdon The Edge GXP 6.545 210.67
4. Jason Line Summit Racing Equipment GXP 6.547 211.03
5. Ronnie Humphrey Genuine Hot Rod Hardware GXP 6.553 210.80
6. Erica Enders ZaZa Energy Cobalt 6.555 210.60
7. Allen Johnson Mopar/J & J Racing Avenger 6.564 211.16
8. V. Gaines Kendall Oil Avenger 6.564 210.77
9. Warren Johnson K&N Filters GXP 6.565 210.41
10. Vincent Nobile Mountainview Tire Avenger 6.574 210.31
11. Greg Stanfield Nitrofish GXP 6.576 210.08
12. Larry Morgan Lucas Oil/Summit Mustang 6.579 210.01

--------- Not Qualified ---------

13. Ron Krisher Valvoline GXP 6.592 210.54
14. Kurt Johnson Pietroj #1 GXP 6.592 210.05
15. Shane Gray Service Central GXP 15.059 69.47




The 24th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, the 14th of 22 events in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series. Drivers in three categories - Top Fuel, Funny Car, and Pro Stock - earn points leading to 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series world championships. NHRA is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2011 and will pay tribute to the evolution of the hot rod and honor its legendary racers as well as the sport's current stars.
WHERE: Pacific Raceways, Kent, Wash. The track is located 10 miles east of Interstate 5 on Highway 18. From I-5, use Exit 142A (Auburn exit) and travel east 10 miles on Highway 18, following the signs to the track. From other points, use Highway 18 and exit S.E. 304th St. or S.E. 312th St.

WHEN: Friday through Sunday, Aug. 5-7.

SCHEDULE:
FRIDAY, Aug. 5 - LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.


SATURDAY, Aug. 6 - LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations begin at 9:15 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES qualifying at 11 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.


SUNDAY, Aug. 7 - Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
FULL THROTTLE SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m.


TELEVISION:
Saturday, Aug. 6, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 6 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Aug. 7, ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations coverage starting at 7 p.m. (ET).


2010 EVENT WINNERS: Cory McClenathan, Top Fuel; Tim Wilkerson, Funny Car; Greg Anderson, Pro Stock.

MOST VICTORIES: John Force, 7, FC; Bob Glidden, 6, PS; Joe Amato, 5, TF; Tony Schumacher, 4, TF; Warren Johnson, 4, PS.

TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel - 3.802 seconds by Tony Schumacher, July '08; 322.19 mph by Schumacher, July '10.
Funny Car - 4.056 seconds by Robert Hight, July '08; 304.39 mph by Hight, July '08.
Pro Stock - 6.556 seconds by Mike Edwards, July '09; 211.03 mph by Edwards, July '09.


NATIONAL RECORDS:
Top Fuel - 3.770 sec. by Larry Dixon, Feb. '11, Pomona, Calif.; 327.03 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. '11, Pomona, Calif.
Funny Car - 4.011 sec. by Matt Hagan, Oct. '10, Reading, Pa.; 316.45 mph by Robert Hight, June '11, Bristol, Tenn.
Pro Stock - 6.495 sec. by Rodger Brogdon, March '11, Gainesville, Fla.; 213.57 mph by Erica Enders, March '11, Gainesville, Fla.


TICKETS: For tickets call (253) 639-5927. Tickets also are available online at www.extremetix.com.

GENERAL ADMISSION (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $41; Junior (6-12 years), $10; Saturday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Sunday: Adult, $49; Junior (6-12 years), $10. Child (5 and under), free in general admission/ pit areas each day.

RESERVED SEATS (includes pit pass) - Friday: Adult, $46; Junior (6-12 years), $15; Child (5 years and under), $5. Saturday: Adult, $59-61; Junior (6-12 years), $20-22; Child (5 and under), $10-12. Sunday: Adult, $59-$62; Junior (6-12 years), $20-$22; Child (5 and under), $10-$12.




Entry Lists

Top Fuel

1 TF Larry Dixon Jr Indianapolis IN '09 Hadman TFX 500 AL-ANABI RACING
2 TF Tony Schumacher Long Grove IL '11 DSR TFX 496 U.S. ARMY DSR TF TEAM
4 TF Antron Brown Pittsboro IN '11 DSR TFX 500 MATCO TOOLS/U.S. ARMY DSR
5 TF Shawn Langdon Brownsburg IN '10 Hadman TFX 500 LUCAS OIL / SPEEDCO
7 TF Brandon Bernstein Lake Forest CA '11 McKinney TFX 500 COPART TOP FUEL DRAGSTER
12 TF Bob Vandergriff Jr Alpharetta GA '08 Hadman TFX 500 C&J ENERGY SERVICES DRAGSTER
22 TF Doug Kalitta Ypsilanti MI '06 Attac TFX 496 KALITTA MOTORSPORTS
34 TF Morgan Lucas Brownsburg IN '04 Hadman TFX 500 GEICO / LUCAS OIL
44 TF David Grubnic Ypsilanti MI '06 Attac TFX 500 KALITTA AIR
99 TF Del Worsham Chino Hills CA '10 Hadman TFX 500 AL-ANABI RACING
421 TF Spencer Massey Fort Worth TX '11 DSR TFX 498 FRAM/PRESTONE DSR TF TEAM
497 TF Troy Buff Spring TX '10 Bill Miller BAE 500 BILL MILLER ENGINEERING
640 TF Ron Smith Kapowsin WA '98 Hadman TFX 498 FOSTER MACHINE SERVICES
700 TF Steven Chrisman Anaheim CA '00 McKinney TFX 500 NITROFISH/CHRISMAN DRIVELINE
3516 TF Terry Mc Millen Elkhart IN '11 McKinney TFX 500 AMALIE OIL / UNOH
5050 TF Scott Palmer Marionville MO '09 McKinney BAE 500 MARCK INDUSTRIES

Funny Car

1 FC John Force Yorba Linda CA '10 Mustang Ford 500 CASTROL GTX HM /FORD MUSTANG
4 FC Jack Beckman Norco CA '09 Charger TFX 496 AARONS/VALVOLINE DSR FC TEAM
5 FC Robert Tasca III Hope RI '10 Mustang Ford 500 MOTORCRAFT / QUICK LANE
8 FC Robert Hight Yorba Linda CA '10 Mustang Ford 500 AUTO CLUB OF S. CALIF/FORD
9 FC Tony Pedregon Brownsburg IN '09 Impala TFX 500 CHARTER
10 FC Tim Wilkerson Springfield IL '11 Mustang TFX 500 LEVI RAY & SHOUP INC
28 FC Ron Capps Carlsbad CA '09 Charger TFX 496 NAPA AUTO PARTS DSR FC TEAM
31 FC Johnny Gray Artesia NM '10 Charger TFX 500 SERVICE CENTRAL DSR FC TEAM
71 FC Cruz Pedregon Brownsburg IN '09 Toyota TFX 496 SNAP-ON / WIX FILTERS
116 FC Paul Lee Anaheim CA '10 Impala SS BAE 500 JIMDUNN/RISLONE/BARS LEAKS
121 FC Terry Haddock Temple TX '09 Toyota BAE 500 ACME REFINING/ DIPINTO INT'L
170 FC Jeff Arend La Verne CA '08 Toyota AJ 500 DHL TOYOTA SOLARA
507 FC Melanie Troxel Duluth GA '10 Toyota AJ 500 PRO CARE RX
717 FC Brian Thiel Pleasant Grove CA '10 Charger TFX 500 LUCAS OIL N&S CASE FFA
719 FC Jeffrey Diehl Salinas CA '09 Monte Carlo BAE 500 JEFF DIEHL RACING
782 FC Gary Densham Bellflower CA '09 Dodge BAE 500 DENSHAM MOTORSPORTS
2814 FC Matt Hagan Christiansburg VA '09 Charger TFX 496 DIEHARD DSR FC TEAM
7701 FC Mike Neff Indianapolis IN '10 Ford Ford 500 CASTROL GTX FORD MUSTANG

Pro Stock

1 PS Greg Anderson Mooresville NC '09 GXP GM 500 SUMMIT RACING EQUIPMENT
2 PS Greg Stanfield Bossier City LA '09 GXP GM 500 COFFMANTANK TRUCKS RACE TEA
3 PS Mike Edwards Coweta OK '09 GXP GM 499 PENHALL/K&N/INTERSTATE
4 PS Shane Gray Denver NC '10 GXP GM 500 SERVICE CENTRAL
5 PS Jason Line Troutman NC '09 GXP GM 500 SUMMIT RACING
6 PS Allen Johnson Greeneville TN '10 Avenger Dodg 500 MOPAR/J & J RACING DODGE
8 PS Ron Krisher Warren OH '10 Pontiac GM 499 VALVOLINE
9 PS Rodger Brogdon Tomball TX '09 GXP GM 500 KENT SERVICES & TRUCKING
21 PS Kurt Johnson Sugar Hill GA '10 Pontiac GM 499 MARK CHRISTOPHER AUTO CENTER
48 PS Erica Enders New Orleans LA '10 Chevrolet GM 500 CAGNAZZI RACING
55 PS V Gaines Lakewood CO '11 Avenger Hemi 498 KENDALL OIL DODGE AVENGER
154 PS Vincent Nobile Dix Hills NY '10 Dodge Dodg 500 MOUNTAINVIEW TIRE
208 PS Warren Johnson Sugar Hill GA '10 GXP GM 499 K&N FILTERS
357 PS Larry Morgan Newark OH '10 Ford Ford 500 LUCAS OIL SUMMIT FORD RACING
2062 PS Ronnie Humphrey Jacksonville NC '09 GXP GM 499 GENUINE HOT ROD HARDWARE




 

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