The good news is some of the best drag-racing times you’ll ever see at one track happened this weekend at the 29th NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent.
The bad news? The Northwest Nationals will go champion-free for at least another two weeks.
A late-afternoon rainstorm Sunday washed out the finals of the NHRA’s professional categories — Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock.
And here is the kicker: The event finals will not resume Monday at Pacific Raceways like in years past (1994, 2002).
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Instead, the finals in Top Fuel (Antron Brown/Steve Torrence) and Funny Car (Del Worsham/Ron Capps) are rescheduled to run at the NHRA’s next event: the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals on Aug. 19-21 in Brainerd, Minnesota.
And the postponed Pro Stock finals (Auburn’s Aaron Strong/Vincent Nobile) will take place at the U.S. Nationals on Aug. 31-Sept. 5 in Indianapolis.
The nonfinish Sunday in Kent certainly became a bummer for the surviving drivers.
“But it’s Mother Nature, and (there’s) not a whole lot any of us can do about it,” Worsham said. “Really, to tell you the truth, I came out here today, and I didn’t think I’d get a second round in. The fact we got this far today is a good thing.”
The field of drag racers certainly knew what was in the forecast for Sunday — periods of rain. And the first shower delayed the start of action for one hour, 40 minutes.
Things got interesting when the racing got going.
Funny Car driver Courtney Force was having as good a three-week stretch as any racer on the circuit, only losing to her father, John, in Denver and Sonoma, California.
But her weekend came to a scary ending in her first-round matchup against Jeff Diehl.
With her car bouncing around from the start, the back end crashed hard into the concrete side rail. She was transported to Valley Medical Center in Renton with pain in her knee and elbow.
“I am beat up pretty good,” Courtney Force said. “I couldn’t put any weight on my right knee. … I got right to the (emergency room), and the doctor checked me out. I am extremely relieved nothing is broken.”
An hour later, 16-time Funny Car champion John Force’s bid to sweep the “western swing” again ended abruptly. He was ousted in the first round by Tommy Johnson Jr.
The one drag racer who did not seem to mind the interruptions was Strong, a Fife High School graduate.
“Maybe it’s because I am from Seattle,” Strong said. “It gives us a break.”
The No. 14 seed in Pro Stock, Strong shocked four-time points champion Greg Anderson in his opener to capture his first professional round victory.
And kept going from there.
Because of the quick 45-minute turnaround, he barely made it to the staging line for his next race against Erica Enders-Stevens. But he did — and he upended the two-time defending Pro Stock points champion.
“It’s not just trying to outrun every car you can,” said Strong, who owns a dump-truck business. “You’ve got to have perfect (preparation) for the track in the pits. You’ve got to go up there and drive good. And you need luck. We haven’t been the fastest (car), but we’ve been competitive.”
And in the semifinals, Strong and No. 2 seed Bo Butner were side by side before Butner’s car broke just short of the finish line, giving Strong his third consecutive win. He became the 101st different driver to make a Pro Stock finals.
When it became clear that the finals matchup against top qualifier Nobile wasn’t going to happen Sunday, NHRA officials gave Strong — a part-time racer who usually runs in West Coast races — the option of traveling to Brainerd or Indy.
He chose the prestigious Indy, which gives him nearly a month to get everything packed up for a road trip.
“We are not going to miss our final — we’ll go wherever,” Strong said. “We wanted to go to Indy anyways. And it’s a month away. I like racing about once a month. It works with my schedule with family and business.”
Perhaps the most anticipated finals matchup Sunday would have been Worsham, the defending Funny Car points champion, and Capps, the points leader this season.
Worsham buzzed through the field, becoming the first Funny Car driver to post six consecutive runs in the 3.8-second range. He set the national ET record (3.832) during qualifying Saturday.
“It’s too bad. It really is,” Worsham said. “You kind of want to finish what you’ve started. Two weeks from now is two weeks from now, you know. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”
Spanaway’s Joey Severance made the finals in Alcohol dragster as the No. 1 qualifier, but he will have to wait until the national event in Dallas (Oct. 13-16) to run it off against Chris Demke. The defending points champion, Severance has won three races this season — and will win the Northwest Nationals for a third time if he gets by Demke. … Kapowsin’s Ron Smith lost his opener to Tony Schumacher, but set a career-best time of 4.003 ET in Top Fuel.
At Pacific Raceways
Final Finish Order
Antron Brown vs. Steve Torrence.
Ron Capps vs. Del Worsham.
Vincent Nobile vs. Aaron Strong.
Brad Burton, Pontiac Firebird, 10.816, 111.86 def. Ryan Warter, Firebird, 11.800, 106.77.
Round One—Morgan Lucas, 3.721, 325.61 def. Leah Pritchett, Foul - Red Light. Clay Millican, 3.896, 250.69 def. Terry McMillen, 7.207, 84.77. Antron Brown, 3.702, 324.28 def. T.J. Zizzo, 3.815, 282.95. Tony Schumacher, 3.702, 324.44 def. Ron Smith, 4.003, 292.20. Steve Torrence, 3.715, 328.22 def. Scott Palmer, 8.541, 100.02. J.R. Todd, 3.744, 324.59 def. Troy Buff, 3.831, 308.50. Shawn Langdon, 3.726, 320.89 def. Brittany Force, 4.329, 231.83. Richie Crampton, 3.696, 322.88 def. Doug Kalitta, 3.755, 323.27.
Quarterfinals—Todd, 3.698, 327.74 def. Langdon, 3.726, 326.63. Brown, 3.685, 328.14 def. Millican, 3.790, 275.84. Lucas, 3.701, 318.09 def. Schumacher, 3.706, 326.63. Torrence, 3.699, 328.06 def. Crampton, 3.706, 314.24.
Semifinals—Torrence, 3.695, 330.47 def. Todd, 3.753, 316.23. Brown, 3.736, 322.58 def. Lucas, 4.679, 157.17.
Final—Brown vs. Torrence
Round One—Jack Beckman, Dodge Charger, 3.854, 334.15 def. Gary Densham, Ford Mustang, 4.274, 261.02. Ron Capps, Charger, 3.856, 330.23 def. Brandon Welch, Chevy Monte Carlo, 14.024, 64.54. Del Worsham, Toyota Camry, 3.861, 331.20 def. Tim Gibbons, Chevy Impala, 4.755, 185.92. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.937, 208.88 def. Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, Foul - Outer Boundary. Matt Hagan, Charger, 3.865, 331.94 def. John Hale, Charger, 3.994, 290.94. Cruz Pedregon, Camry, 5.928, 223.62 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 7.107, 84.11. Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.887, 328.46 def. John Force, Camaro, 3.912, 329.67. Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.862, 331.20 def. Chad Head, Camry, 3.969, 309.49.
Quarterfinals—Diehl, 4.021, 316.45 def. Pedregon, 6.055, 123.64. Hagan, 3.903, 299.80 def. Beckman, Foul - Red Light. Capps, 3.865, 328.62 def. Johnson Jr., 3.899, 320.58. Worsham, 3.881, 328.46 def. Hight, 3.894, 323.04.
Semifinals—Worsham, 3.864, 330.96 def. Hagan, 3.887, 326.48. Capps, 3.890, 327.11 def. Diehl, Broke.
Final—Capps vs. Worsham
Round One—Shane Gray, Chevy Camaro, 6.568, 210.60 def. Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.625, 210.01. Jeg Coughlin, Dodge Dart, 6.604, 208.71 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.589, 209.30. Erica Enders, Dart, 6.581, 209.39 def. Alex Laughlin, Camaro, 6.569, 210.90. Allen Johnson, Dart, 6.564, 210.80 def. Deric Kramer, Dart, 6.652, 207.27. Aaron Strong, Camaro, 6.658, 208.30 def. Greg Anderson, Camaro, 9.624, 95.25. Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.546, 211.49 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, Foul - Red Light. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.531, 211.69 was unopposed. Jason Line, Camaro, 6.557, 211.49 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.567, 210.24.
Quarterfinals—Strong, 6.608, 208.46 def. Enders, 8.972, 104.51. Line, 6.543, 210.77 def. Johnson, 6.566, 209.62. Butner, 6.562, 209.85 def. Coughlin, 7.671, 132.40. Nobile, 6.542, 211.23 def. Gray, 6.554, 209.95.
Semifinals—Strong, 6.605, 209.10 def. Butner, 7.093, 152.35. Nobile, 6.546, 211.59 def. Line, Foul - Red Light.
Final—Nobile vs. Strong.