NASCAR & Auto Racing

Drag racers shatter track records at Kent

KENT One by one track records were broken Friday in all three car classes at the 28th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

In the first qualifiers for the Pro Stock class, Jonathan Gray of Artesia, New Mexico, set a track record for elapsed time with 6.521 seconds.

But that record didn’t last for long.

During the second round of qualifiers that record was shattered by five-time NHRA champion Jeg Coughlin Jr. of Delaware, Ohio, after he timed out at 6.501 seconds in his 2015 Camaro.

Coughlin Jr., who hasn’t won at Pacific Raceways since 2002 and is only racing part-time this season, now sits atop of the qualifying heats and says that he feels unbelievable behind the wheel at this point.

“I love racing here,” Coughlin said. “It’s just awesome sitting up top.”

Another racer claimed a track record after Coughlin, this time in the Funny Car class.

Jack Beckman of Norco, California, broke the track record in the second heat with a time of 3.997 seconds in his 2015 Charger. He broke the old record of 4.049 seconds.

Beckman also broke the top speed record and hit 314.17 mph,which smashed the old record of 308.85 mph by John Force in 2011.

“I just keep riding the wave and it keeps lasting and getting better,” Beckman said.

Beckman has won five races this season and is looking to sweep the Western swing that consists of races in Denver, Sonoma, California, and Pacific Raceways. He said he isn’t feeling any pressure.

“Ask me at 10:45 on Sunday morning (when the finals are),” Beckman said.

The record breaking didn’t stop there. Dave Connolly eclipsed Top Fuel class track records.

Connolly hit 3.751 seconds in his qualifying heat, and that beat the old record of 3.765, which was set in 2013. He also obliterated the top speed record by reaching 327 mph, which beat the old record of 322 mph.

Some Top Fuel qualifiers were delayed for 52 minutes because there was too much glare on the track while the sun was slowly setting, and Connolly wasn’t sure his time would hold up.

“To be honest, I didn’t think that time would hold up because of how cool the track got,” Connolly said. “I was in shock.”

Both Coughlin and Beckman know that the weather and temperatures will play a big role Saturday for the other round of qualifiers.

“I’m definitely swinging hard for tomorrow,” Coughlin said. “I know the weather will be cooler tomorrow morning and the track will be filled in much better, and my 6.50 time should stand.”

Beckman agreed and said he expects to see more Funny Cars turn in runs close to his time on Saturday, when qualifiers start at 1 p.m.