Todd, Johnson, Jr. and McGaha Secure Seattle NHRA Wins

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J.R. Todd solidified his position in the Top Fuel Mello Yello points standings, beating Shawn Langdon in the finals at the NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.  Tommy Johnson, Jr. used a quicker reaction time to take out Del Worsham in the Funny Car money round while keeping Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman from sweeping the legendary NHRA Western Swing after winning two of the last three races in Denver and Sonoma. And it took Chris McGaha 30 years to get his first Pro Stock NHRA Wally, but only seven days to get his second after taking out five-time champ Jegs Coughlin in back-to-back wins.

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TOP FUEL
J.R. Todd driving his Kalitta Racing Red Line Oil dragster knew going into the NHRA Northwest Nationals that his position in the driver standings was pivotal. Unless he mounted a charge to the front he would have found himslef out of the top 10. But Todd stood his ground after winning in Seattle on Sunday, his first victory of the 2015 season, moving him up to sixth in the standings with two to go before the Countdown starts in Charlotte.

Todd’s first round had major point ramifications, beating Clay Millican, No. 11 in the points, by running his best time of the day of 4.763 seconds, 327.35 mph. Todd turned back Terry McMillan in the quarterfinals, then powerhouse Tony Schumacher in the semis before taking on Shawn Langdon in the finals.

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“It’s still so surreal that I’m driving for Connie Kalitta,” said Todd, who is in his second season with Kalitta Motorsports. “He’s done so much for the sport as a driver, owner, and crew chief. I’m the luckiest guy out here. This is Connie’s personal toy and he takes a lot of pride in this car. I just love to be able to bring him trophies.”

Todd had a slight advantage in the finals on the tree driving to a time of 3.824 seconds, 323.04 mph to reach the finish line first ahead of Langdon’s 3.902 ET, 307.51 mph. It was his eighth career victory and first since Denver 2014. “To bounce back, it feels amazing!” said Todd. “I feel like we sustained momentum in Sonoma and carried it over here. It sucks that Connie (Kalitta) isn’t here, but he relayed information over to Jim O (team manager, Oberhofer) and James (Riola) and it worked. This is a big win!”

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FUNNY CAR
Tommy Johnson Jr. had a truly spectacular race day at the NHRA Northwest Nationals to claim the 12th Wally of his nitro career in his 29th final round moving him now to the No. 3 in the points; 114 points out of the lead.

“It was a great day,” said a grinning Johnson. “The car was so consistent. After a day like today, you know the other guys are going to have to beat us, because we’re not going to beat ourselves. As a driver, you can go up there and do your job and know that the car will be there. We’ve got a good team. We had struggles early in the season, but now we’ve overcome them and we have a good car that can win races. Everybody stepped up to the plate.”

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Johnson started from the No. 5 position, racing Paul Lee in the first round. From there, he proceeded to take out Chad Head in the second round, facing his DSR teammate and four-time winner this season, Jack Beckman in the semi-finals. From the start, the win was in Johnson’s hands as he launched ahead of Beckman by .013-second. Beckman was down a cylinder but Johnson had them all lit as he sailed ahead for a powerful 4.070, 310.41 mph win over his challenger’s 4.166, 301.47 to end Beckman’s winning streak preventing him from taking the Western Swing sweep.

“It felt like I won Indy when I beat Beckman in the semifinals,” said Johnson. “I never saw him. I knew I had to cut a good light because that’s the only advantage I could get on him. They’ve put together so many great runs, and you knew it would have to come to an end at some point.”

In the Funny Car final, Johnson came up against Del Worsham. A brilliant .040-second reaction time set Johnson off on a strong note, and he carried the advantage to a holeshot win, defeating Worsham with a time of 4.073 seconds, 308.00 mph to Worsham’s time of 4.042 seconds, 307.51 to win by 0.0169 of a second.

“When they told me I won on a holeshot, I went a little crazy. As a driver, you can’t make the car go any quicker, but you can certainly slow it down and be late and get beat on a holeshot,” said Johnson. “That makes a win mean a little more.”It was Johnson second win in Seattle becoming only the third driver to win in both nitro classes in the Emerald City winning in Top Fuel in 1993. It only took Johnson 22 years to return to the Washington winner’s circle.

After setting a new NHRA National elapsed time record of 3.921 seconds last weekend in Sonoma, Jack Beckman ran the class’ quickest time in the history of the sport in Saturday’s qualifying, lowering it to 3.912 seconds. Beckman’s charge has whittled Matt Hagan’s big lead of 145 points in the Funny Car points standing prior to the Western Swing down to only five with two races to go before the championship starts.

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PRO STOCK
After winning his first Pro Stock victory last weekend in Sonoma, Texan Chris McGaha liked it so much that he decided to do it again in Seattle. McGaha started his day from top of the ladder in the No. 1 qualifying position taking out Joey Grose first round setting low ET of the meet running a time of 6.488 seconds, 213.40 mph. He followed that up defeating Vincent Nobile and Shane Gray in the semi-finals setting the stage against Jeg Coughlin in a battle Chevy Camaros in the finals.

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His pass of 6.507 seconds, 212.59 mph was good enough to out distance Coughlin’s 6.532 second time to claim his second victory of the season.“The fact that we’ve gotten on a roll here, it does give us a legitimate chance at the championship,” said McGaha. “I’ve seen guys in the past maybe peak too early. I don’t know if we’ve peaked too early or not. I don’t really care at this point either… I have 100 percent confidence in my crew chief (Brian “Lump” Self) and I always have.

“The fact that we’ve gotten on a roll here does give us a legitimate chance at the championship,” said McGaha. “I’ve seen guys in the past maybe peak too early. I don’t know if we’ve peaked too early or not. I don’t really care at this point either… I have 100 percent confidence in my crew chief [Brian “Lump” Self] and I always have.”With the victory, McGaha moves to third in points and also secured a berth in the Countdown to the Championship. Greg Anderson, who lost in the second round to Shane Gray, continues to lead the points, holding a 51-point lead over defending world champ Enders.

The NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series continues Aug. 20-23 with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd International Raceway.

About Jay Wells 321 Articles
Jay Wells, 61, is a veteran motorsports public relations and marketing official. He spent 33 years at the track working with NASCAR, IndyCar, IMSA, and NHRA series' before retiring in 2009. He began writing for RacingJunk.com in September of 2013 covering the NHRA and NASCAR circuits with post race coverage along with feature and breaking news stories. Wells resides in Mooresville, North Carolina. Follow Wells on Twitter @ jaywells500.
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