Seattle Final Stop for NHRA Western Swing


The finale of this year’s NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series Western Swing occurs this weekend at Pacific Raceways outside Seattle, Wash. To get to this event, racers have traveled from their home bases to Denver, Colorado and then to Sonoma, California. Now, with perhaps a bit of R&R between contests, Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock competitors are en route to the Pacific Northwest with the goal of earning a Wally winner’s trophy, after not racing at Seattle for the past two seasons.

The pandemic we’ve faced over the past three years has stunted the explorations of newer members of the NHRA community. Some of the racers working the 2022 series have never seen this track and have no idea how to work it. Thankfully for nearly everyone in this predicament, a crew chief (or two) has all the information necessary to prep a car for three qualifying sessions and, hopefully, four Sunday trips down the drag strip.

One thing everyone will be dealing with over this weekend is excruciating heat. All over the country heat waves have been making life difficult for citizens and the Pacific Northwest is bracing for hot days and mild nights. Where temps would normally be in the high 70-degree range at this venue, this weekend calls for 90-plus degree temperatures for the three qualifying sessions and four rounds of eliminations. That might be normal for the first two rounds of the Western Swing but not for this one. We’ll have to see who gets it right.

Sonoma saw Brittany Force get it right for the fourth time this season, as she earned the Top Fuel win in her Flav-R-Pac dragster., taking her 15th career victory, her first at Sonoma and, by stopping Mike Salinas in the finals, taking the points lead by a measly six points. Her sponsor is the sponsor of the race this weekend.

Erica Enders

Bob Tasca III and Erica Enders prevailed in Funny Car and Pro Stock, marking both drivers’ first victories at the wine country-adjacent and picturesque Sonoma Raceway track. Although his class is not racing at Seattle, last weekend Joey Gladstone earned his first national event win in Pro Stock Motorcycle aboard the Reed Motorsports Suzuki; it was his third consecutive final round appearance.

With 16 cars on the entry list, Top Fuel has a full field, made up of everyone in the top-10 as closure of the regular season occurs four races away on Labor Day weekend in Brownsburg, IN. Everyone in the current top 10 is parked at the track. Justin Ashley, currently in third place (-140) behind Force and Salinas, has picked up another supporter in Ashton Paving of Salem, OR for this race. With only four contests remaining in the regular season, Ashley,, fourth-place Steve Torrence (-178), Josh Hart (-346), as well as Shawn Langdon, Leah Pruett, Austin Prock, Doug Kalitta and Clay Millican are hoping to remain in top-10 contention once this Swing and the balance of the “regular season” are done.

They’ve got two superstars attempting to displace them in first-year team owner Antron Brown and Tony Schumacher, the eight-time champ now racing for newly-constituted Maynard Family Racing team. Schumacher has won this race four times, most recently in 2008, as has Brown, whose most recent win here came in 2018. This week both Alex Laughlin and Scott Palmer are racing in Top Fuel, joined by local driver Ron Smith and James Maroney

Bob Tasca
Bob Tasca

Bob Tasca III won at Sonoma in his Ford Mustang, allowing him to leapfrog Cruz Pedregon in the Funny Car standings, while still 400 points behind leader Robert Hight and his Chevrolet Camaro SS. Hight, who has been a real monster in the class all year, is seeking his sixth victory of the year, and milestone 60th career win as he prepares for the Countdown after Indy. Hight won this race in his 2017 championship season and has four No. 1 qualifiers at this track. Hight’s closest pursuer, Matt Hagan of Tony Stewart Racing, needs to make up 144 points in his Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat, on a track where he hasn’t won since 2013.

There are only 12 (!) Funny Car entries for this race in Seattle, which might be good news for those entrenched in the top-10 standings, but one needs to wonder why the local racers who came to Sonoma didn’t make the trip up the coast? Of the 10 enshrined currently in the top-10, only Chad Green, currently in tenth position is not on the entry list, which gives both Jim Campbell and Blake Alexander – both present and accounted for – good opportunities to overtake Green with some rounds-going results.

Reigning titleholder Ron Capps, who had a quick exit in Sonoma with his Toyota GR Supra, is a four-time winner at this track (once in Top Fuel) and a five-time runner-up, including the most recent occasion, 2019, that NHRA raced here. Defeated by 16-time champ and Chevy Camaro SS racer John Force in the first Sonoma round, Capps will contest his 599th national event – he has 70 victories thus far – and is in third place, 210 points behind Hight, while Force is fourth, 306 points behind his company’s president. Tasca holds fifth-place points and needs to make up 400 points.

Behind the Rhode Island racer lie Pedregon (Charger), J.R. Todd and Alexis DeJoria (both in Supras) – DeJoria hasn’t raced at Seattle since 2017 after taking a short sabbatical – Tim Wilkerson and Green, both of whom race Ford Mustangs. The only other racer on the entry list in Funny Car is veteran Gary Densham in a Mustang, so there are opportunities in this race for the standings to change abruptly.

After a tough Denver race meeting, Erica Enders rebounded with her first Sonoma victory and showed that she, together with the Elite Motorsports squad, are having an enviable season. She once again denied Greg Anderson the 100th victory he covets and increased her points lead over teammate Aaron Stanfield to an 80-point advantage. The driver that won the Denver race, Matt Hartford, is the reigning victor in Seattle and has been pushing his team forward in the closing segments of the regular NHRA Camping World season this year.

Of course Enders’ sixth victory on the season has everyone in Pro Stock befuddled. Whether she wins straight up, with a hole shot or taking advantage of a competitor’s issues, Enders has been the class of this class all season long. There are 15 Pro Stock cars in the pits this weekend, another short field that could change standings after eliminations are complete. Behind Enders and Stanfield, three KB Racing teammates are among those hoping to move forward in the standings this week: Kyle Koretsky, Greg Anderson and Dallas Glenn. Sixth through 10th currently belongs to Mason McGaha, Matt Hartford, rookie Camrie Caruso, Troy Coughlin Jr. and Bo Butner. Those waiting in the wings include Deric Kramer, Fernando Cuadra Jr. and Cristian Cuadra, with Chris McGaha 14th.

Brittany Force
Brittany Force

All top-10 racers in Pro Stock are on the grounds with their Chevrolet Camaro cars, joined by the three Cuadra family members in Ford Mustangs. Caruso, who had an uncustomary misstep in Sonoma, is hoping she and mentor Jim Yates can turn her back to center in Seattle. Wrapping up her first Western Swing, Caruso will again race the Tequila Conisario Camaro with support from NGK. “We have just had some tough draws on race day,” Caruso said. She’s hoping to equal the exploits of Austin Prock, who won his first national event at this track in 2019, joining team owner John Force on the nitro podium. Caruso, who has qualified well consistently, might be able to break out at this track.

Lucas Oil competitors racing this weekend include the following categories: Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Competition Eliminator, Super Stock, Stock Eliminator, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Street, Top Sportsman and Top Dragster.

Following the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals this weekend, there’s a break to mid-August when everyone reconvenes at Heartland Motorsports Park on August 12-14 for the Menards NHRA Nationals presented by PetArmor. This weekend’s television schedule has preliminary events broadcast on FS1 and FS2 with finals showing 4-7PM ET on the FOX network.

About Anne Proffit 1137 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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