The NHRA completed its famed “Western Swing” in Seattle, Washington, with the NHRA Cat Spot Northwest Nationals. With three National events in three weeks (Denver, Sonoma and Seattle), teams were put on the edge with varying weather conditions.
In Top Fuel it was two Don Schumacher Racing teammates, Antron Brown and Leah Pritchett, who would have what it took to get to the final round. Pritchett came into the event with two wins and two runner-up finishes, with her last event win two weeks ago in Denver. For Brown, it had been a long struggle. His last win came at this same event last year. From his fourth qualifying position, he took out Shawn Reed, Tony Schumacher and (season point leader) Steve Torrence, on his way to the final round against Pritchett.
Pritchett qualified sixth and took out Troy Buff, Clay Millican, and Mike Salinas in her final round march. In the final, Pritchett gained a slight 0.056 to 0.066 starting line advantage, but Brown was not going to be denied. He would take the win light with a 3.835 at 322.88 mph to 3.849 at 320.13 mph (a 0.004 second margin of victory). The win gave him his 50th career Top Fuel event win.
In Funny Car, it looked like it was going to be the Courtney Force, Robert Hight and Matt Hagan show, as they had the strongest and most consistent cars in qualifying. Simply qualifying quick enough to get into the 16-car field was no easy matter. It wasn’t until his last ditch qualifying effort, that John Force was able to make the field. The final “bump spot” was held by Cruz Pedregon, with a 4.182 at 296.63 mph. Matt Hagan claimed the top spot with a 3.913 at 324.75, followed closely by Courtney Force and Robert Hight. But, when the final round came up, it would be Courtney Force against Ron Capps.
Capps, who had qualified ninth, battled his way into the final. He took out Jonnie Lindberg, top qualifier Matt Hagan and Tim Wilkerson. In the final round, Force took a 0.078 to 0.084 second stating line advantage and looked like she was on her way to the win. But, she lost traction nearing the finish line, allowing Capps to go by for a 4.033 at 314.90 mph to 4.115 at 255.63 mph win. For Capps it marked his 60th career event win in Funny Car. He also won once in Top Fuel in 1995, at this same track.
In Pro Stock, Tanner Gray claimed his fourth win of the season (the most in the class), as he defeated a “red lighting” Deric Kramer. Gray turned in a strong 6.632 at 210.05 mph, in his winning effort.
Richard Townsend and his Nitroholic team are rapidly gaining the respect of all the other racers and the sanctioning body, as he qualified 12th with a new career best of 4.041 at 305.84 mph. He actually turned in the third quickest time in the third round of qualifying, with only Robert Hight and Courtney Force going quicker. Because of his performance improvements and steady work ethic, NHRA asked him to perform the pre-event start “track walk” with the fans. This is an honor given to drivers in recognition of their competitive performance efforts and fan popularity. For Townsend, it was like living a dream.