This past weekend’s 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals in Kent, Washington, represented the third race in three weeks and the final event of the grueling ‘Western Swing.”
The Western Swing starts in Denver, travels to Sonoma and closes out at this event. With the completion of this event, there are only two events left in the regular NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season for drivers to qualify for the six event Chase for the Championship. The final event to qualify for the Chase is the Chevrolet Performance Parts NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana, which awards 150 percent of the normal points.
The temperatures at the Northwest Nationals were hot and humid on Friday, but improved as the weekend passed. By Sunday’s final eliminations, the weather was very conducive to good performances.
In Top Fuel, Antron Brown led all qualifiers with a strong 3.735 at 329.10 mph effort in his Matco Tools dragster. From the top spot, Brown proceeded to march his way through eliminations. But every great racer needs a little racer’s luck and Brown needed to reach into the lucky bag in the second round. While racing against Mike Salinas, Brown had an uncharacteristically slow reaction time (0.131 to 0.062) and Salinas started pulling away towards a sure victory. Unfortunately for Salinas, his engine let go prior to the finish line. This allowed Brown to get by for the win and continue on. That luck was all he would need, as he then took out Clay Millican in the Great Clips/Parts 4 Less/F.O.E. dragster, 3.781 at 325.22 mph to 3.794 at 318.32 mph and advance into the final round. On the other side of the elimination ladder, a small miracle seemed to happening. Terry McMillen, in the Amalie Oil dragster had been making quite a lot of performance gains, as the season progressed and it looked to be paying off. In his years of competition, he had not won a national event title, but was hoping to get his first at this event. He got past the season points leader, Steve Torrence in the opening round with a 3.725 at 321.58 mph to 3.64 at 327.51 mph effort. He then took out Doug Kalitta in the MAC Tools dragster in the second round, 3.804 at 317.49 mph to 3.900 at 309.27 mph. Then he ended Leah Pritchett’s day with 3.822 at 315.42mph to 3.888 at 306.40 mph winning effort. In the final, McMillen laid down a 3.772 at 318.54 mph to 3.776 to 326.48 mph effort. Unfortunately for McMillen, Brown had the better starting line reaction time (0.074 to 0.094) taking a “hole shot” win for the event title.
In Funny Car, Robert Hight of John Force Racing, had the car to beat. He qualified first with a 3.883 at 329.42 mph and marched thorough eliminations. Jeff Diehl, John Force and Courtney Force all fell as he charged into the final round. With eliminations performances of 3.897, 3.937 and 3.905 seconds, he easily dispatched with all competitors. Tommy Johnson Jr. was also making strong runs as he dispatched with competitors on his way to a final round matchup with Hight. In the final, Johnson got away first (0.048 to 0.085) but Hight quickly made up the difference, as he headed to a 3.890 at 322.62 mph to 3.978 at 323.27 mph event title. The last time Hight was in the final round at this event was in 2005, where he lost to the late Eric Medlen in the final round.
In Pro Stock, one time teammates, Drew Skillman and Erica Enders, each marched to their final found round match up for the event title. Enders left first (0.034 to 0.039), but Skillman made up the difference, capping it off with a 6.604 at 209.33 mph to 6.609 at 209.49 mph win for the event title.