NHRA’s gruelling annual “Western Swing” of 3-consecutive national events in 3-weeks concluded at Seattle’s Pacific Raceways….
A suddenly surging Chris McGaha won for the 2nd time in two weeks in Pro Stock and DSR racing continued their absolute season dominance of NHRA fuel FC class racing with yet another win. J.R. Todd scored an impressive victory in Top Fuel for the Kalitta Motorsports racing team.
Chris McGaha did something on Sunday in Seattle that he had never even dreamed of before this year. The driver of the Harlow Sammons Racing Chevrolet Camaro, known as the Silver Bullet, wheeled his way to the winner’s circle at the 28th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals. It was the second consecutive victory for the Odessa, Texas, native after scoring the first win of his career in Sonoma just last week.
“We moved up in the points, and we’re real excited about that,” said McGaha, now No. 3 in the Pro Stock standings with two races left before the Countdown to the Championship field is set. “We knew we were close to Jason Line, but going around him, wow, that’s a big deal. At this point it makes me think of Lou Brown – you know what you call that? A winning streak! And now you’re probably saying, who’s Lou Brown? He was the manager for the Cleveland Indians in the movie Major League.”
Heading into the event, McGaha knew he had a strong car and a solid team between crew chief Brian “Lump” Self and a small but dedicated and determined crew – including his own father, Lester McGaha. During qualifying, they recovered from a slow start and threw a big number on the scoreboard to fly to the No. 1 position for the second straight weekend.
But they weren’t even close to finished. In the first round of eliminations, McGaha obliterated the track records for elapsed time and speed with a mind-blowing 6.488-second pass at 213.40 mph as his opponent, Joey Grose, fouled out. Not a soul on the property had wheeled a Pro Stock car to 213 mph before, and no one has done it since the second-generation drag racer’s spectacular opening pass on Sunday. No one had ever before – or has since – made a run in the 6.40-second zone.
In the second round, it was young Vincent Nobile on the block, and McGaha was first to leave the starting line and first to the finish in the Silver Bullet, sending his challenger home on a 6.524, 212.76 to 6.538, 212.43. With lane choice over Shane Gray in the semifinals, McGaha again had the advantage and left the line .003-second ahead. At the stripe his 6.533, 212.23 did the job as Gray slowed to a tire spinning 15.389.
Without lane choice in the final and with wildly successful Pro Stock racer Jeg Coughlin in the other lane, many would have felt a sense of dread – but not McGaha. He was .029 at the tree and clocked a completely shocking 6.507, 212.59 in a decisive win over Coughlin’s 6.532, 212.63.
“If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best,” said McGaha of his final round victory over Coughlin. “The fact that we’ve gotten on a roll here, it gives us a legitimate chance [at the championship]. I’ve seen guys in the past who maybe peak too early. I don’t know if we have or not, but I don’t really care at this point. We have two wins, and I’m ready to go right now. Anyone that wants to go right now, I’m ready.”
Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) and the new 2015 Mopar Dodge Charger R/T closed out the National Hot Rod Association’s three-consecutive events “Western Swing” at the 28th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals with a title win by Tommy Johnson Jr., his second of the year aboard his Make-A-Wish Mopar machine. With the victory, the new Funny Car body made its 13th appearance in the winner’s circle this year after advancing to a 15th final elimination in 16 national events this season.
Seeded fifth, Johnson Jr. defeated fellow Dodge driver Paul Lee and then Chad Head before a semi-final battle against teammate Jack Beckman in a rematch of the final elimination round of last weekend’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals. This time Johnson emerged the victor to advance to final round showdown against Del Worsham. With a .040-second reaction time, the Make-A-Wish Mopar posted a 4.073 seconds elapsed time pass at 308.00 mph to score a holeshot victory over his competitor’s 4.042/307.51 to earn his second win of the season and 10th career Funny Car Wally. The win puts Johnson third in the standings, 114 points behind points leader Matt Hagan and Beckman to put the DSR teammates 1-2-3 in championship hunt with two events left before NHRA’s “Countdown to the Championship” playoff series begins.
“We’ve got the most consistent car,” said Johnson Jr of his HEMI®-powered 2015 Dodge Charger R/T. “The last seven races including this one, we have been to four finals. 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. I’m so happy for the guys. Our Make-A-Wish Dodge is so competitive right now, and this class is so competitive. I’m glad we’re peaking at the right time. We’ll go into the Countdown to the Championship with a lot of confidence.”
In Top Fuel, Todd piloted his Red Line Oil dragster to a 3.820 at 322.04, defeating Shawn Langdon in the final. The win was Todd’s first of the season, first at Seattle and eighth of his career. He moves to sixth in points with two races remaining before the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
“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.”
Langdon advanced to his second final of the season after winning the season-opener at Pomona, Calif. The 2013 world champ was steady on Sunday, beating Antron Brown, Richie Crampton and Larry Dixon to advance to the final in his Knuckle Sandwich/Toyota dragster. Langdon moves to seventh in points.
Tony Schumacher remained in the series lead in Top Fuel, and holds an 87-point lead over Brown. Schumacher lost in the second round to Steve Torrence.
The Lucas Oil Lowdown – Ladies are Dominant!
Lady racer Megan McKernan and Annie Whiteley outran the guys in Top Alcohol Dragster and Top Alcohol Funny Car to take the wins at this weekend’s NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.
McKernan, coming out of the No. 7 qualifying position, ran 5.30’s and 5.40’s in qualifying and eliminations, then met up with No. 5 qualifier Garrett Bateman in the final with both drivers having a runner up finish here in Seattle in recent years. Bateman, Albany, Ore., left before the tree was activated, handing the win to McKernan out of Sierra Madre, Calif. McKernan reacted to Bateman leaving early, did the same causing neither driver to get a time. The win was McKernan’s second on the national series.
Whiteley, Grand Junction, Colo., was looking for her third NHRA national event trophy but would need to get by Shane Westerfield who had beaten Whiteley all five times they have faced off. Westerfield was out first but immediately went into bad tire shake as Whiteley raced off for the win with a nice clean 5.546 second pass at 265.43 mph.
Jeff Lane, North Bend, Wash., added to his trophy collection taking the win in Comp Eliminator over Ryan Warter. The win was Lane’s ninth and fourth at the facility just outside of Seattle.
Dan Fletcher is also very familiar with the Seattle winner’s circle as he collected his fifth win in the northwest bringing his total to 94 national events wins. Fletcher, Churchville, N.Y., defeated Jody Lang, Puyallup, Wash., who has 26 wins to his credit, in a double break-out Super Stock final.
Glen Paine Jr. and Josh Dalrymple each picked up their first NHRA national event Wally trophy as Paine, Puyallup, Wash., beat out Gene Heaton, Vancouver, Wash., in the Super Gas final which was close at the start with Paine just a tick better at the strip. Dalrymple out of Sunnyside, Wash., raced Fred Hoffman, Shoreline, Wash., for the Super Street title and a battle of ’67 Camaros. Hoffman left early with the red light and Dalrymple ran it out to a 10.869, 156.50 mph lap for the win.
Steve Wann and Tommy Phillips rounded out the list of winners as Wann, Modesto, Calif., battled Brian Thompson in Stock and a close race from start to finish with the nod going to Wann and his ’62 Fury. Phillips, Forney, Texas, had a nice .010 second reaction time on his way to this 33rd national event win ousting Nick Drzayich, Auburn, Wash in Super Comp.
Posted with files form Kelly Topolinski, Pat Caporali, NHRA Communications & Eric Lotz
All photos by: Gerry Frechette