NHRA’s gruelling annual mid-summer 3-consecutive race weekends — “Western Swing” — concluded near Seattle ..…

Antron Brown, a 3X Top Fuel world champion, was able to lock down his first victory of the season when he emerged victorious at the 31st annual CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

Ron Capps (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) were also winners in their respective categories at the 16th of 24 events on the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Brown piloted to the winner’s circle with a run of 3.835–seconds at 322.84 mph in his Matco Tools dragster to take down teammate Leah Pritchett in the finals. This was Brown’s third consecutive victory at Pacific Raceways and his first victory since the 2017 event. Brown became the fourth driver in NHRA history to earn 50 career Top Fuel event wins.

“It is no secret that we struggled at the beginning of the year,” Brown stated. “Our main focus was one run at a time and to get better each time. But today all of the win lights turned on for our team and I couldn’t be so proud of all my guys for how persistent that they have been. It had been so long that I hadn’t even thought about winning 50 (races) but now that we got that win it is just a true blessing.”

Racing his Matco Tools dragster, popular driver Antron Brown earned his milestone 50th NHRA national event title during the NHRA’s Catspot Northwest Nationals.

Brown took down Shawn Reed, teammate Tony Schumacher and points leader Steve Torrence as he entered his 120th career final round. Prichett was the No. 6 qualifier and defeated Troy Buff, Clay Millican and Mike Salinas on her way to her second final round appearance on the Western Swing.

The 2016 Funny Car world champion Capps used a 4.033 at 314.90 in his Pennzoil Synthetics / NAPA AUTO PARTS Dodge Charger R/T to beat points leader Courtney Force in the finals to eliminate John Force Racing’s hopes of sweeping the Western Swing. Capps secured his second win of the season and fourth event victory at Pacific Raceways.

“There’s a lot of good solid competition out there,” Capps said. “The main thing going through my head was to not let John Force sweep the swing in Funny Car so we put a stop to that. This was Rahn Tobler (crew chief) and I’s 24th event victory together since 2012 which is just crazy and I think we’re going to have a lot of success the rest of the season.”

Ron Capps won in Funny Car at Seattle – it was his 4th career win at Pacific Raceways.

Capps qualified ninth and took down Jonnie Lindberg, teammate Matt Hagan and Tim Wilkerson on his path to his fifth final round this season. Force defeated Jim Campbell, Shawn Langdon and Tommy Johnson Jr. on her way to her category-best sixth final round of the season.

In Pro Stock, Gray drove to a 6.632 at 210.05 in his Gray Motorsports Valvoline Chevrolet Camaro to defeat Deric Kramer in the final round as he became the lone driver in the Pro Stock class with four victories on the year. The 2017 Auto Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award winner secured his fifth final round appearance on the 2018 season and first at Pacific Raceways.

“It is definitely my team that has gotten me to where I am today,” Gray stated. “It was tough day up on the start line and reaction times were a little bit slower here. My team worked with me through the mistakes that I’ve made but all in all it was a great day and I couldn’t be happier.

Young Gun Tanner Gray won for the 4th time this season in NHRA Pro Stock

Gray qualified fourth and was able to take down Fernando Cuadra, Jason Line and Vincent Nobile on his path to victory as he locked in his position in the Countdown playoffs. Erica Enders, Nobile and No. 1 qualifier Jeg. Coughlin Jr. each joined Greg Anderson by locking in their spot in the 2018 Countdown.

The CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals also featured competition in the fan favourite Top Fuel Harley division, which is an eliminator presented by M/T Tires and Wheels.

That championship round featured a Can-Am final pairing when North Carolina’s Tii Tharpe raced Calgary Alberta’s Mike Scott.

Tharpe ran a winning 6.318 secs at 225.30 mph for the victory while Scott slowed slightly from an earlier pace with a 6.543 secs 209.07 mph pass.

North Carolina’s Tii Tharpe roared to victory in the M/T-presented Top Fuel Harley division.

Tii topped the field from the #1 qualified slot – after running 6.251 secs which was also Low ET of the event. Prior to beating Scott, he had taken the measure of Kevin Boyer and Rickey House in earlier competition.

Jay “Bulldog” Turner was officially the fastest of the Top Fuel Harley’s this weekend – netting top speed at 229.24 mph. But Jay was upset in round one when Scott beat him in a terrific and very close 6.402 to 6.403 secs clash.

The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season continues at Brainerd International Raceway in Brainerd, Minn. from August 16-19.

The Lucas Oil Lowdown

NHRA Lucas Oil category racing was highlighted by a tremendous and very telling Top Alcohol Dragster final round which featured arguably that class’s top two national contenders.

Powerhouse class drivers and fierce Northwest rivals Joey Severance, (from Oregon) and Canadian Shawn Cowie, (Surrey, B.C.) clashed in the final round. Severance took the lead out of the gate running 5.278 seconds, 274.16 mph. But Cowie was able to reel him in and pass him for his 13th career national event Wally trophy running 5.230 seconds, 277.26 mph.

In a truly marquee TAD final round – it was Shawn Cowie (far lane) taking the measure of Joey Severance.

Cowie was in fact one of two Canadian drivers who prevailed at the Seattle event. He was joined in victory lane by Alberta’s Francesca Giroux (daughter to Eddy Plaizier) who won in the Super Street (10.90) class driving her family’s team Chevy Camaro. (Editor’s note: For more detail on the wins by Shawn and Francesca – see our separate post to the Lucas Oil Hotzone)

Talented Canadian lady racer Frankie Giroux celebrates with her daughter Eliza after scoring her first ever NHRA national event title!

In the Top Alcohol Funny car final round, Chris Marshall, McMinnville, Ore., made his final round debut lining up against defending 2017 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series World Champion, Shane Westerfield, Anaheim, Calif. Westerfield took a strong lead running 5.510 seconds, 269.78 mph. But Marshall caught him down the stretch and outran Westerfield for the final round victory at 5.455 seconds, 269.19 mph.

The TAFC final also featured two prominent class racers – with Craig Marshall (near lane) defeating defending World Champion Shane Westerfield.

The defending 2017 Lucas Oil Super Stock World champion, Justin Lamb, Henderson, Nev., worked his way through the field, squaring off against Kory Alby, Coos Bay, Ore. Kirby hit a perfect reaction time, .000 seconds, but broke out giving Lamb the win. Lamb ran 8.519 seconds, 158.82 mph.

Bryan LaFlam, Gilbert, Ariz., triggered a great light (.002 second reaction time) running 6.342 seconds, 224.47 mph to outpace Canadian James Rutherford (Wembley AB) for Top Sportsman presented by Racing RV’s final round win.

Bryan Laflam (near lane) ran down Canada’s James Rutherford in the all Ford brand TS championship round.

Steve Casner, Sheridan, Calif., took the starting line advantage and did not look back running 6.699 seconds, 198.99 mph, eliminating Andy Spiegel, Alton, Calif., from the Top Dragster presented by Racing RV’s final final round.

The other drivers visiting the winner’s circle were Brian Hyerstay in Comp Eliminator, Ryan Warter in Stock, Greg Krause in Super Comp and Gene Kelly in Super Gas.

Bryan Hyerstay (near lane) held off Ralph Van Paepeghem for the event’s Competition eliminator title.

Posted with files by NHRA Communications and Bruce Biegler
Photos by Gerry Frechette