WHAT WILL HE DO NEXT? – Mike Salinas is a constant surprise. In his first full season last year, he came on strong at the U.S. Nationals and led all five Top Fuel qualifying sessions after his runner-up finish at Bristol. Then he won the four-wide race at Las Vegas this spring, and won again this Fathers Day at Bristol. When he won at Las Vegas, he rewarded each one of his Scrappers Racing crew members with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. In his post-race interview at Bristol, Salinas announced that he was going to pursue a Pro Stock Motorcycle license and told Competition Plus at the Denver race that he would be doing that around the time of the fall Las Vegas event. But Salinas might have topped himself Sunday at Pacific Raceways after bowing out in the semifinals against eventual winner Austin Prock. About an hour and half after wrapping up his Top Fuel gig for the day, Salinas slipped into a Jr. Dragster and made an 8.10-second, 80-mph pass in it. That was a bit slower than the 3.694-second elapsed time Salinas clocked to earn the No. 1 qualifying position and set low E.T. of the meet.

ANDERSON MOVING ON TO COUNTDOWN FOCUS – Greg Anderson jumped through all the hoops throughout the Western Swing and came within .021 of a second of becoming the first driver in any pro class to sweep the Western Swing twice. He had gone successfully through each grueling stage before, like an American Ninja Warrior, in 2004. And he said Sunday he “felt the gods were with me today, that the stars were aligned.” But he hadn’t planned on Matt Hartford making good on his fourth final-round chance of the season and second on this Western Swing through Denver, Sonoma, and finally Seattle. Hartford won on a holeshot against the quicker and faster Anderson.

"I had great confidence that I could cut a light and great confidence in my car. I really felt I was going to win that race, but I didn't. But that's NHRA Pro Stock at its best right there. You just never know what's going to happen," Anderson said.

Still, Anderson said, "I feel great about my Summit Racing Chevy. I've talked about it all year long, that we've struggled on Sundays with my car. It didn't struggle one little bit [Sunday]. It was happy all day long. This has done wonders for me. I was starting to wonder if I still had what it takes to win out here. I completely answered that for myself. I know we can, and I know we will. I don't fear the rest of the season. It's going to be one heck of a Countdown."

Teammate and points leader Bo Butner, who was No. 1 qualifier in the sportsman-level Super Gas class at Seattle, said he’s just relieved the long trip out West is over after losing Sunday in the opening round. "I'm ready to get back home and back to normal life," he said. "I know our Chevy Camaro is good. I just need to do a better job of qualifying and driving. I missed it, and that makes a big difference. Everybody in the class has caught up. There is no dominant car. That leaves it up to the driver, so that's what we're going to be working on."
BREMERTON’S DICK BARNETT REMEMBERED – Pacific Raceways honored the late Dick Barnett, official starter at Bremerton Raceway (across Puget Sound) from 1964 to 1974, during opening ceremonies Sunday. His family has shown support for the Northwest Nationals, purchasing blocs of tickets for at least 25 consecutive years. “He’s a local legend. Herm Petersen just spoke at his funeral,” Pacific Raceways President Jason Fiorito said. He recalled stories of how, when Petersen and Jerry “The King” Ruth were waging their battles on Northwest dragstrips and came to Bremerton to race, Barnett would, Fiorito said, “put Jerry in his little basket on the car as they were push-starting them to the line. It’s just a well-entrenched family with the NHRA. And we lost Dick Barnett about a week ago.” Barnett’s son, Jerry, wearing his father’s old starter’s uniform with 25 NHRA event patches, was introduced at the starting line and declared Honorary Starter for the first pair of Top Fuel cars to start eliminations.  

STIHL’s iMOW WOWS – By far the most clever promotion at a dragstrip since Cloudvertise’s coagulated soap bubbles in the shape of the Toyota logo at the 2014 Englishtown, N.J., event was STIHL’s iMOW, which was on display this past weekend at Pacific Raceways. The robotic lawnmower, which cut and mulched the grass in front of the tower every day throughout the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent Northwest Nationals, caught the eyes of just about every crew chief who happened to stand by the left- lane fence.  

“We thought the races were a great opportunity to do some grassroots marketing with this product,” STIHL Northwest Branch Marketing Manager Rick Graichen said, no pun intended. “And based on the social-media hits we received, it was a success.

“The particular model we were displaying at the races is the RMI 632 P (priced at $2,099.95). This one will mow up to 1.25 acres. Its little brother, the RMI 422 P, is for smaller yards, up to a quarter-acre (priced at $1,399.95),” he said.

“This product is programmed to mow a 40-hour work week (25 for the smaller machine), so it’s constantly out mulching the yard, producing a brilliant green lawn in no time. It’s quiet, so you can run it at night, and it will work rain or shine.  Additionally, it can handle some pretty steep terrain,” Graichen said. “It has been a hit with the retirees who would like to hang up the keys to their riding lawn mower and sit back and watch the races while our iMOW takes care of the yard.”

Judging by the stares of the crew chiefs and fans, who seemed mesmerized by it, the iMOW is a hit with a cross-section of people.

WHAT?! ARE YOU KIDDING?! – Steve Torrence is hard on his opponents on the dragstrip, but he just might be a little too hard on himself. From his Charlotte victory through his Denver triumph this year, Torrence advanced to nine consecutive final rounds. And heading into the Seattle race, the Capco Contractors Dragster driver had won 14 of the previous 21 events in the Mello Yello Series, dating back to his sweep of last fall’s six-race Countdown. However, evidently he was unimpressed with his statistics and still annoyed with the fact he lost in the semifinal at Sonoma (to his own dad), for he said he was on a “redemption tour.”

LANGDON HASN’T STOPPED PEDREGON – Just when the verbal jousting between Funny Car racers Shawn Langdon and Cruz Pedregon faded following the weekend at Epping, it flared up again Sunday at Seattle when the two were paired in the first round of eliminations. Many had thought of that run as a “must-win” showdown for 11th-place Pedregon. After Langdon won that match-up Sunday, he declared that he had “closed out the season” for Pedregon.

It’s true Pedregon remains in 11th place, 142 points out of Countdown contention. Ahhh, but not so fast with the obituary. Pedregon still has the Brainerd race to close in on No. 10 Tim Wilkerson, as well as the Indianapolis event with its points-and-a-half payout.

As Pedregon told National Dragster’s Phil Burgess, ““I know we’re running out of races but it only takes one or two round wins here and there and have the other guys not going rounds to make a big difference.”  

Ninth-place Langdon tweeted Sunday, “Well, that settles that.” If he was referring to Pedregon’s bid to make the six-race playoffs, that didn’t settle that. Langdon might have driven a nail in Pedregon’s coffin, but it wasn’t enough to seal it.

HOORAY FOR FERRÉ, PATON – Top Fuel racer Cameron Ferré, with some timely financial backing from Pro Mod racer Shane Molinari and his Washington State business S & T Truck Repair, shook off some unfortunate news this past weekend, came to Seattle, qualified 13th, and gave a challenge to Clay Millican in the first round Sunday.

For logistical reasons, Ferré left the 11-year job with Racepak that he loved. The company closed its California office and relocated to Bowling Green, Ky., where its departments merged into existing ones.

But he was gracious in his transition to new opportunities. Ferré posted on a social-media site that he wanted “to thank Racepak for a wonderful 11 years. In these past 11 years Racepak has blessed me so much and allowed me to succeed in an industry I love so much. From a sales and tech intro job while in college to managing the Marketing department, I have experienced so much and made so many lifelong friends that I now consider family. I will cherish that forever. I wish nothing but the best for the brand and all brands involved in this private equity portfolio as they transition in this new direction.”

He said he plans to remain in the automotive industry and stay in Top Fuel racing.

Ferré said, “It has been the biggest year yet for me in Top Fuel, and I cannot wait to see where it lands me in the future. There are many doors staring at me currently, and I am extremely excited to see which door will open. In the meantime, I know that I have the best family and friends a guy could ever ask for, so we will be just fine. We have a rapidly growing podcast, “Racers In Rental Cars,” that I can’t wait to devote more time to and other marketing projects to keep me busy. But if anyone may be looking for services a guy like myself may be able to provide (Marketing, Driving, or Racepak consulting) please do not hesitate to reach out. I can be reached at the same cell phone number and the following e-mail: [email protected]

He indicated he is relying on his faith during this time: “Trust- in his timing, Rely- on his promises, Wait-for his answers, Believe- in his miracles, Rejoice-in his goodness and Relax-in his presence.”

Top Fuel owner-driver Todd Paton also left Racepak after what he called “12 great years with the company” and announced his new business, Performance Data Systems. Paton, who did not race at Seattle, said, “We will be offering service and support for virtually all your data acquisition needs, including sensors and cables for most all popular brands of data recorders. Call our new office at (949) 652-6300 or visit us at #performancedatasystems.”

A SWIRL OF MEMORIES – Austin Prock updated the family final-round history. When he lined up against Steve Torrence late Sunday afternoon, Prock became the first in his family since grandfather Tom Prock reached the Funny Car final 43 years ago, in 1976 at Montreal. Ironically, Tom Prock lost that day to Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, the man who found Austin Prock the funding to begin his NHRA career. Prudhomme was at Sturgis, S.D., for the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and didn’t get to witness first-hand his latest protégé’s initial victory. Maybe he will get a little joy in watching a video of Prock and girlfriend Johnna Dunn dancing on the starting line after all the winners circle hoopla. Prock said immediately after climbing from his car, “I’m in total shock. I went to church this morning, and they said it was going to be a blessed day. And it is.” Always energetic, Prock scrambled atop his rear wing to celebrate.

Prock was especially tickled that along the way he used a holeshot in the semifinal to dismiss top qualifier Mike Salinas. “I’ve been looking for a holeshot win since I started this,” the rookie said. “I thought it’d be really bad-ass to do it. It’s just cool that it came on the day I made it to the final.” That better reaction time against Salinas made up for his admittedly embarrassing .275-second light against Torrence that he was able to overcome for his early birthday present to himself. Prock will turn 24 August 21.

HOLDING A GRUDGE BECAUSE OF NO GRUDGE RACING? – No. 3-ranked Pro Stock driver Alex Laughlin had planned to compete this past weekend in both the NHRA’s Magic Dry Northwest Nationals at Seattle and No-Prep racing’s Outlaw Armageddon at Thunder Valley Raceway Park at Noble, Okla. But the frenzied dash back and forth halfway across the country, akin to the Memorial Day feat of racing in the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte in the same day, didn’t take place. Officials for the grudge race declared Laughlin’s Outlaw car illegal because of the length of the fender between the front of the door to the front wheel. Laughlin concentrated on the Seattle Pro Stock event and advanced to the semifinals Sunday. But he had plenty to share on social media about how his Outlaw Armageddon disappointment played out.

Laughlin wrote, “It’s super disappointing that the racers have an immeasurable rule that’s based on opinion. Even though there’s zero competitive advantage on the ‘rule’ I break, I don’t have anything to gain by still coming out to grudge race. It’s a lose-lose either way; if I win, well it’s because my car’s ‘illegal.’ If I lose, then I can’t even beat them with an ‘illegal’ car.  Yes, I’m disappointed but realize this only fuels my fire, and when I show up with a car that looks like what they want, it’ll be even stronger than ever. This whole deal isn’t about ‘IF,’ it’s ‘WHEN’ …. I still say let’s go to a 4-wide track and I’ll run three of those boys at a time!”

Ultimately, he decided that “for now, I’m less than one round out of second in the world in Pro Stock points and barely five rounds from the lead. I have a professional championship to focus on.” After the Seattle verdict, he’s 27 points behind No. 2 Greg Anderson (who ousted him in Sunday’s semifinal) and 73 points off Bo Butner’s pace.

But Laughlin didn’t go quietly. He spoke his mind: “Reality is car did not come out how I wanted but three months later, blood sweat ‘n’ tears, my car is not legal. What they are saying isn’t legal is the length of the fender between the front of the door to the front wheel. What’s weird is Lizzy’s [Musi’s] car looks the exact same in that area. They say the rear bumper area looks too much like a race car, which is very similar to the same shape and style as the Fireball Camaro. It’s all arguable. Every single car out there has something that isn’t “stock appearing.” Look at that nasty cowl hood on Chuck’s car. That thing looks like an upside-down feed trough you’d feed cows out of. The point is, when I say I can fix one thing, they say it’s something else next. This has to be the most political, brother-in-law, kind of racing I’ve ever seen.

“A Radial VS the World car only has rules for what the car should weigh based on the power adder, so it’s a very ‘Outlaw’ style of racing,” Laughlin contended. “But at Outlaw Armageddon, it looks too much like a ‘race car.’ Doesn’t seem very ‘Outlaw’ to me. The bottom line is that there’s ZERO competitive advantage based off aesthetics. It’s a HEADS UP DRAG RACE, bring your junk, line it up, the better car wins, PERIOD. I can’t get any of these racers to meet up anywhere, so I built a car to come to their playground, right up the road from their house, and then get told no. Marc Sorenson has an awesome race, and I’m bummed I’m not allowed.”

Stay tuned.