Top Alcohol Funny Car driver Shane Westerfield is primed to be a contender for the Lucas Oil championship following big gains made in the 2016 season and a big win to start off his 2017 campaign.

After the Southern California native seemingly had no luck at his home track of Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, he reached his first final at the track at the 2016 Auto Club NHRA Finals where he lost to Doug Gordon by inches. He finally won at the 2017 Circle K NHRA Winternationals with consistent, mid-5.4-second performances out of the CP-Carrillo/Blake Bros. Racing Chevy Camaro paired with strong reaction times. Though the win officially busted his slump at his home track since joining the Top Alcohol Funny Car ranks, that isn’t to say that he had never won an event there.

“I didn’t have a good track record there in Top Alcohol, for sure,” said Westerfield. “I had a good track record there when I was racing Jr. dragsters. In fact, the last time I won there was June of 1999, which was funny because I beat Leah Pruett [now Pritchett] in the final. I looked over and saw her in the winner’s circle in Top Fuel at the same time, so we got a chuckle out of that one.”

Westerfield finished No. 4 in the Lucas Oil standings last season and could have conceivably challenged for the title had he taken his full allotment of races. However, the former boat racer designated 2016 as a “test year” during which his team could adapt to a new combination, and he also became a father for the first time when he and wife Kayleigh welcomed daughter Corah into the fold. His first event as a father resulted in a double-up at the Chicago event and the JEGS Allstars special event.

“I’ve passed Cloud 9. I’m onto Cloud 10 now,” said Westerfield. The 29-year-old has been regarded as a deadly leaver, and he now has a hot rod which has the elapsed time performance to match his edge on the starting line. The car is tuned by committee with Shane getting the final call with input from a team that includes father Steve, Greg Vanderwende, Geoff Monise, and Scott and Jim DeFrancisco.

“Everybody works well together,” said Westerfield. “We all look at the computer and come up with what we’re going to do. One guy might make the call on the tire pressure and another decides where to set the wheelie bar.”

With reigning two-time champion Jonnie Lindberg not chasing a title this year as he steps into Jim Head’s Funny Car, include Westerfield at the top of the title scene that features perennial contender John Lombardo Jr., Doug Gordon, and D.J. Cox in the Bartone Bros. entry.

“I’m really excited about this year,” said Westerfield. “We’re going to hit it hard and go to as many races as we can. We’re celebrating 10 years with CP-Carrillo, and we’re bringing our other sponsors back along with us.”