SCHUMACHER BREAKS OUT OF SLUMP, USHERS IN MAYNARD ERA WITH OVERDUE VICTORY - Tony Schumacher has been known to weave his magic, doing the improbable and maybe the impossible at the most implausible times. 

And his winning Top Fuel performance Sunday in the Flav-R-Pac Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways, near Seattle, was no different.

He had to win a race and set the national elapsed-time record in the process to win a championship in 2006. Fat chance, most said. But Schumacher did it. What’s more, he mastered similar circumstances the flowing year and surprised everyone again.

A crew chief would leave and take the entire team with him. Schumacher rebounded to win a championship with yet another group. 

He even defies the odds off the dragstrip.  In 2009, Schumacher won the championship again and chose to present his trophy to the U.S. Army soldiers at Fort Hood. But at the ceremony, he had to follow a NASA astronaut who was giving the base an American flag that flew atop the International Space Station.  How could a drag racer compete with that? Schumacher didn’t compete. The astronaut turned out to be no competition. As soon as Schumacher stepped to the podium there at Killeen, Texas, before he even spoke the first word, the crowd – his faithful U.S. Army Dragster followers – broke into wild cheering and chanting that the astronaut never came close to receiving.

t's that Tony Schumacher touch. And he applied it Sunday in the Okuma Dragster. With new team principal owner Joe Maynard watching from the starting line and co-owner wife Cathi Maynard following from home at Clarksville, Tenn., Schumacher turned four rather ugly runs into one of his most beautiful victories on the Pacific raceways 1,000-foot course. 

It erased any stigma of his 5-12 record that saw him outside of the top 10 in the standings, thanks lately to five first-round losses in his most recent races. What’s more, he turned around his luck against Brittany Force, the fiercest competitor in the class all season long. 

Schumacher posted a pair of unglamorous 3.8-second elapsed times to eliminate Scott Palmer and Shawn Langdon. He lost traction, battled dropped cylinders, and used a 4.48-second pedal job to defeat an equally challenged Justin Ashley in the semifinal round. Against Force, who smoked the tires early in her run, Schumacher also lost traction and coasted across the finish line with parachutes flying and a 3.977-second, 251.34-mph flashing unspectacularly on the scoreboard. 

But it worked. He won. His crew members, many of whom he said never had touched a Wally trophy and are totally new to all of this Camping World Drag Racing Series rat race, finally got to see their grinding work pay off. 

Schumacher remains the most successful Top Fuel driver in history, and this 86th victory simply extended his record. It also was his fifth at Seattle (after success in 2004 and 2006-08). And it pushed the eight-time series champion past Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden and made Schumacher the fourth-most successful racer in NHRA history, after John Force (155 victories), Greg Anderson (99), and Warren Johnson (97). 

What made this triumph truly special for Schumacher was that it was his first since the Houston race in the fall of 2020 – and that it capped the Western Swing and punctuated the first race with the Maynards as majority owners of the newly branded Maynard Family Racing / Don Schumacher Racing. 

He shared the winners circle in his 525th race with first-time Pro Stock winner Troy Coughlin Jr. and six-time 2022 winner Robert Hight.   

“I think I bought a winner. Cathi and I don’t have any doubt this is winning team. It just hadn’t started yet,” Joe Maynard said. “We think it started today, and we plan on it staying this way for a long time. We’ve got the best that’s ever been, so I’m going to go with that.” 

And that’s the Schumacher magic in action. 

“Coming into this race, we found ourselves 12th in points, 100 points out of the top 10,” Schumacher said. “And you get down to where there’s four races left before the playoffs start, and you’ve got to perform. 

“Early numbers have been destroying us, and we’ve been having a hard time. Made a big change, obviously, and I think we really started to make it probably in Denver. Bent a car, cut it off, have to take a spare car out. We just had a lot of awful luck. Things go right when you think you’re heading in the right direction,” he said. “This was perfect timing. Joe and Cathi Maynard buy the team with my dad, we got a group of people that are excited, it’s new, come out and qualify third. It’s the first time we earned a point. Now, I think we got three but that first run, a point, we haven’t got a point all year. 

“I’ve been doing this a long time. I know that there’s ebbs and flows,” Schumacher said. “The guys weren’t making mistakes. Things were happening, and you can look back and go, ‘I wish we didn’t do that. I wish we didn’t do this.’ But you can’t point fingers. This is a new group of people. A lot of them have never won a race before. They’re giving everything: their heart, their soul, their sweat. Some of these guys, they’re just broken. They’ve never been on the road. They’ve never been away from their family. And we’re asking them three races in a row and now we’ll go from here to Scag to do their picnic, then we have Topeka, Brainerd testing, Indy, so it’s hard on these guys. I get it. 

“The worst thing in the world, I think, for me, as a leader, is to put that kind of pressure on them when they don’t need it. They are doing their best,” he said. “I put pressure on myself, and I will take the blame for an awful lot of things in the car where I’ll get out and say, ‘That was on me.’ Let it be on me, because I can take it. I’ve been doing this a long time.’ I think over the course of a year, over the years we work together as a team, they will grow to respect the fact that the blame is not getting pushed on them, because they are going to make mistakes.” 

As the tour heads to Topeka for the Aug. 12-14 Menards NHRA Nationals at Heartland Park, Force still leads the standings and Schumacher is inching toward a spot in the top 10. He improved from 12th to 11th and is within 10 points of No. 10-ranked Clay Millican. 

Force said, “We had an awesome weekend. We qualified No. 1 and had a final-round appearance. We stayed in the points lead, and that’s the most important thing.” 

It all happened on a day in which seven of the top 10 drivers were ousted by the second round.
“We went out today and got that first-round win, and we were excited. And you look at that ladder and you’ve got Justin Ashley, [Shawn] Langdon, Brittany [Force], and it’s like, what are you kidding me? This was not an easy one, by any means. These guys are all great. They’re excellent on the starting line, and they all had lane choice. Brittany’s car right now is by far second to none So, to be able to go out there today and have a race day like we had, it’s just exciting,” Schumacher said. 

“It’s good for the sport, it’s good for Joe and Cathi Maynard, and it was good for my guys. It’s a tough sport. You’ve got to be able to overcome adversity. And when you have days like today, it’s a beautiful, beautiful thing.” Susan Wade

ROBERT HIGHT KEEPS SIZZLING WITH HIS LATEST WIN IN SEATTLE - Robert Hight’s victory parade made another stop this weekend, culminating with his win in Seattle.

Hight, out of the John Force Racing stable, won for the sixth time this season in 13 races with his latest triumphant coming at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals Sunday.

Hight clocked a 3.975-second elapsed time at 319.98 mph to defeat J.R. Todd of the Kalitta Motorsports team, who came in at 3.978 seconds at 324.75 mph.

“We weren't the best car in qualifying,” Hight said. “The four flat that we ran (Saturday) was the quickest in the heat, so we had some confidence coming in, but when you race Ron Capps first round, that's not what you expect, a guy like that when you qualify fifth. But we had to be on our game. We had low ET every round today. And up until a couple races ago, we didn't have the best 130-degree track combination. We were good when the conditions got good, and it cooled down. Jimmy and Chris can always make horsepower and stick it to the ground.

“But I'm really proud of these guys, what they did today in the heat, and they stepped up big. It's amazing. To have six wins at this point in your season, I'd have lost money if I'd have bet on that. So proud of these guys. It's good to win. For Flav-R-Pac, they've sponsored this race and it's good to be back in Seattle. We miss it. We love coming up here. We love a traditional Western Swing and things are getting normal. I really want to thank all the fans for coming out here and beating this heat. It was brutal. And being in this fire suit, I really don't want to be in it any longer. I want to take it off for the photos. Think they'll let me do that?”

This was Hight’s 59th career NHRA nitro Funny Car victory and improved his elimination round record to 36-7.

“These three races, he's (Hagan) lost first round, and we've gained big, big points because going into the Western Swing, I think we were 21 points ahead,” Hight said. “So, it was anybody's game. And then we've come through. We've capitalized when we needed to and gained every week on him. I know it can turn around in Topeka (Kan.) and go the other direction. But with three races left, I think we have a 220-point lead. If we just stay steady, we're going to go into this Countdown (the last six races of the season) No. 1 and that can be a big deal. I've lost a championship by 19 points, and you go into the No. 1 spot, you have 20 points, so every point counts. It's a bummer that they're going to take them all away from us, but I've also been on the other end of that and capitalized on that. So, it is what it is. I'm going to make a prediction right now. We're going to need to win four or five more if this Auto Club Chevy wants to be the champ at the end of the year.”

On Sunday, Hight defeated Capps, Alexis DeJoria, his boss, John Force and then Todd.

“We have the best four car team that we've ever had at John Force Racing,” Hight said. “Top to bottom, we're stout. Everybody gets along. They work together and teamwork is what it's all about. Everybody pulling in the same direction and it's good. I don't think we've ever had the points lead in Funny Car and Top Fuel at the same time, other than when we won the championship at the last race of the year in '17. So that's a big deal. But as a driver, it gives you a lot of confidence knowing that even if you're struggling that this team can turn it around on race day and they amaze me. So, I just got to keep doing my job.”

As scorching hot as Hight’s team has been in 2022, he’s not ready to throw out any victory totals for himself by season’s end.

“You've got to just go one round at a time,” he said. “We've got to go to Topeka and first things first, qualify. You've got to face it like that. If you start looking at end results, you're going to get beat up pretty good. This is a very humbling sport and there's a lot of good cars out here. A lot of good competition. We just got to keep staying focused and working toward the goal one round at a time. And like I said on TV, we're going to Norwalk next weekend for a match race. So, three in a row wasn't enough. We're going to go and do a little testing, try to win another race. We take that race seriously. And then it's right back at Topeka and Brainerd back-to-back, before Indy. So, I think it was seven weekends straight for the Auto Club team and the Peak team and ready to go again.”

World championship or bust isn’t the rallying cry for his team, but Hight knows that is the ultimate goal.

"Like I said on TV, we're going to Norwalk next weekend for a match race. So, three in a row wasn't enough. We're going to go and do a little testing, try to win another race. We take that race seriously. And then it's right back at Topeka and Brainerd back-to-back, before Indy. So, I think it was seven weekends straight for the Auto Club team and the Peak team.

“I mean, I honestly, every year, think that we're capable of winning a championship,” Hight said. “We sat out in '20, came back in '21 and I just knew that we were going to pick up and get moving where we left off in '19. We had the dominant car there too. It didn't happen. We've learned a lot from last year and we've gone back to a friendlier combination, and I think there's more left in it. We're going to do some testing along the way here. We want to get better. The competition, they're right with us. It's not like we're dominating in ET like Brittney is. It's a battle in Funny Car. Hundredth here, hundredth there, thousandths. I mean, when I pulled the chutes tonight, JR blew by me. You can't see the win light here. I was on the radio, ‘Did we get him?’ And finally, Chris got on the radio and said we won. That's just the best feeling. This relief comes across you. It's big. So got to keep fighting, keep digging and work hard.” Tracy Renck

TROY COUGHLIN JR. GETS FIRST CAREER NHRA PRO STOCK WIN AT SEATTLE - There have been plenty of valleys in the 2022 NHRA Pro Stock season.

However, through hard work Troy Coughlin Jr. and his Elite Motorsports finally reached a peak on Sunday.

Coughlin, a superstar Sportsman racer, finally grabbed his inaugural NHRA Pro Stock victory beating his teammate Erica Enders in the finals of the FlavR-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals near Seattle.

Coughlin clocked a 6.638-second elapsed time at 208.68 to edge Enders, who had a 6.644-second elapsed time at 209.17 mph.

“First I have to give all the credit in the world to Mark Ingersoll and Rick Jones and the rest of my team, including Richard Freeman, just everybody at Elite Motorsports,” Coughlin said. “They just worked so hard and to have a Pro Stock car make that many good runs this weekend in the heat out here is extremely impressive. I watched this my whole life, and it is extremely difficult. You can ask my grandfather and he will tell you how difficult it is.

“What an honor to win today. What a great place to win. I’m tickled to death.”

Coughlin ousted Fernando Cuadra, Camrie Caruso, No. 1 qualifier Greg Anderson and then Enders, who had won four of the last six Pro Stock races, including the most recent event in Sonoma, Calif.

“I missed the tree against Fernando, but my guys saved me,” Coughlin said. “Second round, against Camrie the car was phenomenal. The car is a blast to drive, and I have such a great group behind me.” Tracy Renck




ON VERGE OF RACE NO. 600, CAPPS LOOKS BACK – Ron Capps has won at Seattle’s Pacific Raceways four times, in 1998, 2016, and 2018 in Funny Car and in 1995 in Top Fuel – and he is a five-time runner-up (2001, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2019) at the Northwest Nationals.

In his previous visit here, in 2019, he was the runner-up asterisk to John Force’s 150th-victory performance. 

This event is the 599th of his career, so as he approaches his milestone 600th at Topeka, Capps has plenty of memories right here in the Pacific Northwest. 

This is where he earned the first of his 70 victories, where he started his march to No. 2 on the all-time Funny Car winners list. Second only to Force, Capps has 69 Funny Car trophies. 

That day in 1995, Capps defeated Jim Head, Mike Dunn, Kenny Bernstein, and Cory McClenathan – in a field that included Blaine Johnson, Connie Kalitta, Scott Kalitta, Joe Amato, Eddie Hill, Pat Austin, Shelly Anderson, Hot Rod Fuller, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Larry Dixon . . . and, notably, 2022 entrant Ron Smith. 

“We ran the final on a Tuesday,” Capps recalled. Wife Shelley said she remembers being there but missing his first triumph because she had to return home and go back to work. 

“I remember I went to Atlanta that year and got runner-up to Cory, and it was on ABC Wide World of Sports, which was a big deal. It aired, like, three months later. Those two races are what caught Snake’s [Don Prudhomme’s] eye. Force took me under his wing. We followed his team. Guido [his current crew chief, Dean Antonelli] and I became friends at that time. I was driving the rig with our crew chief. We’d leave here and go to Spokane. And back then, you would leave here and go to Spokane for the AHRA Finals. I went and won Top Fuel there, too. So I was AHRA champion and won my first [NHRA] race in two weeks. That was pretty cool. It was a fun stretch in the summer of that year. 

Team owner Roger Primm had planned to park the car by the Sonoma race the next year, unless he acquired a major sponsor. Prudhomme called that summer, in 1996, and offered Capps the job that really put him on the map in the NHRA. 

By 1998, Capps was in a Funny Car and winning again at Seattle, from the 16th and last position. “We barely qualified, almost didn’t qualify. Roland Leong was my crew chief. Tom Anderson, from Al Hofmann’s team, was my first crew chief at Snake’s. We struggled, and Snake brought in Roland and I won my first Funny Car race in St. Louis. At Seattle, he beat John Force in the final, and by the end of the next race, at Brainerd, he had taken the points lead from Force, a huge accomplishment at that time. “We had Nicky Boninfante on our crew and Roland. It was like an all-star team,” Capps recalled. 

While Capps enjoys reminiscing, he is focused on this event and the rest of the schedule, looking to earn his second championship and first as a team owner. 

"We know how that track [here] can be when conditions are prime. It’s as good as it gets. I know [crew chiefs] Guido [Dean Antonelli] and [John] Medlen will be ready to throw down,” the NAPA Toyota Supra owner-driver said. 

In a field with just 12 cars this weekend, Capps, as the No. 8 qualifier, got an unusual first-round draw in Robert Hight, the No. 5 starter. Hight is the points leader, and Capps is third in the standings.  

“This West Coast Swing has really flown by this season,” Capps said. “We haven’t been up to the Pacific Northwest since before the pandemic, and we’re all excited to [be] back up [this] way. I can tell you with the Canadians coming down and with all of our fans in the area, we always get such a great crowd, and it’s a great race.” He said he’s happy to be “seeing so many people that we haven’t been able to see since 2019.” 

MARONEY SAYS THANK-YOU TO CORNWELL – One of the most attractive dragsters at the Denso Sonoma Nationals was Jim Maroney’s Cornwell Tools car. But Maroney, of Gilbert, Ariz., wanted to clarify the sponsorship on his red, white, and blue entry. 

“This weekend Cornwell Tools, the dealers themselves, in this area, have done this. It’s not from corporate. The district manager used to be the district manager in Phoenix. I’ve been supported by Cornwell for over 15 years with my sprint cars and my nostalgia cars. Actually, one of the guys on my crew is one of the dealers. That’s how we all got introduced about 15 years ago. I did a bunch of stuff for the district in Phoenix. Then that district manager moved up to the Northwest – Jason Neil. This whole thing has come about because of Jason. 

“We’ve been trying for years to get back up here with the big show car, and this is the first opportunity we’ve had. In the process of all that, John Force got the corporate sponsorship, and I get it. He’s got a resume I can’t compete with. But we wanted to do it as a thank-you to the dealers up here for their support through the years.” 

As a professional courtesy, Maroney said he contacted John Force Racing about his move to give the regional Cornwell dealers a boost: “I didn’t want to step on anybody’s toes. We try to be as professional as we can. I don’t want to step on a big team.” Maroney had a rendering done before he had the wrap for the car, and he presented that to the marketing staff at John Force Racing, and they approved of it. 

“They’re helping me out,” Maroney said of the Cornwell contingent, “and the car looks great. We got more parts than we’ve ever had. We hope to do really good this weekend.” 

Maroney said, “The standing joke is that if I’m still in [the race Sunday] and they’re not, it’s in Force’s best interest to come over and help us, take care of his sponsor. My son doesn’t seem to think that would really happen. I said, ‘You might be surprised. I might show up.’” 

His son Colton on Austin Prock’s dragster, and like Prock, he’s an experienced sprint-car driver. 

Maroney said, “We have some good ju-ju coming into this event. The last time my crew chief [Kevin Knowles] was here, when they had an AHRA race here, he had his fuel Funny Car here [the Neese & Knowles entry]. They won the event. The last time I was here, with Jim Broome’s nostalgia car, I won the event [the 2019 Good Vibrations United Nitro Funny Cars Championship Series].” He defeated Northwest legend Bucky Austin in the final round. Jay Carter, who was on that crew, works on John Force’s Funny Car team today. 

Maroney said he’s optimistic this weekend, ready to put last Sunday’s optical-illusion engine fire behind him. 

“Last weekend in Sonoma, you saw we fireballed the engine, which looked like a big deal. Ironically, that was just a sparkplug that came out. We didn’t even hurt the engine,” he said. “It looked big. It was big fire. But a sparkplug came out, burned up the inside of the valve cover. The thing was puking oil out. So that’s what all the fireball was about. We didn’t kick the rods out of it. We didn’t knock the top of the engine off. We didn’t hurt any parts. It just looked like we did.” 

Jokingly, he said, “If you can’t win the race, make the highlight reel.” 

Maroney wants to make it Sunday for the right reasons. 

But when he pulls to the starting line against No. 1 qualifier Brittany Force for Round 1 of eliminations, he’ll do so without the luxury of a third qualifying pass. He came to the line for Saturday’s final run, only to discover a broken clutch linkage. 

FLYNN AT HOME, SORT OF – Rob Flynn, Mike Salinas’ Scrappers Racing crew chief, is from Edmonton, Alberta, but much of his early history in drag racing is rooted in the Northwest. 

He would hitch a ride with other racing friends from Alberta and ride down to the Seattle area to work with “Gentleman Hank” Johnson, of Marysville, about 40 miles north of Seattle. 

“I just came down and helped him here when the races were here, Nashville, or when they came to Canada. I helped them in Edmonton, Calgary, or Saskatoon, even, not 100 percent of the year,” Flynn said. 

“But I think it was 1978, I went to the U.S. National for those guys. I did ride to Indy with them, and then they had an actual points race the following weekend at Edmonton. I rode back also,” he said. “Then other times when I went, I flew to California and went to Winter Nationals and that kind of stuff.” 

So, Flynn said with a laugh, “You would call this a home race track, although it's 900 miles away. 

“When you roll in the gate,” he said, he noticed that “a lot has changed, but a lot hasn't changed. You definitely remember all that stuff: remember waiting in line, like all the guys were lined up when I drove in here [Thursday]. It's pretty exciting, because this was the first major event I ever went to. So just to see all these cars that you've seen in the magazines and stuff like that, National Dragster, it's pretty cool.”

He said Hank Johnson “was a great guy. When we raced here, that would have been probably 1976, I stayed at his house. So we did commute from Marysville to the racetrack, which is fairly good drive (about 100 miles each way).  

“They were great guys. They taught me a lot,” he said of Johnson and his crew. “I don't think I'd be where I'm at today without all these stepping stones.” 

Flynn also is married Northwest drag-racing legend Pat Austin’s cousin. He said his wife’s mother and Austin’s mother were sisters. 

TORRENCE TANDEM BACK IN OLD STOMPING GROUNDS – Top Fuel ace Steve Torrence said this racetrack, with its stands of tall fir trees, reminds him of a track in East Texas where he competed as a fledgling drag racer. But for two members of his Capco Contractors Dragster crew – “Capco Boys” Justin Crosslin and Kris Martin – Pacific Raceways actually is where they began their time in the sport. 

The two are from Wenatchee, Wash., in the eastern foothills of the Cascade Mountains, near the banks of the Columbia River. But they’re four or five years apart in age, so they didn’t attend school together. They became acquainted through racing, which generally was not a big sport in their Chelan County area, which is known for its fruit trees - cherries, apples, pears – nd more recently, wine and hops. 

His friendship with Martin, Crosslin said, “really goes way back to really being the only maybe half-dozen to a dozen people that drag raced in the Valley. And there's nowhere to drag race within probably two hours, two and a half hours here – Yakima or Spokane, mostly. So, the drag racer people kind of knew each other. My dad owned an auto shop. Kris worked in a machine shop straight across the street. So we've just known each other for quite some time.” 

Martin said, “This is kind of a home race for us.” And the Northwest Nationals is a gathering point for his family members who are scattered throughout the region, from Wenatchee to nearby Federal Way to Oregon. He said, “My cousin comes up. They were down in Oregon. They come up, bring their fifth wheel up and got a bunch of friends and family coming.” 

And the whole gang got to see Crosslin and Martin help Torrence take the provisional No. 1 qualifying position and eventually settle into the No. 2 slot this weekend. Torrence will face No. 14 Ron Smith, a Northwest native, in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

“We're about two and a half hours from here. I grew up coming to these tracks. It is nice to come home, but it's also not like it was 30 years ago, 25 years ago,” Crosslin said. “I haven't been here since 2019, even in Washington State, period. I just have moved on. Home is what it used to be, and it's not that way anymore. The people. That's really what you miss the most when you don't come to an area. I say the food and the people - not in that order. People first, then food.”  

For Martin, the biggest difference between home in Wenatchee and his current home at Brownsburg, Ind., is the scenery and the outdoors activities he participates in. 

“My cousin brought my dad's old quad racer up for me. We're taking it back to Indy, probably,” he said. Missing from the Hoosier landscape, most notably, are “the mountains,” Martin said. “You could be 10 minutes from the ski hill in the winter. So you go up there and I mean, if the hills suck, you just go back down and do something in town. Mountain biking, we're all into that. 

“Big waterfalls and mountains and mountain biking, hiking and skiing and all that stuff” is not something he gets to do much in flat Central Indiana. “I still have my own brand-new snowboard still at my mom's house, sitting where I left it 20 years ago,” Martin said. 

He was a tour guide, of sorts, this past week for the Capco team. They traveled to Snoqualmie Falls. “They’d never seen it before. So we want to hike around up there a little bit. One of the small waterfalls up here [in scenic Washington] is 270 feet, and the and biggest one in Indiana is, like, 30 feet.” 

OLDIE BUT GOODIE – Now that Chris Karamesines has retired, one of his Top Fuel contemporaries gets the honor of the oldest competitor in the class. 

Washington State’s Ron Smith, a retired Boeing employee, has an anniversary to celebrate. He earned his Top Fuel license in 1972, 50 years ago. But he has been drag racing longer than that. He said, “I have been out here, I think 60 years.” 

Smith, who’ll turn 80 years old Oct. 28, didn’t make a qualifying pass Friday. So his quest to break into the three-second elapsed-time range had to wait until Saturday.  Smith broke into the field during Saturday’s first session in the provisional No. 14 spot. He ended up 15th and will meet No. 2 starter Steve Torrence in the opening round of eliminations. 

He did win the Top Fuel open benefit at Bremerton, Wash., to raise money in 1974 for Herm Peterson, who was burned severely in an accident at Southern California’s Orange County International Raceway. 

The Northwest Nationals is the only race Smith attends these days. 

“Well, we only race once a year, but I finally got a Funny Car, a nostalgia one, so I'll be driving that during the year, but only one time for the Top Fuel car,” he said. 

However, he does have one vivid memory down in Arizona: “I remember we outqualified Kenny Bernstein in Phoenix, and when they left, [Bernstein’s crew chief] Lee Beard gave us a dirty look." 

Even so, Smith said, “I'm trying not to look back or forward. I'm just trying to take things as they go, as they come and go.” 

Through the years, his cars have come and gone. His crew chief, Gus Foster, used to campaign the “Foster Brothers Funny Car” in the early 1970s with brother Glenn, who worked for Connie Kalitta and Shirley Muldowney. 

Then in 1974, Smith drove and Foster wrenched on Smith’s first Top Fuel car that he said “we built ourselves. Then I had Gaines Markley’s car. Then I think the next one we had was from Sacramento, [from] Gary Ormsby. Then I had two of Alan Johnson's cars.” 

He had one of Gary Scelzi’s Winston Dragsters and before that a Blaine Johnson dragster. 

“Still have it,” Smith said of the latter. “We picked it up the week before he was killed at Indy [in 1996]. I went down and picked it up from Alan. Like the end of August. We went down and picked it up, and he was gone the next week. I raced it for years.” 

The car has Smith’s own livery on it now and hangs from the rafters in his garage at Kapowsin, Wash., a community in the shadow of Mount Rainier. 

What he’s racing now is a Brad Hadman-built car that used to be among the inventory for Clay Millican. 

In his heyday, AHRA Top Fuel champion Smith raced regularly against Northwest stars Gaines Markley, Rob Bruins, Gary Beck, Jerry Ruth, Herm Petersen, Hank Johnson, Ernie Hall, Ace McCulloch, Kenny Goodell, Maynard Garrity, and Graham Light, as well as California legends Jeb Allen, Gary Ormsby, and David Baca. He might not have beaten them, but he has outlasted them. 

PROGRESS AND PRESERVATION – A lot has gone on at Pacific Raceways since the NHRA was here last, in 2019. So fans have noticed and felt the differences at this Flav-R-Pac Northwest Nationals. Most noticeable are the new garages, which represent Phase I of a technology campus vision that track owner-president Jason Fiorito has orchestrated to keep the legendary racetrack resistant to urban encroachment and tempting offers to sell. 

That has resulted in a few inconveniences for fans, many of whom have complained about changes to their parking habits and the fact that Friday racing offers just one qualifying run rather than the traditional two. The NHRA instituted the latter practice in 2020 – but fans here missed out on a 2020 race and a 2021 event because of pandemic restrictions. 

Fiorito said he understands the bother but also understands that something had to be sacrificed if Pacific Raceways is to survive and buck the trend of racetracks folding.    

“My issue with this weekend is a messaging problem to my fans who have been so supportive of this sport for the 21 years I've been running the event,” he said Saturday. “And we've always, first and foremost, wanted to provide the opportunity for the fans to participate in the event. But more than that, I want to give them a great experience from the time they get here until the time they leave. 

“We have some challenges this year, and most of it surrounds parking. Because we're in the middle of the redevelopment process for the track, we have the first 80,000 square feet of commercial development up, and we are actively regrading the field on which they normally park. So we extensively revamped our parking on the property to provide about as many acres as we've ever had. But the challenge is that because that main parking field is an active construction site and an active extraction site, most of it is not available and what is available is on an active construction site. So it's not ideal,” he said. 

“The message we're trying to get across is that the excavation and subsequent gravel sales and the development of that site as a commercial building site is the reason we're still a racetrack,” Fiorito said. “As the underlying land value has increased over time and other tracks in other regions have succumbed to the increase in the underlying land value, we've made an attempt to cohabitate with a commercial development that feeds off the racetracks and allows us to develop the property commercially while maintaining the racing surfaces for events like this.” 

He said he has discovered that listening to and empathizing with the fans’ concerns has paid off with their understanding, in turn. 

Fiorito said, “I communicated with a gentleman last night via email who was really upset with me because they paid $20 to park in a gravel lot that was challenging for them. , and I understand the frustration of our site not meeting the expectations when they pull in, but after telling him that that gravel extraction and the associated commercial development was the reason we still had a race here and the racetrack was still in existence, he became pretty understanding of the challenges of coming to, viewing and getting out of the race. 

“So my main message to my customers,” he said, “is, No. 1, I'm grateful for the loyal support they've given the track and the sport over the years, and I'm grateful for the understanding as we get through the development process that really is going to be the sustainability and the lifeblood of this track continuing to exist in a major metropolitan area.” He said he’s hoping “we can just get through this year, together, collaboratively, with some understanding of the challenges that everybody is going through in a post-COVID existence when it's hard to find employees to show up.” 

That’s another concern Fiorito has been facing this weekend. 

“One of the things we have challenges with is parking, traffic control, and ticketing folks committing to be here. Then you get here at six in the morning and half the people you had signed up to work didn't show up. And that's a climate in which the restaurants, the hospitality, and the racing industry are living in today. Simply because you have somebody scheduled doesn't mean you're going to have that many people show up,” he said. “So instead of having eight ticketing windows open yesterday, we only had staff for four. That requires people to wait a little longer in line. 

“So they waited a little longer to get into the facility. They parked in an area that wasn't a beautiful grass field, and they waited a little longer to buy a ticket. I called in all my favors with the local construction group and got myself, instead of cops, to bring folks in, I have off-duty construction flaggers working the exits today,” Fiorito said. 

“So we try to get creative. We try to put out fires as we can. We try to provide the best experience for our customers, and we try to build a system that adds sustainability to the track and the sport we love so much,” he said.

He fashioned four shuttle trailers this year to accommodate patrons who have had to park farther away this year. Local dealership Jet Chevrolet has loaned the track pick-up truck, and they are pulling benches bolted onto a surface. Fiorito said, “We are getting creative with opening up new areas to park, and as they develop farther and farther away from the racing surface, we're implementing systems that can give rides to our customers to lessen the impact and mitigate the discomfort. We have that going on now.”

In the future, with additional phases of the tech campus occupying even more of a footprint close to the racetrack, he already has started thinking about what he will need to provide for subsequent races.

“There may be some offsite parking with shuttles. There may be improved shuttle services on the property, improved parking on the property, developing new areas that serve dual purposes. We may take over the karting track in the future as additional parking,” Fiorito said. “So we're just working with our on-site and off-site partners to make sure that we continue to have the availability, the shuttle service, the capacity, and the accessibility that we need to provide our customers in the long run. 

“There are going to be some bumps along the way,” he said, “but we just ask for a little bit of understanding, kind of ‘Excuse our dust while we provide you a world-class racing facility’ sort of mentality.”

“When you're used to parking in a nice grass field close to the track and you're told you're going to park in a gravel field farther away from the track, you're understandably upset. And that's the messaging that I'm trying to get across,” he said. “If it's explained to them that, No. 1, that development is keeping the track viable and sustainable, and No. 2, we've made every effort to provide the accessibility and the mitigation to get them in and out of here as quickly as possible, there is some understanding. But I do need to get the message out there, because people do want an explanation of what is going on and why.”



SCHUMACHER READY TO SEE TURNAROUND – Less than a week ago, the Camping World Drag Racing Series received startling news that Don Schumacher has relinquished his control of his 19-championship, 366-victory team that had shrunk from seven cars to one in the past two years. 

On the other side of the ledger, Joe and Cathi Maynard stepped to the forefront and assumed command of the organization in a collaborative effort with Don Schumacher. And Tony Schumacher, the eight-time champion who has struggled through the past three years, said Friday at the Flav-R-Pac Northwest Nationals at Seattle’s Pacific Raceways that he’s not only all right with the new arrangement and that the rebranded team (Maynard Family Racing/Don Schumacher Racing team, or JCM/DSR) has rejuvenated him. 

“I love working with my dad. We’ve worked together since the beginning. We're both here because of each other,” the drivers aid. “But the Maynards were real clear, like, ‘We want to buy this team.’ I told my dad, ‘I've never seen excitement like it. You all figure it out,’ and I left it at that. My dad, he's been here forever. Whatever they worked out, I don't know all the details, nor do I care. They're both still involved. 

“We got some new excitement. I'm kind of jacked up,” Tony Schumacher said. “When you watch someone come in and they sponsor a car, then they move over to your car and they pay a lot more, and they go, ‘I like this so much that we want to own it.’ And then you get fans going, ‘Oh, where's the sport going?’ It's not going in a bad direction if you've got people that are successful in business wanting to buy in. 

“It started, I think, with my dad at the very beginning, saying, ‘Well, shoot, if you just pay this much, it's yours,’” he said. “And they're like, ‘We can't.’ Then as the year went on, they were like, ‘We want this.’ I thought it was odd, because we're getting our ass whooped. I'm like, ‘Shoot, how many people will be trying to buy the team if we can’t win again?’ But we're going to, and I think that's what made it exciting. They went, ‘Boy, we see a light at the end of the tunnel. We see the fire here. We want to be here when it's right.’ It makes me excited. I haven't sat down and said, ‘What the hell happened?’ because I don't really care. This is the same place. My dad still is one of the owners. Let me race my car. They're all friends. They get along good. 

“So I'm happy. The team's going to be happy. Joe Maynard and Cathi Maynard are awesome people. My dad's still involved. And if you're out there on the outside, there ain’t nothing that's going to change. I bet his name [Joe Maynard’s] gets smaller, because if you're not the sponsor, we'll sell the sponsorship. We got a happy guy here at the races. You remember for years, my dad sat down there with a big old smile on his face. I felt like he was not as happy the last couple of years. I wasn't racing, so he was like, ‘I'm out with these other people.’ So I just think it's a good deal. I think it worked out well,” Schumacher said.

“Joe's a great dude. Cathi’s amazing,” he said. “When I met them, they were both Army, and they said, ‘We just want to own this.’” 

AT the moment, Schumacher is hoping to channel some of his previous magic at Pacific Raceways in this 525th career race to get his team headed in the right direction and to give the new majority team owners an outstanding debut. The eight-time champion uncharacteristically is not in the top 10 and is coming off five consecutive Round-1 losses. 

However, he knows the quick way down this dragstrip. He won four straight trophies here (2004, 2006, 2007, 2008), was runner-up on three other occasions (2005, 2009, 2011), and was No. 1 qualifier four times (2004, 2008, 2014, 2016). 

This is his first trip here since 2018, and he’s eager to make the most of it in the Okuma Dragster. 

“It’s no secret that we’re struggling on the track, but we hope the fans understand that we’re working every day and every week to make it right. Our stats are fantastic in Seattle: I’ve won it four times and have performed extremely well there,” Schumacher said. “But these are different circumstances. We’ve got to get the car running right. Know that we’re putting in every single bit of effort to do that. Drag racing is one of those sports of ebbs and flows, and I’ve been on both sides of that many times. Parts change, pieces change, and we have to figure it out.” 

He said, “This isn’t the first time I’ve been frustrated. I’ve stood out here with Alan Johnson tuning this car and we couldn’t get past first round in ’06. And it led to the greatest single run in the history of this sport. One thing I know is the struggles are real out here. Every time I’ve ever been in a predicament, the team has worked hard enough to figure out how to make a way. It’s never let me down. I look forward to the fight just as much as I look forward to the next trophy. These guys are fighting dudes. They’re young, and they’re awesome. And they’re having a good time. Some of these guys have never held a Wally before. I’ve always said I love the winning but I love the game itself. These guys are really good in battle. I’m probably the right guy for them.”

Schumacher had prided himself on not blaming his crew when things aren’t going as planned. He never yells. He never points fingers. 

Schumacher said, “I’ve pointed them at me sometimes.” 

He said, “I can see when they make a mistake that they’re frustrated and kicking themselves, and that is not the time you kick someone, when they’re down. Build ’em back up. Let ’em do their jobs. They’ve got to get through the mistakes. There are things on these cars they’ve never seen happen until they do it – and that’s OK. It’s a learning experience. I was talking to Capps’ guys and Force’s guys the other night, and I said, ‘I can’t believe any one of these machines gets from Point A to Point B. It’s almost physically impossible what we’re asking them to do, and they do it anyway. For these guys who are young to be out here, kicking butt like this, it’s just cool to watch. I’m sincere about that.   

“I don’t think anyone learns from a line of bulls---. I just don’t think you can learn from it. If there’s some way that I can help you, I’d rather give you the truth and help you than lie to you and carry on whatever’s been going on. And I mean when a crew chief comes over and they look at what I’m doing. If they’ve got a way to help me, I’ve got two ears and one mouth. Speak to me, you know?” he said. 

“This will be our first race competing under the Maynard Family banner, and we want to start this new chapter off on a strong note. We so desperately want this to be our get-healthy weekend, and we’re working extremely hard at doing whatever we can to get our performance up to the level it needs to be.” 

GETTING UP TO SPEED – Whether Steve Torrence likes it or resents it or however he feels about it, his Top Fuel career has become intertwined with Brittany Force’s. 

And when he lost to her by a scant .019 of a second in last Sunday’s quarterfinal at Sonoma, Calif., it might appear she still had the advantage over him. In the immediate sense, she did – she went on to win the race, nudge Mike Salinas aside for the points lead again, and gain momentum at a crucial time of the season. 

It might not have been visible to everyone, but Torrence gained some momentum of his own. 

“We’ve taken some big steps. To go out and run 330 last week at Sonoma, that’s the first time we’ve done that with the new set-up.  So that was huge, plus we had consistency,” Torrence said. “Those guys (Force and crew chief Dave Grubnic) are running 335, 336 every week. They definitely have led the pack. They’re the ones that made us have to get that speed up and, finally, we’re starting to creep up on it.” 

He's aware that elapsed time, not speed, determines winners. Still, speed tells a tale of how much horsepower an engine is producing, and Torrence certainly is paying attention to it. 

“Brittany and Grubby are the ones that really put us in this position, where we knew we had to do something different,” Torrence said.  “We had it figured out for a long time. But in this sport, you can’t just stand still.  If you do, you’re going to get run over. It’s been a little frustrating to have to give up what we had [a combination that delivered 45 victories in one 105-race stretch], but we’ve been pleased with the way things are trending.” 

Pacific Raceways is one of only a few facilities at which Force is not the track speed record holder – and one of the few at which Torrence is.  He won here in 2012, and in his last appearance here, he was runner-up to first-time winner Austin Prock, Force’s teammate. Force has not won at Seattle. 

‘SONOMA 2.0’ FOR PRUETT – Leah Pruett is looking in this final race of the Western Swing for a hybrid of her results from Denver and Sonoma, the first two legs of the endurance-race stretch on the schedule. And the Tony Stewart Racing driver, who recorded her first 2022 victory at Denver two weeks ago, shared what has to be super news for crew chiefs Neal Strausbaugh and Mike Domagala. 

“We don’t have an extraordinary amount of mechanical work to do on our parts like you would expect going into the last race [of the Swing],” Pruett said. “We still have our highest-performing superchargers and all of our blocks. We probably have the least amount of damage, compared to other teams. That means we get to end the Swing like we began it, with quality parts. We’re more educated on what our race-day routine is like and have been improving upon that. It’ll be nice to have Seattle be the culmination of our Western Swing and end it solidly. From an energy perspective, it’s a long couple of weeks, but we’re more excited than ever. You go into the Swing with some big question marks and it looks like such a big mountain to climb, but we actually looked forward to it because we know how great we’re capable of running.” 

Using an apropos description in the home of Microsoft, she said, “Seattle will be Sonoma 2.0 for us and, hopefully, with the results of Denver.” 

Pruett said, “It’ll be very similar. If we were able to re-run our race day in Sonoma, we would throw a lot more power to the car. We didn’t know it was needed, that the conditions would make that power and that the track could hold [it]. With Seattle being so similar, it’s almost like it’s going to be our vindication, a second chance, if you will. Having two comparable tracks back-to-back means everything is fresh in our minds, from a tuning perspective. We already know where we missed the mark in Sonoma, if we could redo our second round. [She lost to Shawn Langdon.] So that just catapults us into the mindset of being set up for Seattle, as opposed to recreating a baseline.” 

Pruett’s dragster once again will carry the livery of Sparkling Ice +Caffeine, the beverage company that is headquartered about 30 miles northeast of Kent, at Preston, Wash. 

PALMER SIGHTING – Scott Palmer is making one of his rare appearances of the Camping World Drag Racing Series season – because he can. 

“I’m definitely not done,” he said of his time in Top Fuel racing. However, he said, “I’ll never be fulltime again. I’ll never do that. I’ve got too many other things going on: match races, my Studebaker, Funny Car Chaos, and some other things. I want to do a little bit of everything. I don’t want to do just this. I love this. But I did it fulltime, got in the top 10 a couple of times. I’ve proved that we could do it. No we just want to come out and be respectable, run good, and go home and do crazy $#!+.” 

His will to win hasn’t slacked off, he said. 

“We can still win. I still say we have a better chance of winning by being more prepared when we get here,” Palmer said. “Just look at Tripp Tatum. Look how good he did. He comes out four or five times a year, but when he comes out, he’s 100-percent prepared to run.” 

Alex Laughlin is driving the Havoline-sponsored dragster that’s from Palmer’s inventory. 

“This weekend we’re running two cars again,” Palmer said. “We’re trying some stuff on the car I’m driving, just because we can. And I’m out here because we have some local people that have helped me over the years that I just want to be here for. They like to come and hang out, and they like it when I drive. 

“The Havoline car is definitely the headline car. I’m here because I can do whatever I want. And why not?” he said. 

NEW EXPERIENCES, NEW SUPPORTER – For Justin Ashley, the Western Swing and a visit to Seattle are new experiences. And he has brought in yet again a new associate sponsor for his Phillips Connect / Toyota/ Vita C Energy Dragster program. 

Family-owned Ashton Paving, a 17-year-old Salem, Ore., company that specializes in residential paving and trucking and hauling logistics, will join Ashley. 

“We are excited to be joining Justin’s team for the Northwest Nationals,” said Ashton Paving owner Bobby Teeter. “We are a family-owned business that loves drag racing. We have been following Justin and would love to see him get a win in Seattle. We are looking forward to getting out to the race and talking about our business.” 

Ashley said, “We are always looking to partner with local companies that have a passion for drag racing. I understand the importance of construction through my experience in real estate and fully appreciate the great job Bobby and Amanda Teeter do for their clients at Ashton Paving. Rich Bailey, our marketing representative, was kind enough to get everyone connected, and I look forward to highlighting them and hosting their guests this weekend in Seattle.” 

As for the Western Swing, Ashley said “It’s been about finding a routine that works the best. Between Denver and Sonoma, I flew home to spend time with my family.” But he stayed out on the West Coast th past week. He said, “I am enjoying the opportunity to race three events in a row at facilities that seem to be more beautiful than the next. I am soaking it all in and learning as much as I can from our great Phillips Connect team.”  

Ashley, the winner at Pomona, Calif., and at Epping, N.H., has two runner-up finishes, as well, and is third in the standings with three more races (at Topeka, Brainerd, and Indianapolis) before the Countdown starts. Even though the sanctioning body will adjust the points to make the Countdown-opening field tight, erasing any advantage any racer has earned in the “regular-season,” Ashley still is eyeing that No. 1 spot that’s 140 points out of reach right now. 

“Seattle is like any other race, but we are in the final stretch of the regular season. So we have to be on our A Game and continue to collect points,” Ashley said. “We want to close out the swing strong and put ourselves into a good position going into the Countdown.” 

WHAT? ME, WORRY? – Top Fuel racer Josh Hart is counting on business partner / tuner Ron Douglas not only to make sure his R+L Carriers Dragster is prepped for maximum results but also to do all the worrying. 

“You always want to see if you stack up against the competition, and I am a very competitive person. Ron gives me the confidence I need,” Hart said. “He told me a while back that I don’t get to worry until he worries – and even then I can’t worry. You take your race car up there and you try and make the most of every run.” 

Hart said, “My time in Top Fuel has had its challenges, and we are learning every race. I have a great team around me, and I think we are moving in the right direction.” 

The Ocala, Fla., owner-driver – who gets the prize for traveling farthest from home (2.995 miles) to compete this weekend – is fifth in the standings. 

NEW TEAM – Jordan Vandergriff reportedly has hooked up with IndyCar owners Dale Coyne and Rick Ware, the former NASCAR/IMSA racer and team owner for a new Top Fuel team that is expected to debut at the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. Mike Kloeber will be the crew chief. Coyne and Ware have purchased two rigs from Don Schumacher Racing. 


HIGHT WANTS HIS TURN IN SEATTLE SPOTLIGHT – In John Force Racing’s most recent visit to Pacific Raceways, in 2019, his Funny Car teammate Force recorded his milestone 150th victory and Top Fuel stablemate Austin Prock earned his first Top Fuel victory. But Robert Hight wants to be the star of the show this time around – and move one step closer to his own milestone of 60 victories. 

The Automobile Club of Southern California Chevy Camaro driver has run his victories mark to 58 this year, thanks to five triumphs in the first 12 races (at Pomona, Phoenix, Richmond, Norwalk, Denver). 

Hight has had success in the Pacific Northwest. He won here in 2017 on the way to the second of his three championships. And he has led the field into eliminations four times (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010). 

“We are off to a great season so far,” he said. “This Auto Club team is really working hard, and we need to keep it up. This last half of the season is what’s really important: four races and then we hit the Countdown. We are going to try and be perfect, come out every run and get down the track, be consistent and try not to make any mistakes. This Chevy is responding to what [crew chiefs] Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham are doing, and we are only getting better.”



HAGAN GOING EASY ON PARTS – Like his Top Fuel teammate Leah Pruett, Matt Hagan isn’t too worried about parts depletion this weekend. Making sure in this 90-plus-degree weather that’s definitely out-of-the-ordinary for Seattle, that he stays healthy is a more looming concern. But he said he knows what to expect and is ready to get his performance back on the correct path.

“The Western Swing is a lot of travel, but it’s what we signed up for. We have to stay focused and stay hydrated. I plan on getting some workouts in this week, which will get me focused for race day,” the Dodge Power Brokers Charger driver said. 

“I know we’re struggling a little bit right now, but in all fairness, this car will be running how we want it to right around the corner. There is not a doubt in my mind that we’ll be right back where we need to be within a race or two. We’re always in the hunt and digging deep. We’re always pushing hard. I believe in my team and in my crew, and I think Seattle will be our turning point for getting back on top,” Hagan said. 

This race shouldn’t pose too much trouble for his crew chief, Dickie Venables, Hagan figured, for the conditions are similar to those at Sonoma, Calif., where the Camping World Drag Racing Series stopped most recently.

“Both tracks are fairly close to sea level, which means we’ll be able to carry information over from this weekend as far as horsepower, tune-up, and the way the motor responds. That’ll be nice, but there’s always more to push on and more to be learned. I know we were a little behind the eight-ball in Sonoma,” Hagan said. But he was optimistic he would “come out swinging” here.

“We’ve been really fortunate that we haven’t had any big explosions the last two races. We don’t have parts that have gotten too beat up. Sometimes you leave Denver with the body blown apart, so it makes it a really hard push for the next two races,” he said. “My crew chiefs and crew guys have done a great job keeping the parts and pieces together, so I think that takes a lot of stress off the crew and allows them to get caught up pretty quickly and get some rest moving into the last race of the Western Swing.” 

LONGTIME GOAL – Cruz Pedregon has been a regular visitor to Pacific Raceways, back when it was called Seattle International Raceway, but surprisingly, he never has won the Northwest Nationals. 

“This is a race I’ve had my eye on winning for years, dating back all the way to my Alcohol car days, back in the late 80s. Through the years, we’ve brought some really good cars to the Seattle race but haven’t been able to quite punch it through,” Pedregon said. “So, this year, we’re going to look forward to getting the Snap-on Dodge into the winners circle.” 


LONG TIME, NO DE JORIA – This race is Alexis De Joria’s 185th in a Funny Car – but her first at Pacific Raceways since 2017. She didn’t compete in 2018 and 2019, and pandemic-related issues forced cancellation of the Flav-R-Pac Northwest Nationals for the past two seasons.

“It’s been a while since we’ve raced in Seattle, and for me, it’s been an especially long time,” De Joria said. “I’ve had success at Pacific Raceways in the past, having won in Top Alcohol Funny Car [in 2011], and we’ve done all right there in the fuel ranks but haven’t had a win yet,” she said. 

But she’s hopeful, she said before the event kicked off Friday: “Our car has been running really well as of late. We had a successful weekend in Sonoma, and we’re looking to build off of what we have right now. We plan to throw down some big numbers on Friday night to put us in a good qualifying spot, and hopefully, get some more round-wins on Sunday.” 

De Joria, driver of the Bandero Premium Tequila Toyota Supra, is participating in a fundraiser to benefit Speedway Children’s Charities. She’s auctioning off a bottle of her own custom-created wine blend. To bid, please visit http://bitly.ws/t58X online. The auction ends Sunday, July 31, at noon Pacific Time. 

TODD COULD JOIN ELITE GROUP – Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Del Worsham have won at Seattle in both nitro classes, and JR Todd could join them this weekend. He claimed the 2015 Top Fuel trophy at Pacific Raceways, defeating Kalitta Motorsports teammate Shawn Langdon in the final round. Todd is in a Funny Car now, ready to put his DHL Toyota Supra in the winners circle for the first time in 24 races, since the March 2021 season-opening Gatornationals.

“Any time you can win in the two nitro classes at the same event, that is pretty cool. It is so hard to just get any wins,” Todd said, “but to have add a Funny Car win to my To Fuel win would be awesome.” 


CARUSO GET ANOTHER NEW CHALLENGE – Pro Stock rookie Camrie Caruso is ranked eighth in the standings but entered this event just two points out of seventh place and less than three rounds from sixth place. This is another new track for her, but the positive news is that her more-experienced competitors hadn’t seen the venue since 2019. 

“I am looking forward to a new track and seeing what we can do,” the 24-year-old driver of the Tequila Comisario Chevy Camaro said. And she’s not all that unhappy with what she has done so far. 

“We did everything right in the first round at Sonoma. We just had a tough opponent in Dallas Glenn,” she said. “If we would have been in the top half of the field, I think we could have gone some rounds. This class is very tough, but I have a lot of confidence in my abilities and my team.” 

Two-time Pro Stock champion Jim Yates, her tuner, has confidence in her, too. He said, “Camrie has been improving with every race, and that is very impressive. She has absorbed a ton of information, and every race there is new information and experiences to work into our program. We are 10 races into the season and right in the middle of a tough battle for the championship. I could not be more proud of her accomplishments so far, and I know we have more great things ahead of us.” 

LOOK OUT FOR McGAHA TANDEM – It has been seven years since Chris McGaha set both ends of the Pacific Raceway Pro Stock performance records. His son and Pro Stock teammate Mason McGaha was just in middle school when his dad established the elapsed-time standard at 6.488 seconds and best speed at 213.40 mph and won th Northwest Nationals.  

The elder McGaha, who owns and drives the Harlow Sammons of Odessa Chevy Camaro, just might show off a little bit more than usual this weekend. 

“I switched cars, and I am back to my old car – and I am going faster. I have lost some mojo, but I am going to get it back. I am going to forget the past and focus on this next race. The conditions in Seattle can be really good for our class. It can go either way, but we are looking for a good weekend.” 

He isn’t just eager to see what he can do. He’s cheering on son Mason just as much. 

“Racing with Mason is the best. I am looking forward to seeing him get his first win,” he said, “and then I think we will both be in a great spot.”

Mason McGaha has been flirting with a final-round appearance, posting semifinal finishes in four of the class’ first 10 events. The young gun is nonchalant and confident. He said, “The last two races we were pretty killer on the tree in the first round, and then we eased up in the second round. We just need four consistent runs with good reaction times and elapsed times. That is what we are looking to do in Seattle this weekend. This will be my first time racing in Seattle, but I feel pretty good. You want to make the most of qualifying and then just keep it rolling on race day. I am just going to go up there and do my thing. We are sixth in the points. We aren’t too far back, but we would like to have a good weekend in Seattle and try to close that gap. We want to win that first race, for sure.” 

HOW THE COOKIE CRUMBLES – Pro Stock points leader Erica Enders is supremely confident in her Melling Performance Chevy Camaro. She said, “Coming into race day, I know I have the car to beat right now. It's just it's the way the cookie crumbles. And that will change. I guarantee it. But right now, all I have to do is go up there and do my job and not mess up.” 


KORETSKY CONCEDES NOTHING TO PAL GLENN – KB Racing teammates Kyle Koretsky, in the Lucas Oil Chevy Camaro, and Dallas Glenn, in the RAD Torque Systems Camaro, have not raced each other in the past six events, not since the April four-wide spectacle at Las Vegas. But in the Gatornationals final and the Las Vegas, semifinal round, Glenn defeated Koretsky. 

So Korestsky’s plan is simple. 

“My goal is not to have Dallas (Glenn) beat me at Seattle,” he said, referring to the fact Glenn has had his number so far this year and that Glenn especially wants to win this race before his hometown crowd.

Glenn, the No. 5 driver in the standings, has other ideas: “Racing professionally in front of all the friends and family there will be an experience. We’ve had some early exits the last two races in just some real close races, but I still think we’ve got a winning car this year. I think Seattle would be the perfect race to score our second Wally of the season.” 

Koretsky, the No. 3-ranked Pro Stock driver entering this event, said Sonoma, Calif., and Seattle have “different weather, different atmosphere.” Like Glenn, Koretsky is competing in his first Northwest Nationals. “I’m looking forward to the third and final race of the Western Swing. We made the semifinals in Sonoma and were looking good but had a mechanical issue about a third of the way down the track. So I’m definitely looking to go rounds this weekend.”