NHRA Northwest Nationals: Allen Johnson eyes Western Swing sweep
The Pro Stock driver could be the first to sweep all three races while being the fastest qualifier at each.
Special to The Seattle Times
NHRA glanceWhat: 25th O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, race 14 of 23 in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
Where: Pacific Raceways in Kent (10 miles east of I-5 on Highway 18).
When: Qualifying will be between noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday. Championship eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.
2011 event winners: Del Worsham in Top Fuel, Tim Wilkerson in Funny Car, Jason Line in Pro Stock.
Tickets: Available at NHRATix.com or by calling (800) 884-NHRA or (253) 639-5927.
KENT — Allen Johnson is on the verge of making drag-racing history.
Johnson can become the first driver ever to sweep the NHRA's Western Swing while being the fastest qualifier at each session of all three races.
The Western Swing includes races in Denver, Sonoma and here, at Pacific Raceways, and has been in existence for 25 years.
If Johnson, 52, is nervous, the Greenville, Tenn. Pro Stock driver isn't letting on after the first day of racing in the NHRA O'Reilly Auto Parts Northwest Nationals .
"The crew is hitting on all eight cylinders," Johnson said. "All this sweep talk might unglue us, but believe it or not, everybody is having fun and enjoying this high because there are a lot more lows than highs in drag racing."
Johnson ran a time of 6.554 with a top speed of 211.66. Two more sessions of qualifying will be held at noon and 3 p.m. on Saturday before the elimination finals on Sunday.
Although the track temperature was measured at 122 degrees, it's expected to be even hotter Saturday. Hotter temperatures usually means slower speeds, so Johnson could stay at No. 1 without even getting in his car.
Johnson has had success here before, winning in 2006 while being the runner-up twice.
He's won four times this season, and if his speed holds up, it will be the ninth time this season he's gone into the elimination finals with the top qualifying speed.
"Our focus has been to do both, and we have the ability to do it," Johnson said. "We want to build those bonus points and have the quickest car at every race."
The three bonus points for having the day's fastest qualifying speed pushed Spencer Massey into the points lead in the Top Fuel standings which is headed by three Don Schumacher Racing cars.
Massey, who is 29 and from Fort Worth, and teammate Antron Brown came into the day tied with 1,174 points, but Massey's top speed of 319.60 mph pushed him into the lead.
"It shows you how well our entire program is put together," Massey said.
Ron Capps had the best run in Funny Car with a time of 4.119 and a top speed of 298.47 mph.
Capps also has strong history at this track, winning in a Top Fuel car during his rookie season in 1995 and making it into the finals four other years.
Capps, who has never won a world championship despite many close calls, is in second place in the Funny Car points standings, 78 points behind leader Robert Hight.
"I just love coming here," Capps said. "It's been a great place for me since my rookie year."
Only seven drivers in history have won the Western Swing.
Brown has a chance to become the first driver to do it twice.