Records fall in all divisions at NHRA Northwest Nationals
A day after rain wiped out qualifying, drivers found almost ideal conditions in setting records in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock events.
Special to The Seattle Times
NHRA Northwest Nationals
What: 26th annual O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, race 16 of 24 in the 2013 NHRA Mellow Yellow Drag Racing Series.
Where: Pacific Raceways in Kent (10 miles east of I-5 on Highway 18).
When: Championship eliminations begin at 11 a.m. Sunday.
Tickets: $10-$60, kids 12 and under free with paid adult
KENT — NHRA drivers made up for lost time at Pacific Raceways on Saturday, taking advantage of cool, dry temperatures to shatter several track records.
Top Fuel points leader Shawn Langdon broke the track record twice in two qualifying runs to earn prime position in the 26th annual Northwest Nationals.
Langdon ran a best elapsed time of 3.765 seconds to beat Tony Schumacher’s record of 3.802 set in 2008.
Langdon hit a top speed of 320.58 mph in his first run and said his second would have been much faster had he not encountered a mechanical problem 800 feet down the racetrack.
“It was really scooting,” Langdon said. “We were really going fast until the blower motor blew. It was absolutely flying. I was just holding on for dear life.”
One day after rain washed out two qualifying runs, track records fell in all three professional divisions with six drivers breaking the track record in Top Fuel.
Langdon, who has won four times this season to build up a big points lead, finished second here last year. That won’t be good enough this time.
“We’re looking to win,” Langdon said. “We really feel like we have an excellent car and feel very confident in it right now.”
Surprisingly, defending national Funny Car champion Jack Beckman is not nearly as confident even though he broke the track record with an elapsed time of 4.049, .07 better than the previous record set by Robert Hight in 2008.
Since winning the national championship last season by two points over Ron Capps, Beckman does not have a win and is mired in sixth place in the points standings.
Beckman won three times last year and has 12 victories in his career. He said his record-setting run would have been faster except for difficulties 600 feet down the racetrack where new asphalt was installed.
“We gave up five or sixth thousandths of a second there,” Beckman said. “It spun the tires, dropped a cylinder and I shut it off 17 feet early and it still went a new track record.”
With only two sessions to get into the field, drivers had to be relatively conservative despite ideal track conditions.
One victim of the shortened time to qualify was Capps. The veteran Funny Car driver, who is second in the points standings and a winner here in 1998, had problems in both runs and is relegated to the sideline.
The winner last week in Sonoma, Capps will miss the final eliminations for the first time in 34 races.
“That’s the nature of the game when you only get two runs,” Capps said. “The bottom line is that we didn’t deserve to get into the show.”
Defending Funny Car champion Courtney Force also had difficulty in her first qualifying attempt, but ran 304.74 mph on her second run to qualify fourth.
Mike Edwards, a winner here in 1996, 1997 and 2009, was the top qualifier in Pro Stock with a track record of 212.29 mph (breaking Allen Johnson’s 2011 record of 211.69) and elapsed time of 6.526 (breaking Jason Line’s record of 6.531).
“With only two sessions you just never know what the track is going to give you,” Edwards said. “We were real conservative in the first run and then made a really nice run. Two sessions makes you a little on edge, but it worked out good.”