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Western Swing Ends The Way It Began

| , RacinToday.com Monday, August 7 2017

The third and final race of the NHRA’s annual Western Swing ended the same way it started as Drew Skillman, Robert Hight and Antron Brown came up winners. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

NHRA’s annual three-race summertime Western Swing wrapped up Sunday in the Great Northwest, leaving Antron Brown, Robert Hight and Drew Skillman to ponder the one that got away in Sonoma, Calif.

That threesome began “The Swing” with victories at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., on July 23 and closed out the nomadic trek with respective wins Sunday in Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.

Brown defeated Terry McMillen on a hole-shot to win the Top Fuel portion of the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals and reclaim the point lead. Hight trailered Tommy Johnson Jr. for the Funny Car win from pole position while Skillman outran two-time world champion Erica Enders at the 16th of 24 events on the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule

Brown took down McMillen with a 1,000-foot pass in 3.776-seconds at 326.48 mph in his Matco Tools dragster during the final.

“I can’t even believe we’ve been going rounds like we have,” said Brown, a three-time world champion and driver of the Matco Tools/Toyota/U.S. Army dragster. “This Western Swing beats you down. I couldn’t be more proud of all of my guys. When things get this rough and this hard, I always give God all the glory because he pulls us through every time.”

Brown’s victory was his second straight at Pacific Raceways and third overall at the track in suburban Seattle, where he won in 2009. The win was Brown’s fourth of the season and 65th of his career with 49 coming in Top Fuel. Brown’s 65th career wins leave him just three behind five-time world champion Joe Amato for third-place on the all-time class list.

“I’m speechless about that,” said Brown, of Don Schumacher Racing. “Joe is from Pennsylvania and he’s always been one of my big heroes in the day of watching this sport. He used to win like it was going out of style. In our profession, you never know when your next win is going to come. You can win a race now and then not win again for another two years.  We’re going to ride this wave and keep pushing as hard as we can.

“This makes you feel like you’re in some good company to be mentioned with (Don) Prudhomme, Amato…that’s history.  People like that are what made this sport what it is today. It’s really the team that I’m with. We’ve got an all-star cast. We all have a passion for what we do. We don’t even have to talk about (strategy), we can just look at each other and communicate.  When you gel like that, these types of results happen.”

Brown defeated Ron Smith in the opening round and then escaped a problem on the starting line light in the second round against Mike Salinas. That led to overcoming a reaction time deficit of 0.131-seconds in the heads-up match.

“You can’t give anybody an inch and against Salinas, I was still staging the car,” Brown said. “I bumped it in one time and I actually should have stayed there, but I let go of the brake to put the car in another inch. I was still rolling and by the time I stopped the brakes on the car, I looked over at the (Christmas) tree and the tree came down. You talk about heart-stopping. I heard him rev up and go and I was like, ‘Oh Lord, what happened?’ It felt like I was late to the party, but you live and learn.

“I had to get back in the zone and (crew chief) Brian Corradi came and talked to me and said, ‘Just relax and do what we do.’  That’s what we did in the semifinal against Clay Millican and in the final against Terry _ and I hit it.”

Emerging with victories in Round 2 of “The Swing” at Sonoma Raceway in Northern California were Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), J.R. Todd  (Funny Car) and Tanner Gray (Pro Stock).

“Everyone thinks it happens easy, but if you saw what we went through in Denver, it’s not easy,” Brown said. “I even had to put my crew member pants on _ working and wrenching.  When that happens, we’ve got a lot of stuff going on. Of course, the team’s like, ‘A.B., we’re good, just mix some fuel.’ When I pick those tools up and I’m getting down and dirty, you know we’ve got some problems.”

Hight secured his second Funny Car victory of the season after a 1,000-foot pass in 3.890-seconds  at 328.62 mph in his Auto Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS to defeat Johnson, who ran 3.978/323.27 in his Make-A-Wish Dodge Charger R/T.

“This was a weekend you can only dream about, but to have low E.T. of each of the last seven sessions gave our team so much confidence,” said Hight, the 2009 world champion for John Force Racing. “We have a good combination whether it be hot or cool weather, which shows how strong my team is able to prepare for any track in any climate.”

Hight was the No. 1 qualifier for the second consecutive race and defeated Jeff Diehl, 16-time world champ and team-owner John Force and teammate Courtney Force before reaching his fourth final round of 2017. Johnson qualified third and took down Jim Campbell, point-leader and DSR teammate Ron Capps and Matt Hagan, a two-time world champ from DSR, en route to his fourth final round of the year and third in the past four events.

Hight also delivered the 250th career Funny Car victory for John Force Racing out of 254 total victories for the team in Funny Car and Top Fuel.

In Pro Stock, Skillman took the victory after a quarter-mile pass in 6.604-seconds at 209.33 mph in his Ray Skillman Chevrolet Camaro to defeat Enders, who ran 6.609-seconds at 209.49 mph in her Elite Motorsports Camaro. After qualifying second, Skillman earned his third victory of the season and third in the past four events.

“We definitely thought we had a car to sweep the Western Swing and we missed it by two rounds, but today definitely makes up for that,” Skillman said. “Our team is working really well together right now, and I couldn’t be happier with the results over the past few events.”

Skillman moved up to fifth in the standings with the victory, as he now is tied for a category-best three victories with point-leaders Bo Butner and Tanner Gray.

Skillman was the No. 2 qualifier and maintained his success with round wins over Alan Prusiensky and Butner. Enders qualified in the fourth spot and took down Matthew Hartford, three-time world champion Jason Line and rookie Tanner Gray before reaching her fourth final round of the season, as she searches for her first victory since Epping, N.H.

The season continues with the Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Brainerd (Minn.) International Raceway, Aug. 17-20.

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Final finishing order (1-16) at the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.  The race is the 16th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series:

Top Fuel _1.  Antron Brown; 2.  Terry McMillen; 3.  Clay Millican; 4.  Leah Pritchett; 5.  Doug Kalitta; 6.  Brittany Force; 7.  Mike Salinas; 8.  Tony Schumacher; 9.  Steve Torrence; 10.  Shawn Langdon; 11.  Troy Buff; 12.  Scott Palmer; 13.  Shawn Reed; 14.  Troy Coughlin Jr.; 15.  Ron Smith; 16.  Terry Haddock.

Funny Car _1.  Robert Hight; 2.  Tommy Johnson Jr.; 3.  Courtney Force; 4.  Matt Hagan; 5.  Alexis DeJoria; 6.  Ron Capps; 7.  John Force; 8.  Jack Beckman; 9.  Gary Densham; 10.  Jonnie Lindberg; 11.  Del Worsham; 12.  Tim Wilkerson; 13.  Jim Campbell; 14.  Jeff Diehl; 15.  J.R. Todd; 16.  Cruz Pedregon.

Pro Stock _ 1.  Drew Skillman; 2.  Erica Enders; 3.  Bo Butner; 4.  Tanner Gray; 5.  Jason Line; 6.  Allen Johnson; 7.  Chris McGaha; 8.  Greg Anderson; 9.  Jeg Coughlin Jr.; 10.  Steve Graham; 11.  Vincent Nobile; 12.  Alan Prusiensky; 13.  Matt Hartford.

Sunday’s final results from the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways:

Top Fuel _ Antron Brown, 3.776-seconds, 326.48 mph  def. Terry McMillen, 3.772-seconds, 318.54 mph.

Funny Car _ Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.890, 328.62  def. Tommy Johnson Jr., Dodge Charger, 3.978, 323.27.

Pro Stock _ Drew Skillman, Chevy Camaro, 6.604, 209.33  def. Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.609, 209.49.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Kim Parker, 5.748, 246.48  def. Joey Severance, 7.822, 120.43.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ Jay Payne, Chevy Camaro, 5.526, 266.00  def. Steve Gasparrelli, Camaro, 5.646, 260.06.

Competition Eliminator _ Brian Hyerstay, Dragster, 8.692, 146.08  def. Ryan Warter, Chevy Camaro, 8.818, 151.51.

Super Stock _ Jeff Lane, Chevy Cavalier, 8.771, 149.96  def. Justin Lamb, Chevy Cobalt, 8.744, 155.58.

Stock Eliminator _ Jody Lang, Chevy Maibu Wagon, 12.322, 104.24  def. Justin Lamb, Chevy Camaro, 9.685, 133.96.

Super Comp _ Randy Beck, Dragster, 8.935, 167.20  def. Greg Taylor, Dragster, 8.933, 164.59.

Super Gas _ Dan Davis, Ford Probe, 9.924, 163.99  def. Gene Kelly, Chevy Camaro, 9.929, 161.21.

Super Street _ Tom Brown, Chevy Nova, 10.855, 141.52  def. Larry Miner, Chevy Camaro, Foul/Red Light.

Top Fuel Harley _ Kevin Boyer, Harley, 7.788, 150.46  def. Jay Turner, Dixie, 15.485, 76.88.

Top Dragster presented by RacingRVs.com _ Andy Morris, Dragster, 7.516, 177.49  def. Kyle Seipel, Dragster, Foul/Red Light.

Top Sportsman presented by RacingRVs.com _ Don Sefton, Pontiac GXP, 7.239, 170.86  def. Bryan Warr, Chevy Corvette, 7.277, 175.43.

Final round-by-round results from the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways:

TOP FUEL

ROUND ONE _ Mike Salinas, 3.821, 282.19 def. Shawn Langdon, 3.821, 271.35; Clay Millican, 3.765, 322.11 def. Scott Palmer, 3.845, 323.12; Brittany Force, 3.724, 328.14 def. Troy Buff, 3.841, 317.79; Doug Kalitta, 3.768, 329.75 def. Terry Haddock, Broke; Antron Brown, 3.745, 326.63 def. Ron Smith, 4.632, 192.19; Leah Pritchett, 3.729, 314.46 def. Shawn Reed, 3.964, 313.22; Tony Schumacher, 3.741, 328.94 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., 4.615, 169.83; Terry McMillen, 3.725, 321.58 def. Steve Torrence, 3.764, 327.51;

QUARTERFINALS _ Brown, 3.786, 325.37 def. Salinas, 4.191, 204.88; Pritchett, 5.062, 157.72 def. Schumacher, 6.483, 130.67; McMillen, 3.804, 317.49 def. Kalitta, 3.900, 309.27; Millican, 3.769, 323.27 def. Force, 4.004, 271.30;

SEMIFINALS _ McMillen, 3.822, 315.42 def. Pritchett, 3.888, 306.40; Brown, 3.781, 325.22 def. Millican, 3.794, 318.32;

FINAL _Brown, 3.776, 326.48 def. McMillen, 3.772, 318.54.

FUNNY CAR

ROUND ONE _ Courtney Force, Chevy Camaro, 3.919, 327.19 def. Cruz Pedregon, Toyota Camry, 17.596, 54.30; Robert Hight, Camaro, 3.897, 314.90 def. Jeff Diehl, Toyota Solara, 4.460, 204.11; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.920, 330.47 def. Gary Densham, Ford Mustang, 3.965, 319.37; Tommy Johnson Jr., Charger, 3.953, 325.92 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.372, 206.48; Jack Beckman, Charger, 3.926, 325.69 def. Del Worsham, Camry, 4.033, 319.52; Ron Capps, Charger, 3.901, 326.00 def. Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 4.232, 226.32; Alexis DeJoria, Camry, 3.931, 327.90 def. Jonnie Lindberg, Camry, 3.999, 322.81; John Force, Camaro, 3.939, 327.03 def. J.R. Todd, Camry, 4.884, 193.60;

QUARTERFINALS _ Johnson Jr., 3.957, 323.19 def. Capps, 3.976, 311.41; Hight, 3.937, 323.50 def. J. Force, 3.978, 322.27; C. Force, 3.959, 317.27 def. Beckman, 4.037, 287.66; Hagan, 3.958, 326.71 def. DeJoria, 3.956, 324.12;

SEMIFINALS _ Johnson Jr., 3.935, 319.67 def. Hagan, 3.955, 326.08; Hight, 3.905, 323.66 def. C. Force, 3.939, 325.69;

FINAL _ Hight, 3.890, 328.62 def. Johnson Jr., 3.978, 323.27.

PRO STOCK

ROUND ONE _ Allen Johnson, Dodge Dart, 6.592, 209.88 def. Greg Anderson, Chevy Camaro, 6.611, 209.14; Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.591, 209.30 def. Jeg Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.611, 208.71; Jason Line, Camaro, 6.577, 209.33 def. Vincent Nobile, Camaro, 6.661, 209.43; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.592, 210.08 def. Matt Hartford, Camaro, 7.336, 139.56; Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.561, 209.79 was unopposed; Drew Skillman, Camaro, 6.572, 210.08 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dart, 6.675, 207.88; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.569, 210.01 def. Steve Graham, Camaro, 6.623, 208.94;

QUARTERFINALS _ Enders, 6.595, 209.46 def. Line, 6.603, 209.30; Skillman, 6.617, 209.30 was unopposed; Butner, 6.596, 209.33 def. McGaha, 6.645, 207.69; Gray, 6.584, 209.14 def. Johnson, 6.616, 209.17;

SEMIFINALS _ Skillman, 6.605, 209.20 def. Butner, Foul/Red Light; Enders, 6.633, 208.71 def. Gray, Foul/Red Light;

FINAL _ Skillman, 6.604, 209.33 def. Enders, 6.609, 209.49.

Point standings (top-10) following the 30th annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways:

Top Fuel _1.  Antron Brown, 1,418; 2.  Steve Torrence, 1,405; 3.  Leah Pritchett, 1,329; 4.  Tony Schumacher, 1,064; 5.  Brittany Force, 992; 6.  Doug Kalitta, 977; 7.  Clay Millican, 937; 8.  Terry McMillen, 690; 9.  Scott Palmer, 606; 10.  Troy Coughlin Jr., 560.

Funny Car _1.  Ron Capps, 1,330; 2.  Matt Hagan, 1,172; 3.  Robert Hight, 1,164; 4.  Jack Beckman, 1,104; 5.  Tommy Johnson Jr., 1,081; 6.  Courtney Force, 951; 7.  John Force, 877; 8.  Tim Wilkerson, 759; 9.  J.R. Todd, 756; 10.  Cruz Pedregon, 601.

Pro Stock _1.  Bo Butner, 1,423; 2.  Greg Anderson, 1,183; 3.  Tanner Gray, 1,174; 4.  Jason Line, 1,045; 5.  Drew Skillman, 1,035; 6.  Erica Enders, 991; 7.  Jeg Coughlin Jr., 974; 8.  Vincent Nobile, 867; 9.  Chris McGaha, 645; 10.  Allen Johnson, 600.

| , RacinToday.com Monday, August 7 2017
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