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Top Fueler Antron Brown Still Best In West

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 19 2009
Tony Pedregon looked good early, but was eventually defeated by Tim Wilkerson in the final round at Seattle (NHRA Photo)

Tony Pedregon looked good early, but was eventually defeated by Tim Wilkerson in the final round at Seattle (NHRA Photo)


Antron Brown kept alive his hopes of a rare Western Swing sweep with a Top Fuel victory Sunday at the 22nd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways outside of Seattle. Tim Wilkerson and Mike Edwards scored in Funny Car and Pro Stock, respectively, to end a couple of respective droughts.

With a victory next weekend in Sonoma, Brown, who won last weekend in Denver, can join an elite lineup up drivers to have won all three events in the three-weekend summer sweep through the western states. Fellow Top Fuel racers Joe Amato (1991), Cory McClenathan (1997), Larry Dixon (2003), and Tony Schumacher (2008); Funny Car racer John Force (1994); Pro Stock driver Greg Anderson (2003); and Sportsman ace Dan Fletcher (1994) are the only drivers to have previously accomplished the feat.

Brown scored his sixth career Top Fuel win and fourth of the season by denying Schumacher a second straight victory and a chance to narrow points leader Brown’s edge. Brown raced to a tight 3.985 to 3.99- decision to collect the win and increase his points lead to 137 markers.

Brown and his Brian Corradi- and Mark Oswald-tuned Mike Ashley Racing/Matco Tools dragster opened their eliminations run with a 4.07 conquest of Clay Millican then followed with runs of 3.98 and 4.00 to beat tire-smoking Morgan Lucas’ GEICO Powersports dragster and Spencer Massey’s U.S. Smokeless dragsters to reach his 12th career final round in Top Fuel (45 career, counting Pro Stock Motorcycle) and his third in the last four races.

Schumacher was going for his 60th career win in his fourth final of the year, but his first since the Bristol event in May. After clipping off a 3.935, his best run of the weekend, in round one to defeat Brandon Bernstein, Schumacher’s Mike Green-tuned U.S. Army dragster nearly duplicated that pass with a 3.937 in round two to trailer low qualifier Larry Dixon and steal second place in the standings from his longtime rival. Schumacher and team then got a real scare in the semifinals against the Cinderella effort of Troy Buff, who was attempting to reach his first Pro final. Both cars smoked the tires, but Buff’s Bill Miller Engineering digger backfired the blower and Schumacher advanced with a smoky 5.11 that surrendered lane choice to Brown. The final round was the 92nd of Schumacher’s impressive career.

Wilkerson, who came into the event off back-to-back first-round losses and hadn’t been to a final round since last October in Memphis, got well quick and took full advantage of his first final-round appearance this season by defeating low qualifier Tony Pedregon in the final round, 4.21 to 4.28, for his 12th career win.

Wilkerson showed early Sunday that he would be a force to be reckoned with after powering his Levi, Ray & Shoup Mustang to low e.t. of the first round, a 4.18, to defeat Robert Hight. Wilk followed with a 4.26 to send Hight’s teammate, Mike Neff, home early as well, then bested points leader Ron Capps in the semifinals, 4.24 to 4.219 to earn final-round lane choice. The final was Wilkerson’s 25th overall, including four in Alcohol Funny Car, where he scored one win before moving into the nitro ranks in 1996.

Pedregon’s run to his 72nd career Funny Car final was fraught with peril as he got loose but held on to escape a potential first-round upset against Grant Downing then needed a holeshot to take out Ashley Force Hood in round two, 4.30 to 4.28. Pedregon reached his fifth final of the year by denying former boss John Force his first on the year on a 4.26 to 4.30 count.

Edwards’ final-round defeat of Jason Line ended a frustrating streak of runner-ups in his last four final-round appearances and gave the veteran his first win since Bristol, in May, his third of the year, the 18th of his Pro Stock career, and his 20th overall. Edwards, who twice this year has been runner-up to line, turned the tables this time for a 6.58, 211.03 to 6.601, 210 victory. Edwards’ final-round speed was the fastest of the weekend in Pro Stock and his final-round win moved him to within 20 points of front runner Jeg Coughlin.

Edwards looked solid in every round, opening his Sunday account with a stunning 6.55, 210.67-mph blast to eclipse both ends of the track record and send Ben Watson packing. Edwards’ A.R.T./Young Life Pontiac followed with low e.t. of the next two rounds as well, running a pair of 6.58s to erase Greg Stanfield and Houston champ Ron Krisher to reach his 37th career Pro Stock final and his sixth final in the last seven events.

After defeating V. Gaines with a 6.58 in round one, Line, the defending event champ, ran a pair of 6.60s to advance to his 40th career and third straight final, trailering points leader Coughlin, who got loose, to even their career record at 13 wins apiece then ended Denver winner Allen Johnson’s hopes of a Swing sweep. Johnson’s Dodge, the low qualifier, shook hard and had to abort the run.

| , RacinToday.com Sunday, July 19 2009
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