Mopar power was strong this weekend at the 31st annual CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways near Seattle as Funny Car racer Ron Capps took his Dodge Charger R/T all the way to victory for a milestone 60th career win.
The win in the finale of the three-race Western Swing, set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, was the ninth of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series for Mopar Dodge//SRT Don Schumacher Racing competitors, and the sixth of the season for a Mopar Dodge Charger Funny Car driver.
Capps squared off in his Mopar-powered NAPA Dodge Funny Car dragster with Jonnie Lindberg in round one eliminations on the track where he won his first race in 1995 (in Top Fuel). He made a 3.989-second pass to take the win with ease. In the second round Capps had to face off against his DSR teammate, Matt Hagan, the No. 1 Funny Car qualifier of the weekend. Another three-second pass gave the 700-plus round winner the victory and lane choice for the semifinals against Tim Wilkerson. Capps powered down the track to a 4.002 pass as Wilkerson’s day came to an early end with a major leak from the valve cover.
The final round, the 117th of Capps’ career, saw him placed against Funny Car points leader Courtney Force. Force ran out front until the 660 lights, but when her engine got unsettled, Capps powered right past her and to his 60th career win, his second this season.
Leah Pritchett, the No. 6 Top Fuel qualifier, beat Troy Buff in the first round of eliminations with her Mopar Dodge dragster on a holeshot win. She faced No. 3 qualifier Clay Millican in the quarterfinals. They had near identical reaction times, but Pritchett took her tenth victory against Millican. She then faced Mike Salinas, who had starting line advantage in the semifinals. Pritchett had a strong pass until right in the lights when it let go with a quick flash of flames, but held onto the win to face DSR teammate Antron Brown for her 12th final round.
Pritchett had starting line advantage, but Brown had the lead when they went by the Christmas tree and went on for the win. The final-round appearance was Pritchett’s second in the last three races, including her victory in Denver at the Dodge Mile-High NHRA Nationals Powered by Mopar.
Matt Hagan collected the first No. 1 qualifier for the new Mopar Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat Funny Car body this weekend, as well as his first at Pacific Raceways and fourth of the season. Hagan started eliminations against first-round opponent Cruz Pedregon, eclipsing him at the 60-foot block and charging down the track for the decisive win.
Unfortunately, in round two, the 2013 Northwest Nationals event champion had to go up against his teammate Capps. The race was very close between the two Mopar-powered Dodge Funny Cars, but Capps was able to take the win and ended Hagan’s chances at picking up his fourth victory of the season.
Tommy Johnson Jr., driver of the Make-A-Wish Dodge, is one of the few drivers who has won in both Top Fuel and Funny Car at Pacific Raceways. This weekend, Johnson was able to advance to the semifinals before missing the opportunity for another victory in the Pacific Northwest. In first round eliminations he faced off with starting line advantage against longtime NHRA champion John Force and was quick on the throttle. Both drivers had issues – Force lost traction and Johnson had a hole out, but Johnson charged on and crossed the stripe first.
In the quarterfinals, Johnson defeated the reigning world champion Robert Hight, with a 4.074 run versus Hight’s 4.551. He then faced Courtney Force and had the better reaction time, but Force was able to pull ahead before the 330-foot mark and capture with the win, ending Johnson’s chances for a second consecutive Northwest Nationals final round appearance.
The four-time Pacific Raceways victor, Tony Schumacher, qualified his Mopar-powered U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster fourth and faced last year’s runner-up Terry McMillen in the first round. Schumacher had the starting line advantage and never trailed for the win. In the second round Schumacher had to go up against fellow DSR teammate Antron Brown, who had starting line advantage. Both smoked they tires at nearly the same time, but Brown pedaled to hook it up enough for the win.
Fast Jack Beckman, the 2007 Pacific Raceways Funny Car champion, faced Shawn Langdon in round one of eliminations. Beckman was 2-0 versus Langdon in prior events but was unable to extend his lead on Sunday morning. The two world champions were nearly even after launching from the line with the Infinite Hero Dodge Charger keeping pace until the 660-foot mark when Langdon was able to pull ahead for the round win, despite it being Beckman’s fastest run of the weekend.