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Posted by NHRA on Friday, August 3, 2018
Team Speed Society Arrives in Pacific Northwest for Third Stop on NHRA Western Swing
Last week, it was Leah Pritchett that rolled into the weekend carrying the momentum. This weekend, It’s Leah’s DSR teammate and fellow Team Speed Society driver Antron Brown that’s looking to capitalize on a different form of momentum. Instead of riding a wave from the previous event, Brown is looking to three-peat at Pacific Raceways, the site of the CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals.
In both 2016 and 2017, Brown raced his Matco Tools dragster to victory at the Kent, Washington facility, and that kind of momentum works just as well as the kind that rolls from week to week on the tour. Said Brown of the team’s current state of mind, “We were confident going into Sonoma last weekend and we’re just as excited to get to Seattle. We had a really good car at Sonoma. Everything we worked on, we improved upon. Now we know we’ve got a car that can be a No. 1 qualifier. On race day, we didn’t change too much and we were as quick as everybody early in the run. We just had a hole out in our second-round run and got bit by that. With that being said, we’ll make that better at Seattle.” Brown enters the race winless on the season and still looking for his 50th career win the sport’s premier eliminator. Brown’s still won enough rounds to ride into the Pacific Northwest sixth in points and almost certainly a lock to make the Countdown to the Championship.
Clay Millican also locked in his spot for the Countdown to the Championship despite an untimely second-round exit at Sonoma at the hands of Doug Kalitta. Millican and his David Grubnic-tuned rocket ship earned yet another green #1 qualifier cap at Sonoma, bringing their season total to seven on the season, keeping them on pace to sit on the pole at half of the season’s races. Millican lost a spot in the points after Sonoma, sliding to third after a resurgent Tony Schumacher raced to a runner up finish. Look for Millican and Grubnic and the whole Great Clips/Parts Plus/Strutmasters team to focus on consistency as the Countdown looms ever closer on the horizon.
Like Millican and Brown, Leah Pritchett also locked in her spot for the Countdown to the Championship with another strong qualifying effort in Sonoma, racing to the #2 spot just behind Millican. However, a miscue on the starting line found Leah on the losing end of a red light start that ended such a promising day all too prematurely. For the third race in a row, Pritchett will don a one-off sponsor wrap, this time rocking a vivid fuchsia-hued scheme for sponsor Sparkling Ice that will surely be hard to miss. Pritchett, as we all know, thrives under pressure, so this race, in her sponsor’s own back yard, will be right in her wheelhouse. “We have gotten really good at having a lot of primary partners individually for each race and this one’s no different. There’s a new color people haven’t seen on the track in a long time. I’ll call it fuchsia for Sparkling Ice and this is their hometown race. I’m going to look at it exactly like Denver. We were in Mopar and Dodge’s country in Denver and we harnessed that energy. Lots of pressure but, honestly, I never felt it was the ‘P’ word; I preferred to call it energy,” she said as she geared up for the weekend. Leah rolls into Pacific Raceways riding in 4th after also losing a spot to Schumacher at Sonoma.
In Funny Car, DSR team member Ron Capps is looking to ride strong runner-up performances at Denver and Sonoma into Seattle, the site of his first pro class win, and grab his 60th Wally this weekend. Capps’ Dodge Charger Funny Car will be wearing a special paint scheme featuring us usual NAPA sponsor as well as Pennzoil in a wrap that Capps calls “… one of the coolest paint schemes I’ve gotten to drive.” Capps laid out a challenge for himself and his team, anchored by veteran tuner Rahn Tobler to make a run at grabbing the points lead from Courtney Force before the Countdown kicks off after Indy. “This is the time of year that we know we have to get into race form for the Countdown. It starts with the swing and we’ve always done real well. I joked about a month ago that we were over 300 points behind the points leader at that point and I said ‘you watch, we are going to be able to make a run for it.’ It would be three years in a row if we could get the points lead going into the Countdown. We made up a big chunk (Sunday in Denver and Sonoma) and we just keep collecting those Mello Yello points.”
At the opposite end of the momentum spectrum, the Head Racing Funny Car driven by Jonnie Lindberg was once again bitten by the “wrong-pair, wrong-time” bug in Sonoma, running into a first round opponent that laid down a stellar run and just edged out a great pass from Lindberg’s Mustang. Race after race, this team has showed up for first round and swung for the fences, laying down runs that would have won against most of the other winning elapsed times in the opening frame, only to be nipped by one of, if not the quickest run of the round. While losing in the opening round takes its toll on morale, you can bet this team sees how close they are to winning week after week and is striving to find that last little bit of performance – and perhaps a little bit of a lucky break – and they’ll be on their way to racking up round wins in no time.
Alex Laughlin battled similar demons to what Lindberg is dealing with for much of the season, but has broken through to win rounds at the last two events and seems to have finally got the car and the mindset needed to make a late season run at the Countdown to the Championship. He has a big hill to climb, sitting 168 points behind #10 Bo Butner, who has had an up-and-down season following his Championship run in 2017. Laughlin took out Butner in the first round and could have made up some ground in Sonoma, but fell in round 2 to eventual winner and Elite Motorsports teammate Jeg Coughlin Jr. Look for Alex and the Havoline/Fitzgerald USA-sponsored Camaro to crank up the heat on Butner in Seattle to try to take the last spot in the Countdown.
If you want to keep up with the action throughout the weekend, NHRA’s All Access stream offers a live look at all the action. For those who prefer to watch on traditional broadcast television, look to FS1 for Friday Nitro Live at 7pm ET, Saturday Nitro Live at 10pm ET. Live finals will air on FOX – the broadcast network, aka “Local Channel”, not FS1 – on Sunday starting at 4pm ET.