With just three races before the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, Jim Campbell knows there is pressure. But you can be certain it won’t stop the Funny Car driver from smiling in his pursuit of the 10th and final spot in the loaded class.
Campbell, who started the famed NHRA Western Swing with a semifinal appearance in Denver, sits just eight points behind veteran Cruz Pedregon in 11th heading into this weekend’s NHRA Northwest Nationals at scenic Pacific Raceways. But a flurry of talent, including standouts Del Worsham and Alexis DeJoria and rookie Jonnie Lindberg, are right behind Campbell, which means he must continue to produce in his 10,000-horsepower 7-Eleven/Oberto Beef Jerky Dodge Charger R/T.
“There’s no doubt the pressure is on, but I love pressure and I think I respond well to it,” Campbell said. “There are five of us fighting for that 10th spot, but I feel like we’ll step up to the occasion. Yes, it’s pressure, but this is what I love to do. It’s a dream come true to drive a Funny Car for [team owner] Jim Dunn. I’m blessed to be able to do this, and I’m racing for a legend. I love the pressure. He’ll tell me to take a couple of deep breaths, get focused, do my job, and we’ll be fine.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), and Aaron Strong (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and FOX national broadcast network, including live final eliminations on FOX starting at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Aug. 6. It is the 16th of 24 events in 2017 and only two events follow Seattle before the Countdown to the Championship.
In his first full year of racing in Funny Car, Campbell is simply thrilled to be in the conversation for NHRA’s six-race playoffs. But he’s more than held his own this season, advancing to two semifinals and knocking off the No. 1 qualifier in back-to-back races in Chicago and Denver. Campbell is currently 15 and 21 points ahead of Lindberg and Worsham, respectively.
“I couldn’t be more excited about what we’ve done,” Campbell said. “Now that we’ve had some time together as a team, we’ve built up a consistent pattern. I’m getting more consistent as a driver, and I’ve gotten a lot better on the lights. What that does is allows Jim to tune the car around me to get faster and faster. It’s definitely important to keep doing what we’re doing. I know Jim is looking to run some threes. We’re right on the verge, and that would be big, especially at this critical point.”
Campbell went a career-best 3.977 a year ago in Indy but is looking for his first three-second run in 2017. Doing so in Seattle, where sponsor Oberto is located, would make for the start of a great weekend. Going rounds would simply add to that, though Campbell knows it’s difficult against the likes of defending event winner Capps, who has six wins this season; eight-time Seattle winner John Force; and J.R. Todd, who won last weekend in Sonoma. But with Dunn calling the shots, Campbell is confident his team can have success at Pacific Raceways.
“It’s extremely thrilling for me to drive for Jim Dunn, a legend of the sport,” Campbell said. “He’s got so much knowledge and wisdom, I just try to listen and absorb it. Someone with the wealth of knowledge he has, I am the student. The only way to get better is to listen and perform. Beating the No. 1 qualifier in back-to-back races instilled a lot of confidence in me, and the team has worked their butts off. The main thing is our car is going down the track and that will be key [in Seattle].”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 2:30 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 4, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 5, at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 6.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 253-639-5927. Tickets also are available online at www.pacificraceways.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.