After advancing to the Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship for the first time in his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series career in 2017, Scott Palmer and his team haven’t stopped working. That improvement has been evident in 2018 and the Top Fuel driver heads to this weekend’s CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways with big goals.
Palmer already has 10 round wins in his 10,000-horsepower Cat Spot Organic Cat Litter dragster this year, advancing to the semifinals in Sonoma and putting him on track to eclipse his career round-win total of 15 from his first 148 races in just this season. That means finishing the NHRA’s Western Swing on a good note and also performing well at his sponsor’s race this weekend.
“One of the things I’m most proud of is the improvement we’re making since (team owner) Tommy Thompson and CatSpot Organic Cat Litter started supporting us,” said Palmer, who is currently ninth in Top Fuel points. “Over the years I’ve seen a lot of teams get sponsors and go out there and run the same as they always have. Not us. We’ve won more rounds in the last two years with CatSpot on the car than I have in my entire career. It makes me feel good.”
Antron Brown (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), and Drew Skillman (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 and the FOX national broadcast network, including live final eliminations on FOX starting at 4 p.m. (ET) on Sunday. It is the 16th of 24 events during the 2018 NHRA season and the last of three races during the Western Swing.
Palmer is riding a wave of momentum into the stop at Pacific Raceways thanks to a round win in Denver and the semifinals appearance in Sonoma. With standout co-crew chiefs Jason McCulloch and Bennie Patterson calling the shots, Palmer has been at his best in 2018, advancing to his first career final round early in the season and steadily improving his qualifying positions throughout the year. Palmer now has his sights set on a second straight playoff appearance, something he’s worked hard for and could take a step closer to with another strong outing in Seattle.
“Another big part of showing Tommy we’re trying as hard as we can is making the playoffs,” Palmer said. “We know this car is unbelievable. It goes down the racetrack when we want it to and even when it looks like it doesn’t in qualifying, it’s working properly, we’re just testing new stuff. Racing offensively takes a different mindset and I’m going to figure it out. We’ve got a car that runs strong and it’s time for me to step up.”
Palmer has made impressive progress each of the past two seasons and he’ll try for more against a loaded Top Fuel lineup in Seattle, one that includes close friend and points leader Steve Torrence, who has five wins this season, Denver winner Leah Pritchett, defending world champ Brittany Force, Doug Kalitta, Antron Brown, Clay Millican, Terry McMillen, and Tony Schumacher. There’s also the added spotlight of performing at his sponsor’s race for the first time, but these are the opportunities Palmer has always wanted in his career, and he’s excited for the weekend.
“All you ever want is a competitive car and now we have one,” Palmer said. “Me and Tommy Thompson, we have a hotrod right now, so I’ll step up my driving and be ready to shine in Seattle. All this stuff looks easy on TV but it’s not that easy. There’s a lot of pressure involved at this level but we can take it.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 3:30 and 5:30 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 3 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Aug. 4, at 1:30 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Aug. 5.
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.