Scott Palmer has not had point-earning luck in 2019. His car has struggled with consistency and, in a field featuring even more tough customers than 2018, he faces the prospect of missing the NHRA Countdown to the Championship for the first time since 2016. The Magic Dry Top Fuel team has already made a strong bid towards changing its fate at the NHRA New England Nationals.
Palmer qualified in the No. 5 position with a 3.877-second pass. That’s not spectacular by any means, but it earned him a matchup with part-time racer Dan Mercier. He made a clean pass and Mercier never got off the starting line. Those 20 points put him 32 points behind Austin Prock, who fell in the first round to defending Top Fuel world champion Steve Torrence.
Then Palmer needed a little bit of luck. He faced Antron Brown with a semifinal berth on the line. Palmer was dead late at the Christmas Tree, cutting a .179-second reaction time. That’s a full tenth of a second behind his average light and put him in a vulnerable position behind three-time champion Brown, who had a huge lead when the cars passed the Tree.
Palmer got some much-needed luck after that. Brown lost traction and was unable to fully recover his Matco Tools Top Fuel dragster as Palmer, who also pedaled his Magic Dry dragster, sped by. The team exhaled, celebrated and ran back to the pits to service the car as they will face Clay Millican with a berth to Palmer’s second final round on the line. It would be his first final since the 2018 Phoenix event.
Richie Crampton and Steve Torrence will battle on the other side of the ladder. Crampton is looking for his first win since the 2019 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals in March and is hoping to further solidify his spot in the top 10. Torrence, who clinched his spot in the Countdown this weekend, is just chasing yet another Wally to put in his office at Capco Contractors Inc.
Palmer has said time and again he doesn’t care about the Countdown: He wants a win. This is one of the best opportunities he’s had in his career. Millican, the No. 1 qualifier, is no slouch but Palmer has a chance if he gets down the track. Both cars have struggled with consistency in 2019, so it may come down with who better manages the power on a 130-degree surface.
Beyond that, well, Palmer and the Magic Dry team just needs to continue to survive and advance if a playoff spot is in the cards.
You can catch all the action live on NHRA.tv and FS1.