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Five things we learned at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals

The Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals, the middle leg of the three-race NHRA Western Swing, went into the record book, adding another chapter to the Pacific Raceways’ storied history. Here’s our five big takeaways from the event.
24 Jul 2023
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Five things we learned at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals

The Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals, the middle leg of the three-race NHRA Western Swing, went into the record book, adding another chapter to the Pacific Raceways’ storied history. Here’s our five big takeaways from the event.


The stage was set in the final round for lots of cool things to happen. 

  • Eddie Krawiec, who’s been thirsting for his milestone 50th career win since he bagged No. 49 two years ago in Indy, was ready to do it.
  • Ditto for Doug Kalitta, who’s been whatever is worse than thirsty for his 50th win, having gone nearly three years since he landed No. 49 in St. Louis in October 2020.
  • Kalitta’s Funny Car teammate, long overdue J.R. Todd, was ready to break his two-year drought as well and, in the process, power his revitalized GR Supra to Toyota’s milestone 200th win.

Heck, maybe all three could even happen. Wouldn’t that be cool?

None of that happened. Gaige Herrera remained the relentless assassin he’s been all year, beating teammate Krawiec for the Pro Stock Motorcycle win, Steve Torrence crushed a mini drought of his own by beating Kalitta in the Top Fuel final, and Tim Wilkerson turned away Todd for his fourth Seattle win.


They’ve been racing nitro cars in Seattle since the 1960s, and sometimes it still feels like the ‘60s there. It’s one of just two tracks on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule (New England Dragay being the other) without a mega starting line tower and/or skyboxes, and the cars are pitted out in the fringes of an evergreen forest, and, other than some taller grandstands and a slightly expanded control tower, the place still looks the same, which has its own cool vibe. Pro Stock Motorcycle winner Gaige Herrera called the surface one of the best he’s raced on, which is saying something because he’s been to Gainesville, Charlotte, Chicago, Norwalk, Indy, Reading, and Pomona, to name a few, in his short career.

The track got an extra level of cool this year with the king of drag racing cool, Don “the Snake” Prudhomme, serving as grand marshal and social media phenom Shaun “What! No Way!” Umscheid both in attendance, to the delight of autograph- and selfie-seeking fans who stood in long lines to meet both.


After winning four straight championships before losing his crown to Brittany Force last season in one of his roughest campaigns in ages, Steve Torrence had gone 17 races without a win, including all of this season. He was in desperate need to get back what he calls his “swagger,” and if you thought that him just winning Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge was proof he still has it, his Sunday win leaves no doubt that “them Capco boys” are going to be in the title fight again this year and may be peaking at the right time as we head down the final stretch of the regular season.

“I feel like we’re getting some momentum going at just the right time,” he acknowledged. “We’re getting that race car back that we had in years past. I don't think [the car] is as good as it can be, but it's definitely moving in the right direction.

"I've been in these situations on both sides of the spectrum, where you dominate the entire first half of the season or first two thirds of the season and you go into the last six [races] and falter [as he did in 2017] or you go into the last six and win them all [as he did a year later] or you just win by a couple points or whatever. But yeah, it's a good time to peak; it's a good time to start getting ready for the Countdown.”

“I've got my head in the game, the car’s where it needs to be, and we have that confidence. It's like going fishing and you catch something every time you throw that lure out there. You're like that lure is gonna catch a fish every time. That's how you feel when you go in to race day with that confidence.”


All season, the championship conversation in Funny Car has centered on the usual trio of suspects: Matt Hagan, Ron Capps, and Robert Hight, and, to be fair, that trio accounted for seven of the 10 wins heading into the Seattle weekend, and Alexis DeJoria was proving a real threat with consistent finishes that had her in third, even ahead of Hight.

When Tim Wilkerson won in Chicago, in a sentimental win in his Illinois home state, it was a feel-good moment for everyone, but then Wilk went on a skid where he won just one round over the next four races. Flash in the pan? Perhaps, but Wilk showed he still has the knack for making excellent tuning calls as he did on a hot racetrack in Seattle, and his tune-up was so good that he never had to really make major parts replacements until just before the final.

Wilkerson has never won a championship, but he’s finished in the top 10 for 15 straight years (best of second-place finish in 2008), so he’s always there, always lurking, and with the backing of Scag Power Equipment and partnership with Joe Maynard this year and continued assistance from longtime pal Dick Levi, this may be his best chance to win the title.


While the story all season in Pro Stock Motorcycle has been Gaige Herrera’s dominance aboard the Vance & Hines-prepped Mission Foods Suzuki, his teammate, veteran Eddie Krawiec, showed real signs of life in Seattle that he’s ready to make the team a two-bike juggernaut like they were when he partnered with the team’s crew chief, retired rider Andrew Hines.

Hines combined with Krawiec to win 15 of the season’s 16 races in the 2012 season, and there’s no saying that they can’t have another dominant season like that.

The riding styles of Herrera and Krawiec and their body size aren’t exactly the same, so it’s hard for Hines to make both bikes the same. They did try installing a version of Herrera’s clutch in Krawiec’s bike this weekend, with mixed results, but Krawiec’s No. 2 qualifying berth and his final-round appearance – his first of the season – bodes well for the 49-time winner’s resurgence in the coming races.

But even Herrera is ready to put a little bit of a pin in that domination grenade.

“The whole class is tightening up, it’s very competitive,” he said. "I mean, it's been very competitive all season, but, after Denver and this race, everyone's really stepping it up. It’s good for the class, and it's good for me, so I’m excited about what comes next."