The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series returns to sea level, trekking down from the mile-high climes of Colorado to the beautiful and rustic setting that is Pacific Raceways in Washington state just outside of Seattle for the second leg of the annual Western Swing.
Seattle hasn’t always been the middle stop of the grinding three-race Swing, which typically runs Denver-Sonoma-Seattle, but this year, as it was from 1999-2009, it’s the center rung on the challenging ladder as the tour heads down the back stretch of the regular season to the NHRA U.S. Nationals.
Three drivers enter the event with a chance to continue their bids for a rare Western Swing sweep, Denver winners Clay Millican (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle). None of the three has ever accomplished the feat, which hasn't been pulled off since Antron Brown accomplished it last in 2009.
Top Fuel points leader Justin Ashley comes into the event off of a disappointing first-round exit in Denver, looking to rebuild momentum and increase the points lead he’s held since his Epping win and double-up weekend in Bristol.
Four-time world champ Steve Torrence, the man who ended Ashley’s day early in Denver en route to a semifinal finish that kept him in second place and closed the gap on Ashley to just 54 points, hasn’t won in Seattle since 2012, his longest per-venue drought on the current schedule.
Defending event champ Tony Schumacher is a five-time Seattle winner in desperate need of a win to clamber back into the points battle, where he now sits just 12th.
Millican will take on Shawn Langdon, and Doug Kalitta will face off with Torrence in Saturday's Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, which rematches the semifinalists from the NHRA Mile-High Nationals.
Hagan enters the Northwest on a high after his win at his sponsor’s event in Denver, his fourth victory of the season. He holds a slight 45-point lead over former teammate Ron Capps, and both of them have some daylight between them and third-place Denver runner-up Alexis DeJoria and defending event champ Robert Hight in fourth.
Capps, who memorably scored his first of 74 career wins in Seattle while racing in Top Fuel in 1995, could become just the sixth Pro-class racer to reach the 75-win mark, behind John Force (155), Greg Anderson (101), Warren Johnson (97), Tony Schumacher (86), and Bog Glidden (85). Remarkably, Capps has only one win in the season’s first 10 events, along with three runner-ups, and fell in the semi’s in Denver to Hagan, but he will get a chance for redemption in Saturday’s Mission Challenge.
DeJoria, also a three-time runner-up this season after her second-place finish in Denver, has a Wally from the NHRA Northwest Nationals that she captured in Top Alcohol Funny Car back in 2011. DeJoria is also part of the Mission Challenge and will hope to repeat her Denver semifinal defeat of Toyota teammate J.R. Todd.
The Pro Stock Motorcycle class, which was scheduled to make its debut in the Northwest in 2020 before the pandemic abbreviated the season, will get its long-awaited first official shot at the Pacific Raceways quarter-mile and, with no previous data to go on, it will be interesting to see which teams ferret out a combination first.
There’s no denying the roll that Herrera has been on as the second-year rider has powered the Vance & Hines/Mission Foods Suzuki to four wins and a runner-up in six starts this season and holds a hefty 219-point lead over Norwalk champ Hector Arana Jr. and 282 over class veteran Steve Johnson, the only two riders to beat him this season.
Herrera will again be part of the Mission Challenge in Seattle, reprising his semifinal race with class rookie Chase Van Sant, while Angie Smith will again race Arana.
2022 EVENT WINNERS
Tony Schumacher, Top Fuel; Robert Hight, Funny Car.
Tony Schumacher and Joe Amato, 5, TF; John Force, 9, FC.
Top Fuel - 3.685 seconds by Antron Brown, August ’16; 332.43 mph by Brittany Force, July ‘22.
Funny Car – 3.832 seconds by Del Worsham August ’16; 334.15 mph by Jack Beckman, August ’16.
FRIDAY, July 21
NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series qualifying and time trials at 9:30 a.m.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying at 4 p.m.
SATURDAY, July 22
Lucas Oil Series eliminations at 9:30 a.m.
Camping World Series qualifying at 1:45 and 4:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, July 23
Pre-race ceremony, 9:45 a.m.
Camping World Series eliminations begin at 10:30 a.m.
Saturday, July 22, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 2 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 23, FS1 will televise one-and-a-half hours of qualifying coverage at 1:30 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, July 23, FOX will televise three hours of live finals coverage at 4 p.m. (ET).
To purchase tickets to the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals, fans can click here or call 800-884-6472