When it comes to a clean sweep of the Western Swing, NHRA’s annual tour through Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, Pro Stock Motorcycle racers will finally have a shot to get it right. The Western Swing has been a staple of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series since 1988, when Sonoma Raceway was added to the schedule and Pacific Raceways in Seattle returned after an eight-year hiatus.
Each year, the three-week adventure becomes a badge of honor for NHRA racers, who not only have to travel more than 2,000 miles just to get from track-to-track-to-track but also have to adjust for varying air and track conditions. It’s not uncommon for the corrected altitude in Denver to approach 10,000 feet, while Seattle and Sonoma sometimes offer a density altitude that is at or near sea level. That helps explain why a sweep of all three events is one of the rarest (and most highly respected) feats in all of drag racing.
Joe Amato pulled off the first sweep in 1991 when he won all three races in Top Fuel. He’s since been followed by fellow Top Fuel drivers Cory McClenathan (1997), Larry Dixon (2003), Tony Schumacher (2008), and Antron Brown (2009). The only Funny Car driver to sweep the swing is John Force (1994), while Greg Anderson remains the only Pro Stock driver to win all three races, a feat he accomplished in 2004. For the record, Sportsman star Dan Fletcher has also swept the swing twice in 1994 and 2013.
Noticeably absent from the list of Western Swing sweeps is anyone in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class, and not because the class lacks a rider or team talented enough to make it happen. Simply put, NHRA’s two-wheel racers have never had an opportunity to run all three events due in large part to their 16-race annual schedule. The Pro Stock Motorcycle class was scheduled to make their first appearance ever in Seattle in 2020, and then COVID-19 intervened. There was also no Seattle race in 2021, and the bikes were not scheduled to make the trek to the Pacific Northwest when racing resumed in 2022.
With the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals set to take place in Denver this weekend, racers in all four NHRA Pro classes will have their chance to complete the hat trick of wins in Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma.
And ,for the record, there have been four “mini-sweeps” in the Pro Stock Motorcycle category for riders recording back-to-back wins in Denver and Sonoma. Matt Smith first accomplished the feat in 2007 and was followed by Eddie Krawiec( 2012 and 2015) and his Vance & Hines teammate Andrew Hines (2019).
Since Krawiec has won two legs twice, he might be the leading authority when it comes to a possible Western Swing sweep, and he maintains that it's possible but not likely.
“I think there’s a possibly, but you have to be running well and have your stuff right,” said Krawiec. “The real anomaly is Denver. Because of the altitude, it favors the V-Twins. For a Suzuki to win up there, it will have to make perfect runs. I’d say that Hector [Arana Jr.] and Angie [Smith] have the edge in Denver. Those are two [V-Twin] that bikes I’d expect to run really well up there. Then, the Suzuki comes back to par in Seattle and Sonoma.”
Krawiec also predicts that the weather could play a big role in the outcome of all three races. The thin air in Denver is a given because the track sits more than 5,800 feet above sea level. Seattle and Sonoma are a bit less predictable, as both tracks have the potential for big temperature swings on any given weekend.
“Personally, I hope we have good weather at those events, but I don’t want to see conditions that are off the charts. If you get to Sonoma and it’s 65 degrees with a tail wind, that’s a problem because we don’t have a tune-up for those conditions because we rarely see that. If I had my way, I’d take 75 degrees and sunny.”
When it comes to Pacific Raceways, no one has any data because the Pro Stock Motorcycle have never run there, and it's also highly unlikely that any of the current riders have even tested at the facility. Regardless, Krawiec doesn’t seem to think that it will take long for the class to adapt to the new track.
“We know it’s possible to run well there [in Seattle] because the Pro Stock cars have run 6.50 there,” Krawiec said. “We feel like there are other places that will be comparable. I’m excited to go there because I like new tracks. It’s going to be a whole new experience for us, and we get to race in front of an entirely new fan base.
“So, can someone sweep all three races? That’s a tough one,” Krawiec said. “One of the problems is that there are probably six to eight good bikes that can win a race right now. That makes it even harder. As for our team, both bikes are running well, and I just need to clean up my starting line routine a bit. It’s going to take a lot to win the next three, but I should have a good shot to at least make up some ground.”
Drivers to Sweep Western Swing
Joe Amato (Top Fuel) 1991
John Force (Funny Car) 1994
Dan Fletcher (SS, STK) 1994, 2013
Cory McClenathan (Top Fuel) 1997
Larry Dixon (Top Fuel) 2003
Greg Anderson (Pro Stock) 2004
Tony Schumacher (Top Fuel) 2008
Antron Brown (Top Fuel) 2009