The three-race Western Swing is the gateway to the home stretch of the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series regular season that sets the contenders for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs and a pivotal time for teams trying to establish dominance or just to get back into the fight.
This week we’ll share a class-by-class look at those who prospered and those who floundered during the annual trek through Denver, Seattle, and Sonoma, continuing with Funny Car. [Top Fuel recap]
Although Matt Hagan not only held onto his pre-Western Swing points lead but increased it marginally, it was J.R. Todd who impressed the most over the three-race stretch, earning 285 of a possible 387 points, second-most among all drivers in all classes, on the strength of nine round-wins out of a possible 12. Even though Todd did not gain a massive position improvement — from eighth to ninth — he did close the gap on points leader Hagan by more than 50 points.
Todd, who was a semifinalist in Denver, a runner-up in Seattle, and a winner in Sonoma, also won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in Sonoma and was runner-up in the Mission Challenge in Seattle.
Hagan started the Western Swing strong with a win at his sponsor’s event, the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA Mile-High Nationals in Denver, where he also won the Mission Challenge, but went out in round one in Seattle before bouncing back for a semifinal in Sonoma, where Todd beat him. Hagan came into the Swing leading Ron Capps by just four points and increased it to 19 over the three races.
Ron Capps bookended a second-round loss in Seattle with semifinal finishes in Denver and Sonoma and remained second in points. Capps, who won the Mission Challenge in Seattle and may have lost some ground (15 points) to Hagan, did however increase his lead over third place from 65 to 97.
Chad Green banked an impressive 203 points over the three races thanks to a runner-up in Sonoma and a semifinal in Seattle that chased a sour first-round exit in Denver and moved him past Robert Hight into third place.
Three-time world champ Robert Hight, who led all Funny Car contenders through last year’s Western Swing with two wins and a semifinal for 321 points, racked up just 148 this season and dropped one position, from third to fourth. He went from being 69 points behind Hagan to 154 back.
Alexis DeJoria entered the Swing fifth and finished fifth, although in-between she jumped as high as third with her Denver runner-up, but first-round exits in Seattle and Sonoma dropped her back to fifth.
Tim Wilkerson notched an impressive 199 points during the Swing, led by his win in Seattle, which was surrounded on either side by a first-round loss in Denver and a second-round departure in Sonoma. He jumped from seventh to sixth.
After a win in Epping and a semifinal in Norwalk, Bob Tasca III seemed to lose a ton of momentum, winning just one round on the Swing, in Sonoma. His 117-point gain was just 10th best among the 12 drivers we tracked and less than half of his 2022 haul of 280 markers and dropped him one spot to seventh.
John Force piled up 249 points in last year’s Western Swing but just 154 this season after winning just two rounds (one each in Denver and Seattle) during the three-race period. He fell one position to ninth.
Cruz Pedregon, Blake Alexander, and Alex Laughlin remained 10-11-12 after the three races. Pedregon won two rounds (also one each in Denver and Seattle) while Laughlin went 0-for-3.
After skipping the Denver event due to a scheduling conflict for team owner Jim Head, Alexander rebounded with a semifinal in Seattle and a round-two finish in Sonoma. Having missed the Denver event (and Bristol before that), Alexander is no longer eligible to make the Countdown based on perfect attendance and will have to finish in the top 10. He started the Swing 28 points behind Pedregon and now sits 65 behind him.
Bob Tasca III
POSITION CHANGES OVER WESTERN SWING
Bob Tasca III