The third race in the NHRA’s Western Swing is this weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals, taking place Friday through Sunday, August 2nd through 4th at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Washington, near Seattle. Three of the NHRA’s Mello Yello Drag Racing Series classes – Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock – will be in action in Seattle, but only two of the defending race winners will be in attendance: Steve Torrence (Top Fuel) and Courtney Force (Funny Car) will defend their Wallys, while Erica Enders-Stevens (Pro Stock) is sidelined from the NHRA due to lack of sponsorship at Cagnazzi Racing; she will be competing this weekend at the ADRL Memphis Drags IV at Memphis International Raceway for Keith Haney Racing in the Pro Mod class.
Torrence, currently sitting in 10th position in the Top Fuel points standings, has rallied from as far back as 14th in the standings earlier in the season. “We’ve been digging deep and scratching and clawing to try to get every point we possibly can,” said Torrence. “We are right on the 10th spot we are paying really close attention to it. We know anything can happen, this is drag racing.”
One thing that has happened for Torrence is the addition of veteran tuner Lee Beard to the team. In their first race together, the team went to the winner’s circle, which put Torrence in the top 10 – a spot he’d like to hang onto, or even improve on.
“It’s getting so difficult, you don’t have any slackers out here and everybody is on their game on the tree,” said Torrence. “It’s so tight right now and the competition is the toughest I’ve seen in my racing career. These cars are so closely matched. These teams are doing anything they can to get that advantage to go quicker and faster. There are several two-car teams and we are a one-car team and we’ve made a little bit of a splash and we’re trying to keep our head above water this year. The competition is unreal and it makes winning one of these races and winning a round more gratifying just because of how hard it is to get that win light.”
Force made a splash of her own last year at the event, picking up her first Funny Car Wally at Pacific Raceways. “I’m thrilled to be returning to Seattle because I have so many great memories at this track,” said Force. “I picked up my first win in Top Alcohol Dragster here in 2009, as well as my first win in Funny Car last season. Picking up my first win last year was the best moment of my career. Being in the winner’s circle at this track with my Traxxas team flooded me with emotions since it had always been a dream of mine to get a win in Funny Car one day. I always enjoy coming back to this track because it has been lucky for me in the past, and I’m hoping to continue the luck this weekend.”
The 2012 Road to the Future Award winner as the NHRA rookie of the year has yet to face the sophomore slump, picking up wins this year at Pomona and New England; she’s currently tied for sixth in points with 2012 Funny Car champ Jack Beckman.
“I feel that I have grown a lot as a driver and things are starting to come around a little more naturally with driving, compared to last season,” said Force. “I’m still a new driver but the more laps I make in my Funny Car the more experience I’m gaining. Last year it was all about the basics; this year I’m pushing myself harder as a driver to do better on the track and to catch things quicker in the car. I am challenging myself with new things. It’s exciting but there are always bumps in the road that come along with a learning curve in drag racing.”
Qualifying for the O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals begins Friday, August 2nd at 2:45 and 5:30 p.m. PT, and concludes Saturday, August 3rd with two sessions at 12:30 and 2:30 p.m. PT. Eliminations get underway on Sunday, August 4th at 11 a.m. PT. Keep up with the action at www.nhra.com.
Quotes in this piece provided by the NHRA.
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