Tony Schumacher and Troy Coughlin Jr. pulled off stunning final-round upsets to win in Top Fuel and Pro Stock at the Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals and were joined by Robert Hight, who won again in Funny Car on a wild and hot Sunday at Pacific Raceways.
Schumacher, who had scored just five lap wins in the first 12 events of the season, added four more in one day as he carried the Maynard family rail to victories over Scott Palmer, Shawn Langdon and Justin Ashley, then an upset victory in the final round against low-tire qualifier and points leader Brittany Force. Schumacher’s last victory was heartbreaking and the car’s auto shut-off system detected problems and killed the engine and jettisoned the parachute before the finish line, and he rode to victory.
The win was Schumacher’s fifth in Seattle and 86th of his career, breaking his longtime tie with Pro Stock great Bob Glidden for fourth on the NHRA’s all-time pro wins list.
“I was literally heading for victory, wanting that finish line to get there,” he said. “I had no idea what happened to her; all I know is that she wasn’t there.”
Schumacher’s road to his 155th career final was rocky, and the Maynard family machine beat Scott Palmer with a 3.85 when almost all the other winners were in the 3.70, then beat Shawn Langdon on a hole of 3.82 to 3.79. His semi-final battle was perhaps the toughest as he deftly recovered from the smoke of the early tires to beat an equally tractionless Justin Ashley to win with a 4.48.
“We struggled, you know – mostly on straight tracks (laughs) – until this race finally figured out how to go 1,000 feet. The early numbers destroyed us and made a big change in Denver. We “I was very lucky and it was the perfect time. Joe and Cathi Maynard are buying the team, we have a group of people who are excited. We’re coming into third qualifying, but look at that ladder. You’ve got Justin Ashley, Brittany, Shawn Langdon. Are you kidding me? It’s not easy to win.”
Force, who had stunned everyone by blasting a hot track at 3.75 in the heat of the last qualifying session on Saturday, did not let up much on Sunday, improving his qualifying time to a 3, 74 in the first lap to tow Jim Maroney, then ran 3.79 to beat Josh Hart and 3.82 to defeat Denver winner Leah Pruett to reach her 33rd career final
Hight won his second of three races on the Western Swing, following his victory in Denver with another victory, this the 59th of his career and his sixth this season, corresponding to a career high. Hight and the Jimmy Prock-tuned Auto Club Camaro earned a narrow final victory over JR Todd’s DHL Toyota, 3.975 to 3.978.
“We weren’t the best car in qualifying, the flat four we ran yesterday was the fastest in the heat so we had some confidence in ourselves,” he said. “I think we had bass and every round today, and until a few races ago we didn’t have the best combination of 130-degree tracks.”
Hight, who has won 10 of the 12 available rounds on the Swing, saw his championship hopes also boosted by the early exits of third-place finisher Ron Capps – at the hands of Hight in the first round – and second-place finisher Matt Hagan, who was defeated by Hight’s team owner, John Force, also in the first round. After Hight defeated Alexis DeJoria and Force defeated Tim Wilkerson, the teammates faced off in the semifinals, where Hight took the win with a 3.97.
“Those three races we won big, big points, because going into the Western Swing I think we were 21 points up, so it was anybody’s game, and now we have a 228 point lead if we hold steady we are going to get into this countdown number 1 and that can be a big deal because every point counts but i am going to make a prediction right now we are going to have to win four or five more if this Chevy car club wants to be the champion at the end of the year.”
Hight’s championship hopes benefited from the early exit of third-place finisher Ron Capps – at the hands of Hight in the first round – and second-place finisher Matt Hagan, who was beaten by Hight’s team owner John Strength, also in the first round. After Hight defeated Alexis DeJoria and Force defeated Tim Wilkerson, the teammates faced off in the semifinals, where Hight took the win with a 3.97.
Todd, who won the Top Fuel title in Seattle in 2015, only had to beat two drivers to reach the final, the 41st of his career, as his side of the ladder had a half pass -final due to the field of eight cars. . To get there, of course, he had to beat No. 1 qualifier Bob Tasca III, which he did when Tasca’s Ford smoked the tires. Prior to that, Todd dispatched Blake Alexander in a tight 3.95-3.99 first-round game.
Coughlin, an eight-time winner in the NHRA sportsman racing ranks, had made three Pro Stock finals — as recently as this year’s Phoenix event — and been turned down each time, and many didn’t think that he could beat his teammate and his points. leader Erica Enders, whose red Camaro had been faster all day, especially after dropping out of first by 0.006 seconds. Coughlin fought back and took the win by an infinitesimal margin of one ten thousandth of a second (0.0001 seconds) to join his famous uncle, Jeg, who won this race 20 years ago, as winner of Seattle .
“I could hear her and I knew she was near,” he said. “I wasn’t looking out the window. I was just trying to get to the finish line and make sure I’m pulling the cogs [gears] as fair as possible and keep it on pace and just try to stay focused on my tasks.
“I have to give my Elite Motorsports team all the credit,” he added. “They’ve worked so hard and to have a Pro Stock car do so many good races in one weekend in the heat is hugely impressive. What an honor to win today. What a great place to win. I’m thrilled to death.”
Coughlin had qualified the familiar yellow and black JEGS Camaro in fourth place, then fought his way past Fernando Cuadra, rookie Camrie Caruso and weak qualifier Greg Anderson, who shook the tires at Coughlin.
Enders, the 2012 Seattle winner, was making her 70th career final (68 of which came in Pro Stock) and most thought she would add to Sonoma’s win the previous weekend, especially after Enders had ran a pair of steady 6.59s in the first two laps to advance to the semis, where she dispatched teammate Aaron Stanfield for the seventh time in eight races this season.