Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals
Event 11 of 21
July 21-23, 2023
Wilkerson Picks Up Second Win in Six Events at NHRA Northwest Nationals
KENT, Wash. (July 23, 2023) – Tim Wilkerson raced to victory at the NHRA Northwest Nationals on Sunday afternoon at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., the sight of JCM Racing’s first win as an organization. By clinching his second win of the season and 24th overall, Wilkerson successfully delivered the second Seattle trophy for the Maynard and Lehman families, who made their debut as NHRA team owners during the 2022 event. It was Wilkerson’s fourth Wally trophy from Pacific Raceways, a track where he scored the hardware for three consecutive seasons spanning from 2009 through 2011, before experiencing a 12-year Seattle dry spell.
Aboard the SCAG Power Equipment/Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang, Wilkerson found his way back to the Seattle winner’s circle by posting a 4.007 E.T. at 321.96 MPH to defeat J.R. Todd’s 4.014-second final round effort.
“What an exciting day,” said Wilkerson following the win. “When the track is 130 degrees, it is carte blanche what you are going to get. Pretty lucky when we were racing Matt (Hagan), they had some problems. (Ron) Capps too. Blake (Alexander) gave me a really great run and so did J.R. I had her tucked in there pretty damn deep in the finals. That was a dang good run in that right lane. Really excited about this for my guys and SCAG. They had all kinds of dealers and distributors here this weekend and they were standing there on the starting line in the final, so we’re glad we could put on a good show for them. Rottler, too. They were out here today. They’re longtime supporters of mine and I have about a dozen of their machines in my shop.
“Tony won here last year, and we’re so happy we could bring home another Seattle win for Joe Maynard and the JCM team,” added Wilkerson, referring to Tony Schumacher’s 86th Top Fuel win at last year’s NHRA Northwest Nationals. “We came here with all the intentions of doing what we normally do; make good runs and hope for the best. I’m really proud of my guys and proud of my association with Joe and our team.”
Wilkerson’s drive to the winner’s circle began with a solid qualifying performance which saw his SCAG/LRS machine post the third-quickest runs during two of the three qualifying sessions. He started race day from the No. 6 seed and battled through a gauntlet of heavy-hitters to claim JCM Racing’s second Funny Car triumph, and first since the passing of Cathi Maynard last month.
“We just lost Cathi, and this was a very emotional time for us both, Joe and I. We were both crying up there at top end. I told him I had an angel riding with me all day. He was really impressed with how we did all day long. Very excited for the whole JCM group. We call it Maynard Wilkerson Racing but I’m part of the JCM group, too, and we have a good relationship and I look forward to it continuing for a long, long time.”
To capture the win, Wilkerson first took down the Funny Car point leader and last week’s event champion, Matt Hagan. The driver/crew chief tuned his 11,000-horsepower SCAG machine to a stout 3.928 E.T. to outpace the three-time world champ’s tire-smoking attempt. In the quarterfinals, Wilkerson faced Ron Capps, another three-time series champion. Against Capps, ‘Wilk’ drove his machine straight down the groove and into the semifinals, securing a spot in next week’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge. His 4.006-second pass gave him the advantage of lane choice over his semifinal opponent, Blake Alexander, who raced to the win in Norwalk, Ohio two events prior. Alexander snagged the early lead but Wilkerson held on to chase down his competitor, pulling into the lead as they approached the finish line beams. In the final round, Wilkerson ripped off a .050 reaction time and recorded a 4.007 but the Funny Car veteran was quick to point out that he had likely deep-staged and his E.T. was probably closer to a 3.95.
“We changed a lot of things to come here and I’m pretty proud of my guys working with me. I ran them through the mill and I changed a lot of stuff. They worked with me and decided not to persecute me for my dumb decisions but it all worked out at the end of the day. The car got better and better as the weekend went on. In Q3, I tried to run hard but it bit me. I used that knowledge in the finals and (assistant crew chief) Richard (Hartman) said ‘we’re just going to try to go down the track again and see if they can beat us, right?’ I said I’m telling you, we can run a 95, he said are you sure? I said yes, and I’m pretty sure that’s what we did there. We’ll go back and look at the numbers but I’m confident that would’ve been a 3.95, which just goes to show you, our car is running great and I feel really good about where this team is headed as we approach these last few races before we get into the Countdown.”
Over the course of the weekend, the Maynard Wilkerson Racing team scored 116 points overall. They entered the NHRA Northwest Nationals ranked eighth in the NHRA Camping World Series Funny Car standings, but with the win, the SCAG/LRS team advanced to sixth (tied) on the leaderboard. The team will attempt to secure back-to-back victories when the NHRA tour heads south to Sonoma Raceway for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 28 – 30.
Qualified: No. 6 (3.983 E.T. at 320.36 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.928 E.T. at 324.83 MPH defeated Matt Hagan 5.068 E.T. at 163.63 MPH
E2: 4.006 E.T. at 314.61 MPH defeated Ron Capps 4.958 E.T. at 157.96 MPH
E3: 4.007 E.T. at 321.96 MPH defeated Blake Alexander 4.065 E.T. at 295.34 MPH
E4: 4.007 E.T. at 321.96 MPH defeated J.R. Todd 4.014 E.T. at 323.27 MPH
Justin Ashley Advances to Quarterfinals in Seattle
Justin Ashley and the Phillips Connect Toyota Top Fuel dragster powered by Okuma rolled into Pacific Raceways looking to build some momentum in the middle of the historic NHRA Western Swing. The NHRA Northwest Nationals offered Ashley the chance to get back to sea level and more consistent racing conditions. After three rounds of qualifying Ashley headed in to race day as the No. 3 qualifier on the strength of his final qualifying pass. In the last session Ashley’s Phillips Connect Toyota dragster made the quickest run of the session and jumped the 2020 NHRA Rookie of the Year from the No. 7 spot to the No. 3 position and a first-round race with eight-time world champion Tony Schumacher.
In a monster match-up Ashley and Schumacher left the starting line together and it was the Phillips Connect dragster making the more powerful pass getting to the finish line in 3.740 seconds at 327.82 mph ahead of Schumacher’s 3.785 second run at 326.71 mph. The win propelled Ashley into the second round and race against Denver winner Clay Millican.
Millican and Ashley were each looking to keep a unique streak alive as they pulled up to the starting line. Every time each driver has advanced out of the first round of competition, excluding the four-wide national events, they have raced to the final round this season. Ashley held a four out of five wins record in finals and Millican was two for two.
Ashley, true to form as the best leaver in the category, was first off of the starting line with a .057 reaction time and the Phillips Connect Toyota dragster powered by Okuma was flying to the finish. As Ashley closed in on the 1,000 marker the Goodyear slicks on his 11,000-horsepower dragster began to lose traction, robbing the points leader of much needed momentum. The door was opened for Millican to get around him at the finish line for the win.
“It's a tricky racetrack. Throughout the weekend a lot of cars, ourselves included, started to spin the tires down the racetrack and we tried to do everything we could to prevent that from happening,” said Ashley. “That's just a part of racing. We obviously wanted to go out there and make it solid A to B run and give Clay a run for his money, but we came up a little short. Mike Green, Tommy DeLago and our team are the best in the business. We learned from it and we'll move on to Sonoma.”
The second race in two weeks takes its toll on all the teams but the experience has become more manageable for Ashley. This is the championship contender’s third swing and he is handling the grueling travel and back-to-back races much better.
“The swing is a different animal,” said Ashley. “You have three races in a row on the West Coast, and now that I've done it a few times, I feel more comfortable and I know that we have plenty of guys who have done it multiple times before. This was a good event for our Phillips Connect team from our visit to Harbor Food Services on Friday, to spending time with all our hospitality guests over the weekend.”
After the second round exit Ashley was back in his pits reviewing the run with his crew chiefs and helping his team prepare for the move down the coast to Sonoma. The fan-favorite driver was also spending time on the pit ropes signing autographs and posing for photos with his supportive fan base.
“It's disappointing when you don't win, but when you come back to the pits and you see kids, adults and NHRA fans waiting at the ropes for a picture or an autograph, it really puts things in perspective,” said Ashley. “I have a lot of gratitude, just to be able to live out a dream and do it with a team and marketing partners that are like family. It's best to have a short memory in this sport and appreciate the opportunities that present themselves at the racetrack.”
The Phillips Connect Toyota team will be back in action next weekend at Sonoma Raceway where they will try and secure their second No. 1 qualifier and fifth event win of the season.
Qualified: No. 3 (3.760 E.T. at 325.45 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.740 E.T. at 327.82 MPH defeated Tony Schumacher 3.785 E.T. at 326.71 MPH
E2: 3.973 E.T. at 272.78 MPH defeated by Clay Millican 3.807 E.T. at 316.82 MPH
SCAG Top Fuel Team Continues to Make Progress at Seattle
Prior to the Western Swing, Tony Schumacher and the SCAG Power Equipment Top Fuel team had a successful test session in Indianapolis and were eager to take what they learned and apply it in competition. With the NHRA Mile-High Nationals near Denver, the first of three Western Swing events, widely regarded as a ‘one off’ due to the high elevation, Schumacher and his Mike Neff-led team were looking forward to putting their newly-acquired data to the test in the sea-level conditions found at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash.
Schumacher returned to the NHRA Northwest Nationals as the defending Top Fuel event champion. His 2022 Seattle triumph went down in the books as win No. 1 for the JCM Racing team, which made its debut that same weekend, and he was looking forward to going two-for-two at a facility where he is a five-time event winner.
During qualifying, Schumacher and the SCAG team made two solid passes out of three, with their best-of 3.826-second pass placing them in the No. 12 position on the Top Fuel ladder.
Round one featured an intramural battle between JCM Racing teammates with Schumacher squaring off against Maynard Ashley Racing driver, Justin Ashley. Against Ashley, Schumacher powered to his best run of the weekend, clocking a 3.785 E.T., but it wasn’t enough to take down the Top Fuel point leader.
“That was a disappointing Seattle showing but we have an incredible outlook for Sonoma,” said Schumacher. “We were literally one run behind here. Friday, we smoked the tires hard, with so much power behind me, that we had to back it down so much. We had to chip away and kept getting closer and getting 500ths better each run and we ran out of time. It’s unfortunate, sometimes the three qualifying runs at the races can be tough on newer teams like ours. For the first time, I swear all year long, the lines look correct and everything looks like we can take exactly what we’ve got and take it to Sonoma and not make any major changes. We’re just going to bring it in a little bit, go 70s out of the box and start racing from there.
“We’ve still got a long time to go,” added Schumacher, the winningest Top Fuel driver in NHRA history. “It’s been a disappointing start to our season but we are looking for an epic finish. We are so close to everything being perfectly lined up and bringing home that Top Fuel Wally for the folks at SCAG. We’ve loved showing their dealers and distributors a great time at the race track and the only thing that will make that better will be sending a Wally back to their headquarters in Mayville, Wisconsin.”
From Pacific Raceways, the SCAG Power Equipment Top Fuel team will head south to Sonoma Raceway for the NHRA Sonoma Nationals, July 28 – 30, where Schumacher returns as a two-time event champion.
Qualified: No. 12 (3.826 E.T. at 323.66 MPH)
Elimination Round Results:
E1: 3.785 E.T. at 326.71 MPH defeated by Justin Ashley 3.740 E.T. at 327.82 MPH