After a rain-free July, showers were light but steady Friday, keeping National Hot Rod Association race cars in Pacific Raceways’ pits and crew members and drivers clamoring for other activities at the 26th NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Not since 2007 had a whole day of professional qualifying been rained out in Kent.
In the trailer of Funny Car points leader Matt Hagan, each of 16 drivers and crew members threw $1 in a hat and held their own computerized Northwest Nationals event — on Hagan’s online drag-racing tree simulator.
“We had a (qualifying) ladder with four reps and then ran each other on the practice tree,” Hagan said. “Guys had a good time. It passes the day. We got some practice in.”
Others, such as veteran driver Ron Capps, sat around with their crew chiefs and talked about this crucial stretch of races — this weekend in Kent, the next event Aug. 15 in Brainerd, Minn., and finally the prestigious U.S. Nationals on Labor Day weekend in Indianapolis — leading up to the “Countdown to the Championship” playoffs.
“Just looking down the road,” Capps said.
When a driver is comfortably in the playoffs, as Hagan and Capps are, weather delays don’t seem stressful.
Drivers still battling for their playoff lives aren’t so fortunate.
“I know who is (sweating it out), and it is the guys who are seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th,” Capps said. “We are lucky. … Guys are fighting just to get in.”
One of those in limbo is Robert Hight, the 2009 world champion in Funny Car.
He is 10th in the points, which puts him right on the bubble.
“Even though we are 10th, we still believe we have a great car to win in,” Hight said. “We have to navigate and negotiate all this stuff better than the others.”
Much of the first round of Sportsman racing finished Friday morning. As rain hit the grounds in the afternoon, action was suspended in the middle of Super Comp qualifying — with Alcohol Funny Car and Alcohol dragster cars stuck in the staging lane.
The professional cars never left the pits. They will attempt to have their first round of qualifying at 12:30 p.m. Saturday, beginning with Pro Stock.
“We want to run and get points and data,” Capps said. ‘But it is more just (getting) laps. (Sportsman racer) Mike Ferderer (of Buckley) came up and grabbed me earlier after he made laps … and said he learned a lot. He said the track is as good as he had ever seen.”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 firstname.lastname@example.org @ManyHatsMilles