Brown, Wilkerson, Edwards win in Washington; Youngest Force gets first title

KENT, Wash. – The top two teams in Top Fuel squared off in a classic final round at the 22nd annual NHRA Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways Sunday with Antron Brown edging Tony Schumacher by eight-thousandths of a second at the stripe.

The other winners at the 14th of 24 races in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series were Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Mike Edwards (Pro Stock).

Brown won for the fourth time this season in the Matco Tools dragster and extended his lead to 137 points over Schumacher with his 3.985-second pass (0.079 reaction time) at 301.07 mph to Schumacher’s 3.990 (0.082 RT) at 300.00.

“When you race Tony Schumacher, six-time (NHRA Full Throttle Series) champion, and you get the better of him by eight-thousandths … that is just a sensational, phenomenal drag race right there,” Brown said. “And it feels good to be on the right side of it.”

The win was also Brown’s second straight on the Western Swing – he won last week at the Mopar Mile-High NHRA Nationals in Denver – and he can become the seventh driver in NHRA Full Throttle Series history to complete the sweep next weekend in Sonoma at the third and final leg of the Western Swing, the 22nd annual FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals.

Schumacher and the U.S. Army dragster team were bidding for their fifth win this season and fourth straight at Pacific Raceways.

“Tony made sure I knew that,” said Brown, who for years was teammates with Schumacher when he rode the U.S. Army Suzuki in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.

In Funny Car, Tim Wilkerson picked up his first win of the year in the Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang – after a career-high six wins last year – with a 4.211 at 291.01 to Tony Pedregon’s 4.283 at 289.57 in his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala. Wilkerson moved up from seventh to fifth place in the Funny Car standings.

“We’ve had a struggle this year, we’ve had a decent car, just had bad racing luck,” Wilkerson said. “We finally got it all hooked up together today.”

In Pro Stock, Mike Edwards continued his best season ever in the A.R.T. Pontiac by defeating Jason Line, 6.583 at 211.03 to 6.601 at 210.50, to pull within 20 points of points-leader Jeg Coughlin. It was the third win this year for Edwards, who also set both ends of the Pacific Raceways track record with a 6.556-second pass at 210.67 mph in his first-round win over Ben Watson.

“The car is just a joy to drive, it just does everything right,” Edwards said.

Also, three more drivers – Larry Dixon and Tony Schumacher in Top Fuel and Jason Line in Pro Stock – clinched berths in the NHRA Playoffs, the Countdown to 1.

The NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series resumes in a week with the third and final leg of the Western Swing, the FRAM Autolite NHRA Nationals July 24-26 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.

In Top Alcohol Dragster, 21-year-old Courtney Force joins the list of Forces hoisting Wally’s, the trophy awarded for an NHRA national event victory. The youngest driving Force raced to her first final and won, defeating veteran Top Alcohol Dragster driver Chris Demke in a great final. The Cal State Fullerton junior was not convinced she won even after seeing her win light.

“It is unbelievable. When I saw my win light I didn’t believe it at first. I was hoping (I had won) and when I went around the corner and saw (JFR marketing manager) Kelly (Antonelli) and all our friends standing at the top end clapping. I thought maybe I did get the win but I still didn’t want to get my hopes up.

The communications major was feeling the pressure after her semi-final victory when she watched her father 14-time champion John Force lose his semi-final race to former JFR teammate Tony Pedregon. As she was walking back through the pits the public address announcer gave her a startling announcement.

“I was walking around after my dad went out in the semis and I heard the announcers say it is all up to Courtney Force now. I thought, ‘I wish I hadn’t heard that.’ I wish I would have been wearing my headphones. That is too much pressure. (Funny Car driver) Jack Beckman came up to me told me to just have fun. He told me to not think about it as a final. I just went out there and had fun and happened to get a win,” said Force.

Force had a tough semi-final opponent, someone she was very familiar with personally just not on the race track, her sister Brittany. The two Forces who have come up through the ranks of Super Comp and in two years of Top Alcohol Dragster had never raced each other in eliminations before today. Brittany Force was amped up for the race and unfortunately jumped the Christmas Tree, red-lighting, and handing her sister a free pass to the final.

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