Seattle: Northwest Nationals final summary

Russell, T. Pedregon and J. Coughlin visit winner's circle at Lucas Oil NHRA Northwest Nationals. KENT, Wash. - Darrell Russell scored his second straight Top Fuel victory Monday at the 15th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at ...

Russell, T. Pedregon and J. Coughlin visit winner's circle at Lucas Oil NHRA Northwest Nationals.

KENT, Wash. - Darrell Russell scored his second straight Top Fuel victory Monday at the 15th annual Lucas Oil NHRA Nationals at Pacific Raceways.

Tony Pedregon and Jeg Coughlin Jr. also won their respective categories at the $1.8 million race, the 14th of 23 events in the $50 million NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

Russell blasted his Joe Amato-owned Bilstein Engine Flush dragster down the quarter-mile in 4.657 seconds at 308.00 mph to defeat Kenny Bernstein who lost traction in his Bud King dragster and slowed to a run of 5.788 at 159.12. Russell defeated Don Sosenka, Doug Herbert, Larry Dixon and Bernstein for his second win in as many weeks.

"All I know is we're looking at one race at a time," said Russell, the 2001 NHRA Rookie of the Year. "Joe's wife, Donna, told us she has always wanted a hat trick, win all three races on the West Coast swing, and we're two-thirds the way there. "

After starting the season in disappointing fashion Amato made some personnel changes after the Las Vegas race and has been on a roll as of late.

"Right now first and second place are a little out of reach, but third place is attainable for this team," said Russell. "We can definitely achieve that if we continue to do what we are doing. From the first part of the season when we struggled until now, feels like three years ago. For what this team had to overcome in such a short period of time, to where we are now, says a lot about this team. That's all Joe Amato. He has always had that winning way about him his entire racing career and he wanted to build a team that was going to continue to go out and win. That's what he did. He had to make some tough decisions after Vegas. Sometimes change is good, but it was all a business decision and it looks like his decisions are paying big dividends."

With his runner-up finish, Bernstein now trails rival and points leader Dixon by 97 points in the Top Fuel standings. Russell would have moved into fourth with the win, but because he was penalized 10 NHRA POWERade championship points for oiling down the racing surface in his second round win over Herbert, he's in fifth place, four points behind Tony Schumacher.

Pedregon won in Funny Car for the third time this season and for the 16th time of his career in his Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang. Pedregon managed to reach the finish line in 5.049 at 293.22 to outrun Bruce Sarver's slower run of 6.827 at 130.15 in his Whitecap Toyota Celica. Pedregon drove past Bob Gilbertson, Dale Creasy Jr. and Dean Skuza to set up the final round matchup with Sarver.

Pedregon's team was without their crew chief, John Medlen, who was not at the Seattle race due to a medical procedure he had to undergo. Co-crew chief Dickie Venables made all the calls for the win.

"I had all the confidence in the world prior to my first qualifying run because I saw the look," said the 37-year-old Pedregon. "I was just comfortable and it erased any questions that were there. That's all I needed to see and it made me feel good. I talked to Medlen and he'll be back (next week). But it just shows you what kind of team has been built over here. Someone can leave, or be sick, and someone else can step right in. We're a pretty solid team. I'm proud of Dickie and he's getting the trophy from this one."

With the win Pedregon, moved into second in the NHRA POWERade standings while team owner John Force remains the leader in standings while Gary Densham slips into the No. 3 spot. Force Racing once again occupies the top three spots in the Funny Car order.

"I know we've gotten closer to John in the points," said Pedregon. "He's not going to give it to me, but if we earn it, guess what, that's our chance (to win the championship). Our goal is to stay close, and if we can move into first, that's a little bit better than we wanted. John's been doing this long enough, he can fend for himself."

Coughlin scored his 25th career Pro Stock win when he clocked a 6.864 at 200.14 in his Jeg's Mail Order Cavalier to defeat fellow-Chevy driver Mark Whisnant who rolled to a 9.309 at 96.20. The final in Pro Stock was actually held twice with a timing malfunction occurring in the original matchup and Whisnant not even making a run while Coughlin sped to a 6.831 pass. An hour later the Pro Stock final was ran again with Coughlin coming out on top.

"It was pretty bizarre," said Coughlin. "This is the most sun we have seen since Thursday. But I guess we're real pleased to defend our final round win (from earlier in the day). I guess it would have been pretty disheartening if it was the other way around."

It was Coughlin's second win in the last three events and he has won at every track on the NHRA circuit except at Dallas and at Infineon Raceways in Sonoma, Calif., the site of next weeks FRAM Autolite Nationals and the final race of the West Coast swing.

"We were going to take a few days off and go to the Napa Valley, but I wasn't weren't sure this weekend was going to end," said Coughlin "To be able to take a Wally (winner's trophy) with us is pretty outstanding. You just can't beat a win like this and we're heading in the right direction."


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Series NHRA
Drivers Doug Herbert , Jeg Coughlin , Larry Dixon , Kenny Bernstein , Bob Gilbertson , Tony Pedregon , Dean Skuza , John Force , Tony Schumacher , Joe Amato , Dale Creasy Jr. , Gary Densham , Mark Whisnant , John Medlen