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Torrence, Wilkerson And Herrera Pick Up Wins At Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals

Four-time NHRA Top Fuel champion Steve Torrence moved into the points lead on Sunday at Pacific Raceways with his first win of the 2023 season, powering past Doug Kalitta in the final round of the 34th annual Flav-R-Pac NHRA Northwest Nationals.

Tim Wilkerson (Funny Car) and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also won at the 11th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Torrence earned his 54th career win, going 3.940-seconds at 289.26 mph in his 11,000-horsepower Capco Contractors/Toyota dragster to knock off Kalitta, denying the veteran his 50th overall victory. It also gave Toyota its 200th overall NHRA win.

Torrence beat Josh Hart, defending world champ Brittany Force and Shawn Langdon to reach the finals, moving four points ahead of Justin Ashley with the win. The victory, which was his first since St. Louis last year in the Countdown to the Championship, wrapped a thrilling double-up weekend for the multi-time world champ after Torrence also won the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge on Saturday in Seattle.

“You know, it’s a great feeling and kind of a monkey off your back and a huge sense of accomplishment,” Torrence said. “The performance today, two rounds were stellar and two rounds weren’t that stellar. It’s difficult when things are not absolutely great to be as confident as you need to be to drive these things successfully. This is a great place to win and at the right time because we’re getting some momentum.

“I was pretty calm going into the finals. But it’s a good time to peak, it’s a good time to start getting ready for the Countdown. Consistency is always going to win, but for the most part, we have not felt like we’ve been good. But our confidence is back and we’re definitely moving in the right direction and now we just need to continue to move forward.”

Kalitta reached the finals for the second time in 2023 and 109th time overall, getting past Ron Smith and Clay Millican earlier in the day.

In Funny Car, consistency paved the way for Tim Wilkerson, putting together three straight 4.00 runs on Sunday and going 4.007 at 321.96 in his 11,000-horsepower SCAG Power Equipment/Levi, Ray & Shoup Ford Mustang in the championship round to defeat J.R. Todd. It is the veteran’s second victory this season and his 24th career victory, as well as his fourth overall win at Pacific Raceways. To reach the final round, Wilkerson had to knock off points leader Matt Hagan, back-to-back world champ Ron Capps and Blake Alexander, going 4.007 in consecutive rounds to close out his day.

It bumped Wilkerson to sixth in points, adding another standout performance in Seattle to his career accomplishments.

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“I accidentally went a little deep on J.R. in the final there or the thing probably would have run a (3).96,” Wilkerson. “But I’m very, very proud of my guys today. They were flawless It’s a hot day, man. We worked hard and had the same motor in the car all the way until the finals, and I’m pretty proud of that. We really had a great day.

“I’ve had a couple of couple of rough three races here. You know, just hang in there. We’ve got that 24-hour rule: 24 hours after we win, lose or draw? Start over, because you can’t dwell on that stuff. It’ll drive you crazy. We have a chance to win every weekend, in my opinion. It’s just whether I mess it up or not.”

Todd advanced to the finals in Seattle for the second straight year, defeating Alex Laughlin, Cruz Pedregon and Chad Green. It’s also Todd’s second runner-up this year and his 43rd career final. Hagan stays in the points lead, taking a 17-point advantage over Capps into Sonoma.

The first-ever weekend in Seattle for Pro Stock Motorcycle simply meant another dominating weekend for points leader Gaige Herrera, as he wrapped up a flawless weekend at Pacific Raceways with a winning run of 6.764 at 198.99 on his Vance & Hines/Mission Foods to defeat teammate Eddie Krawiec. It gives the phenom his fifth win in seven races in the category this year, as well as a second perfect weekend after Herrera qualified No. 1 and also picked up the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victory.

On Sunday, he reached the final round with round wins against Lance Bonham and Hector Arana Jr., going as quick as 6.729 at 197.36. After winning in Denver, Herrera now has the chance to sweep the Western Swing, a feat that has never been accomplished in Pro Stock Motorcycle and hasn’t happened for any competitor since 2009. Herrera is excited about that opportunity and was also thrilled to perform at an impressive level in his first appearance at Pacific Raceways.

“It means a lot to be the first winner and I’m glad we were able to put on a show for them,” Herrera said. “The track was smooth and one of the best tracks I’ve been on, and Andrew (Hines, crew chief) and the guys had our bike running great. That was probably one of my toughest finals, having to race the boss and one of the guys that has helped me so much. Overall, though, it was awesome racing him and it was just business as usual and I’m happy to be on top.

“I’ve had an awesome two races and I hope to do well in Sonoma. It obviously would be amazing to sweep (the Western Swing), so I’m definitely excited. Plus, we’ve got the (Pro Stock Motorcycle) All-Star Callout, so it’s going to be a busy, busy weekend. The whole field is tightening up and Sonoma is always a fast track, so it’s going to be very competitive.”

Krawiec, who was denied his 50th career victory, advanced to the final round for the 82nd time overall and first time in 2023 with wins against Ryan Oehler, rookie Chase Van Sant and defending world champion Matt Smith.

The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series closes out the famed three-race Western Swing with the Denso NHRA Sonoma Nationals on July 28-30 at Sonoma Raceway

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This story was originally published on July 23, 2023. Drag Illustrated

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