Sports

Drag racing: Northwest Nationals comes to Pacific Raceways

The O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Northwest Nationals rolls into Pacific Raceways this weekend, bringing the thunder of nitro-fueled funny cars and top fuel dragsters, as well as pro stock cars and hundreds of sportsman racers to South King County. The races have been coming to the Auburn area since 1987.

This weekend’s races mark the finish line for the three-race, three-state, three-weekend Western Swing. According to the NHRA, Pacific Raceways is “One of the tour’s most breathtaking environments, the facility is parked in the shadow of majestic Mount Rainier and surrounded by towering trees. They emit tons of power-enhancing oxygen to feed the appetites of the high-horsepower machines, resulting in prime performances.”

The 2011 Northwest Nationals kicked off Friday with qualifying sessions in several drag racing categories on the 1/4-mile drag strip. Competition will kick off today (Aug. 6) at 9:15 a.m. and extend to 7 p.m. Final eliminations will start at 11 a.m. Sunday, Aug. 7.

“I’ve always liked going to the Seattle area, even before I raced,” said funny car driver Ron Capps, who finished second last year. “I enjoyed it when I came here while working on the crew side of the sport and my family has even vacationed here. I don’t know why drivers have better luck at certain tracks. It’s just one of those things, so I obviously like racing in Seattle.”

The NHRA Northwest Nationals are not only for the professional teams in the Top Fuel, Funny Car and Pro Stock categories, but hundreds of local racers will also get an opportunity to experience the big-time event in the sportsman categories.

Currently, three different Federal Way men will compete in separate categories at the Northwest Nationals.

Troy Olsonawski will drive his Northwest Quality Detail 1966 Chevy Malibu wagon in the super stock category; Brian Thompson will drive ‘89 Ford Mustang in the stock eliminator category; and Arlyn Staiger is scheduled to race in the super comp group in his 2003 Mustang.

Pacific Raceways, which was built in 1959, hosts about 300 events a year. Events include sportsman races, motocross and car shows, along with the track’s biggest and most profitable event of the year — the NHRA Northwest Nationals.

The three-day national event attracts an estimated 80,000 fans to the Auburn race track and generates millions of dollars into the local economy.

ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise one hour of qualifying highlights from Pacific Raceways at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 6. ESPN2 and ESPN2HD will televise three hours of eliminations beginning at 4 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7.

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