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The latest update as of May 24, 2021

A wild, wet weekend at Baytown, Texas' Houston Raceway Park finally wrapped up when the a-day-late MOPAR Express Lane SpringNationals presented by Pennzoil was completed earlier this afternoon under threatening skies and in front of a minimal audience. Thankfully, the rain held off long enough to finish eliminations and send everyone home to rest up until the next event on the 2021 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule.

With our emphasis at Northern Thunder on the Top Alcohol categories, we've posted the updated points standings both the Dragster and Funny Car categories (see below). In the meantime, we can give you some of the details on how the two categories fared at the weather affected event. With just twelve Dragsters and only seven Funny Cars in the pits, it wasn't guaranteed to be a BIG show, but what it lacked in numbers, it certainly made up for in quality.

In Top Alcohol Dragster, the first eight qualifiers - in the one and only qualifying session - were in the 5.20's, with the top half of the field anchored with newcomer Madison Payne's career best 5.256 - 260.06 pass. In case you're wondering, she is the daughter of longtime and recently retired Top Alcohol and Funny Car racer Jay Payne and Shelly Payne (nee Anderson). In case you don't remember, Shelly was a very competitive Top Fuel driver in the 1990's and the daughter of legendary parts manufacturer Brad Anderson. Quite a racing pedigree for young Madison.

Leading the qualifying list was one of the three blown alky cars, that of perennial national championship bridesmaid Shawn Cowie with a very quick 5.224 - 275.62 from his Mundie's Towing entry. He kept up the pace in the first round as he easily dispatched Karl Brounkowsku with a consistent 5.225 at a slightly early shutoff 266.53 speed. But in a portent of things to come, Cowie only had the second quickest run of the round as Rachel Meyer turned up the wick to a 5.195 at a booming 280.49 mph for low e.t. and top speed... so far.

In the second round, Cowie earned a bye run into the final (due to the odd-lot 12-car field), and stayed right in the 5.20 groove, clocking an excellent to oust another of the A/Fuel hitters, Robin Samsel. Again, it was only second quickest of the round as Ms. Meyer put down a 5.200, at an even bigger 280.95 mph to move into the semi-finals.

Cowie didn't take it easy on his semi-final bye run as he laid down another great 5.222 - 274.50 to move into the finals. However, his opponent for that round, Rachel Meyer, laid down the bomb of the event, obliterating Jasmine Salinas' good 5.266 - 260.26, with a near career best of 5.143 - 282.01 to re-set low e.t. and top speed, and take lane choice for the final.

Knowing they were going to have to go for broke to have a chance in the final, crew chief Norm Grimes dialled in a little too much of something as the car shook hard before clearing the 60' clocks. Cowie did a quick pedal job and stayed on it to the finish line, clocking a speed of 270.21, but coupled with a 5.632 e.t. In the other lane, Ms. Meyer turned on the winlight with another huge run, slightly slower at 5.150 - 279.32 to take the event win and close the gap on the national points leader Jackie Fricke in the process.

NHRA TAD National Points Standings

Over on the Top Alcohol Funny Car side of the pits, the nine pre-entered cars became only seven when qualifying started, and just five when eliminations began on Monday morning. It's becoming rather concerning with the low Funny Car entry counts on the national and regional level, and we will write about what's happening in that regard soon. Meanwhile, to the SpringNationals story for the floppers. The two cars that withdrew from the race after qualifying were the husband and wife J&A Services team from Colorado, Jim and Annie Whiteley. With business interests to tend to, and no guarantee that eliminations would even be completed on Monday, they made the decision to load up and head home on Sunday.

That resulted in three bye runs and a single pair on Monday, leaving quite a hole in the show. While the cars that remained included some of the top runners in the class, the entertainment value was somewhat limited. Qualifying saw two of the top three drivers in the national points standings matching wheels and producing a great side-by-side 5.496 - 267.22 for defending series champion Doug Gordon, and a very close 5.497 - 266.95 for serious contender Bob McCosh Jr.. Next on the list - and well back in performance - was Annie Whiteley, at 5.574, and from there, two cars were in the 5.60's, with the balance trailing far behind.

The only pairing of the first round saw former national champion (2017), Shane Westerfield break into 5.40-zone, with a best of the round 5.487 - 268.01, which temporarily set top speed of the meet. McCosh and Gordon kept pace with 5.50 and 5.51 passes, respectively on their bye runs. In the semi-finals, things tightened considerably, with Nick Januik surprising McCosh with his best run in quite a while, at 5.478 - 265.06 to take a holeshot win over McCosh's effort. In the other pairing, Doug Gordon moved into the final with low e.t. of the meet at 5.445 - 268.23 to dispatch Westerfield's good - but not good enough - 5.528 - 268.17 pass.

The favourite going into the final was points leader Gordon, but Januik gave him a serious scare, leaving first by a .034 to .062 margin, then holding the lead until well past the 1000' mark. Gordon nipped him at the finish line by only .004 for the winlight, with a 5.468 - 268.49 clipping Januik's very good 5.500 - 265.85 for the event win.

The next national event for the Top Alcohol cars is the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Norwalk, OH in late June, but there are regional events scheduled at Reading, PA, Seattle, WA, and Denver, CO in the weeks preceding that race. Stay tuned for updates to the points standings coming almost weekly over the next few months.

NHRA TAFC National Points Standings