KENT, Wash. - At the West Regional at Pacific Raceways, Chris Demke picked up his second win of the season to strengthen his tenuous lead in the most wide-open Top Alcohol Dragster points race in years, and in Alcohol Funny Car, Steve Gasparrelli conquered a deep and talented field for his latest win at Seattle, where he does better than at any other track. In the most consistent performance of his career, Demke qualified No. 1 with a 5.32 at 267 mph and ran three straight 5.32s at 268 in eliminations for his second win in eight 2013 finals. "Over the years we've been pretty consistent, but not that consistent," he said. "No way have I ever run the same e.t. in every single round of a race until this weekend."
Demke's 5.321 covered Megan McKernan's 5.55 in the first round, and a 5.325 in the semifinals eliminated Ray Martin, who red-lighted by just one-thousandth of a second en route to a 5.39. Johnny Ahten came up with low e.t. of the meet, 5.313, in the other semifinal to take out Shawn Cowie, who had won the Northwest Nationals at this track two weeks earlier. Ahten ended a streak of 12 consecutive round-wins for Cowie, who won the 2011 SummitRacing.com Nationals in his last start before the horrific motorcycle accident that sidelined him for two years, then the Woodburn regional last month, and then the Northwest Nationals.
"Ahten ran right ahead of me, and I was plenty concerned about him after that 5.31," Demke said. "Those guys have really stepped up their program this year, and more people than I even want to think about have gotten their first win over me, so I was plenty nervous going into the final. I figured I might have to leave on him to win." He did, with a .049, and leaped ahead in the mid-range when Ahten's A/Fueler rattled the tires for a 5.320 to 5.56 win that opened his lead on reigning national champ Jim Whiteley in the national standings.
"We should have been able to run a high 5.20-something here - we just did at the national event - but we never veered to far from our original tune-up," Demke said. "It was consistent and pretty fast the way it was, and it worked - we won. We'll have the points lead going into Indy, but the championship is still a long shot if you ask me. We've left too many points on the table with runner-ups, and I still consider Whiteley the favorite."
Gasparrelli was nearly as consistent in Top Alcohol Funny Car as Demke was in Top Alcohol Dragster. The many-time Division 7 champ, who has been in five national event finals and four divisional finals at Seattle, won this one going away when Shane Westerfield struck the tires right off the starting line after cutting the best light of the entire event, .022. Gasparrelli won with a third straight .070 light and 5.6 pass, a 5.64 at 258 mph.
Westerfield, who got his first win earlier this season in Houston, paced the field in qualifying and reached the final with wins over the last two Seattle national event champs, John Evanchuk (2012) and Clint Thompson (2013). A 5.76 erased Evanchuk's close 5.79 in the first round, and only a 9.77 was necessary in the semi's when Thompson red-lighted.
Gasparrelli duplicated his 5.61 qualifying time in a first-round win over 2008 Division 7 champ Terry Ruckman, who slowed to a 6.11. In the semifinals, Gasparrelli's 5.66 was more than enough when friend Doug Gordon, who'd nipped Sean Bellemeur in the opening round, smoked the tires off the starting line.
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