DENVER (July 22) — Scott Palmer’s upset win over three-time champion Antron Brown in the opening round of Sunday’s 39th annual Dodge NHRA Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway lifted the driver of the CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster into the final spot for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.
There are still four races until the Countdown begins in early September, but it’s always better to be above the cutline. Last season, Palmer qualified for the playoffs for the first time in his career so earning another chance at the title has been a top goal for his team.
“Absolutely this was a great day for us,” said Palmer, who was making is 100th career start in NHRA competition. “We’re no longer a team that people take lightly. They know if they do we’re gonna beat them. Being in the top 10 is important for us, for the crew guys, and for our sponsors. It’s our way of showing everyone we’re not a chump car.”
Against Brown, Palmer gave up a slight edge at the starting line but quickly caught and passed a laboring Brown to take the victory with a 3.894-second pass at 317.34 mph to Brown’s 4.047 at 300.13 mph. Brown’s engine dropped a cylinder almost immediately, causing a reduction in horsepower. Until this race, Brown was 10-0 versus Palmer.
“They went down the track like everybody else, and we beat them straight up,” Palmer said. “That’s winning a race, not getting lucky because the other car smoked the tires or blew up.
“The whole weekend went as planned. We started with a planned half-track pass. Then we went to 750 feet and ran a 3.90. Then we were able to get after it and run hard in Q3 and Q4. It’s a good feeling to be able to do that because that’s what it takes to run quick enough to win rounds.”.
The win over Brown set-up a quarterfinal date with top qualifier Leah Pritchett. CatSpot crew chief Jason McCulloch cooked up another great tune-up for Palmer but their 3.890 at 317.34 mph wasn’t enough for Pritchett’s raceday-best 3.806 at 321.96 mph.
“At the start of the day everyone said we had a tough draw because we started against Antron and then potentially had Leah Round 2,” Palmer said. “But in qualifying me and Antron were 8-9, like a few thousandths of a second apart. Just being that close to a Schumacher car at Denver, with them being a team that’s made hundreds of passes down this mountain, all that did was pump us up even more.
“To beat him was super cool. Against Leah, well, she obviously had the best car all weekend and ended up winning it all, but you have to look at how hard they had to run to beat us. They could have backed down but they didn’t because they knew we’d be right there. Turns out we needed a 3.79 to beat her, but we stayed within what we could do, and we ran what we wanted to run. Leah’s a friend and we’re happy for her.”
Palmer and the CatSpot Organic Cat Litter Top Fuel dragster team now head to Northern California for next weekend’s 31st annual Toyota NHRA Sonoma Nationals.