KENT, Wash. – The Top Sportsman final at the CatSpot NHRA Northwest Nationals featured a couple of first time national event finalist. Both Bryan LaFlam and James Rutherford worked their way to the final round at Pacific Raceways. After a close race, decided by just .006, Bryan LaFlam collected the Top Sportsman Wally.
LaFlam, of Gilbert, Ariz., driving one of the coolest and fastest hot rods in the class, a 230 mph ’67 Mustang, average a solid .019 reaction time over 5 rounds of eliminations. LaFlam caught a break in round one when opponent Todd Fricke broke out big time (-.091) after drilling the tree with a .003 R.T. LaFlam was able to lift at the finish line to go .03 above for the win.
After earning a second round bye, LaFlam defeated a red lighting Greg Anderson in round three. LaFlam caught a break as his car fell off the pace and missed the dial by more than a tenth.
In the semifinal round, LaFlam met up with Shawn Herbst. Herbst was late off the line with .064 light while LaFlam took the advantage with an .018 light. Even with the large starting line advantage, LaFlam would need some help on the top end after his car once again ran well over a tenth off of his dial. Herbst would take .065 at the stripe (around 18 feet) to go under by -.007 in the losing effort.
On the other side of the ladder, James Rutherford, of Wembely, AB, made his way to the final with a string of solid teen lights and a consistent racecar. Rutherford, the 2017 Division 6 runner-up, won a double-breakout race against Joe Mellof in round one and defeated multi-time national event winner Ray Martin in round two after Martin broke down track.
Rutherford laid down a .022 package in the third round to defeat the .047 package of Dan Provost. This win earned Rutherford a bye to the first final round of his career.
In the final, Rutherford had his worst reaction time of the race, a .031, while LaFlam drilled the tree with a .002 light. On the top end, LaFlam killed 9 mph to go .032 above in taking just .006 stripe. Rutherford ran dead-on 9 but came up just short of the win. LaFlam was impressive on the top end as he pedaled at 233 mph and tightened the stripe to .006, that’s tough to do at any speed but even more impressive in a low six-second car.
While LaFlam did catch some breaks, he was solid at the tree throughout eliminations and was exceptional when he needed to be. Congratulations to Bryan LaFlam on his first national event victory.