Washington Grabs IHRA Top Dragster Crown
NORWALK, Ohio – When you are as superstitious as Wesley Washington Jr., sometimes even the little things can get in your way.
Black cats, broken mirrors, cracks in the pavement, all are potential hazards for the superstitious, but none is as powerful as the dreaded number 13.
Often the most diabolical day of the month for those that fear the number, when you combine the 13th with a day at the races, the results are often less than pleasing. And that was the fear for Washington who wasn’t actually supposed to race on Saturday, Oct. 13, but with a storm on its way and a potential washout on Sunday, the IHRA was left with no choice but to finish the remainder of the Summit Racing Equipment World Finals, including the Tournament of Champions, all on the 13th.
“What can I say, I am very superstitious and Saturday being the 13th, that number is a bad number for me,” Washington said. “When I heard we were racing that day I just kept asking ‘why does it have to be today of all days.’”
Throw in a terrible race the day before where Washington lost in the first round of the Summit Sportsman Spectacular, re-entered into the big money race and then lost again within moments of each other, and Washington knew this just wasn’t his weekend.
“I lost first round of the shootout, bought back in and then lost again so I just sat around all day and then partied a little bit Saturday night since, you know, we were just making time runs,” Washington said. “So when I get up on Saturday I am tired, worn out and then I find out we are going racing and it caught us all by surprise. I kept beating myself up about the shootout losses and here we are racing and doing it on the 13th to boot.”
But after years of little rituals and routines that helped Washington get through a race weekend, it is safe to say that some of those superstitions are slowly going to fade away. After all, when you get all your bad luck out of your system on one day and then finally find a lucky streak all on the 13th, it does change your perception just a bit.
“I won’t lie, it does change the way you look at things,” Washington said with a laugh. “I don’t think I am going to be bothered by the number quite as much after this.”
The lucky streak that broke Washington’s superstitions was none other than a win during the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment Tournament of Champions presented by AMSOIL as Washington, from King George, Virginia, went five rounds in the biggest class of the weekend to claim the Top Dragster World Championship, his first career IHRA championship.
“This is just awesome. This is such a great deal Summit puts on to support us class racers like this,” Washington said. “I am so excited, I don’t think it has even sunk in yet what this means. This year has been so up and down for us. We won a couple of races, started off great and then the last two months we have really been getting beat up pretty bad. This puts me back on top and it feels great.”
After five rounds of deadly competition against a who’s who of Top Dragster talent, Washington found himself going up against Greg Slack in the Top Dragster final. And with a world championship on the line both drivers pulled into the lanes prepared for a fight, but Slack jumped the gun and went red by -.017 allowing Washington to collect one of the biggest wins of his career.
“Today, once I won first round, it was like a monkey was lifted off my back,” Washington said. “I got a little bit of confidence and the next round it started to pick up and then I started thinking ‘hey, I can do this.’ As the day went on I got a little more confidence and we made it all the way to the final.
“Entering the final I saw him dial up two hundredths so I wanted to be aggressive so I dialed up five hundredths. So we get to the line and I know he is tough, I have been reading about him forever, and I just get lucky. He went red and I missed the tree and it just worked out for us.
“All day long the car was good, the driver was halfway decent and we got some lucky breaks when we needed it. It was just a typical day of racing.”
Washington’s “typical” day included wins over Claude DeBonis, Jeremy West, Brett Nesbitt and Jamie Tupper before meeting Albemarle, North Carolina’s Slack in the final. Most of those wins were close as DeBonis pushed Washington to the limit in the first round, followed by a breakout by West. Nesbitt also gave the eventual champion all he could handle with a near dead-on run, but Washington’s .003 light helped propel him to the win.
In the semifinals Washington and Tupper – who was coming off of a win during the Sportsman Spectacular the day before – went head-to-head in one of the closest races of the entire weekend with Washington getting a starting line advantage with a .024 to a .029 meaning the difference in the race. In the other semifinal Greg Slack used a .011 light to drive around Chad Traylor who ran -.001 under his dial. Slack also had a win over Mia Tedesco.
Washington earned his way into the Tournament of Champions via a third place finish in Division 1 with one win coming at Skyview Drags back in June. Slack had a much bigger year coming into the tournament, winning the Division 9 crown with one win and one runner-up on the year.
Despite not having the best of years, Washington can now call himself a World Champion after an improbable win during what was supposed to be the unluckiest day of the month.
“I have been racing a long time now. I am 33 and I started racing when I was 14 even when I wasn’t supposed to be racing,” Washington said. “I started out racing in my dad’s pickup truck 19 years ago and now here I am a champion. I want to thank Bubba Rodgers for all of the help. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here. I have to thank Mickey Thompson, FTI, Jegs, Summit and everyone that supports me. It takes a lot of friends to make something like this happen.”