Words Brad Littlefield
Southern California native Shane Westerfield finally wheeled his CP-Carrillo/Blake Bros. Racing Chevy Camaro to the winner’s circle at his home track, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona. Consistent mid-5.4-second performances coupled with quick reaction times rose him above a field that included many championship contenders.
“I’ve passed Cloud 9. I’m onto Cloud 10 now,” said Westerfield. “You always want to do good at your home track because of all the family and friends you have there. I try not to let it affect me when I race, but of course it always does. When you lose it makes it that much worse; when you win, it makes it that much better. It was cool having everyone in the winner’s circle. It took a wide-angle lens to get everyone in the picture.”
The big celebration was a long time coming for the driver who finished No. 4 in the country last season. Pomona had been a tough place for him to race, though he appeared to break the jinx with a final-round showing at the 2016 Auto Club NHRA Finals.
“I didn’t have a good track record there in Top Alcohol, for sure,” said Westerfield. “I had a good track record there when I was racing Jr. Dragsters. In fact, the last time I won there was June of 1999, which was funny because I beat Leah Pruett [now Pritchett] in the final. I looked over and saw her in the winner’s circle in Top Fuel at the same time this year, so we got a chuckle out of that one.
“Once we started running our own car, I bounced it off the wall past the finish line when I lost steering the first time we ran Pomona. I couldn’t win or runner-up. The first time I threw the rods out of the car was in Pomona. Not good. I didn’t win a single round there at the Winternationals or the Finals for five straight races from the 2014 Winternationals to the 2016 Winternationals. We finally made seven completed runs at the 2016 Finals and were runner-up. Our car ran a little better this weekend, so we tried to keep it consistent and got the win.”
Westerfield thanked sponsors CP-Carrillo, Blake Bros. Racing, Lucas Oil, CDI Exhibits, and 360 Dynamic Technology. Westerfield cinched the win when 2015 and 2016 world champion Jonnie Lindberg, who was substituting for Jay Payne in the PEAK Antifreeze Camaro while Payne recovers from shoulder surgery, left the starting line .002-second too soon. Westerfield shut off early to a 6.652 at 127.19 mph.
“Jonnie and I got up there and staged, and I saw the white of his nose pop out there a little bit,” Westerfield recalled. “I thought, ‘Hey, I wasn’t late.’ I looked up and saw the win light on. I don’t know if I lost focus or whatever, but the car got over toward the centerline and I shut it off.
“It’s going to be an exciting year. We’re going to hit it hard and go to as many races as we can. We’ve been with CP-Carrillo for 10 years now, and all of our other sponsors are back with us this year.”