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71-year-old doesn’t drag behind at NHRA

FRIDAY, JULY 27, 2012

Local driver Ken Harkema’s latest strikethrough on his bucket list was a total drag.

In a good way.

Harkema was one of many winners at last weekend’s NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series stop in Colorado, where, at age 71, Harkema wheeled his Super Gas machine to a coveted Wally award.

The award, named after NHRA founder Wally Parks, is presented to event champions.

Harkema is a regular on the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Series, which made a stop in Spokane in June, and takes time to compete in national events when the Full Throttle Series makes its swing across the West Coast and Rocky Mountains.

To get to a final round on the grand stage of a national event is very difficult and to pull off a victory in front of your peers is the thrill of a lifetime, Harkema explained.

“It’s tough because there are so many good racers and you can’t afford to make mistakes,” he said. “I’m 71 years old so this win was definitely on my bucket list. My three sons are all excellent drag racers, so it was nice to show them that I can still get it done.”

Allen Johnson, Jeg Coughlin, John Force, Antron Brown and the more well-known stars of the Full Throttle show get most of the headlines at a national event, but Harkema is quick to point out his division has plenty of talent.

“I went a total of six rounds at the Mile High Nationals (to earn the event win),” he said. “(For any driver) it is always great to go rounds at a race. Super Gas racers are some of the best with many of them going up to the professional ranks over the years.

“I received many kudos from my fellow racers in the West for the win and know that many of them are in Sonoma for the race this weekend. They all know how difficult it is to win one of these races.”

Harkema will have the chance to win a second consecutive national event when the Full Throttle Drag Racing Series stops in Seattle next weekend.

Boat races this weekend

With last week’s announcement that the return of Unlimited Hydroplane racing on Lake Coeur d’Alene had been pushed back to Labor Day of 2013 instead of this season, boat race fans in the Inland Empire will have to hit the road.

This weekend in Kennewick is the 47th running of the Lamb Weston Columbia Cup, featuring the best and brightest of the H1 Unlimited Air National Guard Series.

The Tri-Cities stop has produced some of the sport’s greatest moments and highest qualifying speeds since its debut on the circuit in 1966. Speeds on the Columbia River have reached nearly 200 miles per hour in the straightaways with average lap speeds cruising along a clip of over 160 mph.

Defending champ and current series points leader, Dave Villwock, is fresh off a win in the famed Detroit Gold Cup – his fourth consecutive win. Villwock is searching for his 10th overall series championship and fifth Columbia Cup victory since 2001.

Also in the mix this weekend will be Steve David. The five-time series champion is second overall behind Villwock.

This season’s biggest surprise – Jimmy Shane – will also be behind the wheel of a hydroplane this weekend.

Shane began his career as a backup driver, getting the chance over a five-year span to run occasionally in heat races.

Last year he finished fourth in the season finale in Qatar, and this year holds the third overall position in the chase for the 2012 championship – based in part on a heat race win in Detroit and an appearance in one of two final rounds held in the season.

For more information regarding the Columbia Cup, visit or call (509) 783-4675.

Follow The Spokesman-Review’s motorsports coverage online at spokesman/ blogs/keepingpace. Email Doug Pace at racingnewssource@ or follow on Twitter @racingnewsource

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