Grand Bend: Series spotlight - Atchison, Noakes

King of Canada: Atchison, Noakes square off in clash of Canada's best AFC drivers A trip to Grand Bend wouldn't be complete without the storied rivalry between two of London, Ontario's best going head to head at nearly 250 miles per hour on...

King of Canada: Atchison, Noakes square off in clash of Canada's best AFC drivers

A trip to Grand Bend wouldn't be complete without the storied rivalry between two of London, Ontario's best going head to head at nearly 250 miles per hour on the quarter mile.

And that is exactly what drag racing fans are going to get when the IHRA returns to Ontario for the MOPAR Canadian Nationals July 17-19 at the Grand Bend Motorplex.

Rob Atchison and Paul Noakes, both London residents, will join recent additions Larry Dobbs and Jason McKnight in a weekend long grudge match to determine who truly is the King of Canada in Alcohol Funny Car.

"I have loved watching these guys compete ever since we opened the track 14 years ago and it wouldn't seem right not to have them here," said track owner Paul Spriet. "We knew we had to do something to showcase these amazing drivers. We also wanted to do something for the fans as this is the only time they get to see these guys race so close to home."

Atchison, a three-time IHRA Alcohol Funny Car world champion, and Noakes, last year's AFC runner-up and a two-time MOPAR Canadian Nationals winner, will go head-to-head all weekend long in a clash of Canada's best in Alcohol Funny Car.

"It should be a lot of fun. It is definitely a different concept than we have ever done before where we have always in the past been racing for points and this time we get a chance to let our guard down and have a little more fun and just try to take home the title as King of Canada," Atchison said.

Atchison is a three-time IHRA world champion, winning all three titles consecutively in 2003, 2004 and 2005. He also has 20 wins -- second all-time -- and 15 runner-up finishes over the course of his highly successful IHRA career.

"I got my first win here, I qualified No. 1 for the first time here so this has always been a special place for us," Atchison said. "And this will be the first time I have run here in Ontario all year and maybe the only time.

"It is going to be great to be able to go out there and do a nice smoky burnout and get the entire crowd on their feet and put on a good show for them all."

Noakes hasn't had quite the numbers as Atchison, but that hasn't stopped him from garnering plenty of attention himself. Noakes has been gradually climbing the Alcohol Funny Car ladder culminating with a runner-up finish in points last season, finishing one spot ahead of Atchison.

Noakes also has six wins and six runner-up finishes over the course of his career including a pair of wins at his home track in Grand Bend.

"We are really the excited. We have been testing up here and are looking forward to it," Noakes said. "This is our local track so we will have a lot of people up here yelling and screaming for us.

"There is a lot of passion, a lot of history that goes back a long way at Grand Bend racing with the Noakes family. I really have a lot of ownership with that place."

With the addition of Dobbs and McKnight, the Alcohol Funny Car field at Grand Bend will be well represented with three world titles, three championship runner-up finishes, 29 wins and 54 final round appearances combined between the quartet of drivers.

"Rob is a friend and a great competitor so it should be a lot of fun in this no holds barred race," Noakes added. "We are all friends until we get the seatbelts on and the body down. At that point we are not friends anymore."

The MOPAR Canadian Nationals will get underway Friday, July 17 and run through Sunday, July 19 at the Grand Bend Motorplex in Grand Bend, Ontario.

-credit: ihra

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