Edmonton: Series Saturday notebook

Rocky Mountain Nationals -- Saturday Notebook GUTS Crazy, psychotic, suicidal -- all are words that have been used to describe the riders of the 200 mile per hour nitro powered motorcycles of Nitro Bike. But while those terms seem to...

Rocky Mountain Nationals -- Saturday Notebook

GUTS

Crazy, psychotic, suicidal -- all are words that have been used to describe the riders of the 200 mile per hour nitro powered motorcycles of Nitro Bike.

But while those terms seem to fit perfectly anyone who consciously decides to hop on a two-wheeled bomb going speeds in excess of 200 miles per hour, the drivers of the Nitro Bike class will be quick to tell you that, while it is as dangerous as it looks, it is all about the adrenaline and putting on a great show for the fans that keeps these guys glued to the seats week in and week out.

"Chasing the adrenaline rush, that is what it is all about," said Surrey, British Columbia native Jason Arkinstall. "I have always been a snowmobile guy and an extreme guy so I got tired of watching and said you know what, I am going to try this. We have had nothing but success ever since."

Arkinstall has been racing Nitro Bikes for the past few years, maxing out at an incredible 219 miles per hour a few years ago. Just yesterday Arkinstall threatened to equal that mark, putting down the fast lap of the race at 218.90 miles per hour during the pristine evening conditions, but it wasn't good enough to top Friday's charts.

That honor went to Victoria, British Columbia native Damian Cownden, another driver who has found just how addicting these two-wheeled rockets can be.

"We started out racing in the dirt and I watched these bikes as a spectator and basically got dared into trying one. We started out in the dirt and before you know it we are dong 100 miles per hour in three seconds and so we decided to step it up and move to asphalt," Cownden said. "I have moved quickly through the ranks. I went from a 10-second gas bike to a 450 horsepower nitro bike and then to a Top fuel bike all in a few years and I will tell you, there truly is nothing like it in the world."

While most people would question the sanity of anyone who would choose to ride one of these bikes, Cownden will quickly point out that, while he may be a bit crazy, he isn't any different than anyone else.

He is just a regular guy who likes to ride his motorcycle -- at over 200 miles per hour of course.

"The biggest thing is just to hold on. You can't be taught how to drive one of these things. I have tried every dangerous sport and nothing compares to this," Cownden said. "There is no adrenaline that relates to hanging over the side of a motorcycle going 200 miles per hour just to steer because your front wheel is still in the air."

That is another thing that makes these motorcycles so dangerous.

As if 900 plus horsepower Nitro Methane engines weren't dangerous enough, these monstrous machines will keep the front wheel in the air nearly half the track before finally returning to earth for the final few feet.

"I can't explain it. Nothing comes close to the feeling and the rush. It is just unbelievable," Arkinstall said. "It is all about having fun and keeping her pinned and putting on a good show for the fans."

"While it is an adrenaline rush you still have to respect it and you have to be aware it is very dangerous just starting one of these things," Cownden added. "I have always loved two wheels and I hope we can continue to do this for a long time."

Over a dozen Nitro Bikes are on hand for this weekend's River Cree Resort and Casino Rocky Mountain Nationals presented by Paradise RV looking to make an eight bike field.

A PROPER SALUTE

Just a few days after suffering a nasty accident at the Rocky Mountain Nationals last year at Castrol Raceway Dale Creasy Jr., while still lying in a hospital bed in Edmonton with casts on both legs, vowed he would one day return to the track that almost took his ability to walk and make a successful pass in the same lane that got him.

Last night, Creasy made good on that promise.

With the world watching and waiting to see how the Illinois native would handle running on the same track and in the same lane that provided a years worth of rehab and 13 surgeries exactly one year ago, Creasy made a successful pass to the approval of the thousands who were on hand to witness the emotional moment.

"It was just one of those things that happens. You just have to go back to where it happened and make the run and that is what we did. Just getting the car down that lane and getting the first run was big for us," Creasy said.

While the pass went smoothly and Creasy was able to cash in on his promise, what wasn't originally on the docket was his reaction after making the run. What started out as a bit of a joke a few months back when Creasy was planning to make his return quickly took on a life of its own.

"It all started out as a joke. I did a few interviews with newspapers and radio stations and they all asked what I was going to do when I got out and I said I am going to get out and flip the track off," Creasy said. "From there it just took off."

With everyone watching Creasy stopped his car at the far end of the track, climbed out and, surrounded by members of the rescue crew, turned around and gave the track the one finger salute.

"I was getting ready to swing around the corner and a safety guy stopped me. He really wanted me to do it," Creasy said. "So I got out of the car and said 'are we going to get in trouble for doing this' and he said no so I turned around and gave that lane the bird. I basically told the track that I win."

Creasy's return has been met with fanfare all week long as media outlets and fans all across Alberta have flocked to the easygoing Illinois native to wish him well in his return to drag racing.

"The reception has been tremendous. I have had people I haven't even met coming by and giving me hugs and wishing me luck," Creasy said. "That is what racing is all about. I hope we can continue to put on a great show for the fans as the weekend goes along."

DREAM COME TRUE

Of all the sports across the globe, there is perhaps none as diverse as the world of motorsports.

It is not uncommon to see drivers in IHRA competition come from countries such as the United States, England, Canada -- even the tiny island of Aruba -- but one place you don't often associate with racing is the often forgot state of Alaska.

Big in area but small in fan base, Alaska is not usually known for its drag racing.

Jay Childs hopes to change that.

Growing up in Anchorage, Childs has been around racing his entire life even when it wasn't the most popular thing to do. Watching his father, Childs learned the ins and outs of the sport and learned to love tinkering with a race car on the weekends.

"My dad started me off. He has been racing since before I was born so it was just a natural fit for me," Childs said. "We were always working on his cars, playing around with anything motorized -- it has always been my life. Some people even joke that I was conceived at a race track in Alaska."

And that love of the sport eventually led to Childs getting into a car of his own.

Beginning with tuning his dad's door car, Childs eventually decided to try it for himself and build a car of his own. Starting out in the door car ranks, Childs eventually moved up to a funny car when he constructed an Alcohol Funny Car a few years back.

While he has had opportunities to race his AFC at a few tracks around Alaska and western Canada, this weekend marks his first try at running a national event and for Childs that means the realization of a lifelong dream beginning with making his very first full quarter mile pass Friday afternoon.

"We have been coming here for years, but this is the first time we have got to bring our funny car and yesterday was the first full quarter mile pass we have made," Childs said. "It felt really good to bring our car up here and make that run."

Now Childs hopes he can put the butterflies behind him and focus on turning a good performance the rest of the weekend.

"In Alaska you might have 100 people come out and when we pulled out here yesterday it was like having stage fright there were so many people," Childs said. "This is a big deal for us. We get to showcase what we can do in front of a bunch of people at what we consider our home track. This is the pinnacle of our summer every year."

NO PLACE LIKE HOME

In the United States most drivers can find a race track or a national event relatively close to their hometown.

That isn't always the case in Canada.

With few "big league" drag racing events in the country, every time the IHRA visits it is always a big deal as thousands of fans pack the stands during three days of edge-of-your-seat drag racing action.

While these events are always a huge hit for the fans, for the local racer base the Canadian national events always provide drivers who otherwise wouldn't have a big stage to showcase their talent a chance to test their mettle against the best in the world.

"It is big in a lot of ways. It is not just big for us but it is big for the IHRA and is one of the best attended events that they have on their national event schedule. It is also big for the owners of the track, it is big for the sponsors and it is big for the racers because we get to run at a national event in front of our hometown crowd and in front of all of our supporters," said Alcohol Funny Car driver John Evanchuk. "It is great to see what a huge success a national event can be in this city. It is something that everybody really enjoys."

Evanchuk, who is from right here in Edmonton, has been racing for years and loves the opportunity that racing in front of a packed house and in front of his sponsors and fans can provide.

Calgary native Roger Bateman, also a driver in the Alcohol Funny Car ranks, reiterated that thought.

"I have raced in Edmonton quite a bit being from Calgary and they have always been a great racing crowd here. They are a knowledgeable crowd that understands what they see and it is fun to race in front of them," Bateman said. "While we get to race in front of big crowds throughout the year, these guys are more outgoing. They hoot and holler and they have a lot of fun.

"It is nice to be appreciated and we look forward to doing a great job in front of this crowd this weekend."

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Dale Creasy Jr.