Grand Bend: Series Saturday notebook

COMMISSO'S WILD RIDE Friday's racing action at the 10th annual MOPAR Canadian Nationals saw a little bit of everything from new track records to two cars putting it on their tops. One of those accidents, which saw Ray Commisso get hard into...

COMMISSO'S WILD RIDE

Friday's racing action at the 10th annual MOPAR Canadian Nationals saw a little bit of everything from new track records to two cars putting it on their tops.

One of those accidents, which saw Ray Commisso get hard into the wall and flip onto its roof, left one of the top contenders of the weekend on the sideline and his car in pieces.

Just moments after Ed Hoover put down a new track record in the same lane, Commisso made his pass with solid numbers all the way to half track. Once there the tires began to shake on Commisso' Camaro and before he knew it he was in for the ride of his life.

"Something terribly drastic went wrong. I stuck the car in second gear and felt a little tire shake, nothing unusual. I have had that tire shaking running 5.90s before so it is not a big deal, but as the tire shake started something really bad happened," Commisso recalled. "The car went hard left all by itself into the wall. What I remember I hit that first wall and barrel rolled and was upside down for a while and flipped over again and went head-on into the other wall and hit the other wall dead-on and the car burst into flames. I jumped out and that was all of it."

After getting out of the car Commisso was transported to a local hospital and was released and returned to the track in the early morning hours.

"I am sore. I went to the hospital and they were great here in London. The trauma unit, the doctors and nurses were all great," Commisso said. "They took me right away and gave me a CT scan. I had a few bruised ribs and a torn muscle in my shoulder, but otherwise the car took the worst of it.

"The car did its job, it kept me safe."

POTATOES, ONIONS AND DRAG RACING

Odds are you have probably tasted a potato or onion at some point in your life grown by J.R. Carr and his company.

As one of the leading potato and onion suppliers in the United States, Carr has dedicated his life to providing quality food to such restaurants as Outback Steakhouse and will be quick to admit that, despite the perception, it is a year round job for everyone involved with his company.

"It is every week, year round. We take care of Outback Steakhouse and many others year round and we also export our potatoes and onions so it is a 52 week a year job," Carr said.

While the potato and onion business definitely keeps Carr busy, in his spare time Carr doesn't rest. No, on the weekends Carr fittingly does just what his last name suggests -- he races 220 mile per hour Pro Stock race cars.

From the first time Carr watched a vehicle go down a drag strip at the age of 15 he was hooked -- and he hasn't looked back since.

"I was 15 and Spokane Raceway has a fence really close to the track and I went to a race and it was packed and I watched several different cars go down the track, but when I saw the Pro Stock and door cars I said to myself I have to have one," Carr said. "A few years later, I got one."

Carr began his racing career in the Super Pro class and spent a few years there until he one day decided that he wanted to race something a little faster.

Actually, Carr decided he wanted to race something a lot faster.

After taking a few years off following the 2004 racing season, Carr became friends with Michael Brotherton and eventually Richard Freeman and the rest, as they say, is history. Freeman, driving in the quickest and fastest Pro Stock class on the planet, invited Carr to a race last season and before you knew it Carr was behind the wheel of his very own Pro Stock car.

"I knew Michael and met Richard and we all began talking back and fourth. I had been out of racing since the end of '04 and I really wanted to race, but I needed to stay home and take care of my business and that is what I did," Carr said. "They finally invited me to a race and once I went to the race I ended up sitting in the car and I shouldn't have. I ended up racing at Rockingham later that year."

That partnership eventually took off as Carr and Freeman became better friends and when Freeman decided to open up his own three-car racing operation for the 2009 season Carr was one of the guys at the top of that list.

Now Carr is a member of the most powerful Pro Stock team in the sport, teaming up with Freeman and current points leader Frank Gugliotta in the three-car Elite Motorsports Pro Stock operation.

"It is an excellent operation, everybody does their part and with Frank and his knowledge of setting these cars up it has been a night and day difference," Carr said. "You can go out there and make laps for years and never really be as good as you should be and with them helping us it has made a world of difference."

In four starts this season Carr has a 4-4 round win-loss record with one semifinal appearance. Carr is seventh in standings, one spot behind Freeman and Gugliotta currently tops the Elite Motorsports Pro Stock class.

"A win is the first thing we want to go after and hopefully helping Frank with the championship. Either one of those would mean the same to me," Carr said.

GETTING READY FOR SUNDAY

With a short field this weekend in Pro Mod, the pressure is off many of the teams as they try to focus on moving up the ladder and getting ready for Sunday instead of worrying about possibly missing the race.

And that is exactly what Pro Mod rookie Melanie Troxel needs in her first full season behind the wheel of a supercharged monster that is IHRA Pro Mod.

"We are still trying to sort this car out. This car sat in the shop for a year and wasn't running at all this year," Troxel said. "Everybody is going to qualify so there is no reason to go out and push things too extreme and that is kind of nice. We get four runs to go out and play around and really make some big changes to the car and not feel under pressure."

While pressure is nothing new to Melanie, a five time winner with the NHRA in both Top Fuel and Nitro Funny Car, she admits that the adjustment to he short wheelbase of the Pro Mods and drastic differences in finessing these cars down the track has definitely been a learning experience.

"It is quite different. The setup is different than the other cars," Troxel said. "It tends to want to get out of shape when we get aggressive. It is going to take some time learning these things.

"We have had a hard time getting this car to get through the 1-2 shift and to be under control. It wants to spin the tires which is what we did in our first pass. We made some pretty big changes to the setup of the car on the second pass to make it more like our other cars and it didn't really accomplish what we had hoped either.

"We aren't getting down the track just yet, but this has worked out like a test session for us so we will get this car sorted out."

ROCK STAR

It is always fun being the center of attention -- just ask Alcohol Funny Car driver Paul Noakes.

As a professional race car driver racing in front of his home crowd this weekend, Noakes' name has been on the tip of everyone's tongue heading into this race. Appearing on television and radio stations and in dozens of newspapers across the area, Noakes' showdown with Rob Atchison this weekend has garnered plenty of attention and has race fans thrilled about Saturday night's showdown.

"I am not sure about being a local celebrity, but we do have a good following of race fans here in Canada. That is why the IHRA comes to Canada," Noakes said. "There are a lot of fans that fill the stands that will sit through rain storms, snow storms and anything the weather throws at them.

"That makes it nice to have a bunch of people who really enjoy what I do."

Noakes, a London, Ontario native, will be competing in the King of Canada match race against fellow London driver Atchison Saturday night at the Grand Bend Motorplex as the two drivers, who have combined for 47 final round appearances three victories at Grand Bend over the years, try to earn Ontario bragging rights for the next year.

"This is my 22nd year of racing so I have got to know a lot of people by always saying hi and always signing autographs and that is what gives me a little bit of an advantage up here in this really fun match race," Noakes said. "There are a lot of people that are going to be cheering us on this weekend."

STILL RACING AFTER ALL THESE YEARS

Fred Farndon is a name drag racing fans have been hearing for over 50 years.

The 70-year-old has been racing for years, everything from boats to Top Fuel dragsters, and is still going strong after decades behind the wheel.

So what keeps a man that should be sitting on a beach somewhere sipping tropical drinks racing in a 300 mile per hour dragster?

"Just the people. You can't find people like this in any other sport," Farndon said. "Everybody helps each other out, it is like a big brotherhood and the IHRA has a platform that lets us race without being too uppity. My crew and the people out here are what keep me going."

And Farndon showed he still has it during Friday's opening round of qualifying with the second fastest lap of the evening at over 266 miles per hour, good enough to put him in fourth heading into the final day of qualifying.

"We had it set on mush, it was pretty soft. We just wanted to go down the track," Farndon said.

Now he will try to hold off a hard charging crew behind him that includes the drivers who are currently second and third in points Del Cox and Bobby Lagana Jr. If his times hold, Farndon will qualify for his first IHRA race of the season in four tries.

"We want to go faster and quicker and hopefully we can do that later," Farndon said.

-credit: ihra

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Series Drag
Drivers Bobby Lagana Jr. , Ed Hoover , Melanie Troxel , J.R. Carr , Richard Freeman , Frank Gugliotta