Paton wins battle of Canada versus U.S. Gallen gets his revenge; Evans back on track GRAND BEND, Ontario (July 18, 2010) -- When Todd Paton was invited to be a part of this year's MOPAR Nitro Jam Nationals at the Grand Bend Motorplex, the...
Paton wins battle of Canada versus U.S.
Gallen gets his revenge; Evans back on track
GRAND BEND, Ontario (July 18, 2010) -- When Todd Paton was invited to be a part of this year's MOPAR Nitro Jam Nationals at the Grand Bend Motorplex, the Ontario native was pleased to participate at his home track and the place where he made his first ever pass in a Top Fuel Dragster.
Little did Paton know that by the end of the weekend he would be walking away from "The Bend" with his first Ironman in several years and his first ever victory in drag racing's quickest and fastest class during Sunday's MOPAR Nitro Jam Nationals finale at the Grand Bend Motorplex.
"After all these years who knew this old dog could still hunt. Actually I was getting ready to Photoshop my head in one of those Tim Boychuk winners circle pictures, but now I have one of my own," Paton said with a laugh, referencing the success driver Boychuk has had in his car over the past two years. "I had so many people that have seen us when we were running the alcohol cars so to finally put together a good performance and a few solid runs in front of these fans is a great feeling."
Paton was one of four professional winners during Sunday's MOPAR Nitro Jam Nationals presented by E3 Spark Plugs, joining Peter Gallen in Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car, Bill Evans in Pro Fuel and Mike Stawicki in Pro Modified as winners during the annual Canadian summer tradition.
In addition to the professional classes six sportsman drivers punched their ticket to the World Finals in October with victories Sunday afternoon as Steve Corriveau (Top Sportsman), Jeremy McCormick (Top Dragster), Michael Lyons (Super Stock), Jim Marshall (Stock), Leo Zynda (Quick Rod, Super Rod) and Lisa Marg (Hot Rod) all walked away winners.
While several Canadian drivers came away victorious during Sunday's finale, the victory by Canada's only Top Fuel team in front of their hometown crowd certainly stole the show. Paton, in the heavily promoted battle of Canada versus the U.S., took that title to a whole new level with a win over Indiana's Bruce Litton.
In that final Litton, Saturday's winner in Top Fuel, had the lead past the 1,000 foot mark, but a slip up just short of the line allowed Paton to pull ahead and take home his first career Top Fuel Ironman in Nitro Jam competition.
"I didn't screw up too badly on the driving end of things. Coming into this weekend we really wanted to represent Canada and we did just that," Paton said. "Jimbo and dad had a heck of a tune-up in the car and it showed. We actually had to calm the car down in that run because it was so aggressive out there. Once we did that it motored right on down the track."
Paton ran a solid 4.812 elapsed time at 304.39 miles-per-hour in the final as all five Top Fuel teams stepped up their performance dramatically for the final rounds. In the other lane Litton ran an equally impressive 4.869, 261.52 in the runner-up spot.
Making the win even sweeter for the team from Ontario was the fact that the entire team worked through the night and well into the morning replacing the dragster's body when the car came apart during their opening round on Saturday.
Paton's dragster began to lift off the ground midway down the track and finally came apart at the 1,000 foot mark, sending pieces of the dragster's body in all directions during Saturday's opening round. While the car itself was not damaged, the team had to immediately get to work, traveling all the way to their shop and returning late in the night with the old body to get the machine ready for Sunday.
"I had always wanted to drive a convertible. We went out there and it ran really hard in 60 feet and chattered the tires and it looks like it may have broken the front mount," Paton said. "It got some air underneath it about halftrack and it didn't take much air to try and lift the entire thing. It lifted the car off the ground before the body decided it couldn't hold.
"Thankfully it didn't hurt the motor so the boys spent all night trying to put the body back on it. They finished up early this morning and fortunately the shop wasn't that far away. The funny thing is that after 15 years running Funny Cars we never lost a body, but just five years into Top fuel we lose one. I guess we still have a flare for the dramatic."
While Paton put on a show in the final, Spencer Massey and Bobby Lagana treated fans to even more great runs in the consolation rounds. Massey ran a 4.757, 300.73 in the first consolation matchup against Mitch King and Lagana followed that up with an equally impressive 4.787, 311.56 in the other first round run.
Sunday's Canada versus United States matchup was set up in the first round when both drivers produced great opening passes. Litton had the best pass of the first round, beating Spencer Massey with a 4.876-second pass, while Paton won the other matchup over Mitch King with a solid 4.998-second run.
Litton also regained the Top Fuel championship lead over Bobby Lagana Jr. with the runner-up spot, making his second final of the weekend and his eighth final of the season.
Aside from Paton, the other big winner during Sunday's Nitro Jam finals was Bill Evans who finally found his groove in picking up his first win in nearly five months. Evans, who swept the Pro Fuel season opener in Palm Bach back in January, hadn't had any luck since winning the first three Pro Fuel races of the season, but that all changed on Sunday.
Evans, who nearly erased the E.T. and speed marks in the class with an incredible first round pass, didn't have enough to back it up, but still came away with a great run on a 5.463, 261.27 to defeat Robin Samsel. Samsel ran a 5.221, 251.81 in the other lane.
"It feels great to finally hold another one of these things. It feels like forever since we were last here, but we were able to find some luck today and get the win," Evans said. "We haven't had the runs we are capable of, but today we hit on something that worked and we really connected with the track. Hopefully we can take something away from this afternoon and continue to build the rest of the year."
While Sunday's Pro Fuel final certainly lived up to expectations, the consolation matchup featured another great run. In that round Jeff Hamelink got revenge over Saturday winner Rich McPhillips with another great 5.610, 264.08 pass.
Sunday's reverse final was set up when Samsel defeated opening night winner McPhillips and Evans got his revenge against Hamelink. Evans had the low E.T. of the round at 5.361, 271.57, putting himself in a position to overtake both Nitro Jam records, while Samsel was just off Evans' pace with a 5.381, 250.64 pass.
Another encore performance came in the Prostalgia Nitro Funny Car championship as Gallen and Steve Nichols met up both nights to decide the nitro flopper finale.
While Nichols came out on top Saturday, it was all Gallen on Sunday with a very quick pass to give him his first win since Rockingham back in April. Gallen ran a 5.959, 240.17 in the final to pick up his fourth career Nitro Jam win while Nichols, stealing one from Gallen the night before, was just behind with a 6.154, 228.11.
"I don't know if we are exactly back on track, but we will take it. Last night's event was very costly because of driver error. Honestly the driver is struggling; he is just not focused on leaving on time," Gallen said. "I would have really liked to have won last night for my daughter because yesterday was her birthday. Overall the car is struggling. It has had the worst 60 foots it has ever had since I put it together. We are missing something on the car and we are going to take it home and try to figure it out."
Gallen had been on a roll as of April, having won three in a row entering Nitro Jam's western swing, but the team was not able to make the trip out west and in his absence Nichols overtook the Prostalgia championship lead. But as of Sunday Gallen has reasserted his dominance in the class with his fourth win in his last five races as Gallen tries to make up some ground in the Nitro Funny Car title hunt.
"That yellow car is one of the baddest hot rods here. He has an experienced tuner, he is a fantastic driver and they are a great team," Gallen said. "You never say you are afraid of anybody, but I respect them. They have a guy that leaves on time and a car that is quick so it was going to be what it was going to be."
Behind Gallen and Nichols was Greg Jacobsmeyer who defeated John Dunn in the consolation round in the closest race of the afternoon. In the remaining consolation rounds John Lawson got around Rick Krafft and Aaron "Army" Armstrong defeated Mike McIntire.
When all said and done, however, Nichols and Gallen proved the class of the field once again starting in the first round as Nichols produced low E.T. of the round. Nichols had a 5.874, 236.51 pass over Jacobsmeyer while Gallen was just behind with a 5.928 in a win over Dunn.
With talk of possible records in two of the three Nitro Jam touring classes over the weekend, another near record performance was produced in the Pro Modified Racing Association. Coming off of the "lap heard round the world" last month in Toronto, new PMRA record holder Mike Stawicki (Medina, N.Y.) pushed the envelope even farther over the weekend in picking up his second win in a row with the Ontario-based series.
Producing multiple passes well over 250 miles-per-hour, Stawicki saved his best stuff for last in the finale with a blistering 5.820, 253.28 to take a victory over local favorite Paul Noakes. Noakes, converting from Alcohol Funny Car to Pro Mod this season, ran a 6.293, 223.28 in the runner-up spot, but there was little Noakes could do to keep up with Stawicki.
In fact there was little anyone could do as Stawicki blew by Noakes, defending MOPAR Nitro Jam winner Bruce Boland and Jack Brohman on his way to the win.
Next up for the Nitro Jam tour is a trip to U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Mich. for the Northern Nitro Jam August 13-14.