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The latest update as of May 26, 2010
Mission Raceway Lordco BC Nationals LODRS Preview
After a very long period of inactivity, I finally managed to rouse myself from my state of torpor (you can look it up) long enough to hammer out a story and post it. Not here of course. It's available for your viewing pleasure on Dean Murdoch's Speedzone website. Check it out; it's definitely worth the price of admission. Since we let Dean have the story yesterday, I figure I can get away with leaking it on here a bit at a time without him getting too upset. Besides, my version will have pictures. So there!
As the clock ticks closer to the first round of Top Alcohol qualifying at Mission on Friday afternoon, we will try to provide all the really important news about the event and continue updating throughout the weekend. Top of mind at the moment are the weather (not looking real flash) and the lack of entries in the top (alcohol) classes. However, I'm sure that both issues will be resolved by the weekend. The weather will improve and the fields will be full. Trust me. After all, what could go wrong?
Herein follows the Top Alcohol preview, aka
"The Fearless Forecast"
We've got the official pre-entry list(s) for Top Alcohol as of Monday, May 24th. The numbers are a little (aka: lot) thin in both categories, especially compared to previous years, but NHRA Division Director Jonathan Adams is holding out hope for at least one more funny car and possibly a few more cars in total. One thing that jumped out at me was the percentage of Canuck content, with more than half the entrants (8 of 15) being Canadian drivers, and 9 of 15 being Canadian-owned cars. And the maple leaf contingent has a definite Alberta-centric flavour, with six flatlanders entered, versus one Ontarian and one "Best of BC" with the local dragster star, Shawn Cowie.
While the favourite in the dragster column is a local driver, the funny car upper echelon has more American content and the chances of a dual-Canuck victory circle celebration on Sunday evening are facing somewhat longer odds. Another item of note is the lack of injected nitro dragsters this year, with Alberta's Don St. Arnaud being the only A/FD on the entry list.
As has been the case in previous editions of this event preview, we've dusted off the old crystal ball, peered deep inside it's inner recesses, and tried to foresee the winners, the contenders and the cannon fodder. Assigning odds to the individual driver's chances might be considered an invitation to wagering, but don't bet the farm, or anything more than couch change on any of these picks. As is added as a disclaimer to so many internet offerings: "for entertainment purposes only".
Here follows the pre-entry list (in alphabetical order) and my additional possibilities based on previous year's events. We hope it's both educational and enjoyable. Also, we've researched the best performances for each driver and posted them alongside their name, hometown and permanent competition number. If there's any errors or ommissions to the records, please let us know. One other note is that the pictures used are from last year (or earlier) and may not accurately represent the current appearance of the cars. And if you click on the pics, you'll get to see the fuller-sized versions. Enjoy!
Top Alcohol Dragster
Don St. Arnaud - Edmonton, AB - #6067 - 5.405 - 257.33 (5.310 - 260.86 under IHRA rules)
There's not too much to go on with St. Arnaud, who debuted his brand new car at last year's Mission Lucas event. Under the watchful eye of consultant Bob "Automan" Ottow, Don made a big leap from not making a qualifying pass at Mission last May, to a 5.31 at Edmonton's IHRA Rocky Mountain Nats less than two months later, and finished the season with a 5.40 pass in the first round of eliminations at Las Vegas. Still without very many competition laps under his belt, St. Arnaud will be in tough in eliminations, but should be able to hit a qualifying number at least once. We're not sure if Ottow will be back to help this year, but if not, he surely will be within cellphone range. For now, rate these guys as the darkest of darkhorses.
Mike Austin - Medford, OR - #672 - 5.401 - 268.65
Austin truly fits the definition of "hired gun" as he shifts his focus from one of the Jerry Maddern "Peen-Rite" cars to the very competitive ride of fellow Oregonians' Steve and Patty Federlin. With a more than decade-long history of driving success in Top Alcohol, Mike has five final rounds (and three wins) to his credit at divisional events and one runner-up finish at a national event, along with a Top Ten finish in the 2005 world championship standings. The Federlin team has an even more successful record with numerous wins on the national and divisional stage, with Steve Federlin, Justin Davis and Thomas Bayer driving at various times. This team is certain to qualify, and with Austin's driving skills, an upset of the two favourites is possible. Despite Mike's best numbers of 5.40 at 268 mph, the Federlin car has run numerous low 5.30's and is certainly capable of doing so again in Mission's (expected to be) good air.
Ashley Bart - Calgary, AB - #6121 - 5.355 - 264.65
This team and driver have come a long way in a relatively short time. Two long-time Alberta racers, Ken Gilmour and Bob Meek, pooled their resources and put a very young (19 when she debuted in T/AD) female driver in the seat and have made steady progress over the first two seasons of their partnership. Once the new-car gremlins were exorcised and Ms. Bart gained enough seat time to make full use of the power available to her, the car became a serious threat to the competition. They still haven't found the consistency they need to reach the winner's circle, but the progress they've made is undeniable. An almost certain qualifier, with a good chance to reach the semi-finals.
Dale Carlson - Olympia, WA - #6455 - 5.346 - 265.12
After a long hiatus from Top Alcohol racing, which included a couple of seasons behind a cast-iron nitro burning 392 Chrysler-powered nostalgia dragster, Carlson has returned to the alky wars with a vengeance. After a long stint driving Mike Johnson's very competitive cars in the late 90's and early 00's, Dale has teamed up with local racer Hugh Ridley and his crew chief Jeff Johnsen on a steadily improving car, as evidenced by some seriously good performances last season. Two final rounds at Lucas series races and a Top 20 finish nationally are good portents for another great season for this local team. Can't pick them to lose before the semi-finals, and with Carlson's driving ability, an upset of the two favourites is a distinct possibility. After all, he was runner-up here last year, and had to get past Severance to be in the final.
Shawn Cowie - Delta, BC - #681 - 5.290 - 273.05
After a very successful career in Top Comp, which served as a great learning tool for this very promising driver, the Mundie's Towing team made the inevitable move to Top Alcohol. Not willing to do anything by half-measures, they bought the ex-Rick Santos-built, Hillary Will-driven, Bucky Austin-tuned championship calibre car that has dominated Division Six and made some serious national championship noise over the three seasons they've been running. With a crowded mantle groaning under the weight of NINE Lucas Series and TWO national event Wallys, and some of the best performance numbers ever recorded by a blown alcohol dragster, they're looking to make this season a repeat of last year's incredible record of six divisional victories and a fourth place finish in the world championship standings. An obvious favourite to take another win (Cowie is the defending champion of this event) at their home track.
Bill Edwards Jr. - Sumas, WA - #667 - 5.576 - 253.42
A team and name with as much history in Division Six as anyone. These guys don't run too often, but always seem to find a way to hitch up their wagon and make one of the shortest tows in the division across the border and over the bridge to Mission Raceway. Looking back in the archives of Drag Race Central we ran out of room to list all their appearances over the years, but in the past decade they've qualifed at numerous races, unfortunately not advancing past the first round at any of them. Usually hard pressed to qualify against some of the higher-budget teams, they march to the beat of a different drummer and are happy to go home without a trailer full of broken parts and empty wallets. Always one of the best at 60 ft. times, Edwards Jr. and Sr. would like to keep the numbers improving all the way to the finish line. A real darkhorse to qualify, but you just never know.
Greg Sereda - Spruce Grove, AB - #699 - 5.742 - 244.16
This is a name we haven't seen for a few years. Last appearing at the 2007 edition of this event, where he qualified for his first and only time at a divisional race, Sereda is coming back to try to pick up where he left off. Not much info available on the team or combination or anything, but they will have to improve on their best previous numbers to stand any chance of qualifying. Unless the field is just the eight cars on the pre-entry list. Hopefully they can scrape the rust off quickly and lay down some new performance standards and get some valuable seat time and tuning data. Pictures courtesy of IHRA.
Joey Severance - Spanaway, WA - #613 - 5.322 - 269.51
Virtually born into drag racing, Joey Severance (not Jr. anymore) has been a serious force in Division Six for nearly a decade now. With 16 final rounds at Lucas series events over the years, including seven wins, and one win in five trips to the final round at national events, it's very difficult to pick Severance any lower than second to Cowie. While Shawn may have a slight advantage in qualifying times, Joey's great reaction times narrow the already slight gap between their respective cars. Again, it's hard to pick this guy to finish any less than a finalist, providing the breakage bug doesn't bite them again as it has in the past. They run the car very hard, all the time, and this is their only achilles heel.
Additional possibles include:
Leo Grocock - Mission, BC - #664 - 5.839 - 225.97
Look up "hard trier" in an encyclopedia and there will be a picture of Leo, probably underneath the engine putting the rods in or elbow-deep in the clutch can or trying to weld up another broken part to get just one more pass out of it. Not blessed with the best equipment or a big (ready: any) budget, Leo defines perserverance and manages to get his car together and running at least once or twice a season. With only one qualifying spot at a Lucas event on his record, and that was five years ago, Leo seems doomed to revisit his recent history and inhabit the alternate list once more. Even if he can improve on his career best, and that is a distinct possibility, he'd need nearly three tenths of a second better numbers to have a serious shot at qualifying. One can only hope.
Kim Parker - Graham, WA - #628 - 5.429 - 258.37
The "world's fastest school bus driver" may or may not show again this year. Kim has had definite success at Mission Raceway over the many years she's competed in the Parker family race car, with three final round appearances at divisional races and one at the Seattle national event a few years ago. Her best numbers are not quite competitive with the best in the class, but certainly are enough to be in almost any field and with only eight cars in eliminations, almost anything can happen. However, the first step is showing up and qualifying. We'll just have to wait and see.
Gregg Lawrence - Salem, OR - #617 - 5.423 - 262.79
This team has been around for a decade, running an injected nitro car that is competitive when it runs a number, but unfortunately not doing that very often. For every solid pass they make, two cylinder-dropping and/or tire-smoking efforts seem to be the norm. That said, they do have two wins and a runner-up at Division Six races over the years, but their last final round appearance was seven years ago. Even their last round win was four years ago. It's easy to pick them to qualify, but to see them get past the first round is going to be a stretch. With a definite blown alcohol bias at this event, according to the entry list, it would be good to see them if nothing more than for the variety their combination would bring to the show.
Brandon Johnson - Las Vegas, NV - #6610 - 5.246 - 271.65
Another possibility, as they've got a wealth of knowledge about how to run at Mission, and have been competing in Division Six almost as long as there has been a division, but the recent emigres to Sin City are currently not on the entry list. However, don't be surprised to see them here and ready to rock. While their performances on nitro have tended to be a bit hit and miss at times, discounting their other-worldly debut in the category a few years back with a win and low e.t. at the Winternationals, team owner Mike Johnson has quietly set about his task of fine-tuning the combination and nailing down the ever-elusive consistency that seems to be the only thing they lack. If they show up, they'll be tough. 'Nuff said?
Doug Hegge - Vancouver, WA - #6715 - 5.380 - 271.62
What the heck: let's throw another nitro car on here just for the heck of it. It's only a relatively short haul up the I-5 from the Washington-Oregon border to Mission, and Hegge did run surprisingly well at this track last year. Fairly new to Top Alcohol in general, and injected nitro in particular, this former Super Comp racer has laid down some very impressive numbers in his first two full seasons of competition, but is still searching for more consistency. It's the bane of the very existence of almost every A/FD during their learning curve, which in some cases can seem to last forever. If Hegge is here, and can get the car down the track at anywhere near it's potential, he will be a player.
Top Alcohol Funny Car
Todd Ashwell - Keizer, OR - #693 - 5.954 - 237.92 (co-driver Jeff Ashwell 5.740 - 248.48)We don't have too much detail on this team, especially the driver, as I thought the division director has made a mistake with his first name, until I researched the team's website and saw that the brothers Jeff and Todd share the driving duties on this Oregon-based car. After two years with Jeff behind the wheel, it's now Todd's turn again, and you can expect to see the career best numbers for Todd take a tumble downwards (e.t.) and upwards (m.p.h.) at Mission. Showing that they can run hard with improving numbers over the past six seasons, the team looks set to make another move forward at this event. Not sure about them getting past the first round, but a qualifying spot should be fairly certain. Pictures courtesy of Ashwell Racing.
Rob Atchison - London, ON - #3990 - 5.763 - 253.59 (5.721 - 250.41 under IHRA rules)
This veteran second generation drag racer has got quite an impressive pedigree from his IHRA World Championship days, which saw him take the title three consecutive seasons and finish in the top three for six straight years before the IHRA dropped the alcohol funny car class from its roster. After making only very sporadic appearances at NHRA races over the years, he's been forced to make wholesale changes to his race car to suit the screw blower configuration that every competitive NHRA car runs.
Not making the transition any easier is his desire to prove the "better mousetrap" theory with the 481X Chevrolet combination, an engine that virtually no one runs in topm alcohol. Always appearing just one run away from the big breakthrough that he's sure is just a tweak of the clutch or a slight adjustment of transmission ratios, Rob is sure that he's close to the big leap forward that will give him the competitive advantage that he enjoyed for so long on the IHRA circuit. Being one of the most personable and professional racers in the pits didn't hurt either and should go a long way to making him a success in the world of NHRA racing. A bit of a darkhorse pick, but watch out if it all comes together.
John Evanchuk - Edmonton, AB - #6352 - 5.692 - 252.80
Owner/driver of the one of the nicest looking cars in the pits, and possessor of an almost constant smile, Edmonton's John Evanchuk is a serious racer who not only wants to look good but run well too. He's made consistent strides forward in the performance department over the years, finally breaking into the 5.60's and showing that he can run with almost anyone, anywhere, at any time. With two runner-up showings and six semi-final finishes over his career at Lucas series divisional events, John has moved up the charts and carded three consecutive #4 finishes in the Division Six standings and moved into the Top 50 nationally on a regular basis, which is a solid achievement for a racer that doesn't travel too far afield. A certain qualifier and a good threat to be in the semi-finals at this event, or even the finals, like he was last year.
Brian Hough - Junction City, OR - #6515 - 5.603 - 257.87
Replacing the Austin family domination in Division Six, Brian Hough is now the four-time defending division champion in Top Alcohol Funny Car, and a consistent player in the world championship standings. He's finished no lower than #13 for the past five seasons, and reached as high as #3 in the world four years ago. With nine wins in 17 final round appearances on the divisional stage, and three wins in six final rounds at the national event level, Hough is building a very impressive career resume. Trailing only Clint Thompson in absolute performance numbers, Brian has got to be considered almost a lock for a final round appearance at Mission and a good bet to repeat his victory of last season. And this year he should have paint on the car!
Trevor Lebsack - Slave Lake, AB - #6320 - 5.845 - 245.27 (5.848 - 246.21 under IHRA rules)
Another great looking car and ever-improving in performance comes down from the permafrost of Slave Lake, Alberta. Trevor has been competing for seven years now and while he concentrated mainly on the IHRA side of the equation until that group folded their alcohol funny car tent, he's now working his way upwards in the NHRA ranks. With his first round win at a Lucas series event last season, and reasonably competitive numbers, Lebsack is becoming a threat to some of the higher rated cars. If Sean Brown (from the Les Davenport tuning group) is in attendance this weekend, watch out for some new career best numbers and possibly another round win.
Nathan Sitko - Edmonton, AB - #625 - 5.875 - 242.06 (5.944 - 239.65 under IHRA rules)
Nathan was truly born to race. A third-generation drag racer from a family that is synonymous with Canadian drag racing, this low-budget family operation is venturing across the Rocky Mountains for the first time in two years. They don't race very often, but they do make their appearances count, almost always qualifying and steadily improving their performances. We can't expect to see them make any large leaps forward, but father and tuner, Kenny will nibble away at the "margins" and just might extract another tenth from a relatively conservative, but more-or-less affordable, combination. A good bet to qualify and they just might scare someone in the first round of eliminations.
Clint Thompson - Klamath Falls, OR - #6345 - 5.557 - 259.96
With ten years experience in the alky ranks, and showing regular performance improvements along the way, Thompson is showing that he may reach the next rung on the success ladder this season with a runner-up showing at last weekend's Heartland Park's (Topeka, KS) NHRA Summer Nationals. The most impressive aspect of this outing was a career best 5.55 e.t. at nearly 260 mph, in very ordinary air, showing that he's got the quickest and fastest car in the division so far this year. With five wins and four runners-up at Lucas series events in his career, and three wins in four trips to the final round at national events, Thompson is a good bet to finally break into the Top Ten world championship standings and improve on last year's runnerup finish at the Mission Lucas series race. He's on a roll and ready to rock. Our pick to take the Wally this weekend.
Additional possibles include:
Dave Germain - Toledo, WA - #6057 - 5.806 - 248.55
Germain has been a fixture at Division Six races for the past six seasons, never running near the top, but cranking out consistently decent numbers on a regular basis and qualifying most every time he appears. Not blessed with a big budget, he gets a pretty good "bang for the buck" with his equipment and can be counted on to lay down somewhat competitive numbers and take a regular spot in the field. If he's here, and the division director has said no, but we say maybe, he just might sneak in and then his odds are no worse than one in eight when eliminations start.
There's really no one else on the horizon to fill the open spot(s) in the field if Dave Germain doesn't appear. The one local flopper, that of Tim Nemeth, is currently mothballed as he's concentrating on his nitro nostalgia funny car. Other Canadian racers, Ken Webster of the Synoil team from Alberta, and Roger Bateman, driving for a Winnipeg team, haven't put Mission on their schedule this year. And there's no rumours of any California cars coming up to fill the void, like Jason Rupert or Ron August, and the Alaska connection of Shawn Nault and Derek Snelson seems to have folded their wallets and taken a break from the sport. Closer to home, Brad Hansen, of Custer, WA is nowhere to be found either. So what you see is what you've got.
While the quantity of racers entered for this weekend's Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Event is not large, by historical standards, the quality is definitely there and when the first round of eliminations rolls around at noon Sunday, the chances for upsets will be huge. If everyone runs to their capabilities this weekend, there won't be large gaps separating the contenders from the pretenders. There simply shouldn't be any "walk-overs" and if you attend this event with one thought, make it this: these cars race on asphalt and concrete, NOT on paper. After all the verbiage and hyperbole, the results will come down to making power, applying it to the track, and getting to the other end of the track first. Fire the first pair!
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