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The latest update as of July 14, 2017

15th annual MOPAR Rocky Mountain Nationals - Day One

This weekend finds us on the other side of the mountains as we're in Edmonton, Alberta, attending the 15th annual MOPAR Rocky Mountain Nationals at Castrol Raceway. It's a beautiful sunny morning here after a serious storm blew through the area in the early evening yesterday. Despite some unsettled storm cloud conditions in the area, the forecast is for gradually warming, sunny weather for the balance of the weekend. The event will be similar to previous editions, with one very major change, the switch in sanctioning bodies from IHRA to NHRA. It will be interesting to see what Rob and Kim Reeves do to keep up the tradition of an exciting, entertaining, and always unpredictable event. Stay tuned all weekend for updates direct from the track.

It's Friday morning here at Castrol Raceway and the pits are abuzz with activity as the racers prepare for the start of time trials at noon. The (really) fast cars have more time to get their tuneups in order as they won't run until 7:00 tonight. By that time the grandstands should be nearly full, and the atmosphere will almost certainly be as supercharged as many of the engines in the staging lanes.

It's been exactly one year since I last attended a drag race and the anticipation for this one has been building in me for the past few weeks. Making it extra special is that this will be the 15th edition of this race, and the 20-year anniversary of Castrol Raceway (formerly Budweiser Motorsport Park and before that, Labatt Raceway). Looking back through my records yielded the info that this is my ninth time up here for this event and every one has been a unique experience. And I'm sure this year will be no exception.

With things relatively cool and quiet right now, it's the perfect time to cruise the pits, catching up with old friends, making some new ones, and if I'm lucky, finding out where Dean parked the "Red Rocket" (aka: the SpeedZone "staff car"). More news later here and much more on the Northwest's premier source for drag racing news: SpeedZone Magazine.

6:00 PM Update

Armed with a mandate from Dean Murdoch to provide coverage of Top Fuel, A/Fuel, AA/Fuel Altered, and Nitro Harley, I marched through the pits, notebook in hand and camera slung over a shoulder. As many racers were busy prepping for either a test pass in the afternoon heat, or waiting for the cooler evening air of the first qualifying session, it was difficult to gather some of the information needed to adequately report on the various classes.

Nevertheless, we came away with a well-defined idea of just how the fuel altered racers are organized, how the class is structured, and most important of all, just what the ethos of the category brings to drag racing. My views are influenced by some of the true old guard, as three of the senior statesman in AA/FA have some very definite ideas of what constitutes a true fuel altered and how the class should be structured and run.

Their views are not shared by all of their brethren, as younger racers, and those who don't have an appreciation of just how drag racing has evolved over it's nearly seven decades of existence. However, the old adage of "be careful what you wish for" was never more appropriate than it is now with the entire class on the verge of a major upheaval in the rules package, the elapsed times, and speeds, and most importantly for the longevity of the category. If some of the racers that want limits removed and rules relaxed have their way, the class could soon be as de-populated as some of the big show pro classes that NHRA is desperately hoping to keep alive.

And the powers that be truthfully view any of the so-called nostalgia categories as nothing more than a quaint anachronism, or simply another class that gets in the way of a streamlined, homogenized product. While some may view the old guard as fighting a battle as futile as trying to hold back the tide, the fact is that without some restraints on the development of the category that the racers will quickly become their own worst enemies. Can you remember how the Pro Gas or Super Modified or Econo Dragster classes got started, and where they've gone since?

We'll be reporting on all the nitro burning categories with the exception of Nostalgia Funny Car, and by the end of the weekend, should have a much better sense of just how relevant they are for today's race fans and just what the outlook is for their respective futures. Before we sign off from this report, here's some images of the racers and cars that I'm writing about.

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Here's two views of Andy Beauchemin's latest project, an outlaw fuel altered (see the earlier report on the class)

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Two views of Ron Hope's famous "Rat Trap"


And here's the guys who have made it happen for so many years, more than 150 (!!!) of them in fact.
Left to right, it's Dave Hough, Randy Bradford, and Ron Hope.

Click on the thumbnails to see larger versions of the images.