Inaugural Rocky Mountain Nationals
June 27-29th, 2003, Edmonton, AB
Results | Photos #1 | Photos #2
IHRA’s bold new venture to Western Canada proves to be a rousing success and a new cornerstone for drag racing history in Canada. While traditional Sportsman and Pro class fields at the inaugural event are weak in numbers by usual IHRA event standards, that is tempered by quality, unique new entries and determined and strong performances. The event is truly a fan magnet as over 35,000 pack Budweiser Raceway Park over the event’s three days. Vendors are sold out of almost everything by Sunday afternoon!
Top Fuel racing saw Bruce Litton win for the first time in competition since the IHRA World Finals in 2001 as he ended the recent domination and 2003 season undefeated streak for points leader Clay Millican. In the final round Litton has a much better reaction time (.025 to .167) to earn a holeshot 4.917 secs 299.30 mph to 4.877 secs 283.64 mph victory. Millican had been the favourite to win after carding a spectacular track record 4.666 secs at 317.01 mph during qualifying. Litton’s path to victory lane was a clear one as he had two singles when scheduled opponents Louie Allison and Jack Ostrander both could not make the call.
Top Fuel class qualifying featured the first ever “four” for Canada’s Todd Paton in the category. The Paton’s who endured a tough tow to the event (vehicle breakdown at Chicago) were rewarded with a 4.966 secs during the final session which qualified them 4th. Todd lost out to Don Sosenka in round one however.
Pro Mod racing featured a dominating win by South Carolina’s Quain Stott who took his Lee Boy-sponsored supercharged ‘63 Corvette past the field. Stott started from the pole after running his machine to both ends of the Bud Park track record at 6.280 secs and 227.73 mph during qualifying. Stott turned back an incredible event performance from Calgary’s Rick Distefano in the final round. Distefano, who was participating in his first IHRA event since the mid 1990’s, was the clear fan favourite driving his supercharged ‘53 Corvette. Rick qualified third and then rudely knocked off current IHRA points leader Mitch Stott in a spectacular semi final round pairing, 6.382 secs to 6.398 secs. In the final Distefano had a superior RT but his 6.400 secs at 214.95 mph came up just short of Stott’s 6.352 secs at 226.92 mph.
Pro Mod class racing featured a number of non-traditional IHRA regional runners, nine of which were from Canada. In addition to Distefano’s stout qualifying effort, Canadian’s Carl Spiering, Glen Kerunsky, Joe Delehay and Glen May all made the tight field.
Alcohol Funny Car racing saw Canada’s Robbie Atchison fall just short of earning his third consecutive circuit victory when he lost out to Ohio’s Mark Thomas in the final round. Atchison's Erickson MFG sponsored machine shook it’s tires in the final and that allowed Thomas to skip by to take a 5.919 secs 240.00 mph to 6.008 secs 237.90 mph victory. Atchison had paced the 14-car field when he ran a track record 5.878 secs during qualifying. Thomas’s final round speed driving the Ethanol Performs sponsored Dodge Avenger proved to be top speed of the meet.
The AFC field at Edmonton included a number of strong Canadian qualifiers, a list that included local favourite John Evanchuk. Evanchuk was behind the wheel of his brand new Red Wolf Pontiac Firebird and in conjunction with Serge Dion entered his first ever IHRA national event. Despite those somewhat longer odds, Evanchuk qualified 6th (at 6.110 secs 228.94 mph) and won round one over fellow Alberta-based racer Trevor Lebsack. Evanchuk did however go .011 red while racing Terry McMillen in round two.
Western Canada fans were treated to Mountain-motor Pro Stock class car racing for the first time ever during the event as 15 teams made the long tow from the East and Southeast for the event. That title ultimately went to Alabama’s Jason Collins who wheeled his powerful Mercury Cougar to a final round win over the Hemi-powered Dodge Neon driven by Rick Jones. Collins sped to a winning 6.720 secs at 207.08 mph to edge out the 6.760 secs at 207.80 mph by Jones. Points leader Carl Baker set the class standard in qualifying at 6.629 secs and 209.64 mph however Baker was bounced out by Doug Kirk in round two.
For the first time in IHRA history the sanctioning body offered an official Junior Dragster eliminator within its national event presentation. 38 racers, mostly from the province of Alberta, were entered and the win went to 12-year old Sarah Stelte (from St. Alberta, AB) who beat Cody Anstead in the final round.
IHRA and Bud Park added a special demonstration eliminator to the event with the local area Thunderbolts circuit being featured within Saturday‘s action. Running on a 7.50 index, the title went to local racer Jay Mageau driving his spectacular 1957 Chevy-bodied Funny Car over the equally impressive ’33 Willys driven by Brent Harris. Mageau got the win at 7.668 secs at 181.85 mph when Harris ran a too quick 7.493 secs at 179.82 mph in the final round. Edmonton’s “King of the Burnout” Darrell Webb, had paced the program driving his ‘82 Corvette to a 7.528 secs 181.41 mph during qualifying.
IHRA Sportsman class car racing was dominated by local Alberta drivers as Canadian drivers earned their first career IHRA national event titles. That list included Dale Giroux in Top Sportsman, Eddy Plaizier Quick Rod (9.10), Dave Archambault Super Rod (10.10), Randy Moderson (Hot Rod (11.11), as well as local hitters Bryon Setters in Super Stock and Ed Matiejewski in Stock eliminator. Darren Thompson (from Edmonton) defeated Carolle Colman (Ft. Saskatchewan) in the event’s well-attended ET Tournament final.
Canadian racers also earned numerous special awards for the event including:
- Rick Distefano Pro Mod - Best Engineered Pro Car
- Scott McVey Hooters Funny Car - Best Appearing Pro Crew
- Warren Nitsch PT Cruiser - Best Engineered Sportsman Car
- Garnet & Derek Rose - Best Appearing Sportsman Cars
- Stelmach Racing `Dragster - Best Appearing Sportsman Crew