Some race observations and ramblings from one of Canada’s most recognised annual drag racing attractions!!…

The 14th annual Canadian Nitro Nationals took place over the Canada Day Weekend and despite weather-related complications — was again a success for both racers and fans.  Racers were busy producing personal bests and fans were treated to a huge show – the aggregate of which is what makes drag racing so cool. The multi day event included everything from Fuelers to Juniors with Gassers, Jets, Pro Mods, and Funny Cars plus much more.

Friday was scheduled for qualifying for Pro Modified and Outlaw Fast 16 cars plus a warm up for the big show Saturday.  But the rains put an end to those plans and more.  So the powers that be decided eventually to move Saturday’s show to Sunday. 

Sunday dawned windy, cold but dry. 

First Pro Mod and Outlaw Fast 16 cars qualified along with a bracket program — but then came NITRO TIME!!! 

Todd Paton in the Fast Eddie Speedwear/Performance Data Systems Top Fuel Dragster taking on Jeff Chatterson wheeling the Strode’s Deli/Vodka Friday-backed entry to open the show.  Both cars looked good early in the run but lifted just before the 1000′ mark with Paton getting there first with a 4.13 elapsed time. 

Todd Paton (top) and Jeff Chatterson locked horns for the event’s top billed Top Fuel dragster match race.

Next up was Smax Smith in the ANT HILL MOB fueler. Smax mentioned to me he was lacking enough crew to run two cars at 6 PM and turn them around by 8pm. So he brought one bullet only for round one.  He also overpowered the track at the hit. 

More NITRO through the pipes with Gary Kraus and his “Pony Up” Mustang Funny Car against Jim Gifford’s Pontiac-bodied “Svengali” Nitro Coupe. Both these cars put on great shows with their candles lit all the way down the fabled quarter mile — with Kraus taking it 5.40 @ 215 mph to 6.17 @ 167 mph. 

Jim Gifford’s Pontiac-bodied “Svengali” was one of two Nitro Coupe in attendence.

The colourful Nostalgia Alky Funny Cars of Jami Russells and Krista Massarella were next with long smokey burnouts. The Iron Outlaw Mustang II of Jami Russells took out Krista’s Total Insanity Monza in a close race. 6.63 @ 206 to a 6.70@ 208. Next pairing featured the “Cape Codder” of Jon Wall versus the “Generation X “Vega of Matt Stambaugh. Wall strapped a 6.27 @ 221 to the 6.65 of Matt Stambaugh. 

The awesome Nitro Harley Davidson of Rob Brown was next to delight the crowd.

Chad and Damien Stephens rolled out their small block stick cars for some gear jamming action. Chad wheels the Thunderbird called “Dirty Bird” while Damien saddles a Mustang christened The “Omen”. 

Chad and Damien Stephens entertained the crowd with their fast Fords.

Providing a smoke show worthy of the ages – Dodge HellCat pilots Cory Williams aboard “Blue Thunder” and Chris Jacobs in the “Green Lightning” completely smoked in the starting line to the cheers of the crowd. (Take that Greta!)

Chris Jacobs “Green Lightning” Hellcat

The standing room only crowd were treated to a presentation of Cayuga’s up and coming Junior Dragster racers. “Camshaft” Kami Scott, Carter Daniels, The “Asphalt Angel” Paton Kiss, Alyssa Stewart, Charlize Bertrand, and Kate Gingerich showcased the class and made us all proud.

Second round of Nitro found the Paton team ready for another assault on the freshly resurfaced and levelled Cayuga race surface. The two cars left together with Todd in the right lane rattling the tires and trying to pedal the car. Meanwhile Jeff Chatterson was on a heater. An .887 short time produced a 4.17 at 304 mph with Chatterson getting precariously close to the concrete wall in the shutdown area. It was nice to see the magic 300 mph number on the scoreboards!

The two ANT HILL MOB cars appeared on the starting line next with Smax Smith occupying one and son Aidan Heatley Smith holding the butterfly in the other. They fired and did their burnouts and while they were backing up the tree went south and “Iron Mike” Vanni chose to armdrop start the pair of cackling beasts. While Aidan caught on — Smax told me later he was just confused as he sat there after the arms had dropped and his boy was at half track. Aidan made a decent pass, no tree no times, and Smax made it to about 400 feet before offering a sacrifice to the aluminum gods.

The always entertaining Smax Smith and his son Aidan once again gave it a go at Cayuga with their pair of Canadian-based Top Fuel dragsters.

The Nitro Funny Cars were soon smoking in the starting line with their burnouts. Gary Kraus ran a personal best 5.23 @ 235 to edge out Jim Gifford’s game 5.74 @ 208. Great to see Gary back behind the wheel!

To me one of the best parts of the Nitro Nationals are the True North Gassers. This group loves the old school approach to drag racing. Straight axles, radiused wheel wells,and fenderwell headers, and no electronics in sight. Featuring A/GS cars with carbs or injectors and AA/GS cars with blowers. John and Aaron Reid have put together an excellent series of cars from both sides of the border. These racers put the fun in racing.

“True North” Gassers were again a fan favourite event item!

To finish off the this portion of the Canadian Nitro Nationals, local Jet-setters Neale Armstrong and “Hollywood” Rick Kopp rolled their jets out of the staging lanes to an exceptionally receptive crowd. 

Race Director at TMP Neale Armstrong along with his Crew Chief Rob Hancock and #1 tire wiper Savini Fonseca towed the NORTHERN WARRIOR Jet Dragster in front of the crowd to begin the pre-race procedure. Once fired and after a killer show of smoke, flames, and burner pops Neale staged in the right lane. Known for his reaction times, he hammers the tree with a .012 reaction time and blasts to a 5.92 @ 275. The BONESHAKER of Rick Kopp is powered by the largest jet engine allowed, a J-79. This is the same power plant that Craig Breedlove used in the Spirit of America. “Hollywood” lived up to his name with a litany of massive burner pops and flames and smoke. As Rick covered the quarter-mile the sky erupted in fireworks!

Rick Kopp (from Burlington ON) wheeled his “Boneshaker” Jet Truck

But wait! There’s more! 

Sunday went so long that the Pro Mods and Outlaw Fast 16 program finished up on Monday. 

In Pro Mod there were 10 cars qualifying for 8 spots. Leading the list was Raymond Commisso with a stellar 3.77 at 197. Sam Andreacchi was next at 3.89 @ 192 with the bump spot held by the new car of Travis Gueguen. Moving to the semis Andreacchi got the bye while Jay Santos got around the Al Billes-tuned 69 Camaro of Raymond Commisso 3.71 @ 213 to 3.78 @ 204. Santos had struggled in qualifying with a 4.29 best — but saved his best for last.  For the final Sam knew he had to chop the tree down and he did with a 0.003 RT but at about 200 feet the car moved toward the centre line and he clicked it. Jay Santos laid down low ET and high MPH for the event with a 3.70 @ 213 mph – to nail down the victory.

Jay Santos won the Pro Mod feature 8-car eliminator in his potent Georgetown Ontario-based Camaro.

Travis Gueguen from Stratford ON drove his newly acquired nitrous-injected Pro Mod Camaro at TMP

The Outlaw Fast 16 series is a new class endeavor from the fertile mind of Ken Grossi. Featuring fast dragsters, roadsters, and door cars, this group fills a void for heads up fast car teams. This race was dedicated to the memory of Tony Positano who lost his life at last year’s Labour Day event. 

In the semis number one qualifier Mike Kalin out of Niagara Falls NY was drilled by the Corvette of Paul Coull. Kalin was number one with a mind-wacking 3.89. He lost with a 3.93 to Coull’s 5.23. On the other side of the ladder one time Junior Dragster Queen Shawna Woudstra had a freebee when Ken Grossi saw his car lockup after the burnout. The final round was over before it began with Paul Coull picking a cherry off the tree giving the victory to Shawna “Wanna Race”.  (PS:  She has been on a bit of a tear lately, winning in RCSS the week before!)

Shawn Woudstra (Waterdown ON) was impressive while winning the event’s “Outlaw Fast 16” class eliminator.

And with that the 14th Nitro Nationals were in the books — but with next year’s race already in the planning stages — Long Live NITRO!!!

Posted by Rob Potter

Photos courtesy of  John S Brown Photography