Racing his Hemi-powered 2014 Dodge Avenger, during the final rounds of the weather deferred conclusion to the IHRA’s Mopar Canadian Nationals, the Windsor Ontario area racer delivered what may very well become one of the most talked about wins for Canadian drag racing history.
Larry, in conjunction with his long time racing partner and brother Wayne, currently race the one and only Mopar car within the ferocious and Chevrolet and Ford brand dominated IHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock category. But on this day the O’Brien’s undeniable dedication emerged on top for the first time in their racing careers.
Running an extremely high tech 825 CID Hemi engine which is a very involved collaboration between O’Brien’s Bears Performance Products and engine building “guru” Jon Kaase, Larry combined some local knowledge with final determination to grab an “Ironman” for the first time. In the final round he ran a 6.543 secs at 216.34 mph to out gun the Chevy Camaro driven by Washington-state based racer J.R. Carr.
Prior to that O’Brien, who had qualified #8 had turned back the Chevy of John DeFlorian and the Ford of Matt Bertsch.
“To get my first ever win at my home track in my home country at a Mopar-sponsored event driving a Mopar – well I really couldn’t have written a better script,” said Larry post race. “We’ve come close a couple times before – but this time things finally aligned for us. I starting racing IHRA Pro Stock back in 1991 — so it’s been a really really long time coming!”
“This is the 3rd year we’ve been racing this car — but I had it updated by Jerry Haas last fall,” he added. “We are constantly working hard on our engine program and that’s paid some dividends. For this event (because of the hot conditions) the secret was really just to get down the track every time. That was our team focus and our strategy.”
Larry was also appreciative that his first big score also came in front of family and close friends in attendance.
“My brother Wayne has announced his retirement a couple times,” he laughed. “But he keeps coming back and for him to be here with me helping to tune our Hot Rod again was great. We’ve been racing together 30+ years – so I’m really glad I got to share this with him.”
Larry’s win was only the 3rd time in IHRA’s Mountain Motor national event format history that a Canadian car has won in the category. His win was preceded by only the two memorable victories during 2002 by John Konigshofer.
In the Crower-sponsored Pro Modified class — the field of cars at Grand Bend while disappointing in numbers was impressive in quality.
In the end that class featured a very telling victory for one of Canada’s most promising new star drivers, Paolo Giust, based from Osgoode Ontario.
Competing in only his third event of the season since debuting his spectacular G-Force Race Cars built Corvette C7 – Giust won the eliminator – upsetting heavy favourite and pole qualifier (5.91 secs) Eric Latino in the all Canadian final round.
Giust left the starting line first (with a .057 RT) and ran a winning 6.088 secs at 232.97 mph which covered Latino’s potent Quality Plus Compressors/GESI Camaro, which slowed from it’s rapid earlier pace due to a mechanical failure.
“The credit has to go to Jim & John Salemi (at G-Force) who have been right by my side in developing this car since I took delivery,” said Paolo. “They got the car to run really well in these very hot and tricky conditions — and that made my job driving a lot easier. We managed to win in only our third time out with car and I think that says a lot. I’ve been chasing an IHRA “Ironman” for quite a while and now I have one!”
Paolo and his wife Shannon were also quick to thank the IHRA and class presenting sponsor Crower for bringing back the Pro Mod class again for 2015. They confirmed they would like to participate at more of their events as that upswing continues on.
The IHRA’s Mopar Canadian Nationals also included more great action from their other signature Professional class eliminators – Nitro Funny Car, Nitro Harley and Jet Dragster.
The AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car presented by Aeromotive class was won by Pacific Northwest based racer Mark “Mr. Explosive” Sanders driving his 1970 Mustang bodied machine.
Sanders faced off against current IHRA points leader Jason Rupert for the title and it was Sanders that walked away victorious. He used a brilliant .008 RT holeshot and strong 5.804 secs, 249.86 mph run to upset Rupert’s much quicker 5.765 secs at 249.79 mph in the title round.
Sanders had entered eliminations after qualifying #3 and took the measure of Canadian Tim Boychuk and then Shawn Bowen in rounds one and two.
In an event oddity — IHRA FC points leader Jason Rupert had been credited with an astounding (and record quick) 5.547 secs times slip during Saturday’s final qualifying session. However that run was eventually disqualified after further investigation revealed there was a likely timing malfunction.
In the IHRA’s ferocious Nitro Harley class Maryland’s Bob Malloy dominated the weekend — posting the quickest times in qualifying and following it up with a win.
Malloy went up against Tracy Kile (from North Carolina) in the finals and the duo had near identical speeds with 211.66 mph and 211.36 mph, respectively. Malloy’s .133 reaction time and 6.542 second run proved to be the deciding factor against Kile’s .276 at 6.657.
The Jet Dragster finals placed last week’s winner from U.S. 131 Motorsports Park, Marisha Falk against Kat Moller. Marisha Falk left the starting line before the tree activated which handed the win to Kat Moller. Moller ran a 5.940 at 272.06 mph and the win marked her third of the 2015 season.
The event also featured (courtesy of GBM) four booked in nitro powered dragsters in a special exhibition eliminator.
Indiana’s Bruce Litton was awarded that title when he won his Sunday afternoon match versus Canada’s Todd Paton. Litton made a 4.977 secs pass at 264.70 mph against Paton’s 5.113 secs at 284.62 mph.
That 4-car eliminator also included Smax Smith driving Bob Leverich’s car and a special appearance by the NHRA circuit regular A/FD raced by the Veale Family (Stoney Creek, ON). Driver Jeff Veale delivered a couple of very impressive runs in that feature — hitting a 5.42 secs at 272.31 mph — good for both ends of the GBM track record for cars of that configuration.
Sportsman class racing featured a very rousing Summit Racing Pro-Am circuit date. Despite being outnumbered greatly by Canadian drivers — in fact every single IHRA class eliminator was won by visiting U.S. based racers!
Those winners included Chris Cadle (Top Dragster), John Hochstedler (Top Sportsman) A.D. Adkins (Super Stock), Thomas Fletcher (Stock) John Hickman (Quick Rod), Jacob Elrod (Super Rod) and Will Crawford (Hot Rod).
The Mopar sponsored race also welcomed a special all Hemi Super Stock shootout (organized by Canadian class proponent Kevin Dundas) which attracted a 12-car field and which was won by Michigan’s Jerry Kassin.
Posted with files from Bruce Biegler and Shayna Keller
Photos by: Bruce Biegler, Brennan Shortall, John Marechal and Rob Potter
To view DragRaceCanada’s extensive event photo gallery click: HERE