New to DragRaceCanada going forward will be some regular in-depth and behind the scenes posts including Canada’s famous Paton Racing team…
Hey race fans! My name is Yvonne Potter, crew member on the Paton Racing NHRA Top Fuel Dragster Team based out of Paris, Ontario.
I have been with the team for almost 4 years now, living my dream learning the ins-and-outs of professional nitro racing. It’s been the time of my life and I am very excited to share the experience with DragRaceCanada readers in this blog!
It’s been a busy 50th Anniversary season for our team from the Pro Winter Warmup in January right to the World Finals in Pomona. After being on the road for over two months we are back home and the off-season is already in full swing. The Paton Family Dragster (owned by Barry and son Todd Paton) has been stripped down to a bare chassis. Car chief (and my boyfriend) Mark Morris and I have been working in the shop nightly to get everything perfect for the 2016 season which is shaping up to be a busy one.
More on our plans for next year later, but I should reflect on 2015 first. As with any level of racing, the highs are high and the lows are low and it can change quickly – in our case, under 4 seconds. I guess that is what makes us so passionate about what we do, and the end of the season really hit this home for me. When Barry was injured during first round qualifying in Vegas in October, the team collectively stepped back and we decided as a group to sit-out the remainder of the race. When the ‘Captain’ arrived back at the track in good spirits but various shades of black and blue, I think everyone felt more motivated than ever to get our Canadian entry running well for him.
However Pomona two weeks later did not provide much better results, we missed qualifying with a spectacular fire-ball making for a long night of servicing the car before packing up and heading home. During this off-season we will regroup in more ways than one and plan to take a trip to Phoenix at the end of January for some testing.
The trip out west was still worthwhile – we made three laps during Las Vegas’ “Monday Nationals” after the race to complete A-Fuel sensation and Racepak employee Cameron Ferre’s Top Fuel license. It was such an honor to have a part in his lifelong dream come true and he (not that I had any doubt) did a great job in the car. There are so many young guns in drag racing, and having my now good friend Gabrielle McDonald in Vegas really had me thinking about my future in this sport as well. Irish drag racer Gabby made the jump from Junior Dragster to Top Fuel at the age of 21, and she inspires me everyday to keep chasing that 300 mph dream of my own.
In West Palm Beach during this years PRO test session we licensed Shawn Reed (pictured below with myself and Barry Paton) who then competed in the Gatornationals, Dallas and Pomona at the end of the year. Since I have been with the team we have licensed 4 drivers and had a total of 9 different drivers in the seat. Shawn comes from years of success in Pro Mod Boats and having only driven a super comp dragster a handful of times before getting strapped into the Top Fuel car, he has proved he is a natural. The people are what make this sport awesome and Shawn is no exception, also bringing his sponsor Hughes Oilfield Transportation on-board with us. Texas based Barbara and Floyd Hughes are avid water and asphalt racing fans and some of the nicest people you will meet. Shout-out to Barbara for the comfy ‘H.O.T’ sweatpants that have been keeping me warm during this chilly winter!
A highlight for me this year was match racing in Lancaster, NY on the eve of my birthday. As much as I was having a complex about now being over 25-years-old, there was nowhere else I would have rather been than 1/8th mile racing with the Lagana brothers at the smallest hometown facility we’ve been to. Having stepped on racing surfaces such as Charlotte’s zMAX (appropriately named ‘The Bellagio’ of drag strips), I was humbled and impressed by the turnout of fans and race cars on that overcast Friday night in Lancaster.
It was also the first time I have seen Todd Paton a bit nervous before a run, but Bobby Lagana gave him 1/8th mile driving advice – “hold your foot down until the 330, pull the chutes and let off the throttle when they tug” – judging by our driver’s grins when we picked them up from the top end, it was just as much of a rush for them as it was for us to watch side-by-side Top Fuel cars blast into the darkness in under 3 seconds!
The big-show NHRA races are great but match racing can be even better for different reasons. Putting on a show of flames, noise and speed for a packed grandstand full of nitro-crazy hometown fans has made for some of the best times I can remember with the Paton Racing team. For me personally, it is a chance to interact with fans and the future of drag racing. It’s my goal to inspire young women to chase their dreams, especially if it is an alternative career in a male dominated field or trade. During this year’s Nitro Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park I had the chance to be on the radio discussing our team, women in motorsports, and what Top Fuel is all about. It was so exciting to promote drag racing and one of the biggest events in Canada at my home track.
Over the next month and a half we will be hard at work getting ready for the 2016 season, only 51 days until the first NHRA race! In starting this blog I hope to give readers an inside look at life for Canada’s Top Fuel team and follow along as I start my own career as a driver, with the debut of my super pro dragster this year. Thank you to Bruce Biegler, Todd and Barry Paton, and our entire team for your constant support with every opportunity I’ve been blessed with. I will catch up with everyone soon, have a Merry Christmas!
Click here to “Like” Paton Racing Top Fuel on Facebook for more updates, photos and video!