While it is true that the present day Mopar Canadian Nationals varies greatly from it’s original….that particular event’s success story continues….

Last weekend, for the 19th consecutive season, Mopar Canada presented it’s Mopar Canadian Nationals – now the single longest running major event in Canadian drag racing history.  The race, which during it’s “hey day” had been classified as an official IHRA circuit national event, has now out of necessity evolved into a 100% independent show, with Grand Bend Motorplex now in complete control for it’s feature car and eliminator contents. 

The 2018 version Mopar Canadian Nationals was thus exactly that again as GBM track management led by owner/operator Paul Spriet continued to demonstrate that the formula can and does work successfully.

The 3-day event, which kicked off on Friday evening, did play out under uncomfortably hot and humid conditions, but it also featured remarkably great spectator response.   Attending fans were witness to a myriad of feature class categories which was melded with a proven local racing formula.

Nitro-powered machines were again touted to be the main feature and that show proved to be pretty impactful evidenced by a couple of pretty significant track records being re-written.   While expectations were that a booked in 4-car field of Top Fuel dragsters would develop the headlines – we would argue that it was Quebec’s Daniel Mercier and Western New York’s Gary Kraus that ultimately stole the show.

For Daniel Mercier, it was his first ever racing appearance in the province of Ontario and the Montreal-based driver did make the best of that experience.   While he is now also dabbling within Top Fuel, for this race he brought in his NHRA circuit TAD car for an injected-nitro car match race versus Ontario’s Jeff Veale, another Canadian racer powerhouse in that class, who in fact debuted a brand new machine to the public for the first time this weekend.  (More info coming soon on that!)

Quebec’s Daniel Mercier made a very positive impression during his first ever venture racing in Ontario.

While Veale did struggle with some obgligtory new car blues, Daniel swept that competition and when he left the track on Sunday he had his hands firmly around both ends of the GBM track record at 5.32 secs 280.11 mph.  That effort eclipsed the A/FD marks set in 2017 here by Veale which was 5.35 secs 276.24 mph.  

Mercier’s terminal speed may also have proven to be a bit of an embarrassment for the four bonafide Top Fuel dragsters booked in — Larry Dixon, Kyle Wurtzel, Bruce Litton and Audrey Worm— as it was faster then any of those cars were capable of this particular weekend.

“I have to thank my team for this great weekend – Denis Choquette, Benoit Duquette and Andree-Anne Picard and the whole band at Grand Bend Motoplex,” Daniel said.  “We recorded the best speed ever (for the class there) – at a super 280 mph – I could not ask for more.”

For Gary Kraus, who is a very popular regular at Grand Bend Motorplex with his machine which morphs between being a AA/FA and a Nitro Nostalgia Funny Car – the event produced some serious and career best math for his team.  Kraus, racing with his “Pony Up” Mustang body on was credited with a stunning 5.453 secs at 266.74 mph which clobbered as far as we can tell Canada’s previous all time quick and fast mark – a 5.520 secs 259.44 mph (set last year at GBM by Ohio’s Mike McIntire.)  And while that was for sure significant – it was McIntire that did emerge the winner in the event’s 4-car “Chicago style” eliminator when he beat Greg Jacobsmeyer in Sunday’s final pairing.

Gary Kraus wowed the paying public with a record quick and fast run with his “Pony Up” Mustang.

Mike McIntire (near lane) defeated Greg Jacobsmeyer in the event’s 4-car “Chicago style” NFC eliminator

Race highlights included a pretty convincing and very rewarding win in Pro Modified by Toronto’s Sam Andreacchi – driver of the vastly improved “Wolf Electric Racing” ’69 Camaro.   Featuring a new supercharged Al Billes engine program for 2018, Sam won that 8-car eliminator when he beat Michigan’s Jason Kelso in the final round.  

(For more detail on Pro Mod racing at Grand Bend – visit our VP Racing Fuels Pro Mod Portal coverage : HERE

Toronto’s Sam Andreacchi won the event’s Pro Mod class feature.

Grand Bend’s Top Dragster and Top Sportsman programs both proved to be pretty well attended this weekend and that featured wins by locals Ed Smith (from Lasalle ON) in TD and by 2nd generation young driver Kayden Wicke (Stratford ON) in TS.

Smith, who qualified #10 for 16 cars, ultimately ran down another GBM regular Kevin Knight for the TD title with a winning 7.297 secs at 181.74 mph.   

Local “gunner” Ed Smith prevailed for a victory in TD

For Kayden Wicke, who is son to Kevin Wicke, his first win ever in the TS class proved to be a nice bonus for event sponsor Mopar, because Kayden was driving the K&K Racing 2006 Dodge Stratus.  He recorded a slowing final round 7.88 secs to defeat New York’s Billy Leber who had a red light foul start in the championship round racing his Pontiac Grand-Am.

2nd generation racer Kayden Wicke – scored his first ever victory during the Mopar Canadian Nationals (driving a Mopar!)

The race weekend also showcased an 8-bike field in the Nitro Harley division which included both American and Canadian racers.   Ryan Perry prevailed in the final round beating Jake Stordeur, and it was Bob Malloy who was the performance star of the race hitting both low ET and top speed during qualifying at 6.303 secs and 218.07 mph.

Nitro Harley class racing at Grand Bend included some awesome machines!

The 2018 edition Mopar Canadian National was buoyed by great ET bracket racer participation and also by an appearance for Ontario’s home grown Can-Am Stock/Super Stock series.  Complete ET Bracket racing programs were featured both days.  Saturday evening winners were Chris Van Balen (Box), Tony Youssef (No Box), Bob Rock (Bike/Sled) and Brooklyn Noakes (daughter to Paul and Gina) in Junior Dragster.

Brooklyn Noakes collected her first IHRA “Ironman” after winning in Junior Dragster racing on Saturday.

On Sunday afternoon wins were collected by local racing experts Andrew Stirk (Box) and Will Steckley (No Box) with other victories going to Landon Swain (Bike/Sled) and Carlie Duffy (Junior Dragster).

Can-Am Stock/SS titles went to Tom Craig’s D/CM Camaro over Dan Velenosi’s I/SA Chevelle (on Saturday) and on Sunday it was Chuck Nagy winning in a GT/IA Camaro over Mike McCafferly’s K/SA Chevy.  There were 30+ entries for both days of that class car competition.

Chuck Nagy powered to the Can-Am Stock/SS title on Sunday

The 2018 Mopar Canadian Nationals include a number of great exhibition vehicles – including Russ Lethbridge’s amazing “Hell Fire” Freightliner Jet Truck.

For DragRaceCanada’s extensive photo gallery from this race link to our co-production site:  HERE

Posted by Bruce Biegler

Photos by Bruce Biegler – Brennan Shortall – Darwin Kent