Heritage Honours Come to Canada
Canadian drag racing “Guru” Les Davenport and his son Ryan scored a huge accomplishment during the 2014 drag racing season winning the overall A/Fuel Dragster national points championship within NHRA’s Hot Rod Heritage Series….
The reputed and highly innovative Alberta team, which also includes sometimes driver and co-owner Jirka Kaplan, wrapped up that prestigious title (which features alcohol burning supercharged versus injected nitro – front motored dragsters in competition) during the recent NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion event out at Bakersfield.
While the team has over the past few seasons notched numerous high profile event wins within the series (5X winners at Bakersfield), their 2014 was a year of domination, qualifying #1 at all events attended except one. That all led up to the first time they have prevailed overall on the season points podium.
“We’ve had quite a bit of success at the two major races in Bakersfield since 2010,” Ryan confirmed. “I’ve won both the March Meet and the California Hot Rod Reunion, and my Dad has also won the March Meet and has won the CHRR twice. In 2014 we ran very quick (a 6.15 secs in Sacramento) and we won the March Meet to start of the season which seemed to set us on the right path. But we’ve never won the season championship before so was nice to get that out of the way.”
In 2014 they campaigned what has proven to be a very tried a true combination. Their 2010 chassis by Dennis Sarmento encompasses a specialty built and ever evolving 369 CID alcohol burning BAE engine featuring the magic touch of Les Davenport.
“This engine is basically left over from Jirka Kaplan’s time in the nostalgia AA/GS class that he was running in 2008,” Ryan revealed. “In actuality It’s the smallest engine in the A/Fuel class. My Dad owns the car and some of the engine parts and Jirka owns the other parts. Our strategy is we run the car real hard early on the track and then just hold on until the finish line. We run quite a bit quicker for the first 330 feet than the rest of the field and that’s how we make our ET – we don’t run much top end terminal speed compared to other competitors. We’ve been as quick as .946 seconds in 60 feet, which is plenty fast for a front-engined dragster with limited tire size.”
Ryan also cited the important behind the scenes support he and his team receive both at and away from races.
“The car built by Dennis Sarmento and it is obviously a top-quality piece of work. Wade Ramsey is a fabricator and welder at Sarmento’s chassis shop and he has a big role on our crew at the races, and Mike “the Cookie Man” makes the occasional trip out as well (and brings lots of cookies along). Steve Ovis & Roddy McMillan helped out some this year too.”
Ryan and Les were also pumped with regards to the surge in popularity that the A/Fuel dragster class category is presently receiving. While in the past some fields have been short – at Bakersfield recently a record 19-cars were entered in the class — which they paced with a #1 qualifying effort of 6.257 secs.
“It’s a really good sign to see so many A/Fuel cars in Bakersfield,” Ryan added. “Some older cars that don’t run too often were out, and there were new cars there as well. You can expect Drew Austin (son to Pat Austin) to become one of the top competitors in the class – because the Austin family won’t be coming out just to fill up empty spots in the field!”
With that season accomplishment now stroked off their bucket list — their racing plans for going forward hold some possible exciting new developments and/or direction.
“Right now I can’t guess what our exact plans are for next season,” Ryan admitted. “We may come back again as we were, or maybe we’ll take the opportunity to change the combination. We’re even mulling the idea of a move to Nostalgia Top Fuel. Dad is busy with John Lombardo Jr.’s TAFC and it’s possible he might end up with them full time next season. I know he also wants to put more effort into the Bonneville Salt Flats streamliner that he drives. One of his goals is attempting to be the first wheel-driven car over 500 mph (!) – so who knows.”
Photos & Posting by: Bruce Biegler