We are not going to claim this has never happened — but we do need someone to remind us the last time it did occur…(?)….

During last week’s NHRA Virginia Nationals there was a true rarity for Top Fuel class car racing with the entry list featuring no less than three Canadian based Top Fuel dragsters.

That grouping was lead by wily veteran Barry “The Captain” Paton who for the first time ever fielded two dragsters based from his Paris Ontario facility at the same event.  “PR1″ was driven by his son Todd and “PR2” was driven by Ike Maier (Tottenham ON).

The team’s objective was to test and also attempt to qualify both machines — and they did come pretty darn close to doing the latter.  Todd Paton qualified #13 with pass of 3.926 secs during his rather impressive one and only time trial.  Ike Maier’s best run was a 4.265 secs which just missed the cut – being 17th best.

“The Captain” certainly had a full plate at NHRA VMP when his team entered two Top Fuel dragsters — driven by Todd Paton (top) and Ike Maier.

During round one of competition on Sunday — Todd did have his hands full both literally and figuratively — when he lined up against none other than the defending NHRA Mello Yello World Champion – Steve Torrence.  With severely hot atmospheric and track conditions being somewhat of an equalizer — Todd did run a very competitive 3.926 secs at 309.63 mph — but in the end that proved to be no match for Torrence’s 3.845 secs at 321.73 mph in the far lane.   And we should mention that Steve did go on to win the race — notching his 3rd win in row and for the season so far for “Team Capco”.

“For our team it was an interesting event effort to say the least,” said Todd Paton post race.  “We had come here to test on a premium track surface and we tried to get both cars in.  But Ike’s car just missed by a bit when it broke a rocker arm on the last qualifier.”

“For me in qualifying it was a one-shot wonder,” he added.  “I had not been in a Top Fuel car or down the track for close to a year.   We made some changes to the car since the last time I was in it, which resulted in improved times and consistency during the latter half of 2018.  Clutch lock up is very aggressive now — way more than I’ve ever felt.  At 400-500 feet out — I was quickly reminded how important it is to keep on top of it as a driver.  The experience certainly did knock off any cobwebs for me going forward into the rest of the season.”

While the possibility of additional NHRA national event appearances this season for Paton Racing’s 2-car effort is TBA – Canadian fans will get a chance to see exactly that and soon.  Both machines will stage up for the Canadian Nitro Nationals at Cayuga Dragway in a couple weeks (June 29-30).

Quebec’s Daniel Mercier was also in attendance at the Virginia event — entering Top Fuel with his own team and car for the 3rd time in his short career.

Through a partnership with Terry McMillen’s Amalie Motor Oil Racing Team (including Terry’s crew chief Rob Wendland), Daniel made two qualifying runs and did get into the program on the bump at 4.124 secs.

Terry McMillen and Dan Mercier discuss Top Fuel racing strategy at VMP.

In round one Daniel was defeated by Clay Millican — but his team took away more data and experience as DM Racing advances its Professional Top Fuel class racing aspirations.

Daniel Mercier did confirm he is entertaining the idea for some additional NHRA national events this season.  Racing at the NHRA New England Nationals in Top Fuel in early July — are firm.   But after that he will shift his focus again to running his potent injected nitro car within the NHRA’s Lucas Oil Divisional Series for most of the summer season.  

Daniel did reveal however that taking his Top Fuel operation out West for the two season ending NHRA national events at Las Vegas and Pomona — may very well be on his season radar.

Post by Bruce Biegler 

Photos by Bruce Biegler & Dave DeAngelis