For the 17X Ontario’s Grand Bend Motorplex hosted the IHRA’s Mopar Canadian Nationals last weekend…
Now Canada’s single longest running national event format race, this entertaining weekend that is diligently supported by Mopar Canada featured a great mixture of both local talents and invading IHRA circuit racers.
The event was highlighted by some exciting Professional victories – not the least of which was a first ever win by the Aruba tourism Pro Stock Mustang raced by Trevor Eman.
After two consecutive runner-up finishes, Trevor Eman collected his first IHRA “Ironman”. Jay Turner (Nitro Motorcycle), Mark Sanders (AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car) and Billy Harper (Pro Mod) also won respective Pro titles at Grand Bend Motorplex.
Eman was the runner up at both the IHRA Good Vibrations Texas Nationals in April and last week’s President’s Cup Nationals in Mechanicsville, Md. He defeated J.R. Carr in the final round – it was the third time in as many years that Carr and Eman met in the Mopar Canadian Nationals final round.
“It feels really nice to get the win,” Eman said. “It’s one of the furthest races from home so we are antsy to get home and share it with everybody. Last weekend in Budds Creek was tough for us. We blew a motor, made it to the final with a backup motor, scraped the wall in the final, went back to South Carolina to patch everything back up and fixed the motor. After 48 hours, we got back in the truck to come here so to make it all happen today is very satisfying. The third time’s the charm.”
Sanders, who also won the 2015 Mopar Canadian Nationals, won the AMSOIL Nitro Funny Car title with a 5.725-second effort on a final-round single run. Fellow finalist and No. 1 qualifier Jason Rupert broke on the starting line and was unable to make the run. Like Pro Stock, this year marked the third-consecutive year that Sanders and Rupert met in the Mopar Canadian Nationals final round.
“The car was right down the boardwalk here at the IHRA Canadian Nationals,” Sanders said. “We made five runs in the 5.70s and never hurt anything. It was a great crowd at a great place and a great win. Our car went down the left lane, but I know everybody was picking the right lane. If they say, ‘what lane do you want?’ I look at the crowd, and I want to be closest to the crowd. That Ford Mustang’s gonna go right down Broadway, and it did this weekend.”
Turner, who won the Good Vibrations Texas Nationals in April in Nitro Motorcycle, won his second race of the season at the Mopar Canadian Nationals with a final-round win over Tracy Kile. With the win, Turner increased his points lead over Randal Andras, but it wasn’t easy.
It was a struggle,” Turner said. “Every round, it was something – spark plus, blowing out the heads, starter cards, fuel-system boxes, oil pump – everything. Every round was a struggle. The final round was smooth – I think we just willed it to the winner’s circle. It wanted us to quit, but we weren’t quitting.”
Harper won his second Pro Mod race of the 2016 season with a final-round win over No. 1 qualifier Bruce Boland; Like Turner, he also took top honors at the Good Vibrations Texas Nationals in April. Since he was the only top-five Pro Mod driver competing in the Mopar Canadian Nationals, Harper will enjoy a significantly larger points lead following the event.
“It’s great – the car’s just on rails,” Harper said. “The crew I’ve got had it set up, and my job’s easy – just let the clutch out and hang on. It’s been a great weekend, and I love the fans up here. We need this in the U.S. where we can get all the fans back at the track. The guys (Canadian Pro Mod racers) up here are a fun bunch of guys – they’re great to race with; we’re hoping we can get them to the States to race with us some.”
The event featured a unique four car Top Fuel shootout with the winner determined based on the best elapsed time over a series of exhibition runs over the event’s 3 days.
Racing a full 1/4 mile — it was Canadian fan favourite Todd Paton who made the quickest pass of the weekend Friday night when was credited a 4.852 seconds run in the Paton Racing dragster which is based from nearby Paris Ontario.
Also making Top Fuel exhibition runs were Bruce Litton (from Indianapolis) and Ike Maier and Smax Smith from Ontario. Smith was credited with the top speed overall for the event – when he took Bob Leverich’s dragster to a 295.76 mph clocking.
The Mopar Canadian Nationals also featured two separate complete events for the IHRA’s Pro-Am Sportsman division racers.
Saturday’s race winners were Jeff Lewis (Super Stock) Dan Velenosi (Stock) Thomas Brown (TS), Benny Smith (TD), Tony Fabiano (S/R), Nick Karas (Q/R) and Doug Wood (H/R).
Sunday’s Pro-Am division titles went to Benny Smith (again in TD!), John Hochstedler (TS), Pete D’Agnolo (Super Stock) Michael McGrath (Stock), Ken Hebert (Q/R), Jacob Elrod (S/R) and James Unum (H/R).
Posted with files by Rob Goodman and Bruce Biegler
All photos by Bruce Biegler and Brennan Shortall