Mission Reopens with Major Feature
After enduring some lengthly delays for their planned track earlier in 2014 resurfacing – it was back to business for British Columbia’s Mission Raceway on August 22-23….
When the schedule at Mission Raceway Park had to be juggled due to the late completion of the repaving process this year, the big mid-summer Lucas Oil Canadian National Open and Jet Tools Nostalgia Funny Car show was combined with the already-planned SMS Equipment/K-Rents Smoke Fire and Thunder event, and expectations were high that, with all those NFCs joining four jets, two wheelstanders, two AA/FAs, and a full field of Pro Mod/Pro Street, the weekend would see the biggest race in the track’s 20-year history.
Well, in terms of the number of Funny Cars that showed up, that didn’t quite work out as planned. Organizers already knew that the American BB/FC group couldn’t make it, although a couple of Canadian cars that run with them made it. The Rocky Mountain FC group was expected as usual, but with races in Alberta both last week and next week, only Cal Tebb and his popular GTO made it. And, expectations were for eight nitro cars to make it, which was not unreasonable considering this was an NHRA Heritage Series event, and that there have been a 10 or 12 cars here the past few years.
The final tally was four of the best nitro cars from this corner of the continent, along with four alky cars. Did that keep the fans away? Nope, as the Friday and Saturday night shows, under perfect conditions, brought them out in great numbers. In fact, most observers believe that Saturday night’s crowd was the biggest in the track’s history, with the grandstands full and the fences five-deep all the way to the end of the track.
On both evenings, the fans witnessed a great show on the new concrete track surface. Friday saw one run each from the feature cars, and the performance star was Devery Howard, the latest driver in Twig Ziegler’s familiar Plymouth Satellite. He surprised everyone with a seven-cylinder 5.64 at 255.39 mph, just a tick off Tim Nemeth’s track and Canadian record 5.63, and the track and Canadian record for speed.
Saturday night, with two sessions scheduled, had everyone looking for more big runs, and the nitro cars delivered mixed results. Kris Krabill blasted a strong 5.76 / 255.60 (another Canadian speed record) in Bucky Austin’s car, while Tim Nemeth again had trouble getting down the track, getting way out of shape, up on two wheels and brushing the wall. “It was just a flesh wound,” he laughed afterwards.
There were lots of strong runs laid down from the other cars, too. Cal Tebb led the alky FCs with steady 6.70s. The AA fuel altereds were anything but wild and wooly, as Randy Bradford ran a 6.51, and Tom Padilla took low ET with a 6.46. The jets were solidly in the fives with great runs, and in Pro Street, Dale Pedersen backed up his Friday low qualifier, and personal best, 6.17 with a 6.21 from his turbo Monte Carlo.
Sunday was a bit more subdued, with regular class elims for the National Open. The Funny Cars and Pro Street cars ran their program, too, and the nitro cars began with Krabill against Sitko. The Albertan stayed pretty consistent, running 5.93/245, but Bucky Austin’s car was too much for him, turning a 5.87/247. The other pairing saw Tim Nemeth again fail to make a complete run, which handed the win, and low ET of the round, to Devery Howard, who pedalled his way to a 5.87/226.
With Cal Tebb’s GTO solidly in the 6.70s all weekend, and Brent Murray not far behind in the 6.80s, it was no surprise that the pair hooked up in the finals, and the times were reflective of the trend, Tebb winning at 6.76 to Murray’s 6.86 in a good race.
Pro Street came down to a battle between the two quickest cars on the property, Jay Syvertsen’s blown ’57 Chevy which showed 6.10 strength in the semis, and Dale Petersen’s turbo Chevy, and a wild pedalling contest saw Syvertsen take the win, 7.88-8.10.
As the nitro FCs pulled in for their final, Kris Krabill had a fresh motor in the car after ventilating one in the semis, while Devery Howard was looking to back up his earlier 5.64, and deny Krabill the win he needed for the Heritage Series points. Twig’s Satellite did the job, running a good 5.79/235, while Bucky’s Firebird ate more aluminum parts en route to a 6.01/232.
So, while the number of Funny Cars entered for what was supposed to be the biggest race of the season was a not-unexpected disappointment under the circumstances, the Saturday night show was a huge happening, and in some ways, made this event, on a brand new track surface, one of the biggest ones ever at Mission Raceway Park.
Post and Photos by: Gerry Frechette