Canada’s now single longest running drag racing team received a very nice boost of confidence following a strong performance last weekend….
With team patriarch Barry Paton at the helm and Barry’s son Todd in the cockpit, the ever aspiring Paton Racing team (based from Paris ON) ran very well while competing at NHRA’s New England Nationals at Epping NH.
Their weekend including some career best math and some significant firsts for both car and driver within NHRA’s elite Top Fuel class category.
After qualifying #12 for the field with a (then career best) 3.935 secs, Todd Paton next proceeded to win his first round pairing during Monday’s rain-deferred event conclusion. In that match he outran the highly funded Monster Energy dragster raced by John Force’s daughter Brittany. Then in round #2 Todd’s team dealt out another career quick time — 3.911 secs – but that effort was edged out by current NHRA points leader opponent Doug Kalitta’s 3.817 secs in his Mac Tools sponsored dragster.
For the Paton Racing team, who first switched to Top Fuel dragsters back in 2003 and who did enjoy some good winning success within IHRA circuit racing and also an illustrious NHRA career racing in the TAFC class, the Top Fuel round win at Epping was in fact their first in NHRA Top Fuel competition.
“It feels great that we got our first round win as a team – finally,” said Todd Paton. “Although we’ve been running in the Top Fuel class for a while we really have not been participants at a lot of NHRA races. We used to go rounds back when we ran Nitro Funny Car, but Top Fuel has been a different story. It’s kind of funny that my last round win came against John Force, Brittany’s father, back in 2002 at Maple Grove.”
For sure there are a lot of positive takeaways for the Paton Racing team from last weekend. For any lightly funded team to turn on a win light at any time within this expensive and elite NHRA class category is both pretty rare and always noteworthy.
“At this race we got an amazing effort from everyone on the race team,” Todd continued. “We had to swap motors after winning the first round and we just barely made it back up. We didn’t start the car (on nitro) until right before the burnout.”
“In the run against Doug we got our best early numbers ever too,” he added. “The car went 276 mph to half track and that is the fastest we’ve ever gone by a mile. But at that point I did see Kalitta was ahead of me – and I didn’t want to kill another motor — so I lifted. But the car still went 3.91 secs at only 283 mph coasting for the last 200 feet. We looked at our Racepak data recorder later and that could have been a 3.87 or 3.88 (secs).”
Todd, Barry and supporting staff are now more confident in their Top Fuel racing operation then they have ever been before – and they should be. Their 2016 racing season has produced a very steady and very noticeable upward swing.
“This all started with the race car being rebuilt from scratch over the winter led by our Mark Morris,” Todd continued. “Then Bobby and Dom Lagana and John Stewart helped to really point us in the right direction. The dividends of all that started to show at Gainesville when our driver there (Ike Maier) ran the car down the track consistently in the 3.9 secs zone. Now with the results from last weekend — everyone on our team is feeling very inspired.”
The short term racing schedule for Paton Racing is now a pretty busy one. They will try to take their new momentum into NHRA Englishtown next weekend with Shawn Reed scheduled to drive the car. After that the team will head back north and be entered for both the IHRA Mopar Canadian Nationals at Grand Bend and then the Canadian Nitro Nationals at Cayuga the weekend after. Todd Paton will drive the car at both those events.
“Our race team is extremely proud of it’s Canadian Heritage and doing well at the Canadian races in front of our home fans is always a priority to us,” Todd affirmed. “We want to do well in our own back yard for sure.”
Beyond the Canadian event dates and then a couple of match race bookings – the racing schedule for the Paton Racing team for the rest of 2016 is still to be determined. They would like to venture back out for additional select national events during the NHRA season’s second half. But the harsh reality is that being a 100% independent funded operation is understandably a constraint — frustratingly holding back on what might or could be.
“Right now this is all coming out of Dad’s pocket — whenever his Canada Pension cheque shows — he goes out and buys more race car parts,” Todd laughed. “We are always seeking some interested partners to help us finance some more participation.”
Editors Note: (Coming in a Bit) — Todd Paton is also deeply involved in the creation of a second new racing project in conjunction with his company Racepak – where he is the Operations, Sales & Customer Support Manager. That involves a new rolling laboratory nitro-burning Nostalgia Funny Car – which should hit the drag strips later this season. DragRaceCanada will be posting a behind the scenes separate feature on all that in the near future.
Posted by Bruce Biegler
Photos by Dave DeAngelis, Gary Nastase and Bruce Biegler