Yvonne Potter provides the latest inside report from within Canada’s most prominent Top Fuel Racing Team!…
Do you ever feel like there are not enough hours in the day? I have been working, racing, and traveling non-stop this summer and apologize for the delay in keeping readers up to date with what has been going on in the Paton Racing shop and at the track! Let’s start back in June where we competed in Epping and Englishtown. To say the least it has been a successful 2016 season and the momentum picked up at these back-to-back National Events.
Todd Paton drove the car in Epping, and after an intense practice tree competition between us during dinner I could tell he was ready to go on Saturday. We qualified with a clean 3.93 at 310 mph and were set to line up against Brittany Force in the first round of eliminations but unfortunately the weather had different plans. Sunday was a wet and gloomy day but the down time was great, spent playing video games in the trailer and enjoying the delicious food local crew guy Dave True so generously provides for us each time we make the trip to New Hampshire.
Working on this team for the past 4 years and pouring my heart into what we do, I’ve dreamed of the day that ‘win’ light was going to come on. Todd and Brittany Force left the line side-by-side on Monday, at about half track her tires began to spin up in smoke and Todd never looked back. He ran a not-so-pretty 4.02 but nonetheless this was the first ever Top Fuel round win for Barry and the team, and I am so glad my ‘big brother’ Todd was the one in the driver’s seat!
But the celebration would have to wait as the blower belt shredded down track and it subsequently threw the rods out. If you’ve ever wondered what that means, it is a literal (cringe worthy) term for when the motor malfunctions and the connecting rods break during a run with so much force they can even exit the motor through the solid billet aluminum block.
The thrash to get ready for second round was hectic, now with NHRA live on Fox Sports on race day it means the turnaround time is (if you can believe it) even shorter, but the adrenaline was pumping. We had no choice but to pull the hurt block and swap it for one of the fresh motors kept in the trailer. Above winning first round many of us see making the call for second round against Doug Kalitta as a greater accomplishment. I got my cardio workout in that day as there was no pause between servicing the car and jogging to the 330′ to back-up Todd from his burnout! We kept “Dougie” honest in second round, running a 3.91 to his 3.81. This to date is our personal best E.T, and without having time to do a warm-up before the round it is something to be especially proud of. Epping left me feeling over the moon about the future of the Paton family dragster, and the potential to see that elusive sub 3.9 second run very soon.
Englishtown did not provide the same success. Hughes Oilfield Transportation sponsored driver Shawn Reed was back in the seat but the track proved tricky and we again battled blower belt issues. The highs are high and the lows are low in racing, and this was all too real leaving E-Town feeling low after the high of that round win in Epping just a week earlier.
Since then we have taken a break from the “big-show” and hit the road for a summer of match racing. I’m sure many of you attended the Canadian Nitro Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park this year, which holds a big place in my heart – the staff is like family, and the facility has to be one of the best in the country. This year Mark and I had the opportunity to drive a Ferrari around the road course at TMP before displaying the dragster for the media. I was honored to be interviewed by the Hamilton Spectator’s Tim Miller who had an article published a couple of weeks later discussing our team, women in motorsports, and my own dream come true to wrench on a Top Fuel Dragster. Local events like this one in Cayuga are great for our families and friends to be able to spend the day at the track with us.
Later in July, Todd pushed the limit and set the track E.T and MPH record at Lancaster Dragway at their Night of Nitro. This event is very well attended, very professionally managed and in my opinion sets the bar for what match racing is all about. Hometown fans were excited and eager, packing into the pits to soak up some nitro fumes as we warmed up alongside Dom Lagana. Shirley Muldowney held the track record at Lancaster for 20 years with an E.T of 3.47 before Todd ran a 3.30 at 229 mph down the famed 1/8th mile track that Friday night. We then re-set the speed record later that night with a blistering 233 mph pass.
One of my favorite moments from this summer of match racing was when a young fan confidently told to me “Do you know why this dragster has wings? Because it’s like an airplane except it uses them to push the car down and a plane uses wings to lift it up”. I was very impressed by this beaming eight year-old and introduced him to Barry who has flown many different types of aircraft in his lifetime. After sitting in the dragster he told me he was going to become an engineer and design race cars like this one day, I hope he is right!
Way up on one of those “high’s” I mentioned we serviced the car and loaded up for one more race with Dom and Bobby Lagana, this time at their home track in Englishtown where we put on a show for a packed house. I stood down track before the first run and smiled in awe – it was like déjà vu, as there was no difference between attendance at this Wednesday night match race and the NHRA Summernationals a month earlier. Once we were back home, the work shifted to getting my own dragster finished. We have been building it for over two years now and to finally hear the motor fire up was emotional at best, but I feel even more lucky to have been able to take it to the track twice since then. Now I only need two full passes to complete my Super Comp license, and with an 8.83 as the best E.T so far I’m excited to see what this car can do!
In the past couple of weeks at the shop we have re-focused our efforts back to NHRA drag racing, and will head to Charlotte with driver Cameron Ferre making his Top Fuel debut with our team. Stay up to date by following the Paton Racing Top Fuel Dragster Facebook page, there will be live video and results from Charlotte and races to come. It’s getting chilly in Canada, but our racing season is just heating up!