Canadian drivers didn’t win titles at NHRA Chicago last weekend …. but their participation in that marquee annual event has maintained a high standard….
Four Canadian racers represented both Canada and their NHRA Lucas Oil Divisions last weekend for the marquee annual Jegs Sportsman All Stars event at Chicago. That event (the 33rd annual!) showcases a gathering of what is – put simply – the most elite Sportsman racers in North America in a head to head showdown for both annual bragging rights and a lucrative purse courtesy of Jegs.
Mike Shannon, from Kelowna BC, who finished in the “top ten” in final NHRA Lucas Oil World Championship points last year – in two separate categories (2nd in Super Comp and 7th in Super Gas) – qualified again for the event. In fact he represented his NHRA Northwest Division in both those classes.
But this weekend the drag racing gods did not shine on Mike as he suffered extremely minuscule first round losses – which clearly illustrated how very uber tough racing in the Jegs All Stars event is.
Mike fell in a double break out round to event Super Comp Sunday event winner Austin Williams – by a too close to call 8.878 to 8.876 secs margin. Then in Super Gas Shannon’s ’57 Corvette was edged out by Rusty Cook in an equally heart-wrenching 9.925 to 9.930 secs decision.
“I’ve done a lot of racing and I can’t recall losing two rounds consecutively by such close of a margin,” Mike reflected.
The event featured some very deserving first time participation by Edmonton’s Trevor Ritchie who along with his wife Kelly, qualified their gorgeous TNT-built car in Top Dragster.
Ritchie’s machine which now features a supercharged engine program from Gary Stinnett, fell in round one of the All Stars event to Jesse Adams despite running a very competitive time to this dial in.
“This was really fun and eye opening for us to mix it up against the very best there is,” said Trevor. “For us it’s both a celebration and a honour — but to be honest it was a bit intimating too when we first got here. This field was very fast – we were 31st of 32 cars after the first qualifier which is something we are not really used to. We had to speed the car up from our usual comfort zone – just to get into the show. But all in all after coming here for the first time — we learned a lot!”
Manitoba’s Gord Gingles and his car owner Clif Bakx participated at the Jegs All Stars event for the 2nd time representing the Central Region in their careers with their fan favourite and ever improving “The Bull” injected nitro car.
That team unfortunately fell to the wrath of defending NHRA World Champion Chris Demke in both the Jegs and the overall event TAD eliminators – losing decisively those matches.
Prior to that however Gingles qualified nicely for the super fast TAD field hitting a 5.328 secs at 274.16 mph (#7 of 16 cars) and then beating Brandon Booher in round one.
Paul Noakes – from London Ontario – qualified for the Jegs All Stars TAFC field following a terrific event run-up late last season and earlier this season.
Racing his Meritor/Fleetbrake Mustang – Paul had high hopes entering the race with that potent machine. But some untimely engine damage the weekend before in testing resulted in the team being forced to used their secondary motor at Joliet and that proved to be an undoing for the normally 5.5 secs potential race car.
Paul lost out in round one of the Jegs All Stars and his overall best run of 5.746 secs at 251.34 mph fell short of the overall event’s super swift TAFC bump of 5.712 secs.
While disappointed, Noakes and his talented team could still take some solace with what they had accomplished.
“We were very proud to represent our region and our country,” said Noakes. “We’ve done a lot over the last 2-3 years with our car and tune-up to just get to this point. While the results here do sting — this was a very special experience and we learned more for the future.”
Post and photos by Bruce Biegler