Todd’s Weekend Off (!?)

By:       Bruce Biegler

A rare weekend off for Canadian Todd Paton saw him show up at – you guessed it – the drag races!   The now resident of California, who is employed as a skilled technician for Racepak, was in fact a late driver addition to the last weekend’s IHRA Mopar Canadian Nitro Jam at Grand Bend Motorplex.  That proved to be very positive destiny.

Todd earned his much anticipated first ever Top Fuel class win when he prevailed during (Part 2) of the Nitro Jam program on Sunday.   Todd defeated former IHRA Top Fuel World Champion Bruce Litton in the final – capping off a remarkable effort by his team over the weekend.   Paton did spot Litton a starting line advantage but ultimately his time of 4.812 secs at 304.39 mph ran Bruce down to earn him a first career IHRA Ironman in Top Fuel.  Litton, from Indiana, who had won (Part 1) of the T/F show on Saturday, ran a losing 4.869 secs at 261.52 mph.

"Ugly Duckling" produces Beauty!

 Paton’s win was certainly one that was filled with toil.  During Saturday’s action the very expensive carbon fiber body of the Tim Horton’s sponsored dragster was shredded into many pieces when it exited the car at speed.  Speculation was that chassis flex caused the body mounts to break away.   That did require an “all-nighter” for the team who gathered up the car’s previous body (from the shop in Paris ON) and remounted it on the chassis.

 “Our team always does seem to have a flair for the dramatic,” Todd Paton admitted.  “But that Saturday deal was strange.  I raced Funny Cars for 15 years and I never lost a body – but somehow I managed to do it in a Top Fuel car.” 

“In the final, Bruce had me off the tree but it was a good race all the way,” he continued.  “I was behind about 90% of the time but thankfully Jimbo and Dad gave me the power to make up the deficit.  They really had a heck of a tune-up in the car.   We had our career best 60 foot time here: .850 secs.”

Barry & Todd capture Ironman...

Coming back to race is Canada has always been a motivator for Paton.  Although now rare, whenever he can return he and his team are clear cut favorites with a partisan Canadian racing public.  Being the only Top Fuel car based in Canada is something that Canadian fans truly recognize, appreciate and take to heart.

 “I always want to represent my country and we really wanted to win one back on our home turf,” Todd added.  “My last win in IHRA was about 15 years ago – I think at a 1/8th mile track in South Carolina – racing Alcohol Funny Cars.”

For team owner Barry Paton – the win on Sunday was pretty much what the Doctor ordered.   “The Captain” looked a bit down following Saturday’s expensive incident.  But he then watched as his team responded with great resilience.  That including swapping motors before the final round.

 “Immediately (after losing the body) I thought I was done for the season,” Barry confided.  “But it turns out it wasn’t even 24 hours.  When it was over Paul Smith came by and paid me a big compliment.  He told me that many other teams out there would not have overcome what we did this weekend.  I’m very proud of my guys.”

Saturday schrapnel...

 Barry was also very happy to check the first Top Fuel win for his son off his list of career objectives.

“It really turned out great,” he winked.  “We had won a few with Tim (Boychuk) in the car and Todd had come very close before.  But for my son to win in front of our home crowd – it’s all pretty special for obvious reasons.”

 (Bruce Biegler Photos)