The talent rich Hodgson & Papirnick Pacemaker Funny Car team has delivered a very major Canadian drag racing first….

During last weekend’s 2017 season finale for NHRA’s Hot Rod Hertiage Drag Racing Series, held at fabled Auto Club Famoso Raceway just north of Bakersfield California, the Edmonton-based  team had a title clinching performance.

Racing their extremely formidable 1969 Camaro built by Victory Race Cars, and with class sopohmore season driver Ryan Hodgson at the controls, this race team became the very first Canadian car to prevail for the overall World Championship in the marquee Nostalgia Funny Car division within the immensily popular NHRA co-production series.

Although Ryan Hodgson did not actually win the event — his semi-final round finish combined with an improbable DNQ by his closest points rival (Jason Rupert) resulted in the most deserving title.  Ryan’s team, which had also won this year’s opening race (also at Bakersfield) last March, had enterd the season concluding event as the points leader.

During the 26th annual NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion event, the team mixed it up within a highly competitive group of AA/FC cars which saw 30 machines attempt to qualify and which produced a record quick bump spot of 5.839 secs.   Ryan qualified #4 on that list with a 5.688 secs and he beat Jon Capps and Brad Thompson to advance to the event’s “final four”.   But in that match up versus Bobby Cottrell his machine did fall off pace slightly and his 5.882 secs was not a match for Cottrell’s 5.695 secs in the other lane.   Cottrell, racing a similar Camaro owned by wily Bucky Austin, went on to win the event defeating Matt Bynam in the final round.

In only his 2nd year in the NHRA AA/FC class – Ryan Hodgson has emerged as the World Champion!

“This championship is all about teamwork and surrounding yourself with good people that make good decisions and that all get along,” said Ryan Hodgson.  “That’s really what powers this car and team forward.”

“I admit I did feel some pressure coming into the event because this goal (winning the NHRA season championship) was the only goal that mattered for us,” Ryan added.  “It was the target we set for ourselves at the beginning of the season.  Setting high standards is how our family has always been in everything we do — so this end result is very satisfying.  I cannot begin to thank all of our team members and associates enough – I know it’s a cliche – but none of this would have been possible without their support.”

A Proud Papa! — For the race team’s founder and patriarch Ron Hodgson, this NHRA World Title was for sure a major moment within his long and legendary voyage within drag racing.   Hodgson, a highly successful owner of GM dealership franchises who has already been inducted into both the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame and Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame, had been involved in Funny Car racing as far back as 1967.

“I’m proud of my son who has come a very long way driving in this class in such a short period of time,” Ron emphazied.  “We have assembled an incredibly talented team around him and this championship is a reflection of them all doing their job.  We came close to winning the series title before with both Tim Boychuk and Ryan driving (finished #2 in 2016 points) – so I think we were overdue and earned this final justice.”

Trifecta Completed! — The championship title was also a definite tribute to the race team’s top tuner Bob Papirnick (from Vancouver), who at 70 years young remains one of the series’ most respected entities and overall great thinkers.

He and his co-tuner Jim Basko were responsible for the team’s amazing season campaign.

“I’ve had some special moments in my long drag racing career — but now I can say I’ve won the March Meet – the California Hot Rod Reunion and the Heritage Series World Championship,” he beamed.  “In my mind that’s a perfect trifecta.”

Tuning gurus — Jim Basko and Bob Papirnick

For Jim Basko (from Arizona) who joined the race team equation in 2012, this title run season was also very gratifying for the former NHRA Pro Stock racer.

“I’m so very proud to be involved in this championship campaign,” said Jim.  “The way we won the title this weekend maybe wasn’t ideal — because we would have liked to win the event too — but really
when you step back and look at the big picture — it can’t get any better.”

Associate Accolades — For the race team’s extremely important cast of marketing partners which includes numerous Canadian-based proponents (Ace Manufacturing (Alberta) Yeti Snow MX (Alberta) and Oceanus Resources (Nova Scotia), this championship is certainly solid affirmation of their decisions to get involved with this race team.

Ryan Hodgson with Oceanus Resources VP David Duncan

While Ace MFG “king pin” Harold Parfett was unable to be present at Bakersfield on this particular weekend,  David Duncan the VP for Exploraton for Oceanus Resources was, and his post race comments reflected a repeating sponsorship sentiment.

“It’s been a really marvelous year and for our company to be involved in all of this is amazing,” David said.  “This is a fanastic ending to what we were all hoping for.”

For more information on Ron Hodgson GM Dealerships click:  HERE

Editors Note — DragRaceCanada will post an event report, more features and a very extensive photo gallery from the NHRA California Hot Rod Reunion – coming soon!

Post and photos by Bruce Biegler