Homegrown Canadian Jet Car racing is a pretty rare and finicky phenomena. But within that genre one prominent Eastern Canadian is positioned to full fill a dream….

The name Neale Armstrong is very well known within Eastern Canadian drag racing circles. He has been an icon of sorts at Toronto Motorsports Park’s legendary Cayuga Dragway for literally decades as it’s Track Manager, a post that he continues to hold.

Cayuga Track Manger/Jet Car racer - Neale Armstong

Cayuga Track Manger/Jet Car racer – Neale Armstong

Armstrong’s passion for the sport of drag racing however also does include a deep desire to move within the guard wall confinement area onto the racing surface itself, and this upcoming 2017 racing season will see him do a lot more of exactly that.

Over the past few years Neale and his right hand man “Slinky” Donison have been painstakingly planning and assembling a Jet-powered dragster. While somewhat overdue from an original timeline perspective, the project did finally come to fruition last summer. Armstrong, after receiving some final chassis certification from NHRA, was able to jump into the cockpit of his long anticipated machine and make a few test runs and appearances – a rewarding completion to what was for him a very long and personal journey.

“I’ve wanted to race jet cars for about as far back as I can remember,” Neale recalled. “At age 7-8 I was already hanging around Cayuga Dragway as a kid during the Melenbacher family era. I remember sitting on a fence at then end of the track on the top end watching the Green Mamba and Earthquake cars race. Roger Gustin was driving then and he had a chute failure and ending up stopping only about 10 feet from where I was sitting. That had a lasting impression (!) and I think this probably all started right there and then.”


Neale Armstrong's "Northern Warrior" made it's initial and debut appearance in Southern Ontario last season

Neale Armstrong’s “Northern Warrior” made it’s initial and debut appearances in Southern Ontario last season

“My first taste of actual jet car racing involvement came about 1997-98 when I helped out Lou Bookman with his car,” Neale continued. “I got to know him well. Lou wanted to put together a touring Jet car team that originally included his daughter as a driver. But when that didn’t work out I did get a chance to make a bunch of runs in his car about 2000-2001. But Lou Pieria eventually took the cockpit of that second car, then bought it and drove it full time touring.”

“Louie Pereria and I started talking again a few years later about building a second car and going on tour together,” Neale added. “So I acquired a chassis and began acquiring parts and pieces as I could afford it. It also took time to do it because of my full time work schedule and because I wanted to do everything right and make it work well for me. My crew chief “Slinky” did all that – he built and finished the whole car – front to back — which included modifying the cockpit – twice. If it wasn’t for him and his brothers Alex and David – none of this would have happened.”

Neale reports too that the influence of Bob Elliott (who raced Jet cars too during his driving career) as well as the ongoing support from assistant crew chief Rachael Bell being important and key.

“And then there was also my mother (Pauline Armstrong) who has been my #1 fan through all of this –  we call her the Northern Warrior Jet Car Team President!“, he grinned.

Car builder and crew chief "Slinky" Donison

Car builder and crew chief “Slinky” Donison

The engine program in Neale’s dragster is a J-85 (similar to that used in a CF-5 fighter). That was acquired through Tim Arfons, who is the son to legendary jet car pioneer Art Arfons. “That’s a really good motor – we’ve now got it working like charm,” he affirmed.

Neale was also very quick to cite Lou Pereria, arguably Canada’s premier Jet dragster racer (owner of “The Terminator”) as both an influence and mentor for his racing venture.

“I’ve watched Lou race for years – and he’s a true expert in this class,” Neale added. “In fact I’m pattering my driving style exactly to what he does.”

Neale's Jet Car racing mentor is "Brazil Nut" Louie Pieria (left)

Neale’s Jet Car racing mentor is “Brazil Nut” Louie Pereria (left)

Armstrong’s “Northern Warrior” Jet has a unique and cool theme that commemorates some important Canadian aviation aspects too. It is painted to resemble a Canadian Armed Forces fighter aircraft.

“I’ve always loved aviation – I’m a big Avro Arrow and conspiracy theory buff,” he laughed. “Before the car was finished we showed it at the Dragstrip Memories show (held at the Canadian War Plane Heritage Museum in Hamilton – presented by Rob Potter and Tony Hayes) a couple years ago. At that event we parked it beside a CF5. I loved the grey on grey on the fighter jet – that struck me — so I went with that theme. That look really fits for me, because I also want this car to be a tribute to our Canadian Armed Forces too.”



As we move into 2017 – Neale confirmed that he and Lou Pieria are developing plans to race and tour together as a two-car show at drag strips in both Canada and the USA.

While the team’s exact racing schedule is still under development, he did reveal that he and Louie are mulling over some interesting ideas that include doing some things that haven’t yet been seen within jet car racing class showmanship.

“It’s been a long journey to get here but it’s all been worth it,” he concluded. “We have a master plan that we think will be unique – beginning next season.”

The "Certification day Celebration" - finally came in July from NHRA Northeast Divisional!

A long awaited “Certification Day Celebration” – finally came for Neale & his team in July including NHRA’s Northeast Divisional techies!

Post by Bruce Biegler
Photos by Bruce Biegler, Brennan Shortall & John Marechal