One of Canadian drag racing’s most dedicated team owners reflects on some misfortune last summer…..

There is no denying that Sunday July 18th at the Medicine Hat Drag Strip was a very fateful day for Manitoba’s Clif Bakx.  

It was on that day that the popular and long time NHRA injected nitro/TAD car owner faced some harsh reality from drag racing — when his newest rendition of “The Bull” was destroyed during a testing session. 

It was a very high speed top end incident with test driver Curtis Halverson at the controls.  Most importantly — Curtis (who is from Calgary – and owner of Extreme Engines Development) – survived the incident with only ankle injuries.  

Curtis was subbing for the team’s regular driver Todd Bruce (from North Dakota) who was prevented from attending this test session because of the border closure predicament in place at the time.

The newest version “The Bull” A/FD car did have a far too premature ending during some testing in Western Canada last summer.

While we will not go into too much detail or speculation — the crash was by all witnessed accounts one of the worst ever on Canadian drag racing soil.   Clif Bakx summed things up as follows.

“Our plan for that run was to go to 500’ feet and then shut it off,” Clif revealed.  “But the car stayed under power well past that – it just kept going like a bat out of hell.  Then it got out of the groove, went sideways and the wind got under it.  It went airborne and over the guard wall at the top end.  I jumped on my golf cart — and I was fearing the worst.  When we got there – it was surreal — like an aircraft crash scene — unrecognizable — just pieces everywhere.  The ambulance got to where the cockpit ended up first.  It took a few minutes and it wasn’t until I saw Curtis blink — that I finally exhaled.”

Curtis Halverson, was transported to the hospital where they put a couple pins into a broken ankle.  He was released the next day and actually did return to Medicine Hat Drag Strip to review the carnage with Clif and the team.

“Curtis is a good driver,” Clif emphasized.  “The throttle stuck for some reason.  I did look closely at the barrel valve, cable and linkage and couldn’t see anything wrong.  But because everything on the car was pretty much in pieces – we still honestly just don’t know why.  It’s what happened – period.”

Clif Bakx

The car that crashed was in fact a new machine that Clif had painstakingly just finished building and assembling during the long COVID period year away from racing.   It was a Dan Page car (acquired from Quebec) which Clif had back-halved with a design from Chase Copeland.  Thankfully, in the crash situation, all the car’s mandated safety aspects did what they were designed for.

Clif was left with a couple of major impressions after the very daunting experience.

“First off — the track staff at Medicine Hat Drag Strip – were absolutely amazing during all of this,” he emphasized. “Dave Toth and his staff take immense pride and precaution with their track and they were 100% on top of things after the incident.”  

Clif’s second message was a reminder to us all — the inherent realities that go with the sport we all love.  Basically some words of wisdom — that this could happen to anyone.

“As you know I’ve been at this a while (racing TAD cars),” he continued.  “We had never experienced anything even close to this before.  Our team has always had a stringent process we follow with safety being our top priority.  That includes not only the latest and best safety equipment but also extensive check lists which we follow faithfully for each and every run we make.”

“So if I could get one message out there — it would be a reminder – that this can happen to anyone.  I saw how things can go wrong so quickly for all the wrong reasons – and happen right out of nowhere.  The highest regiment of safety — should be everyone’s first priority.”

While the frightening circumstance was most certainly all of that – Clif Bakx is planning a return with yet another version of “The Bull” (V 4.0).  

While we cannot reveal some exact details at this point — we can say there are plans to purchase and take possession of a proven (very fast) and existing race car chassis at year end — which he will use to return to action for 2022.

“I guess as the saying goes – when you fall off the horse (or Bull in this case – LOL) – it’s best to get back on it,” Clif added.  “Next year my target is to again be able to race across the line for NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series regional and national events.” 

Todd Bruce — a long time crew member with Clif’s racing efforts — will again be “The Bull” designate driver.

Posted by Bruce Biegler

Photos by Bernie Frey and Bruce Biegler