The 2019 drag racing season was most certainly a year of change for Todd Paton and the Paton Racing Top Fuel team…

Not only did Todd go from working at Racepak to starting his own company, but he also found himself behind the wheel of four different Top Fuel dragsters over the course of the year. At that same time, the team went from running one dragster to two with a couple of different drivers.

This year, Paton Racing’s season started a little later than usual. With some unexpected changes in the off-season, the team elected to skip the first several events and decided to begin their racing season at the NHRA Virginia Nationals.

This event marked the first time the team campaigned both Paton Racing dragsters at the same event. Todd drove the car that the team ran during the 2018 season, while Ike Maier wheeled the team’s second entry. Todd qualified 13th and fell to the 2018 Top Fuel world champ Steve Torrence in the first round, while Ike ending up 17th after getting “bumped out” in the final qualifying session Saturday evening.

The team went on to compete at the Nitro Nationals in Cayuga, Ontario. Todd was once again behind the wheel of the car he drove in Virginia, while Jeff Chatterson, a longtime family friend and experienced alcohol dragster pilot, made his final licensing passes in the team’s second car. After a couple of strong passes including a great 4-second quarter-mile pass at nearly 300 mph, Jeff received his Top Fuel license.

In early August, Todd left his position of Operations Manager at Racepak, where he had worked for 12 years, to form a new company, Performance Data Systems.

Todd Paton

“After Holley purchased Racepak, the decision was made to close Racepak’s California office and move the manufacturing and customer support,” Todd commented. “That meant a lot of talented people would be out of work. We decided that there would be an opportunity for us to continue to provide the service and support that Racepak had been known for if we kept the team together. That’s why we formed PDS.”

The two Paton Racing Top Fuel cars – ran side by side at Grand Bend Motorplex’s Mopar Canadian Nationals!

The following day, Todd traveled to Grand Bend, Ontario, where he again found himself behind the wheel of the family’s Top Fuel dragster. This time, Todd and the newly licensed Jeff Chatterson ran got to run the two Paton Racing dragsters side-by-side. Todd came out on top in the best of three match, running a track-record 4.79 (1/4 mile) at 297 mph. It was quite a spectacle, especially for Barry Paton, Todd’s father and the patriarch of the Paton Racing team who began his drag racing career 55 years ago on the dirt strips of Western Canada.

2019 marked 55 years (and counting!!) in drag racing for Canadian patriarch – Barry Paton.

Back stateside, Todd began concentrating on the new business, making sure that the shelves were stocked full of cables, sensors and related accessories to support the teams. In the midst of this, he received a call from Del Worsham, who asked Todd to drive his family’s Top Fuel dragster at the upcoming event in Brainerd, Minnesota.

The plan was to make a one-shot qualifying attempt on the Saturday of the event. Todd tried his best, but early in the run a spark plug blew out of a cylinder head, and the car dropped a cylinder, forcing Todd to lift at around the 300’ mark. The resulting 5.24 left the team outside the field going into Sunday’s eliminations, marking an early end to their weekend.

A few weeks later, Todd got an offer from Terry Haddock to drive his Top Fuel dragster at the event in Reading, Pennsylvania, as his usual driver, Cameron Ferre, had a work commitment from which he could not free himself. With Cam’s blessing, Todd qualified the car in the 16th position and came up short in a first-round match with Brittney Force, who had made the quickest Top Fuel pass in history during qualifying.

All the while, Todd continued to work on repairing and supplying parts to racers from all racing categories, including some of his fellow competitors. At each event, he would alternate between working on data systems and then climbing behind the wheel of a Top Fuel dragster.

In Charlotte, Todd got the opportunity to drive Doug Foley’s new Top Fuel dragster, to get the car prepared for Doug’s return to the class. With the team literally assembling the car when Todd arrived, they sat out the first qualifying session. New car troubles plagued the team during the other three qualifying attempts, and Todd was only able to make one representative pass down the track, which he aborted when the car dropped a cylinder.

During 2019 – Todd did drive for a couple of other teams — including an appearance at Charlotte in the Foley & Lewis TF dragster.

Back home, Todd once again focused back on business, traveling to the remaining NHRA events as well as the California Hot Rod Reunion in Bakersfield, California between the Dallas and Las Vegas events.

“It’s been quite a year, but we are looking forward to 2020 for both the business and the race team,” said Todd. “The business has grown substantially each month as more people become aware that we can repair and service their Racepak systems as well as supply everything from brand new components to complete data systems. Hopefully that will allow us to run the Top Fuel car at a few more events next year. It helps promote the business, plus it’s always fun to get behind the wheel of a Top Fuel car.”

The team hopes to make their 2020 season debut at the NHRA Gatornationals in March. You can follow the Paton Racing team on Facebook (@patonracing) or on their website at

Follow Performance Data Systems on Facebook (@performancedatasystems) or on the company’s website at

Photos by Brennan Shortall, Roger Richards  & Bruce Biegler