Canada’s premier nitro racing camp – Paton Racing – produced a truly inspirational effort during the Amalie Oil Gatornationals…..

“The Captain” (Barry Paton) came very close to his first ever NHRA Top Fuel win last weekend.

The Paris Ontario-based team which is spearheading by Canadian drag racing patriarch Barry Paton and his son Todd Paton, came heart-wrenchingly close to securing their first ever NHRA Top Fuel event title.

With super skilled driving talent Shawn Reed (Lake Tapps Washington) at the controls and armed fully with a talented supporting staff and some new dedicated associate sponsors, this race team placed runner-up in the Top Fuel class — directly defying oddsmakers for what is arguably NHRA’s 2nd biggest annual event.

After qualifying #12 with a run (4.128 secs) the team did find their space on Sunday to record three consecutive rounds wins – and advance to their best ever NHRA event finish.  In round one they overwhelmed their opponent Pat Dakin with a run of 3.830 secs at 322.65 mph (best terminal speed so far). Then in rounds two and three they combined an ability to just get down the tricky track surface with some good fortune while taking out two heavily favored opponents, Tony Schumacher (with a 4.027 secs) and then low qualifier Clay Millican (at 4.030 secs). Both Schumacher and Millican each had tire spin issues.

Then for the scheduled final round Shawn and company did in fact have lane choice over Australian-native Richie Crampton, driver of the Kalitta Racing/DHL sponsored dragster — which is tuned by Canadian Rob Flynn (from Edmonton).

That dramatic final round possibility — which had Canadian drag racing fans both in attendance and coast to coast on-line really amped up — unfortunately had a less then desired outcome. NHRA starting line officials instructed Shawn to shut the car off after completing the burnout — with an untimely fuel leak ending their event quest.

The Paton Racing Dragster recorded it’s career best terminal speed (322.65 mph) while winning in round #1 last Sunday.

The team could only watch and wonder what could have been while Crampton skipped to an uncontested 3.854 secs at 314.90 mph for the Amalie Oil Gatornationals event victory.

“It was truly a great weekend for us,” said team co-owner Todd Paton, who is also the Operation and Sales Manager at industry leading Racepak. “Ever since we went to the semi-finals at Phoenix last year — we’ve seen the potential for going rounds on Sunday. For us to win against guys like Schumacher and Millican was both a testament to how hard our team works — and how far we’ve come with the race car.”

Todd Paton oversees the Paton Racing’s steady rise to NHRA Top Fuel class prominence.

“On Saturday night we found the issue that plagued in qualifying and once we fixed it, the car responded immediately with that 3.83/322 mph run,” Todd elaborated. “In the second round, we did have an issue with the clutch but Shawn clicked the car off early once we knew we were well ahead. In the semis, we had a problem with the ignition system, and the car only ran on one magneto – but that was probably lucky for us, since Clay smoked the tires while we got down the track.”

“It was necessary to do a motor swap for the finals. We did encounter issues during the warmup and only had enough time to quickly fire it on gas before pushing it to the starting line. Everything appeared fine when we started the car for the final, but as the car was backing up from the burnout, we spotted some damage which was causing fuel to leak onto the racing surface and unfortunately the car had to be shut off.”

Todd also revealed that (somewhat ironically), it was Richie Crampton himself who welded the new front-half to the race car, very recently — a modification which has proven to be a significant difference in the overall performance of the car.

“Richie and Shawn are great friends — so as disappointed as we were that we had to shut the car off after the burnout, we were also happy for him to get a win for Connie. Besides, he’s one of our Global Electronics Technology team mates, so either way, Global got into the winner’s circle – and that’s all good.”

Pacific Northwest based Shawn Reed has established very proven driving skills — very early in his Top Fuel career.

“My dad Barry, Mark and the whole crew were elated with the result, especially after they had put in so much hard work getting the new car ready,” Todd added. “I’m incredibly proud of our team and can’t thank them enough, along with “Stewie” (John Stewart), Dom and Bobby Lagana, and also Torrence Racing and Scott Palmer Racing teams that helped us reach the finals. Of course, we couldn’t have done it without the support from our fans and the great folks at Hughes Oilfield Transportation, Global Electronic Technology, Lucas Oil, Racepak and our other valued associates.”

For the Paton Racing team while the final round outcome was for sure a let down, they can take great solace in what they did accomplish last Sunday. This team continues to earn it’s NHRA circuit stripes and the Gainesville event experience was a major takeaway for everyone involved as they head to their next event outing.

We have done a quick review of our historical records and we’re (pretty sure) this was the first time since 1985 that an actual Canadian-based TF dragster has been in a NHRA national event final round. We believe the last time that happened was Gary Beck at the NHRA Finals that year. (Fans – if you know different (?) – please comment to DragRaceCanada’s FB page!) We acknowledge too that Frank Hawley (from London ON) did score two wins in Top Fuel during the 1990 season – however those came driving for Darrell Gwynn’s Florida-based team.

So is this Canadian-based Top Fuel dragster poised to end that very long national event title drought in NHRA? Lets just say that the odds and likelihood for that happening are now exponentially — much higher.

Posted by Bruce Biegler
Photos by Bruce Biegler & Tracy Waters