The Race That Was Just Not Meant To Be                                                                     June 2nd

 by Gerry Frechette

 After the perfect weather last year, it was too much to expect a repeat for this year’s NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Lordco BC Nationals at Mission Raceway Park, and indeed, the rain was a major factor as it has been so many times before. But nobody anticipated the event descending into the realm of it being worse than just a rainout.

 The forecast was for rain Friday and into early Saturday, improving as Saturday went along, and Sunday being the best day of the three. Of course, the forecast was wrong, and Friday was miraculously  dry all day – until about 5 pm. That wouldn’t normally be a problem, except that the morning was taken up by scraping the middle one-third of the track, as water was seeping up from all the rain and the high Fraser River a few hundred feet away, and installing itself under the national event-level track prep. So action got underway about 1 pm, with the goal to give every racer (whose numbers were down considerably from the recent past) at least one hit. The TAD and TAFC cars that everyone (okay, about 200 fans) came to see were scheduled, in writing, for 3:15 pm.

Severance Vs Carlson in TAD

 The alky teams did their prep and warm-ups and waited for the call to the lanes. The cool weather, corrected altitudes of sea level or lower, and a decent if cool track had everyone salivating, with several of the TADs capable of 5.30s or better. But, the first TAFC fired up at 4:50, after a couple of oil-downs from lower class cars were cleaned up, and just as rain was clearly threatening. Nathan Sitko ran a nice career-best 5.81/243, and Brian Hough threw down a 5.61, but there was moisture in the air, and then the TADs were up.

Atchison Vs Evanchuk - TAFC

The Alberta cars of Greg Sereda and Don St. Arnaud (the only nitro car at an event that usually has several) posted incomplete runs, and then….the sprinkles started. And the rest of the day was ultimately canceled. The criticism of the scheduling then began, with questions such as, why, when the printed schedule said 3:15 for the alcohol cars, were they made to wait, having warmed up, while the likes of Super Pro (nothing against them) were running, and while the weather gods were telling everyone that we were clearly pushing our luck? To say the alcohol teams were not happy would be an understatement.

 Saturday was a complete wash-out, which left seven TADs without a qualifying run as of Sunday morning, which was dry. The scheduling decisions from Friday would have a large bearing on Sunday’s action. The decision was rightly made to give all nine TADs two qualifying sessions, and the six TAFCs another one. It would be a very long day, and the chances of getting done without having to return Monday were slim. The scheduling decisions that day made those odds even longer….

 The TADs rolled out at 10:00 Sunday, with, again, mine-shaft conditions but a cool track. Joey Severance was quickest at 5.42, and it’s a good thing he was, as beside him Shawn Cowie was going for a wild ride. He got almost completely sideways at half-track, with a foot of air visible under the left slick, but saved it with an incredible driving job and did his slowing down right behind Severance in the left lane. This brought out the track prep people again to scrape the right lane, and 45 minutes were unfortunately lost. The TAFCs were led by Rob Atchison with a pedaled 5.81/251, while Nathan Sitko holed the block while staging the car.

Howie Stevens Ultra Cool New Mustang Comp Car!

 The TADs were owed a second qualifier (it would be a third for Sereda and St. Arnaud), and they ran at 1:40 pm, later than they could have been, and all-but-guaranteeing they would not be able to run their finals on this day, no matter what the weather did. In front of the usual big (2,000+) crowd of enthusiastic Mission fans, Mike Austin led the way with a booming 5.34/265 in Steve Federlin’s car, while Cowie got in with a “safe” 5.40. Ashley Bart’s car blew the blower off the manifold at the starting line for the second run in a row, and she would be the only non-qualifier.

 TAFC Round One followed, and there were few surprises, with Brian Hough (5.64), Clint Thompson (5.78) and John Evanchuk (5.72) all advancing. Atchison pedaled again to a 5.97 loss, while Sitko had the car completely sideways in his own oil from a detached oil line, with a great save. Another big clean-up ensued.

 The day was looking pretty good weather-wise, with high cloud and warming temperature, and the event continued at a reasonable pace. The fans, who appreciate all the classes here, were obviously looking forward to what should have been a great first round of TAD, which, based on their last having run at 2:00, should have been out about 4:00. That might have even allowed the semis to have been run on Sunday evening.

 But no, 4:00 came and went, and then the air started getting humid. By 4:20, in the middle of Comp Round One, there were too many sprinkles to continue, and all racing was stopped for an hour. It was not looking good at that point, but, after Comp was completed, the TADs were rolled out at 6:00, with the skies dark and most of the fans long gone. Those who waited saw one of the best TAD duels ever, as Dale Carlson in Hugh Ridley’s car from Chilliwack ran 5.40/262 on the cool track to beat Joey Severance’s 5.41/262, with all the incremental numbers from reaction time to 1,000-foot time being identical down to the thousandths. The final MOV was 9/1000 seconds. An incredible race.

 After that, Mike Austin’s out-of-shape shut-off run paled, while Mission’s Leo Grocock sat on the line spewing alcohol all over the track from a loose hose. But the crews would have lots of time to clean that up, as the drizzle came, and the day was called after waiting until 7:00. Two pairs of TADs were left in the lanes, and the first round would remain incomplete.

 So, the questions began again. Why weren’t the alcohol cars run by 4:00 pm, with the stands still full of expectant fans, and two hours having passed since their last run? Mission is not like most LODRS tracks; there are many very knowledgeable alcohol-racing fans here, and more than half the qualified TAFC and TAD cars were Canadian-owned or driven.

 The first consideration, after safety for all, should be towards those fans, with the racers they come to see the most, namely the alcohol teams, coming a very close second. It is these two groups who pay the most for a race like this to happen. Unfortunately, the scheduling decisions made both on Friday and Sunday did not reflect this, and as a consequence, both the fans and racers were left very unhappy. We can all only react when Mother Nature is the boss, but when she gives small windows where the faster cars can be run, those opportunities should be grabbed. They weren’t, and this event was more than just rain-plagued as a result.

 The plan was to finish the event on Monday, but of course, it rained all morning, and NHRA announced that it would be completed on the Thursday preceding the Seattle LODRS race in August.

  Canadian Drag Racing Highlights

Competition Eliminator was shaping up to be great, as there are several fast altered-class cars in B.C., and they were thinking of National Records. The abbreviated qualifying sessions dealt with those thoughts, but Rob Harrison ran 7.66 and 7.61 on his own J/A record of 7.61.

 Rick DiStefano was on hand running his new Pro Mod Camaro in AA/PM, and he should have obliterated that record (6.13/234) and maybe run Comp’s and Mission’s first “five,” but in five tries (two on test day, two in qualifying, one in first round), he couldn’t get it past 60 feet under power, showing that there is much work to be done on this new car.

Ricky D Ran in Comp with his Pro Mod Camaro

 The Sitko family has an all-new engine and clutch set-up, plus Hoosier tires, on their Firebird TAFC, and all was dry and clean after Nathan’s 5.81, but things went downhill after that.

 Greg Sereda was back in his alky dragster, with some tuning assistance and the “5.40” block from Paul Julien, and an all-new Brad combination, and he ran 5.67 on the Thursday test day and a 5.70 on Sunday, to show some promise.

 (Photos by: Gerry Frechette)