Local Edmonton “young gun” racer is deserving recipient of a major Funny Car opportunity….

What started as a holiday too sunny California to catch some nostalgia drag racing recently turned into the opportunity of a lifetime for Nathan Sitko.  

The aspiring Alberta nitro Funny Car driver found himself some time off work and decided along with team crew member Ed Mitton, to take that time and catch up with friends, family and see some Heritage Series regulars at the infamous Hot Rod Reunion (Oct 21-23).

“Ed and I decided to take a road trip down to Bakersfield, I had some time off work and my Wife said ‘Go’.  “So off we went, but as always I threw my safety gear in the trunk, as you never know what might come up”.

Nathan Sitko took full advantage of his opportunity to drive the all new for 2022 Hodgson Racing Firebird – running it to it’s quickest time – so far!

As it turns out, when you put it out in the universe, something always seems to come up.  On the trip down to Famosa, Ryan Hodgson, driver of the Pacemaker – Bubble Up ’68 Firebird Funny Car took ill and the team, led by Ron Hodgson and Jim Basko heard that Nathan was going to be at the track for the event.  The phone call was made and Sitko leaped at the chance.

Nathan Sitko

The team was off to a pretty good start with the first qualifying round of 6.01.  A good benchmark for Sitko to get a handle on the car and see how it drove.  Also got them in the show.  Round two of qualifying came up with a few changes to the tune up by Crew Chief Jim Basko with hopes of getting the car well into the five second range.  With a 6.00 there was some head scratching, as the car should have improved with the new tuneup.  Famed blower Guru Les Davenport was on hand and suggested they go over the supercharger and found it was ready for a rebuild and not up to the task, so a new blower came out of the trailer and onto the car. 

Qualifying round three was where it all started to come together with a solid 5.93 to bring them up the ladder a little to number 11 of the 16 car field.  

The improvement was encouraging so Basko stepped it up even further for round one of eliminations.  Sitko faced Drew Austin, number 6 qualifier in his 70 Camaro.  Austin’s 5.83 at 242 was no match for Sitko’s fastest pass of his nitro Funny Car career at 5.717 and 251.16 mph.

Nathan Sitko had to pinch himself, off to round two.  “The car drives like a Cadillac!  So smooth and responsive, it has a little less visibility than my Mustang, but it’s such an awesome car to drive”m added Sitko.

Round two was Sunday afternoon and the conditions were about the same, so the team decided it was time to turn it up a little more.

Sitko now faced eventual event winner, La Quinta California’s Billy Morris.  Almost identical reaction times at the tree, this was going to the stripe, but as Sitko watched Morris’s Camaro pull ahead at the thousand-foot mark, he knew his dream weekend was over, but not without setting another personal best of 5.653 at 245.40 mph.  

Morris took the round with a 5.601 at 249.07mph and then went on to win the weekend over Tony Jurado. 

As it turns out, this 5.653 secs pass was the quickest pass on the new car for 2022 from the Hodgson family Pacemaker – Bubble Up racing team.  Next stop for the team is the Legends Nitro Funny Cars presented by Red Line Synthetic Oil, a 12-car invitational event to be held during the NHRA Nevada Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 27-30.

As for Nathan Sitko?  Well, he too is heading to Vegas with his gear bag in hand, as you never know what might come up.

The Sitko family ’65 Mustang, Arctic Traveler, is looking forward to 2023 as they plan on events in Western Canada and possibly the Pacific Northwest if some Heritage Series races come further north.  

“It all revolves around budget,” notes Sitko.  “We are always looking for help to get us to the major events, we will see what 2023 holds for us.”  

Nathan Sitko’s regular ride is this outstanding Arctic Traveller ’65 Ford Mustang machine.

  Posted by Rome Awde

Photos Courtesy of Dyan Lover