Race Team Updates

October 11, 2013

For those of you who have been paying attention and are wondering what happened at Indy over the Labour Day weekend the answer is nothing. We did not go. Our adventure in Bowling Green KY. was such that a repeat in Indy would have been the end of the team. After much discussion it was decided that “Mister Magic” Les Mellows would be contacted for help. It turned out the he was excited at the prospect of rejoining our team but had a commitment for Labour Day here in Canada so we took that as a test weekend. We went to the NDRA final race of their season in Cayuga more as a testing session than a race. Les was there and able to tune our car and in short order had us back in the 5.6 second range. Mission accomplished. As an added bonus Dale Boeru (President of NDRA) invited us to compete in this season ending event where we qualified in the #1 position and made it to the final round. We lost to Larry Dobbs who ended up winning the NDRA Championship for the second straight year. Well done to Larry and to Dale for a great series and a second title.

The weekend was not without incident as the car continued to show its age with another chassis fracture. After a track side repair the car was stripped down back at the race shop only to find more cracks, a broken motor plate and clutch can. Mark ( our newest crew member over from the Paton top fuel team) set to correcting the chassis and Paul sent out the clutch can for repair. A new motor plate was ordered and with a month before our final event all looked like it would come together. No one expected the car to blow up during the repair but it did. We were very lucky that there were no injuries, only more parts to buy and a shorting window to get them.

With the car loaded the team set out for Reading Thursday evening, a long 12 hour ride in front of them. We all arrived at the track early Friday morning, set up the pit and readied the car for the first qualifying session at 11:30 that morning. The track was in typical Maple Grove condition ready for anything we could throw at it. With Les at the controls of the tune up and Paul ready for battle in the Meritor/NTN hot rod we made a “ok” first pass running 5.72 @ 256.99 mph. Everyone was conservative with their tune up for the first round so this left us in the top half of the field at # 5. We knew this would not last with 17 cars fighting for a 16 car field and some of the heaviest hitters in the country on the property we were going to have to do better next round.

Conditions were very similar for round two on Friday hot and humid and as much as we thought we would step it up and run quicker this was not to be, registering a slower 5.759 @ 255.87 did not help us and as expected Frank Manzo got it right and nailed down the #1 spot with a fantastic 5.537 @ 261 mph. The computer showed that number 7 cylinder was out for our entire second run which explained our slowing. A new set of plugs and one more chance to improve with the final qualifying session set for Saturday morning. The ride back to the hotel Friday night had Les running through many tuning options, his mind running just about as fast as the car. He told me in the morning that at 1:00am he woke up with the answer and was ready to move up in session #3. The crew of customers, NTN reps and Harman people showed up as planned Saturday along with Walt Sherbourne (a long-time supporter and good friend) from Meritor, his wife and Austin his “Big Brother” boy. Nothing like having extra pressure and the need to improve. Well move up we did, setting everyone else on the property on their ear with a 5.624 @ 257 mph to take the #2 spot. This was what we wanted, the #15 qualifier was our first round opponent in the afternoon and we would not face Frank Manzo until the final if we both made it that far.

Round one saw John Fiorini do what he had to, cutting a great light and leaving on Paul with a .026 reaction time to Paul’s uncharacteristic .128 but” Meritor/NTN” horsepower advantage put the win light on and we were on to round two on Sunday. Our services of the car to this point had just been routine, no broken parts and the chassis was sound. Sunday racing always changes things with much shorter times to turn the car around and higher tension levels as the rounds go by. And by the way Mr. Manzo ran 5.585 just to show everyone what they were up against to win this thing. We settled into a full service along with Les talking to everyone he knew about how to make more horsepower for Sunday.

Rested and ready for round two’s opponent Fred Tigges, we saw the fruits of Les’ efforts come to life, Paul had a better reaction time but Fred left first with a great .026 light. Our new found horsepower sent the Meritor/NTN hot rod to the finish line first with a 5.625 et. to Fred’s 5.685. This set up a rematch of last year with Todd Veney and the Permatex Follow a Dream entry. The performance advantage was with us and Todd knew it. Again he left first with a .025 light to Paul’s .106 and again the Les Mellows tune up made the difference with a 5.609 et with a speed of 257mph we were off to the final. Much to everyone’s surprise Frank Manzo was beaten by Mickey Ferro. We were so looking forward to a repeat of the final last year and a change to even the score. Mickey would be an equally tough opponent having run 5.580 against Manzo for the win. Did I say we were going to the final, what a weekend of racing this has been, services in very short time slots, lots of humidity and heat but most importantly fantastic support from our fans, sponsors and local helper Ken and his wife Meme.

This was the first time all weekend long that the Meritor/NTN hot rod did not have lane choice and Mickey put us in the left lane. We had not been there since qualifying on Friday but this race track is so good I really don’t think it matters. A little hick up at fire up was quickly corrected by Les and the car came to life. Burnouts completed (Paul later said the car was a rocket ship in the burnout) and the cars staged, life slowed down as it always does and the 5 second race seemed to take many minutes. For the first time all weekend Paul left first, .035 to Mickey’s .076 and the results are history. The Meritor/NTN hot rod turned on the win light with a 5.612 et. @ 258.12 mph to Mickey quicker 5.599 @ 258.52. Paul had a .043 advantage on the start which gave us the win by .030 at the finish line. The feeling and emotions that happen when you win a national event for the first time are unexplainable, six grown men crying on the starting line, hugging anything that moves and shouting all at the same time. We have done it, beaten the best in the country and have a Wally to prove it. It still breaks me up just to write these words. This will be sometime I cherish from here on out. The whole team won this event, after a season that would have most saying I’ve had enough we persevered and got the gold ring. Cannot say enough about all that made this possible, Paul, Les Tim, Randy, Mark, Ian and Ken gave this team everything they had both here at the track and at home in the shop and behind the scenes with never ending effort. Congratulations to all on a well-deserved win. Also a big thank you to Meritor, Krista Sohm, Marty Hetherington, Walt Sherbourne and Pedro Ferro who have seen the value in this team and also to Paul Meo from NTN. Without their support none of this could happen. It would not be complete without thanking the wives and girlfriends of all the team members who put up with missing partners on great summer weekends, late nights in the shop and preoccupied thoughts about racing. Thanks to Gina and Brooklyn for being Paul’s #1 support team.

On a personal note this was extra special for me as Ian and I have been coming to Maple Grove for over 18 years either as spectators or competitors and with the coming of his first child this year he had not made it to any of our races. To lift the Wally over our heads together here at this track was a magic moment. Look out 2014.


August 26, 2013

This report is a double update, first covering the Meritor Family Day/Woodward Dream Cruise weekend August 15th through the 17th and the Bowling Green Kentucky division three final pints race August 24/25th.  Last year was our first time in attendance at the Troy Michigan headquarters of Meritor for their annual employee classic car show (preview to the Woodward Dream Cruise) and the Habitat For Humanity wall building event. This year the event had grown into a family day for all employees along with all the high points from the previous year. Again Paul and I were made to feel part of the team and were over whelmed with the greetings for those we met last year and the new friends we have made at our racing events this year. The event was a great success, everyone have a fine time looking at cars, eating good food and just enjoying each others company. With a little persuasion we were able to get Pedro into the car for the annual warm up session. Many smiling faces followed what was the loudest point of the event which made all the effort worthwhile for Paul and I. Meritor did another great job of contributing to the community, the whole work force and the family that we all are.

We packed up the car and headed over to Woodward Avenue to get our first taste of the cruise. All the buildup we had had did not prepare us for what we were about to be part of. Take the biggest car show/cruise I had ever been to and multiply it by 1000 and you might have Woodward. As far as the eye could see there were classic cars/ hot rods and all manner of displays and people. Fort the next two days Paul and I lived the cruise, meeting all those who dropped by the Meritor reception Friday night at Duggan’s and Saturday at the Normandy Plaza. We were very impressed with the event and look forward to repeating next year.

Racing in Bowling Green was again a new experience for me, Paul had raced their before so he knew what to expect. Hot and humid was what it was, low 90 degree highs along with 90% humidity made for a very uncomfortable conditions. Tuning the cars was also a challenge since the engines do not respond well to this type of air. At least we were not alone as everyone had the same challenges. The track and facility is very unique with in the NHRA circuit with an amusement park attached and covered grand stands that reminded me of the old days of the Kentucky Derby.

Our first effort on the track let us know just what we were up against, not the best traction and air combination. We ran a disappointing 6.23 second et @ 253 mph. the speed was good because Paul peddled the car ( on and off the throttle quickly) but that hurt our time. Back to our pit to see what had to be changed allow us to improve from our #5 spot in a 7 car field. We found a few things in the tune up that could be improved and out for session two we went.  This time the elapsed time was better, not what we needed to get to # 1 but enough to get into the top half of the field. We finished # 4 with a s 5.83 et @ 255 mph. again a high mile per hour because Paul had to peddle the car to get it down the track. Our first round opponent was Wayne Butler in the Royal Purple Oil car and with Paul’s record against Wayne we felt very good about our chances on Sunday.

The # 1 and #2 car in the points race for our division were pitted against each other in round one. The winner would go on to be the Champion. We were the last pair in the first round so we were able to watch the race between Andy Bohl and Christ Foster. Andy had qualified # 7 for the event and Chris #2 so on paper it was Chris’ race to win. Drag racing can be a funny sport, Andy struggled to get down the track during qualifying. Running way off the pace of the rest of the field. On Race day it was a different story with Andy getting the tune up correct and Chris missing the mark. Andy took the win and the Championship in fine style and finished his weekend off with the event win. We on the other had missed the mark, Paul did not have one of his best days on the starting line leaving at .120 of a second vs. Wayne’s .075. All our horsepower did not help and we went down to defeat with a 5.877 @ 253 to Wayne’s quicker but slower 5.789 @ 249.  After a very hot weekend coupled with a 13 hour drive to get there all that was left to do was pack up and go home.

Next race is Indy on the Labour Day weekend.  Hope some of you can make it out, it has been very rewarding meeting all the Meritor people, customers and their families this season. We have had a great following at all the events we have attended and will continue to entertain where ever we can. There are a few tricks that have not been tried, the Meritor Hot Rod still has two races left to get to the top.


July 29, 2013

After completing seven of our ten scheduled races for this season we are #15 in the National point standings and #7 in the Divisional points. This is not what we had expected, we ended last year on such a high note it was just assumed we would pick up where we left off. Things did start out on a positive note but as of late it has all turned south for us.

The Columbus Ohio Divisional event started out with a Paul and I visiting the Newark Axle Assembly plant of Meritor for a  day of meeting the employees and showing off the car. It was a great experience that reinforced the value Meritor Motor Sports brings to the brand. Over 500 tickets we distributed between the Newark and Florence facilities and if the weather cooperated the turn out at the track would be great.

After packing up Paul and I headed out to the track where NHRA had saved us a great pit space which would give all the Meritor people who attended the race easy access to us. As I mentioned before it was now up to the weather to make this a great weekend for everyone connected to Meritor Motor Sports. Unfortunately mother nature was not really looking to make this anything but a weather weekend.  Hot and humid along with intense thunderstorms was what we got and only the truly committed fan was willing to come out. We finally got our first of two (rain shortened) qualifiers in Friday night. We were in second place when it was all over posting a 5.85 second elapsed time at 252 m.p.h. We knew that that would not be good enough to keep us in the top half of the field but with the rain settling, in a second shot at the track was a long shot and having all three session next to impossible.

The rain let up enough on Saturday to get a second session in but this did not help us as the right lane could not hold all our power. We missed on the setup of the car and the resulting shake forced Paul to abort the run. When it was all said and done our Friday number got us the #6 spot and because of it we did not have lane choice. On the bright side the car did not suffer any major injury and our evening service was very routine.

Sunday rolled around again with changing weather conditions and that big question mark of could we get down the right lane. Very few good times were made in the right lane and we knew that was where we would be put by our first round opponent. Lance Van Hallen did indeed put us in the right lane, I’m sure he wanted every advantage he could get on us because if we got the tune up right, Paul and his starting line ability makes the Meritor Hotrod a tough race. Paul did his job and left first with a .023 reaction time to Lance’s .119 and for 200 feet the race was ours. 200 ft. is not a full drag race, again the car shook so hard that it deployed the fire bottles, popped the chutes and shut the car down. Another miss on the tune up, our race was over.  Back to the computer to find out just what we are missing and then pack everything up for that long drive home.

On a positive note Marty Hetherington (marketing manager) of Meritor joined us for the weekend and had a fine experience at the track. It was not what we wanted for his first time but now he has a very good understanding of the sport, commitment necessary and the thrillers it offers. Andy Bohl the #1 qualifier at the event ended up the winner posting the lowest elapsed time of each round of eliminations as he scored his second event win of the season. He has a firm hold on the #1 position in the North Central Division for this year.

Our next event is Bowling Green Kentucky Aug 23-25 and by then we will have our answers.


Jay Johnston

July 10, 2013

Our return to Summit Motorsport Park the site of our three explosions in three passes race in June turned out to be wet, hot and fast. The field of competitors was stacked with many solid contenders, the likes of Tony Bartone (points leader) Frank Manzo (15 time champion) Chris Foster (with his tuner to the stars Will Hana) and 15 other capable teams meant this was going  be hard work. Nineteen teams fighting for one of sixteen spots in the elimination rounds. The weather was threatening rain and if this show was going to take place it would be under the gun for time. Our normal three qualifying sessions were cut back to two by the skies which rained at least twice each day.

Round one of qualifying saw us again struck by racing gremlins as our Grid system (computer that controls the engine) went into burnout mode during the run and shut us down. Back in the pits we got this sorted out and were crossing our fingers that our final session would not be rained out. We were #17 of a 16 car field with only one chance to improve. The rain held off just long enough to get our session in, we were the first pair up against Chris Foster who also had not made the field. We knew he would be fast and ready to make the show so we gave it everything we had. Paul left hard, the Meritor hot rod went right down the center of the lane and when the win light came on we were #3 running 5.66 at 257 to Chris’s 5.68 at 256. Now it was sit and watch to see if we would hold on to that spot.

When the session ended we ended up #4 as Kris Hool topped our time by .041 of a second. Back in the pits it was a standard service ( no broken parts) and a very pleased Meritor team, feeling like the monkey was off our back.

Round #1 of eliminations took place Saturday afternoon at 5pm. Weather conditions were still iffy but, it looked like the skies would hold. We chose to be the third pair, facing the always tough Todd Venny in the Permatex Follow a dream entry. The racing Gods looked down on us as Todd’s car malfunctioned during staging and the Meritor/Euclid hotrod left hard, shook the tires at about 300 ft. and Paul shut it off and coasted to the victory. We would not get lane choice in round two but also knew that no parts were hurt and our final service of the day would be very straight forward. Saturday night and we were not going to be up to the wee hours of the morning working!

Sunday’s weather was a carbon copy of Saturday and again NHRA went into accelerated schedule in an effort to get the show in before the rain hit. Round #2 saw us up against Andy Bohl who qualified #5  .014 of a second behind us. Paul as he always does was off the line first with a reaction time of .021 seconds to Andy’s .058. At the finish line the Meritor hotrod was there first running 5.79 @ 254 to Andy’s 8.53 @ 87 mph. Andy exploded his supercharger at about 800’ ( like we had the last time we were here) and we were on our way to the semifinals.

When the car came back to our pit it was covered in engine oil, where it had come from was not obvious and under the watch full eye of NHRA Tech officials we serviced the car, cleaned up all the sticky 70 weight oil and tried to find the leak. It was decided that it must have been an over full situation as no source could be found. With the hurried up schedule there was [no] time to start the engine and confirm all was sound. With our fingers crossed we headed to the starting line. When we were given the start them up signal we found our oil leak ( burst hose to the filter) and our weekend came to an end. Kris Hool went on the win the event against our semi-final opponent  Fred Tigges running 5.658 at 256 mph.

The Meritor team was pleased with our outing, having gotten back on track with our tune up and not hurting the car or engine all weekend. Next up is the Divisional Race in Columbus Ohio July 19 through 21. This will be a Meritor weekend with over 500 Meritor people invited to attend and Paul and I at the Factory in Dayton on Thursday. If you’re in the area and want some great entertainment stop by and check us out.



June 17, 2013

As much hard work and frustration that this TAFC racing can be our last outing reinforced why NHRA racing in the Sportsman classes is the place to be. Every week I read about soccer brawls amongst parents at their kids game, hockey parents beating each other up over referee calls and the list just goes on. No big prizes at stake here, just bragging rights on who‘s kid could possibly be better 10 years from now.

It’s no secret the last two races we have been struggling, blowing up the car, not going rounds and working all hours of the day just to do it all over again. When we broke the chassis at the last race the competitors did not leave us high and dry, laugh at our bad luck but instead came to our aid with equipment, parts and people to repair our car and get us back into the race. If other sports practiced NHRA style sportsmanship the world would have a whole lot less problems.

Enough of my social comment, here is how our weekend went. We qualified #6 after our first pass down the track with the Meritor hot rod, nothing fancy 5.85 seconds at 255 mph. nothing broke and the engine showed no adverse signs of wear. This looked like a great building block to make tuning adjustments for round two and get us deeper into the field. The idea was sound but the wear and tear that this level of racing and our last outing explosions had put on the car showed up with a chassis failure that looked like our weekend was over. As mentioned above the Eaton sponsored TAFC team of Todd Robertson along with the TAD team of Brandon Booher (eventual Wally winner at this event) came to our aid and after an hour of welding we were whole again. We just made the final qualifying session and only improved to a 5.81 et remaining #6.

Race day saw the whole team worn out from the last three weeks of trashing trying the get the Euclid Meritor entry ready for battle, but Paul did his job like the great driver he is leaving first but our opponent Andy Bohl had his car tuned to the track and out ran us with a 5.623 to our 5.781.  That was the end of our weekend.

With almost a month before our next race with the Meritor hot rod we plan on catching up on some sleep and getting the car back into early season form. See you in Norwalk for the July 4th race.



May 28, 2013

Well after a non-race weekend at the Indy Divisional event ( because we could not make the rain date nothing we did there counted) we headed off to the Norwalk Ohio Divisional with two engines and high hopes. Our long time tuner Les Mellows and team owner Paul Noakes had decided it was best for all concerned to part company so with a little more nervous tension we prepared to do battle with some of the best TAFC cars in the country.  Tim Rice along with Paul were handling the tune up and the rest of us took on new jobs along with finishing the engine install at the track.

First round qualifying took place a little later than planned which made conditions very similar to the last two events we were at so the setup was very straight forward. The plan was to run a low 5.60 et and be comfortably in the field. So much for plan, the car got to about the 800 ft. mark when the blower exploded and sent early fireworks into the sky. We looked like a Nitro car which is never good even if you are a Nitro car. So much for our first pass without Les. The only good thing about it was it was over. Now it was time to get things corrected and try again Saturday.

The car need more work than was expected and with that the crew worked until 4:30 am. building a new motor and installing it in the chassis. After a couple hours of sleep we were back at it again finishing the engine and body repairs with the next qualifying session set for 4pm. That came and went while we were still thrashing on the car now hoping we would get it done in time for the last effort at 8pm. We made the call and with the largest crowd on hand the track had had for any event we laid down a solid 5.66 second pass that was good enough for #3 spot in eliminations on Sunday. Tim and I felt very good, the car ran straight with very little shake and the pass looked great. Little did we know that the crowd had drowned out the sound of yet another blower explosion and the prospect of yet another sleepless night. More body repairs along with a sleeve,  two pistons and valves and we were ready for Sunday’s race.

Well I do not know how Paul stood the beating he took at this event, at this point two explosions and only run on a new block along with many new parts required to get the car race ready even a crazy person would have called it over.  A wise racer once said to me “if it was easy everyone would be doing it” and that became our mantra for the event. Round one looked very good with us having lane choice and the conditions again within our experience range. Everyone was either getting comfortable with their new responsibilities or too tired to care when we approached the starting line. Paul did his job and got a starting line advantage that he held until the car exploded yet again at the 800 ft. mark and our weekend was done. Back home it was discovered the fuel pump was the cause of our weekend of destruction, the blocks are out for repair, the body is being rebuilt and with a little rest we will be ready to do it again in Chicago next weekend. This team has the depth and drive to be champions all we need is a few breaks and some luck. Stay tuned.



May 6, 2013

It has been a while since my last race update, I was hoping to have the results of our first back to back race weekends (Charlotte N.C. and Indy IN) done and out to you last week. Mother nature put a wrench into that plan and Indy was washed out with only qualifying taking place, but I’m ahead of myself as Charlotte did take place.

We landed in the south after a 18hr. road trip about 2 hours before the first qualifying session took place. The car was ready for battle and with a quick warm up we were on the starting line of the most amazing race track I have ever seen. Those who have not been to the Z Max facility should take the trip over when every they are close by. There is nothing like it anywhere on the planet. That being said we did it again, right out of the box Paul in the Meritor/Euclid hot rod ran a 5,628 elapsed time @ 259.61 m.p.h. which after the pollen settled was good enough for the #2 spot. The racing surface was very good and with two more sessions to go felt confident that we could shoot for #1. With a more aggressive setup we went out for the second lap and as has been our luck so far slowed to a 5.769 @ 259 with more tire shake.  Some of the other racers got quicker and we now were #5. Round three saw us get back on track with a 5.695 @ 247 ( slower mph because of shake) and hold on to the #8 spot.

This set us up for a first round of eliminations match with Todd Veney, everyone in our pit could feel the pressure, the need to avenge the loss in Gainesville two weeks earlier. Keith Evans (Meritor) was our guest in the pits along with his brother and a few industry guest and we really did not want to let them down. Paul and Todd had a brief but pleasant exchange before getting strapped into their machines, both teams were focused on this one. We had lane choice and as I had said earlier the pollen was in the air and on the track. Lane three appeared to be a little loose and that is where we put Todd. No starting line theatrics and both drivers staged on time. When the green came on Todd was away first but almost instantly spun the tires and Paul ran by him for the win 5.700 @ 259.01. Another great mph but at the cost of the clutch, broken discs something we had not done before. Fortunately we had all night it get it repaired and ready for the second round Sunday morning where we had to face the#1 qualifier.

Some times when you are the quickest it is not really in your favour, you can get greedy and want more. We were hoping that Chris Foster was thinking that way. When the green lights came on much to our surprise Chris was first off the mark with a .036 reaction time to Paul’s .076 but shook the tire very hard and shut off giving the win to Paul and the Meritor/Euclid hot rod. We ran a solid 5.604 @ 262.08 and were very pumped going into the semi-finals.  It looked like the changes we made Saturday night were the right ones and with #1 out of the way anything could happen. Our next opponent was Don Pomponio ( won every race he was in this year) and Paul knew he had to be sharp if we were to come out on top. Well he had lane choice and we ended up in the pollen covered lane #4, shook the car so hard that when Paul’s vision cleared he was out of the racing groove heading for the centerline. He corrected but hit 3 timing cones and our weekend was over. Both drivers had great reaction times, Don at .028 and Paul at .027 and if it is any consolation Don went on the win the event. Back in the motorhome for another 18hr trip, work and rebuilding the car in three days to be ready for Indy.

After the at home teardown we found the clutch/ tire shake had taken a toll on the car and Paul. The main bearing had delaminated and scored the crank and Paul was off to physio to get his body back in line.  Somewhat tired but focused we arrived in Indy where we again met cool temperatures and great racing conditions. Out of the box we laid down a solid pass, 5.658 @ 259.81 and captured the #3 qualifying spot. Again we had tire shake but the Meritor/Euclid entry was quick and fast and we were in the quick half of the field. The second qualifier saw the car move around at halftrack, run strong but did not look right. We kept our #3 spot. When we got back to the pits the car was smoking and the smell of oil and melted aluminum was everywhere. At the very same time a contingent of Meritor folks from the Plainfield  IN reman facility stopped by to see the car and check us out. It was a very intense tear down that proved to be our undoing. The rear main bearing had spun and damaged the block, clutch and put us unable to continue.   We and our crew of fans very  disappointed with this turn of events, we headed to the stands to watch the final round of qualifying only to see our number stand and the #3 spot ours. Mother nature came to our rescue the skies opened up and the event was washed up. This meant that if we could get the block fixed during the week at home we could make it back to back to back racing weekends. This was not to be as the damage was too great for the locals to repair.  With the block off to California the return to Indy was off. Again the Meritor/Euclid team proved to be lucky and Indy was again washed out.

Our next race in Norwalk Ohio will also have the eliminations from Indy combined into the qualifying sessions so we are back in it in two weeks’ time.  Look forward to see any of you who can make this event May 17 to 19th.



March 22, 2013

What a great start to our 2013 racing season.  The arrival of our second granddaughter Claire Sassur Johnston on March 8th  set the excitement level on high.  Leaving that highly charged environment and picking up the team at the airport in Jacksonville just kept the emotions at a peak.  Being away from the snow and cold of a very traditional winter in Canada didn’t hurt either.

Arriving at the track, the temperature was actually very much like at home; around freezing but with clear skies and very little wind the conditions improved quickly.  Our first qualifying session had track and air readings very similar to our season ending event last year at Maple Grove.  We were confident that our first lap down the track would make everyone proud and it did.  Paul peddled the car once and still rocketed to the team’s best et and top speed 5.588 @ 262.  Like all racers when you set a personal best and have to “drive” the car down the track you know there is more to come.  Back in the pits we made a few changes in the setup that we thought would allow Paul to keep the throttle wide open and produce a low 5.5 second pass.  On paper this looked good but in reality all it did was produce an almost unmanageable tire shake and slower et’s.   When the third qualifying session was wrapped up we were still in the top half of the field but had slipped from our initial position of #5 to #7.  The positive take away from this slowing effort was the data we were able to collect and we felt ready for eliminations later Saturday evening. The Meritor hot-rod had not really hurt any engine components, the clutch had taken a beating along with Paul and some chassis parts as we never got away from the shake.

Round one saw us up against a strong contender Mickey Ferro. Paul left first with a good reaction time of .024 vs. Mickey’s .040 and never looked back running a 5.688 @ 259 to defeat a somewhat crazy ride for Mickey that saw his car almost hit the wall. This set us up for a long night of bearing replacement, transmission changes and second guessing everything to get back to the 5.5’s for round two on Sunday.

Race day Sunday saw a continued warming trend in the temperature but the sky was overcast which kept the track temp down. Again we were confident that the 5.5 was just a lap away and that round two would do it.  This was not to be, Paul did his job and left first with a .050 reaction time to Headley’s .181 and we got there first with a 5.758 @ 256 effort.  This run produced the most tire shake of the whole event and again we dug deep into the data book looking for something to make the car quicker and driveable.  The pounding was starting to weigh heavy on Paul’s body and the pressure to keep winning does not make the pain any less.

Our next opponent was Todd Veney  a contender who has a reputation for getting inside opponent’s heads on the starting line.  In Maple Grove he and Paul had a good old fashioned starting line dual where neither wanted to be first to stage.  We knew he would not make it easy and the pressure was on Paul to keep calm with whatever Todd did.  Paul staged first and waited for Todd to move into the beams.  After what seemed a never ending amount of time he finally staged and Paul could no longer hold the car against the overheating clutch.  Paul red lighted by .012 of a second and our hopes for a second final round appearance went out the window.  Again we were hit with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows in a heartbeat.  After getting our emotions back in check we realized that it had been a fabulous start to our season, the earliest we have ever been on the track, the deepest into the program we have gone at our first race and our first of many 5.5 second elapsed time we will have this season.  With the amount of horsepower we are making it is only a matter of time before I’m reporting our first 5.4 et.  Stay tuned the Meritor hot rod will be hitting the track in Charlotte NC  April 19 – 21 and any of you in the area are invited to stop by for some good Canadian hospitality.


March 13, 2013

With our final round appearance at the Uni Select National still a vivid memory, our 2013 season is about to kick off at the Mac Tools Gater Nationals in Florida in two weeks time.  Our title sponsor Meritor has signed a multi-year deal with us which translates into a stable platform to build on.  The team is intact and the car and rig are ready to go, all we need now is good weather and a little luck.

Over the winter we were very busy, attending the HDAW in Las Vegas as the center piece of the Meritor Distributor appreciation reception.  It was great to talk to all our industry supporters and feel our strength and momentum build.  We have added more horse power to our combination with internal upgrades on the supercharger, better flowing heads and a more aggressive camshaft. Getting this to hook up with the track will be our first challenge but our tuner Les Mellows is surely up to the task.  Paul has kept his driving skills honed over the off season and everyone is eagerly awaiting the [March] 15th departure date.

I’ll keep you all up to date on this and all our races throughout the season.  You can follow us on NHRA.com on the results page of each race we attend and those of you who get ESPN 2 can catch us live at each event.

We are aiming for many final round appearances this year, watch for the Meritor hot rod to make some history.