Cayuga, Ontario - Reporter's Notebook

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 4th Annual ACDelco Canadian Nationals

Clay Millican
On Friday night Clay Millican made his first pass in a Top Fuel dragster since the memorable blow over that ended his racing day at the last IHRA event, The Dukes of Hazzard Nationals at Milan, Michigan. Undaunted by his experience, Clay pushed the throttle all the way down on his first pass back and recorded a fine 4.666-second elapsed time to claim the number one qualifying position at the time. Clay was driving the very same car that was last seen sliding through the Milan shut down area upside down. Amazingly both Clay and the car required very little to be race ready again. Clay reports no soreness from the accident, which he credits to the precise placement of his safety belts.

Brad Hadman, the team's chassis builder, flew to the Werner team shop in Tennessee to repair the car's damage but said on arrival, "why did you even call me?" Since he was already there, and the team typically front- halves their car at the mid point of the season, Brad went ahead and front-halved the car two races ahead of its regular schedule. Now that it's apparent that both Clay and the car came through the incident relatively unscathed it can be said that there were several "General Lee Flies Again" types jokes in the media center at the time of the incident. No one was willing to use such a headline then because the successful outcome of Clay's accident was uncertain.

One of the biggest stories of the weekend was the departure of Dennis Radford as driver of Ed Steffey's Pro Modified Corvette. According to Ed he received a call from Dennis on Monday morning of race week informing him that Dennis was resigning from the team effective immediately. A little over an hour later Pat Moore, the team's driver for three and a half years, called to say that he would like to go to the Toronto event with them and that he would be glad to help the team in any way that he could if they would just let him tag along. No problem, said Ed, how would you like to be our driver? Since there were only 15 Pro Modifieds here the Steffey team was guaranteed a starting spot if they could get down the track successfully. Despite never having driven the Corvette before Pat qualified 12th with a 6.288 elapsed time. In the first round he recorded a troubled 8.981 run, losing to Mike Castellana's 6.226 elapsed time.

Since Dennis Radford was not here I could not confirm his side of the story. Rumor has it that he has purchased a Jerry Haas Corvette (the same type of car that he drove for Steffey) from Rickie Smith and that he could back on track as soon as the next event at Martin, Michigan. Possibly his car will be transported in the hauler of fellow Pro Mod competitor Billy Harper. Time will tell.

Speaking of Billy Harper, he and longtime crew chief Evan Rives had an amicable parting last month. Evan wanted the freedom to tune at least one other Pro Mod car while Billy felt that Rives should devote his time to Harper's team exclusively. In Rives' absence Harper's Viper is being tuned by Billy and crew members Scott Higgins, Arron Powell and Brent Reid, all of whom stayed on when Rives departed.

One of the most impressive Pro Mod cars recently has been the Camaro of John Russo from Middletown, Massachusetts. John, who was competing in only his fourth IHRA national event ever, qualified with a great 6.194 elapsed time. On race day Russo's quicker 6.287 elapsed time was defeated by Ed Hoover's 6.295 in the first round. The Russo team uses power from NHRA blown alcohol star Arthur Gallant, who now campaigns an A/Fuel dragster, and they are Gallant's exclusive Pro Mod customer. The name of the team is the Dragon Slayers with John's wife, Susan, dressing up as a princess waiting to be rescued from the evil dragon that is painted on the car. Clad in the dress that she made herself and wearing high heels, she runs out to back John up from the burnout. She has already developed quite a following of her own with fans and officials coming around the Russo pit to ask if she is going to wear "the outfit" during the next qualifying session.

Dan Page, of Dan Page Race Cars, from Hampstead New Hampshire is the Russo team's crew chief. In the back of the Russo pit area was one of Tim Hodgins' sleek Cynergy Composites '67 Camaro body shells. In his day job, Dan is building a '67 Camaro Roadster for a customer using a Cynergy body as a starting point. Tim delivered the body shell to Toronto Motorsports Park with the Russo team planning to transport it the rest of the way back to New England.

A recovering Al Billes was very visible at this event. Al, who has experienced two serious crashes this season, was serving as an advisor to the Scott Wildgust funny car team. Earlier this week Al had the Wildgust engine on his dyno and was able to significantly increase its power output. Unfortunately, Wildgust 5.936 elapsed time fell just barely short of making the field. Sixteen funny cars were here to compete for the eight starting spots with Larry Dobbs' 5.930 second elapsed time securing the eighth and final spot. This was Wildgust's first appearance of the season and he was carrying the historic Bar's Leaks logos on his car as well as associate sponsorship from Cutler Hammer. Wildgust's plans for the remainder of this season are not yet finalized.

Meanwhile the Summit Dodge Stratus that Billes crashed at Milan was transported thisweekend to Jerry Bickel's chassis shop in Missouri by team owner Jim Oddy. The early report is that the center of the car held up well and that the car is repairable.

I didn't see a particularly humorous t-shirt at this event so my best t-shirt award goes to the award's runner-up at the previous event. In large letters it said, Lifetime Racing Fan. Underneath, in much smaller letters, it added, Please Speak Up.
Pat Moore
Billy Harper
Mike Castellana
John Russo
Scott Wildgust
Al Billes
Ed Hoover