Edmonton - Reporter's Notebook
Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 3rd Annual IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals
Interestingly of the nine Top Fuelers on hand, two were of the injected variety and seven were supercharged. As a result we were guaranteed that at least one injected car would qualify for the first time ever in IHRA Top Fuel. When the injected car of Winnipeg's Scott Murry would not start during Friday's only fuel qualifying session, and both Saturday sessions were rained out, it meant that Ed Verenka of Calgary, Alberta would earn a footnote in the IHRA record books. On race day Verenka lost in the first round to the number one qualifier, Doug Foley. His elapsed time of 5.35 seconds fell just short of the best elapsed time ever recorded by an injected fueler in IHRA competition. Keith Stark's 5.31 second run from Richmond last year remains the standard.
Todd Paton made the run here that he and his team have been looking for all year. During the only T/F qualifying session that was held Todd made a strong run with 4.703 and 314.39 being the result. Both are career bests for Paton in T/F and qualified him second in the field, a mere .001 behind Foley's 4.702. Additional sponsorship funding for this race from Calgary's Shaganappi Chevrolet, Edmonton's Dave's Diesel Repair and the OK TIre Stores chain made Paton's Edmonton trip possible. Unfortunately for all of them, plus Todd's regular sponsors, he lost in the first round to Rick Cooper.
Last year Terry Capp from Edmonton made his return to Top Fuel competition at this event in a car that he borrowed from Bob Vandergriff. Using Vandergriff's crew chief, Rob Flynn, and his own hometown crew he electrified the local fans by going all the way to the finals, where he lost to Clay Millican. Originally Terry had planned to compete again this year using a similar plan but the NHRA race scheduled for St. Louis this weekend meant that Flynn would not be available. Ironically, several NHRA tuners played musical chairs earlier this week and Flynn was temporarily available before being scooped up by the Gary Densham team. Flynn's sudden (and temporary) availability came too late for Capp to make any last minute plans. Terry does hope to purchase a fueler and run at least the three Canadian IHRA events next season. As always, if adequate additional funding could be found he would happily expand his schedule to include some American IHRA races as well.
The rain-out on Saturday meant that five P/M competitors were stuck outside the field. Two racers that would have loved to have another chance were Billy Harper and Eddie Ware. Both of them are currently in the top ten in points but were on the outside looking in after Friday's two sessions.
Slave Lake, Alberta's Trevor Lebsack has faithfully followed the IHRA trail all year but has never qualified for Funny Car eliminator. That all changed this weekend when he qualified fifth in the eight car field here. In the first round Trevor lost to Mark Thomas, who went on to advance to the finals. Even though Trevor's day ended earlier than he would have liked he is looking forward to the rest of the IHRA season.
Jim Sickles had not originally planned to race at Edmonton. But a victory at the last race on the tour had boosted him all the way up to second in points, just 23 behind Rob Atchison, dictating a trip west. After qualifying second Jim recorded a great 5.823 at 241.84 in his first round victory over John Evenchuk. However, he also suffered catastrophic engine damage on that run when he damaged his supercharger, injector and both cylinder heads. Despite a major thrash by his team they fell about ten minutes short of being able to answer the call for their second round match-up against Thomas.