Toronto - Reporter's Notebook

Notes from Jim Luikens' Reporter's Notebook at the 3rd Annual ACDelco Canadian Nationals

Bob Leverich
Nitrous Oxide for the injected Top Fuelers continued to be a hot topic here at Toronto Motorsports Park (TMP). This is the first event to be contested since the combination was legalized following the demonstration runs that Keith Stark made at the last event in Milan, Michigan. Keith reports that his phone traffic became so intense after the legalization announcement that he had to ask his wife to start taking messages. After running a 476 cubic inch engine up to this point he showed up here with a 496 cid engine and the intent to utilize more nitrous than he had at Milan. The result was immediately obvious as he split a magnesium body side panel on his first run when chassis flex tore the panel into three pieces. After two sessions Keith sat on the bubble at 5.589 seconds before being bumped out during Saturday's final session. The 5.589 run produced some piston damage that he has not seen before. With no one preceding him, Keith is having to learn as he advances by taking baby steps to discover what the combination wants.

The only other injected car here, Bob Leverich, also arrived with nitrous onboard after his crew had worked until midnight the night before to install an entry-level kit. Bob made his first ever nitrous-assisted pass on Friday evening with base line tuning information from Keith Stark. Saturday's first qualifying session produced a 6.677 elapsed time, just a few thousands away from his 6.63 career best. Bob was impressed with the impact that nitrous made on his run and looks forward to continuing to develop the combination.

Lagana's Damaged Wing
Bobby Lagana, Jr. experienced a wild ride during Saturday's first qualifying round. About 800 feet into the run Bobby began to feel a vibration. Feeling that he had to get into the field on this run he made the decision to drive the car to the finish line. Nearing the finish line the car became quite violent and began throwing him around inside the cage. The car completed its run at a near career best elapsed time for Bobby of 4.820 seconds just as the rear wing folded up. The loss of the wing's down force caused the rear tires to begin spinning wildly and tearing the center out of the left rear tire. According to his computer, Bobby was finally able to bring the car under control at the 9.70 second point of the run, nearly five seconds after he had crossed the finish line. The look on Bobby's face after the round said it all as it was obvious that he knew he had dodged a big-time bullet. The team borrowed a wing from Clay Millican's Werner Team to compete on Sunday.

Bruce Litton
This event marked the second outing for Bruce Litton's new Bruce Hadman chassis. This car is virtually a twin to the car that he wrote off at the season opening event at San Antonio. The only difference between this car and the previous one is that this car features a few more creature comforts. Bruce had a total of 10 runs on the first Hadman car when it crashed and those 10 were enough to uncover a few changes that he wanted to make in its replacement. Bruce and his team are looking forward to an upcoming period of six races in six weeks. Racing back-to- back-to-back is nothing new for the Litton team. In 2002 the team raced for nine consecutive weeks and last year for eight consecutive weeks, although some of that was due to rescheduled events due to rain.

Beginning with the next event in Martin, Michigan all of the Top Fuelers are required to have roll cage shielding in place in addition to the traditional "tombstone" that has always been required behind the driver's head. Only Clay Millican had such a shield installed here and his was a second-design model that replaced the one that the team had proactively installed prior to any specific shield rules being announced by the sanctioning bodies.

Evan Knoll of Decatur, Michigan has purchased a Top Fueler from Bruce Litton. Knoll, the owner of Knoll Gas, is well known for the Torco Race Fuels he sells and has competed in Top Alcohol Dragster in NHRA Lucas Oil Series competition. He plans to make his Top Fuel debut at the upcoming, Torco Race Fuels-sponsored Martin, Michigan Northern Nationals.

Terry Munroe
Friday's number one and number two qualifiers in Funny Car were not the big two that we normally see. Instead of Rob Atchison and Mark Thomas holding down the top spots like usual those spots belonged to Neal Parker and Terry Munroe. In fact, Parker's 5.931 and Munroe's 5.967 were the only five second runs of Friday. By the time qualifying was completed on Saturday Atchison had repossessed the number one spot with a 5.862 and fellow Canadian Larry Dobbs locked up number two with a 5.913 second run.

Rick DiStefano rejoined the tour here after business commitments had forced him to miss the last event at Milan. The last time we saw Rick was in the final round at Edmonton when a broken blower belt relegated him to the runner-up position. The departing belt did some damage to his hood and windshield but both had been refurbished for this event. Rick proved that he had mastered the transition from the altitude of Edmonton seamlessly. On Friday he qualified second right out of the box at 6.230 despite short shifting his car early by mistake. Only Fred Hahn's 6.228 eclipsed his 6.230 as supercharged cars claimed the top two positions and 11 of the top 16 on Friday. During Saturday's first session Rick roared to the number one spot at 6.174 seconds before being bumped back to number two by Billy Harper during Saturday's Night of Fire.

Elijah Morton was racing here with "Big Sexy." Big Sexy is the name of one his engines and it was that engine that carried him to victory at Grand Bend earlier this year. The engine lived up to its pedigree by roaring to the number three qualifying position on Friday night. His run of 6.572 seconds was actually holding down the pole position until the very last run of the qualifying session when Brian Gahm and John Montecalvo both recorded 6.55 elapsed times. On Saturday he was only able to improve to a 6.571 elapsed time which dropped him to fifth place in the final Pro Stock ranking.

Bo Kenney
Earlier this year we recorded a drag racing first when Ron Biekx oiled his own track at Grand Bend. We reached another new milestone here when Top Stock racer Bo Kenney of Manassas, Virginia oiled the track on a run he didn't make. It seems that Kenney rolled the starting line lights during Friday's evening qualifying session. The starter then allowed Bo to back up and restage before making his run. As luck would have it he significantly oiled the track. Since he never should have been allowed a second chance at the tree the run did not count.

Former track manager Bruce Mehlenbacher and his friends put together an observance of the 50th anniversary of the Cayuga (now TMP) track earlier this year. Due to the overwhelming positive response the group decided to reprise the highlights of that event over the national event weekend to allow even more fans to enjoy it. In a former army barracks located adjacent to the track they set up a photo review, continuous slide show and memorabilia swap meet.

John McIntyre from Hydro Vac was trying to raise money this weekend for Ryan MacPherson. MacPherson, of nearby Selkirk, Ontario has Cystic Fibrosis and is need of a double lung transplant. McIntyre and Hydro Vac, already a Toronto Motorsports Park and local racer sponsor, decided to get behind Ryan when they heard that he was no longer eligible for coverage under his parent's insurance policy because he had reached 21 years of age. They started by donating $4,000 towards a weekend goal of $15,000 and offered to match all of the other contributions received on a dollar for dollar basis. By the end of the first day the fund already stood at $6,000 collected.

Ed Note: Notes during the event mentioned that the last time an Ostrander Team car was in consecutive finals was in 1987. In fact, Louie Allison went to consecutive finals, at Epping and Rockingham in 2001. The Fall Rockingham race was run prior to the event at Budds Creek that year. FastNews apologizes for the error.