Keep up with this weekend's IHRA Canadian Nationals by reading our behind-the-scenes event notebook. We bring you the stories behind the numbers and win-lights throughout the course of the weekend. Tune in daily for the latest news from the pits.





MCMILLEN’S PAYBACK GRANTED - Terry McMillen isn’t a Top Fuel driver who cries over spilled milk. That’s why, when a throttle cable prevented him from running for the Top Fuel crown at the 2008 IHRA season-opener, he didn’t fret.

McMillen just bode his time knowing another opportunity to race the up-and-coming rookie Spencer Massey would present itself.

Sunday afternoon in Grand Bend, Ont., McMillen had the opportunity for a little bit of payback during the IHRA Mopar Canadian Nationals.

“This was a tough win and racing Spencer Massey, he has a great team behind him with Paul Smith tuning,” McMillen said. “We didn’t get to race him heads-up in San Antonio. We broke the throttle cable and only got a chance to stage that race.”

Massey was quicker off of the line but that did little to deter McMillen from driving around his rookie foe. McMillen had a larger prize in mind. A victory for his Top Fuel team would provide his first double up triumph as a team owner.

McMillen was in line to run when hired driver Paul Noakes drove the Alcohol Funny Car to victory.

“This is a dream that you have of putting both of your cars in the finals,” McMillen said. “When both win, it’s unbelievable. My hat’s off to our teams, both Top Fuel and Funny Car, and the guys back at the shop. My guys just busted their butts and they never gave up. It’s the halfway point in the season and we needed to make a change.

“This is where we needed to get things turned around.”

McMillen went into the final round with an aggressive tune-up and only found out that tidbit as he was being strapped into the race car in the staging lanes.

“It was flying,” McMillen admitted. “Doug told me to tighten my straps a little tighter because he was going to send me on a lap. It was and I had to lift a bit earlier than I wanted because it started dropping cylinders and spinning the tires. We could have run some more.”

His victory marked his second Top Fuel victory and second final round of 2008. He heads into the next IHRA event in Martin, Mich., ranked sixth in the points and a legitimate contender for the championship only 138 points out of first.

McMillen is ready to effectively throw a monkey wrench into the once clearly-defined championship battle.

“We’re getting ready to mix that up,” McMillen said. “Our team is dedicated to what we are doing. The bottom line is we have five races left, and we are going to do everything we can to make this championship fun at the end. I hope we prevail at the end.”

Paul Noakes was just starting to find his groove behind the wheel of Terry McMillen’s Alcohol Funny Car when his crew chief Les Mellows threw him a curve. The setting was the IHRA Mopar Canadian Nationals in Grand Bend, Ont., and Noakes was in his third consecutive final round.

Noakes had lost the previous two finals and what did Mellows do before this final?

“They loaded the car up for me in the final,” Noakes said. “I’m starting to figure the car out. It’s not as easy to go from one Funny Car to the next. I couldn’t do this without the help of my guys who make this car easier to drive. They are changing it to the way I like to drive. It’s making my job easier.”

Adapting to change has become Noakes mantra this season. Over the off-season, Noakes was appointed to drive McMillan’s Instigator Alcohol Funny Car.

Noakes finished No. 4 in the 2007 championship point standings while fielding his own team. This year, Noakes had a good feeling this was going to be a championship caliber season, especially with Mellows turning the wrenches. Mellows tuned Rob Atchison to three world championships.

Noakes quickly found a level of trust with Mellows, even if it went against his comfort zone.

“If you look back at the first two races [of 2008], you’ll see we struggled,” Noakes said. “Les really flipped the car around. I never liked making big changes going into race day but that just goes to show you how smart the guy is because we went into final eliminations [in Grand Bend] with a totally different combination. The car was fast all day.”

Adding to the complexity of his race day in Grand Bend, Noakes drove without a tach or a shift light.

“I just drove by the seat of my pants,” Noakes admitted.

Noakes’ first victory with Terry and Rhonda McMillan’s Hoosier Thunder Motorsports Dodge ironically came on the same day his boss won the Top Fuel division.

“We have been hoping for something like this since Day One of this,” Noakes said. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity that Terry and Rhonda have given me to race this season. This used to be a dream and then I figured when I was running my team that this would be a hobby for the rest of my life. Now I can start putting the dream back in my wallet.”

MELLOW MELLOWS - Les Mellows can accept the fanfare, but he won’t readily liken Noakes’ victory to being a walk in the park.

“It took me six runs to learn it this weekend,” Mellows said of the winning combination. “Everyone wants four passes to learn the track better but I think it would likely take me more than that. The car responded in the finals, finally. We had similar conditions to that of Edmonton and I struggled with it.”

Mellows said the car Noakes drove last year was keen on hot weather tune-ups, the Mopar flopper with Hoosier Thunder clearly prefers cooler weather.

“I don’t think we’ll need but a few more races and we’ll have it figured out,” Mellows added. “Paul is a lot more comfortable now and we changed a few things around after the first two races to make him comfortable.”

SUCK IT UP - Pro Modified racer Ed Hoover will be the first to admit you don’t know when he’s going to win a race, but when he does – it’s spectacular.

Hoover the seasoned veteran driver for Paul Trussell broke through for his 14th career national event victory during the IHRA Mopar Canadian Nationals in Grand Bend, Ont.

His victory coming at the expense of Tommy D’Aprile.

“This was an incredible weekend and a tribute to Al Billes and my crew,” Hoover said. “These guys work so hard on this car, night after night and day after day. Everyone gives up their free time to come with me to the races. Most of my crew are volunteers and this makes it great for all of us.”

Hoover’s last national event victory came at the 2007 IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals in Edmonton, Alb. He was in the finals last month in the IHRA President’s Cup Nationals in Budds Creek, Md., losing that race because he admittedly, “didn’t give the car enough power to win.”

Grand Bend was another story. Hoover ran his quickest elapsed time of the weekend in the finals with a 6.062 elapsed time at 234.53 miles per hour.

Prior to that, he’d run a 6.107, 6.118 and a 6.092 to drive around Mark Nielsen, Jason Hamstra and Mike Janis.

“This time, we leaned on it to make sure it threw down a run,” Hoover admitted. “You just have to have a consistent car and it has to go down the track every time.”

Hoover begin his road to Pro Modified stardom within the Top Sportsman ranks, which eventually led to the creation of the world’s quickest and fastest doorslammer division. He is credited with winning the first-ever Pro Modified event in Darlington, SC, during the inaugural 1990 season.

The Grand Bend victory marked Hoover’s second at the track.

TRUSSELL MUSCLE – Hoover had all but given up on drag racing when Paul Trussell entered his world. The veteran drag racer had a bad run of luck with sponsors who wouldn’t pay bills, and the former diesel mechanic was prepared to walk away.

Enter construction magnate Trussell.

Trussell wanted to own a team and his driver could be none other than Hoover. After all, if you resided in South Carolina’s capital city of Columbia, you already knew who Hoover was.

Trussell knew all too well of Hoover's reputation and that’s what inspired the cigar-chomping, class car collector to field his first team in 1996.

“Paul is a motorhead, a car enthusiast, and I knew if I ever got him to a drag race and got him on the starting line he would be hooked,” Hoover said. “I wouldn’t do this for anyone else. Paul has always been a gentleman and a man of his word. That’s how he and I operate and there couldn’t be a closer friend to me than him.”

TAKE IT TO AL – Hoover took his engine to Al Billes a month before the event for a little of the Canadian tuner’s magic. Not only did Billes tune Hoover to the winner’s circle but also Raymond Commisso to the No. 1 qualifying spot.

“The guy is really smart,” Hoover said. “He fixed all the problems we had with the engine and the car has run fast ever since. We went to the finals in Maryland and then in Grand Bend.”

Hoover credits the turnaround in the team with input from Billes and his G-Force race car.

“We have a great and consistent race car,” Hoover said. “It’s a matter of the crew and every once in a while the driver has to show up.”





a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website





GOOD FRIENDS HELP OUT - Funny Car racer Jack Wyatt thought he was parked for remainder of 2008 season after the Budds

Jack Wyatt was back in competition at Grand bend after missing Edmonton.
Creek, Md.-based IHRA President's Cup Nationals. Thanks to Rocky’s Harley Davidson in London, Ontario, the 2007 championship runner-up Wyatt has a second chance.

Rocky’s Harley Davidson stepped in and agreed to a one-race sponsorship package with Wyatt that has allowed him to compete this weekend. Currently 8th in the season points chase Wyatt is hoping this new lease on life will allow him to move back into the points chase and, hopefully, keep things going for the remainder of the season.

“I have to do well in Grand Bend, and I have every confidence I will be able to do just that,” Wyatt said. “The car is running strong, if I can keep it in the middle of the lane and do my job as a driver I think I can get back in this thing. But I have to approach it one step at a time, one round at a time. I can’t put the cart before the horse.”

Wyatt recently competed against NHRA Nitro Funny Car points leader Tim Wilkerson in a match race at Eddyville Raceway Park. He won one and lost one, but learned a few things about his car that should help moving forward.

“I made a couple of adjustments to my tune-up and the car responded well,” he said. “It’s all about getting the power to the tires and having the tires hold the track…I was able to do that in Eddyville.”

But if not for Rocky’s Harley Davidson stepping in to help out with the one-race deal Wyatt’s newfound adjustments would not make a difference.

“I really have to thank Rocky’s Harley Davidson for doing this for me,” Wyatt said. “They have a great relationship with Paul (Spriet) and the whole gang at Grand Bend Motorplex. The commitment they have made to the race fans in Southern Ontario is second to none. For them to step in at this late date and enable me to make it to the race is a special, generous gesture I will not ever forget. If anyone wants to buy a motorcycle in the London, Ontario area…or anywhere in Canada for that matter, I hope they head to Rocky’s and show them how much they appreciate their support of drag racing.”

“Tell them Jack Wyatt sent you,” he added with a chuckle. “I love the fans in Grand Bend,” Wyatt said. “They are so supportive and really make the entire weekend a lot of fun.” 




IHRA President Aaron Polburn sports the hottest decal of the week -- U.P.S. However, this U.P.S. doesn't symbolize United Parcel Service. This one represents United Pro Stocks in a laughable tribute to the Edmonton Pro Stock boycott. From what we hear many of the Pro Stock cars have them as well as a few IHRA officials. We have only one question. Larry Morgan is the President?

PRO STOCK BATTLE SHAPING UP - The top of the Torco Pro Stock points standings is extremely tight, which is why the Mopar

Jeff Dobbins led the Pro Stockers into Grand Bend. He's got at least six teams gunning for his championship lead.
Canadian Nationals will be critical as a number of teams will look to cut the distance between themselves and current points leader Jeff Dobbins.

Just 109 points separate Bob Bertsch, currently in sixth position in the standings, from Dobbins at the top of the heap. There are four drivers in between them. Chances are, at the end of the year, the 2008 World Champion will be one of those six drivers, which is why the race at Grand Bend Motorplex is so critical.

Dobbins, a two-time winner this season, leads the pack with 327 points. IHRA Spring Nationals champion Elijah Morton is second with 300 points. Frank Gugliotta, the winner in Milan, is second with 300 points. John Montecalvo, the San Antonio winner, is fourth with 284 points while Pete Berner is fifth with 239. Bob Bertsch rounds out the top six contenders with 218 points, but his standing is better than it may appear as he is the only driver eligible for the 41 bonus points for attending every race.

Dobbins knows the Mopar Canadian Nationals will be pivotal if he hopes to keep the points lead.

“From here on out every race is very important,” he said. “And it starts in Grand Bend. We only have five races left so if someone gets three or four rounds out on you there isn’t that much time to make it up. Right now every round is crucial.”



CompetitionPlus.com's ace photographer Roger Richards proves time and time again that he'll stare danger in the face without flinching. Even an errant Alcohol Funny Car driven by Rocky Hummel can't break the ace lensman's concentration.

Defending IHRA Pro Stock world champion Robert Patrick is the only driver in his class to win every Canadian venue on the IHRA tour.
CANADIAN BAKIN' - Robert Patrick is the only current IHRA Pro Stock driver to have won national events in all three Canadian venues dating back to 2004 in his return to IHRA competition after a ten-year stint of running NHRA Pro Stock. That season he won the IHRA Canadian Nationals in Cayuga, Ont., and a year later won the IHRA Canadian Nationals in Grand Bend, Ont.
Last season, he won the IHRA Rocky Mountain Nationals in Edmonton, Alb.
Last year in Grand Bend, Patrick finished as a semi-finalist after qualifying second.
“Our car loves racing in Canada,” admitted Patrick. “We always do well when we come up here and the Canadian drag racing fans are incredible.”

THINKING OF DALE - Funny Car racer Matt Hagan currently
Matt Hagan has won two events in his rookie Nitro Funny Car season.
sits second in points, below teammate Dale Creasy Jr. who was tragically injured in Edmonton 2 weeks ago.

"We were looking forward to battling with Dale the balance of the year. It would have been some great racing. It's unfortunate that his horrible accident has sidelined him but there is great field of racers to compete with and we're looking forward to the second half of the season."

"Everyone at Matt Hagan Racing would like to wish Dale Creasy Jr. a speedy recovery and we're looking forward to seeing him back at the track soon," said Matt.

Although Hagan has experienced great success thus far in his rookie outing the Nitro Funny Car division he remains cautiously optimistic about the team's outlook for the rest of the season.

"No one on this team is thinking about a championship right now. Our approach to racing is the same as it was the weekend of our first competition," says Hagan. "This season has been quite an education for us so far. I'm sure there are more things that could have gone wrong but we're not quite sure what they could be!"

NEW DRIVER, NEW CREW - For Paul Richards this season has seen some highs and lows but lately things have definitely
Paul Lee stepped in for team owner Paul Richards this weekend to drive.
been on the upswing. After a non-qualifying effort during the Texas Amalie Oil Nationals in San Antonio TX, the car rebounded at the Presidents Cup Nationals in Budds Creek MD qualifying in the fifth spot by making two consistent runs.

Fast forward to this last Wednesday night at a match race in Englishtown, NJ the car again ran two consistent laps and to top it off didn’t hurt any parts.

With this in mind car owner Paul Richards entered this weekend's event .

Unfortunately, current driver/crew chief Mike Smith had a prior commitment which left him unable to attend. However, also present at the match race in Englishtown was veteran driver Paul Lee who already this season has a win and a runner-up on the IHRA tour. A deal was quickly struck which will find Lee behind the wheel of the Merchants Tire and Auto Centers entry.

With a driver in place the next piece of the puzzle was to find a crew chief and Richards didn’t have to look far crewmember Mike Roberts will step into the crew chief role this weekend. Roberts, a veteran crewmember for numerous nitro and alcohol teams has been serving as assistant crew chief this year. As an added bonus, Roberts was part of the winning crew for last year’s Top Fuel winner Scotty Cannon.

“We know we have a good combination in the car for the conditions we’ll see this weekend” stated Richards. “Paul Lee drove for us at several races last year and obviously he has proven to be a winner this year and Mike Roberts has shown us he is more than capable of tuning one of these cars so Mike Smith and I felt is was the time to give him a shot.”

This weekend, ARC (Applied Racing Components) will sponsor the Kelley Motorsports Nitro Funny Car.
Andy Kelley leads early nitro Funny Car qualifying.
Andy Kelley finished number 5 in the 2007 Knoll Gas Nitro Funny Car standings and is on track for another great season in 2008.

“The Kelley’s are about the hardest working team in Nitro Funny Car,” stated Carl Breihan of ARC. “Their hard work and commitment to the sport are what made this decision very easy.”

“ARC makes the finest EGT probes for nitro cars and we are thrilled for the chance to represent them,” said Andy Kelley. “Carl has done a lot to help racers and the sport in general. His company continues to develop race proven products for all forms of motorsports.”

Kelly drove his way to the top of the qualifying pack during Friday's provisional qualifications.

KEEP ON KEEPING ON - Paul Noakes has driven the Amalie Oil InstiGator in back-to-back final rounds in each of the last 2 events. The mid-season charge has been enough to tighten the points chase, but not enough to make up any ground on Laurie Cannister, who beat Noakes in both final round appearances.

"We just want to continue this mid-season push," Noakes said as he greeted fans and sponsors at a London media and cancer benefit event. "Laurie is going to be tough to catch if someone in this funny car class can't put the brakes on her. We've had three shots at her this season and have come up empty handed. It's going to be tough, but I don't think anyone has conceded the championship yet. We're not racing for second place yet," he said with a smile.Les Mellows, crew chief agrees, "We are still running for number one in the championship, but we need to focus on those that stand in our way and compete at a high level every opportunity we have. The points will be tallied in five more races."


Pro Modified's original national event winner Ed Hoover laid down a strong run on Friday evening. He is currently 5th after two sessions.




a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website

a d v e r t i s e m e n t

Click to visit our sponsor's website