Lordco Nationals start today at MRP

Don St. Arnaud

Don St. Arnaud

The top two classes are competing at Mission Raceway Park this weekend, for one of the biggest events of the year, the Lordco NHRA B.C. Nationals.

The top alcohol funny cars and dragsters are classes capable of elapsed times in the low five second range at speeds greater than 270 mph. The dragsters (TAD) have been highlighted by two or three strong-running Canadians, but this year the local hero is going to be noticeable by his absence.

Delta’s Shawn Cowie, winner of this race the last two years, was dominating the class during the first two months of the season. He ran the quickest time in history earlier this year at Pomona CA, and had already won two events.

But due to a horrific accident while on his way to a race Charlotte, NC, he will likely miss the rest of the season. (See sidebar)

With the absence of Cowie, TAD is now wide open and will be highly contested.

From Canada, Edmonton’s Don St. Arnaud, runner-up at Pomona, has quietly become one of the most respected drivers in the class. In his second full season, St. Arnaud has already run well into the 5.30s at 265 mph, and is looking forward to running at a sea level track.

Ashley Bart, in the Calgary-based Ken Gilmour TAD, has run in the 5.30s but has struggled this year.

Arizona’s James Butler is driving Chilliwack’s Hugh Ridley’s TAD. That Jeff Johnsen-tuned dragster has been in the 5.30s at Mission, but new driver Butler has taken a bit longer than hoped to acclimate to the high HP car.

One more Canadian in attendance is Greg Sereda from Edmonton, and he is looking to better his career best (a 5.70). From stateside, Joey Severance is likely the odds-on favourite to win as he has battled Shawn Cowie for the last four years. Severance is one of the best pure drivers in the class, and he is hot off a win in Las Vegas, and a runner-up to Cowie a week later. Ray Martin is a new driver, but he is driving for a car owner who is no stranger to the winner’s circle. Steve Federlin from Oregon has won many times at Mission as both a driver and tuner. Martin was the division six runner-up in top sportsman.

If I was a betting man I would put Joey Severance and Don St. Arnaud in the final round.

In TAFC (top alcohol funny car), five drivers, three Americans and two Canadians, are the favourites. Brian Hough has been at the top in division six for over a half a decade. He won the Mission race last year and was the division champion as well.

Clint Thompson, also from Oregon, has won at Mission three times and ran an awesome 5.61 last week at Woodburn testing. California’s Steve Gasparelli will compete here for the first time, but he is a multiple national and divisional winner. Edmonton’s John Evanchuk has some new motor parts and a trick injector on his car as well as a newer and lighter Impala SS body, and crew chief Bill Moore is promising career bests for the Red Wolf team.

The Red Deer-based Synoil team with Ken Gilmore in the seat is a win waiting to happen. The team has run well, but seems to be snake-bitten at times. Expect to see that team in the late rounds. Other teams with a chance are Oregon’s Jeff Ashwell and Washington’s Dave Germain.

Qualifying goes on Friday with one round and Saturday has two rounds of qualifying. Eliminations are Sunday starting at noon.

Go to missionraceway.com or Speedzonemagazine.com for all the action if you can’t make it out to the race. Gates open all four days (May 26-29) at 8 a.m. and admission is $10 for Thursday, $15 for Friday, and $25 for each Saturday and Sunday. A full event pass costs $60.

Dean Murdoch is the editor of SpeedZone Magazine