National Open attracts 32 funny cars to MRP

Tim Nemeth’s nitro Mustang has been putting down consistent five-second passes and looks to continue his winning ways this weekend.

Tim Nemeth’s nitro Mustang has been putting down consistent five-second passes and looks to continue his winning ways this weekend.

Drag racing as an organized sport has been around since 1950. Since that time it has evolved at an amazing pace. And many are of the opinion that it has gotten to complicated and dangerous.

The danger and overall speed are what attracted fans to motorsports. One of the most popular types of cars in drag racing is the funny car. It originated in the 1960s and has become the most watched class in drag racing. Names like Jungle Jim, John Force, Don Prudhomme, Twig Zeigler and Gordie Bonin are legendary in the class and that era of race car is now the fastest growing class in all of drag racing. The 1970s and 1980s were legendary in the Northwest, as the 32 and 64 funny car shows invaded Seattle and Portland.

Well, that era is back this weekend, with a few of the names from back then as well, as JET Equipment and Tools Canada and TDN Constructors group present the 32 funny car NitroFest at Mission Raceway Park, the biggest in western Canada.

In 2010, Mission held a funny car show that saw 24 cars compete. And all of the cars were the same body styles made popular from the late ’60s to early ’80s. The show played to a great crowd, and the idea was put into the Mission Raceway staff and a couple local race enthusiasts to see if it was possible to bring back the 32-car show.

With sponsorship from Jet and TDN, Mission has managed to attract just over 32 funny cars (34 at press time) for this weekend’s show.

There are three classes of funny cars competing this weekend; the absolutely mind blowing Nitro funny car class, the Funny Car Association and the Northwest BB/Funny Car Association. The 34th car is none other than one of the most popular funny cars of all time, The ‘Jungle Jim’ Nova. Two Novas were built at the same time, in 1969; Jungle Jim and Clare Sanders were the drivers. Dave and Sally Bany bought the cars a couple years ago and restored them, and they are bringing the ‘Jim’ car to Mission for this event.

The Northwest BB/FC class includes many drivers who used to race back in the day and also include a few standout top alcohol racers from the 1990s and 2000s. The Parker family is well represented with Kim, Randy and Russ all competing. The Harter family with Don and Shane (ex-TAFC drivers) will run here. Ron “Tikiman” Huegli in Bany’s beautiful Monza, Naniamo’s Brent Murray in the Damn Yankee Mustang, Royce Taylor in his 1972 Mustang, Greg Howland running his ‘Zeus’ Corvette, Matt Driskoll driving his “Wildside” GTX and rookie Todd Swinford in the “Photo Op” Datsun 280-Z. This group runs on a 6.85 soft index and is known for smoky burnouts and great side by side action.

The Rocky Mountain Funny Car Association is one of the most popular groups anywhere. They get booked at many northwest tracks and in the South as a few members have the ability to travel the longer distances. Loud music, hot back-up girls and party atmosphere highlight their shtick. Oh ya, they are the kings of the 1,320-foot burnouts. The Sekura team is mostly responsible for the carefree fun factor that many groups should look at and model themselves after. Team leader Ron Sekura leads with the patented quarter-mile-burnouts. He has been known to blow up the engine on the burnout (certainly not intentional); that is how dedicated he is to entertain the fans. He won last year’s race and will debut the team’s new Chevy II.

His brother Corey will pilot the team’s ’69 Camaro (or maybe they will swap it up this weekend, you never know with them).

Three big hitters from that group and multiple time winners in the IHRA and NHRA are Eddy Plaizier, Joey Steckler and Cal Tebb. Plaizier will likely do double-duty driving his six-second RED in Top Comp at the event as well. Joey Steckler is one of the originators of the Nostalgia movement in the Northwest and has a very nice Corvette. He is a huge supporter of drag racing in the northwest and is sponsoring SpeedZone Magazine this weekend. Cal Tebb is a TAFC convert and has one of the coolest rides. It is called “Bad Goat,” and is one of the few GTOs in the funny car class. Cory Kincaid drives a very nice ’55 Chevy, Arvid Fonstad is in the “Happy Hour” Vega, David Brant, a rookie this year, is in his ex-“War Eagle” Trans AM, “Wild” Al Weich drives a very nice ’71 Charger and a true rookie, Norm Kolwich, will run at his first-ever event in a nice ’53 Corvette.

The Nitro funny cars are the main players this year; we have attracted between 12-16 of the 250 mph monsters. It will be the biggest gathering of Nostalgia Nitro Cars (NFC) ever in Canada and adding in the other two funny cars classes, there are well over 30 on the grounds this weekend. The Nitro Cars are lead by defending champion and world-record holder Tim Boychuk in the Troy Lee Designs Trans Am. His holds the ET and MPH record of 5.63/258 and ran five low 5.70’s here at Mission Last year. Co-owner of the car Ron Hodgson was the owner of the famous Bubble-up Race team from the 70’s and 80’s.

The newest John Force clone, Mark Sanders was the runner-up last year and he brings his highly touted 20-year-old son Jake as the tuner to try and take away Boychuk’s dominance over the last year. Sanders’ car, the MR Explosive Nova, is a crowd favourite. Twig Zeigler is a name well-known in the Northwest and his Satellite is a very close replica of the famous Pizza Haven car he flipped upside down at Seattle a couple decades ago. Bucky Austin is a name synonymous in the northwest as he is the winningest driver in the northwest in a funny car.

The Northwest Hitter is one of only four drivers to have run in the 5.60s and as an owner-tuner he now has one of the premier drivers behind the wheel. Mark Hentges, multiple National event winner drives the “BAR Northwest Hitter” Arrow. Steve Plueger is one of the biggest names in funny car racing from back in the 70’s -90’s and he brings two cars to Mission. The Jolly Rogers Mustang driven by Alberta’s Todd Lesenko. His other driver is also from Alberta, and it is Mike Grekul in the Plueger and Gyger Mustang. Steve Plueger is also one of the tuners to get an NFC into the 5.60s. Mike Savage behind the wheel of Jim Broom’s Candies and Hughes Cuda is a real threat and has numerous five second time slips. Jay “The Prospector” Mageau has a long lineage in racing as Jay’s pop,

Bob Mageau, started racing back in the ’60s. He has a very nice Corvette Stingray and is looking for his first five-second time slip.

The Sitko Family is also synonymous with drag racing in Alberta. George and son Ken were part of the drag racing scene and Ken actually was a stunt driver in David Cronenberg’s B-movie “Fast Company.” Ken’s two sons, Nathan and Troy have taken over the driving duties for the Sitko Family Racing team. Nathan is the lead driver for their new car; the Ace Manufacturing-backed Plymouth Arrow. Brad Thompson is a rookie to the class but he is no stranger to nitro and he has been behind the wheel of a nostalgia front engine dragster for the last few years. He is one of the top drivers in that class, but came close to ending his racing career with a horrific crash at Boise a few years ago. He absolutely loves being behind the wheel of a funny car.

The final driver in the class this weekend is local favorite Tim Nemeth. His Mustang has made waves in the last year running numerous five-second time slips and qualifying eighth out of 30 cars at the March Meet in Bakersfield, Calif. in March. Tim and wife Nancy has been a staple in the sport over the last 15 years, and their business TDN Constructors group is one of the sponsors for the event this weekend. Nancy Nemeth, as if running the day to day operation of TDN is not enough has taken on a very special project, fundraising for Canuck Place Children’s Hospice.

Nancy along with Tammy Boersma, Trish Johnson and Carly LaFave are running a triathlon in September at Cultus Lake and all the funds raised at that event as well as the special auctions and raffles at the Mission this weekend will go directly to the hospice.

This is a very special charity for Nancy and many Canadians, and she will have one or two families that benefit from the hospice at the track this weekend. They are having a raffle with the winner getting to be crew chief for a day. The raffle is Saturday and the winner will be announced Saturday evening. The winner will be a crew member for the IceMan funny car team on Sunday. As well as the raffle, there will be many racing items up for auction: a signed Canucks hockey stick, John Force collector items, tools from JET Equipment and racing prints, as well as other items.

To go along with the three feature funny car classes, there is a full contingent of Sportsman classes, a Lordco sponsored ‘Comp Eliminator Shootout’ and the CPSA Pro Street class.

All are competing for NHRA Wally trophies and valuable National Open points.

Go to www.missionraceway.com for more race info, including times and admission (Kids under 12 with an adult are free). And for all the results from the weekend log onto www.speedzonemagazine.com.