Edmonton June 9 – 10, 2012
It was pretty much guaranteed to rain at some point yet the racers of the CMDRA descended upon Castrol Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta for the Western Canada season opener anyway. Because there were only 1.5 rounds completed on Saturday for qualifying and absolutely nothing else, there isn’t much to report on regarding the actual races. So I will bring everyone up to speed on who was missing and what was new.
Above: Andy Beauchemin on Ken Kent’s Top Fuel Bike
I saw a lot of new stuff happening and new stuff is usually always good. As you came in to the track, I noticed the Alberta Safety Council had their slow speed skills obstacles set up with bikes on hand for anyone who wanted to test out their skills. I wish it would have been a little closer to the action then perhaps might have seen more participants. Local custom bike shop After Dark sponsored a show & shine as well as a burn out competition on Saturday afternoon. The tent which is usually empty unless it rains had a
Above: Ethan Barkley
couple bands playing. Although death metal isn’t really my type of music, I do appreciate the effort by the CMDRA to try new things and bring a little more entertainment out to the track. I can see the value in a band playing simply because if rain happens or someone blows up on the track, it can take quite some time to get the track dry and fans get bored. So hats off to the CMDRA for thinking a bit outside the box and providing a little more of an atmosphere. I hope this continues.
There were very minimal Top Fuel bike present. Missing were the Pelrines who decided to race in the US the same weekend, Nate Gagnon who is racing the circuit in Europe this year and any Americans. In fact, I think Americans were missing in all classes. Also missing from Top Fuel was Ken Kent, but his bike wasn’t which brings the return of Andy Beauchemin piloting Kent’s bike in one of the most intense helmets I have seen.
Pro-modified is shaping up to be a very competitive class this year. Seems that Tony Clizbe is on fire and Gary Christopher made some off season adjustments he is still adjusting to. I am looking forward to seeing how this class pans out.
I spent some time chatting with both Clizbe and Christopher as they tore down on Sunday and I am still in awe of the camaraderie between competitors. It is after all, one of the reasons I fell in love with the drags. Seems the majority of the classes will step in and help out their competitors because they want to always be racing the best even if it means they lose.
Above: Pat McElrea at the Line
For the first time in a while, Pro Drag saw a full 8 bike class. Missing was Craig Pelrine but he sold his Pro Drag to long time race enthusiast John Black of Time Machine who is heading up the crews for 2 entries into the Pro Drag class. To add to my personal excitement and attachment to this particular class, I am so happy to report that after a 4 years hiatus, Pat McElrea has returned.
The last time Pat was on the track was the 2008 season. Over the offseason that year, he, fellow pro drag pilot Doug Casson and crew chief Darrell Kerner went to watch some US races and run the Tail of the Dragon. The boys were due back on the Monday and because of that, I will never forget that phone call the Sunday morning in October of 2008 from Darrell. I remember answering the phone and asking first if it was a helmet state thinking that would make a difference. Then Darrell delivered the
news of Pat’s accident on the freeway with their rented Harleys. For the next month, Pat stayed at the Duke University Hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina because of the extensive injuries he suffered. Eventually a phone was hooked up and we were able to connect with him from here. When he was stable enough to be brought home, he was taken to the University of Alberta to recover some more then off to the Glenrose for rehab. The one thing that has always remained in my stubborn friend’s head is that one day, he will return to the track. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. First step was to get back on his street bike and he did that. Next step was to try a long trip and he did that. For some reason, and likely it is my care for this man, I didn’t know if racing would happen again. Was I wrong!
Above: Tony Clizbe
June 9, 2012, as I stood halftrack taking pictures on the guardrail, and there was my friend and his crew, Don Werbowestsky who has spent the last couple seasons learning from and working with Doug Casson and Ray Halpin’s teams and newcomer Garrett Hoffmeier. Because I arrived a little later than normal and had no chance to walk the pits before the action started, I had no idea Pat was there to race.
So once the majority of the first round was done, I headed over to congratulate my friend on his first pass back which I might add was a very respectable 8.6 seconds. The following day, I was standing in Hyper Al’s trailer watching the rain fall, telling stories when Pat came by requiring the last signature on his newly reinstated full license.
It has been one hell of a road back for Pat and aside from surviving the accident, I have never seen a grown man so incredibly happy just to be able to get on that track. I think many people can take a lesson from him…it isn’t always about winning, sometimes it is just about being able to do what you have a passion for.
To the remaining classes, I do apologize for not making my way around the pits. The hail and rain put a big damper on my promise to get more involved in every class this year. I will make good on my promise this year as I should be in attendance for at least 2, maybe 3 of the remaining races.
Good luck to all the races in the next event, Sturgis North Nitro Nationals on July 21 & 22, 2012 in Ashcroft, BC.
For more information on the CMDRA, please visit www.cmdra.com. To view more pictures from the racers, search Canadian Motorcycle Drag Racing Association (CMDRA) on facebook and request to join their official facebook group.