In the 1950s, when Canadian road-racing events were few and far between and organized drag racing had not even started, a little guy from St. Hyacinthe, Que., was tearing up most of the stock-car tracks of his home province and the northern United States. His name was Jean-Paul Cabana. The last of 13 children born on a farm, Jean-Paul started working as a mechanic when he was 17. He first got behind the wheel of a racing car at the Drummondville Autodrome in 1954, driving a 1932 flathead Ford V-8, and he never looked back. He won most races he entered, sometimes running as often as five times a week at Drummondville, Montmagny (near Quebec City), Riverside Speedway (Laval) and Bouvrette Speedway (St-Jerome). At the end of the 1950s, he switched to Chevy power and started racing in the northern U.S., initially at Airborne Speedway in Plattsburgh, N.Y. He got his first start at the Daytona Speedway in 1962 in the Sportsman Division. During the main support race for the Daytona 500, Jean-Paul drove what he remembers as an ex-Junior Johnson Pontiac Catalina to ninth place (first in the Sportsman class, as they also ran Modifieds in the same race). In 1965, John Paul won the first race at the Milton Speedway in Vermont (then owned by CBS’s Ken Squier) and, ironically, won the last race there before it went out of business in the 1970s. He won the track championship there three times. As well as dominating northern speedways, he ventured south to Charlotte, Richmond and Martinsville, with mixed results. In his 40 years of racing, Jean-Paul never ran less than three times a week but most often five. He raced frequently in Ontario, running at Cayuga, Mosport and Sauble River. During his career, Jean-Paul won more than 500 races and helped many young drivers get started, such as NASCAR stars Kevin LePage (he was best man at LePage’s wedding) and Ricky Craven, to name a few. Living the life of a gentleman farmer today, Jean-Paul still operates a driving school at the Sanair Speedway and does some announcing at Saturday night tracks in the province. In Quebec, Jean-Paul Cabana is known as the King of Stock Car Racing.
Image via Canadian Racing Online