CMHF Inductee Dale Armstrong passes

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Dale Armstrong, a highly-respected crew chief that helped drag racing legend Kenny Bernstein win five of his six NHRA championships and also had a successful driving career himself in the
1970s, has passed away at the age of 73.

Armstrong was inducted in to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1995

The NHRA reports that he was suffering from complications of sarcoidosis before his death on Friday at his home in California.

Armstrong won the 1975 NHRA Pro Comp title, and a year later claimed the IHRA title. He was also a multi-time winner in the sport’s most important race, the U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis (1974, 1975, 1977).

After closing his driving career in 1981, Armstrong became a crew chief for Bernstein’s Funny Car outfit in 1982. Eventually, the duo helped power one of the NHRA’s top dynasties as Bernstein’s Budweiser King won four consecutive Funny Car crowns from 1985-1988.
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F.J. Smith

Inducted 2009

Not only was F.J. (“Fred”) Smith one of the top drag racers in both Canada and the US, he went on to build some of the finest, most competitive Stock and Super Stock class cars. The cars built in his shop by the banks of the Grand River at Cayuga in Southern Ontario have won numerous NHRA “best engineered” awards.

Smith’s crowning achievement was the conversion of a front-drive car, which became the norm in the early 1980s, and stuff in a V8 engine with a traditional rear-drive setup without butchering the car’s integrity.

Working with the Oldsmobile Division of General Motors, who at the time was heavily involved in drag racing, Smith developed a car for the Super Stock classes in NHRA and IHRA competition, a car which received the blessing of the sanctioning bodies. By 1987 Smith was very busy building these cars, always improving on the basic design. Some of his achievements, such as the four-link rear suspension and front-end strut are used exclusively in the classes.

The former high school teacher has not raced himself for some years now, but is actively involved. He continues to build cars, has passed the driving torch to his daughter Victoria, and is the main proponent behind the Can-Am Stock/Super Stock series which tours throughout Ontario and several US states.

Bert Straus

Inducted 2003

Bert Straus was a drag racer who competed from the mid-1960s to late 1970s. His specialities were stock, gas, altered and pro-stock. He set National Hot Rod Association records in the altered and pro-stock classes and won the D-Gas championship at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis in 1971. He built and maintained his own cars and has worked through the years with Hall-of-Famers Dave Billes and Brad Francis on their various automotive and racing projects. He campaigned “Chilly Willy” throughout North America and it is still one of the most recognized and respected car names in Canadian drag-racing history. Like most champions, he loved to push the boundaries of conventional vehicles. He teamed with Pontiac in 1973 to build and compete in Pro Stock with the Canadian Pontiac Astro, the only one of its kind. The Astro was a ‘Canadian only’ car. There were also no other Pontiacs in Pro Stock at the time. All this at a time when there was little or no Canadian participation at the professional/U.S. national level. Throughout his career, he consistently won best-engineered/best appearing car/best crew awards. Although no longer a competitor, he has worked and continues to work with Billes and Francis in CART, SCCA, IMSA and NASCAR racing.

Image via Chilly Willy

Barry Paton

One More Time at Sanair in 1976

Inducted 2002

Barry Paton has been involved with race cars since the mid-1950s. As a teenager, he took a turn at stock car racing but soon found out that “turning left” was not for him. In 1964, he began running a ’58 Plymouth Fury at the drags, honing his driving skills. In 1969, Barry ordered a new 1969 Chevrolet Nova with a powerful 396 big block. With his wife Lynne’s encouragement, Barry began racing the Nova, which he quickly named “One More Time.” “One More Time” quickly became one of the most-feared Super Stockers of its time. Running in SS/IA trim, the Nova obliterated the NHRA record of 11.08 with an unreal 10.83 and won hundreds of trophies. In 1978, Barry felt the urge to go a little quicker. After a brief search, he found the old “Fighting Irish” Nitro Funny Car which fit perfectly into B Econo Altered in NHRA’s Competition Eliminator, with a de-stroked 383 cu. in. Chevy for power. This allowed him to move into the 8-second range at over 150 mph. It also seemed to whet his appetite for funny cars. In 1986, Barry took delivery of Paul Smith’s “Entertainer” nitro funny car and outfitted it with all the running gear from the Vega. At a Division 2 Points Meet in Warner Robins, Georgia, his fourth event behind the wheel of his new Camaro, Barry eliminated Bogie Kell, Terry Mullins and then-Division 2 champion Steve Group to claim his first title in Alcohol Funny Car. In 1989, Barry became the first Canadian to qualify #1 at the Molson GrandNational in Montreal, Quebec, where his 6.06 paced the 16-car field. During the winter of 1990, Barry put Todd, the older of his two sons, behind the wheel of the family funny car. Barry tuned Todd to a run of 6.01 seconds at his very first national event, the 1991 Gatornationals. They went on to win the Can-Am Nationals that year in St. Thomas, Ontario. The following year Barry, along with Todd’s younger brother Tony, tuned him to a runner-up finish at the IHRA Winternationals. In June of that year, just three months later, the Paton family earned their first national event win when Todd defeated Scott Weis in the snow-delayed(!) IHRA Summer Nationals. In 1993 the team won the IHRA World Championship despite missing the season-opening Winter Nationals. In 1995, the team again used record-setting performances to return to their winning ways, and became the only Canadian team to capture two IHRA World Championships. In 1996, Barry and his family shifted their focus to the NHRA. Using a new combination designed around a screw-type supercharger, the team became the first alcohol funny car to break into the 5.70’s at Indy, and used a string of consistent 5.8-second elapsed times to eliminate the likes of former world champions Pat Austin, Randy Anderson and Tony Bartone to win the biggest drag race of them all: the U.S. Nationals. 1999 was the team’s best season in the NHRA’s Alcohol Funny Car division. The team won the Mac Tools Gatornationals. They quickly followed that victory with another win at the Lone Star Nationals in Dallas, Texas and a divisional victory in Reynolds, Georgia, earning them a top 5 finish in the NHRA’s season-long points chase. Barry has since kept himself busy guiding the career of son Todd in a nitro funny car. But just before the season-ending NHRA World Finals last year, Barry climbed back in the cockpit of a funny car for the first time in 12 years and the first time ever in a nitro funny car during a test session at the Strip in Las Vegas. He made two perfect 300-foot checkout passes, leaving his future plans wide open. Maybe he’s ready to go quicker “One More Time”.

Image via Lynn W “Mort” Morton on Drag Racers Reunion

Ken Achs

Inducted 2002

Saskatoon businessman Ken Achs started racing in 1962 in Calgary at the wheel of a 1940 Ford Coupe with a Buick motor. Two years later, he opened Mid-West Automotive in Saskatoon and built a Chevv-powered C-class dragster. This was the first car to go down the newly-constructed Saskatoon International Raceway in 1966. Ken also raced his car at Bison Raceway in Winnipeg as well as at Calgary and Edmonton.

In 1967, he bought a Top Fuel car from Ed Norton of Seattle. This was the first Top Fuel car in Saskatchewan and he won virtually every race he entered across the prairies that year, competing against U.S. drivers. In 1968, he upgraded to a brand-new Top Fuel car, which he ran for three years, sweeping every race he entered in Canada. He set the low elapsed time and top miles-per-hour marks at the Canadian Nationals in 1968.

In 1971, Ken switched to Funny Cars and continued his success. He won races and championships across the prairies as well as in California, Washington and Oregon. He was the only Canadian competitor to hold both NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car licences in 1971. Due to the demands of business, Ken sold all of his racing equipment in 1973. When asked, he said he did not consider himself a world-class drag racer but rather a fortunate fan who happened to live at a time when going 200 mph was an attainable dream. When asked, Ken graciously tracked down and restored his 1967 Top Fuel dragster and donated it in 2002 to the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame where it is on permanent display.

Image by Richard Wood via Bison Dragways

Interview with Terry Capp

Terry Capp in action at the California Hot Rod Reunion in 2008

Speed Scene Live caught up with CMHF member Terry Capp at the 2007 NHRA Hot Rod Reunion where Terry went to the final round in his bubble up car.

Image by Darr Hawthorne via Drag Racing Online.

Gord Jenner

Gord Jenner in the Royal Canadian

Inducted 2000

Gordie Bonin, Ron Hodgson, Gordon Jenner; these three people could well make up what is arguably the most successful drag racing team in Canadian motorsport history.

Gordie Bonin, the driver, won 9 NHRA Funny Car national events, the AHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 1989 and numerous other runoffs. Gordie also served as the NHRA’s director of marketing for six years. After a short retirement, Gordie returned to action two years ago, competing in the FIA’s European Top Fuel category.

Ron Hodgson, the team member, ran Edmonton International Speedway from 1974 to 1979. He also fine-tuned dragsters that won 6 NHRA Funny Car national event victories, two AHRA Top Fuel World Championships and numerous other events. Ron today is associated with the top fuel dragster driven by Craig Smith out of Spokane. He also campaigns a sprint car with his youngest son, Jeff.

Gordon Jenner was, for years, associated with a number of drag racing teams, acting as crew chief. He joined the Bonin-Hodgson team for the first time in 1972 and was crew chief when many of the team’s victories were recorded. Gordon worked as crew chief on a team with driver Terry Capp in 1988 that won the NHRA’s World Championship. In 1989, he rejoined Bonin-Hodgson in time for the World Championship, which they won. True drag racers, they were quick to lend a helping hand to fellow competitors when the need arose and over the years they worked with Gary Beck and Ed McCullough, among others.

Image via Drag Race Alberta

Ron Hodgson

The Pacemaker Dragster

Inducted 2000

Gordie Bonin, Ron Hodgson, Gordon Jenner; these three people could well make up what is arguably the most successful drag racing team in Canadian motorsport history.

Gordie Bonin, the driver, won 9 NHRA Funny Car national events, the AHRA Top Fuel World Championship in 1989 and numerous other runoffs. Gordie also served as the NHRA’s director of marketing for six years. After a short retirement, Gordie returned to action two years ago, competing in the FIA’s European Top Fuel category.

Ron Hodgson, the team member, ran Edmonton International Speedway from 1974 to 1979. He also fine-tuned dragsters that won 6 NHRA Funny Car national event victories, two AHRA Top Fuel World Championships and numerous other events. Ron today is associated with the top fuel dragster driven by Craig Smith out of Spokane. He also campaigns a sprint car with his youngest son, Jeff.

Gordon Jenner was, for years, associated with a number of drag racing teams, acting as crew chief. He joined the Bonin-Hodgson team for the first time in 1972 and was crew chief when many of the team’s victories were recorded. Gordon worked as crew chief on a team with driver Terry Capp in 1988 that won the NHRA’s World Championship. In 1989, he rejoined Bonin-Hodgson in time for the World Championship, which they won. True drag racers, they were quick to lend a helping hand to fellow competitors when the need arose and over the years they worked with Gary Beck and Ed McCullough, among others.

Image via Drag Race Alberta

Ray Peets

Inducted 1999

One of the most successful teams in Canadian motorsport history, Gary Beck and Ray Peets captured the 1974 National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel World Championship, the highest honour in the toughest and fastest class in drag racing. From their homebase in Edmonton, Beck and Peets won an amazing 79% of the NHRA and American Hot Rod Association events they entered that year – 59 wins in 74 runs. They were runner-ups in the 1975 World Championship.

Gary Beck

Inducted 1999

One of the most successful teams in Canadian motorsport history, Gary Beck and Ray Peets captured the 1974 National Hot Rod Association Top Fuel World Championship, the highest honour in the toughest and fastest class in drag racing. From their homebase in Edmonton, Beck and Peets won an amazing 79% of the NHRA and American Hot Rod Association events they entered that year – 59 wins in 74 runs. They were runner-ups in the 1975 World Championship.

Image by Roy Constible via Bison Dragways