Monday, November 20, 2017

"Happy Birthday" Andrew Ranger

November 20, 1986
Andrew Ranger
(Photo; nascar.com)
Born in Roxton Pond, Quebec.
Andrew was the 2002 Canadian Formula A Karting Champion and 2003 North American Fran Am 2000 Pro Champion. He raced in the Toyota Atlantic series in 2004, scoring six podiums and winning rookie of the year. He won the 2007 & 2009 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series
Championship and runner-up in 2016, third in 2012 and 2015, and fourth in 2008. He was the 2009 & 2010 NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Most Popular Driver. He has also competed in CART, Indy Racing LeagueNASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and ARCA road course events.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

"Remembering" Dale Armstrong

1941 - November 28, 2014
Dale Armstrong
(Photo: bangshift.com)
Born in Holden, Alberta.
He bought his first car, a 1936 Ford Coupe, for five dollars at age 14. In 1957, he began drag racing the car on a dragstrip at an airport near Calgary. It took him five attempts to make a 60-mile-per-hour (97 km/h) pass; he took out non-essential pieces of the car such as the back seat to lighten the load. His reputation for repairing cars quickly grew and soon there were cars lined up for repairs behind his family's garage. 

He began drag racing in NHRA's Northwest division in a Chevrolet Z-11 in the B/Factory Experimental class in an front-ended machine that had 11-second passes at 115 miles per hour (185 km/h). Armstrong and a friend towed his dragster to Southern California for the February 1964 Winternationals. In January 1965, he moved to Southern California and began campaigning a Chevrolet II at local tracks since he could compete up to five nights per week. He converted the car into a Funny Car and began running the car in early 1966 using the nickname "The Canuck". The car appeared on the cover of Hot Rod Magazine in December 1966; the article in the magazine said "Even a diehard Chevy lover would have trouble telling just what had been the original vehicle". The supercharged engine achieved runs in the 8-second bracket with a top elapsed time (e.t.) of 8.89 seconds. In 1969 he drove a Chevrolet Camaro in the Super Stock class and he followed it up with making passes in Funny Cars "Travelin' Javelin" and Tom Strum's Swapper.

Armstrong switched to the Injected Funny Car class in a 1973 Barracuda before moving to the new Pro Comp class in 1974. He joined Ken Veney's team and beat Veney in the finals of his first A/Fuel event at the Winternationals. He also won the AA/Altered U.S. Nationals for Jim Foust that season before moving to Pro Comp in 1975. While competing in Foust's Alcoholic BB/Funny Car, he won the Pro Comp championship including wins in the U.S. Nationals and Worlds. Armstrong continued racing in Pro Comp for three more years. During that time, he won eight more National events including the 1977 U.S. Nationals. In 1976, he won seven of nine IHRA Pro Comp National events and the championship.

He moved to Funny Car in 1980 and 1981 and had three final-round loses. He used Mike Kase's Dodge Omni at the 1981 World Finals to set a national record with a 5.891 second pass to break Bernstein's 5.90 mark. During the 1981 season, he had two accidents. Armstrong described the fiery 240 mph crash of his Dodge Challenger at Columbus, Ohio: "Yeah, that was kind of a bad one," he said. "It told me it was time to get out of driving."

After winning 12 National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and 12 International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) events in the 1970s, including the Pro Comp title in 1975, he joined Kenny Bernstein's Funny Car team crew chief in 1982. The combination produced four consecutive national championships in Funny Car from 1985 to 1988. In 1989, Bernstein finished third in Funny Car before moving up into the Top Fuel class in the following season.

 Armstrong continued as Bernstein's crew chief in Top Fuel, and the combination produced six wins in 1992 which tied a class record. In 1993, Wes Cerny developed a cylinder head / magneto combination that Armstrong tuned for the first 300 miles per hour run. At the Gator Nationals qualifying, Bernstein also set the record e.t. with a 4.823-second pass at 301.70 miles per hour (485.54 km/h) during qualifying for the Motorcraft Gatornationals in Gainesville. Armstrong said "Being the crew chief on the first car to run 300 means more to me than any national event win or any Winston championship. There isn't any question at all. People will forget what years we won the Winston championship, but they'll never forget when the first 300 was run and who did it."

At the 1994 season-ending Winston Select Finals at Ponoma, Bernstein broke the 310 mph barrier with 311.85 and 314.46 passes. In 1996, Bernstein won the Winston Top Fuel championship. In doing so, he was the first driver to win Winston championships in Top Fuel and Funny Car. Armstrong became one of the few crew chiefs to win titles in both classes.

(Photo: twm1340 via photopin cc)
Dale Armstrong, in the all red jacket, works his magic for Kenny Bernstein.

Armstrong and Bernstein parted ways in 1997 after being together for 16 season; Bernstein had won 48 events and five championships with Armstrong. 

Armstrong joined Don Prudhomme's Miller Lite team at the end of that season. Larry Dixon drove Prudhomme's dragster on the first 4.4 second pass (4.486) at the Matco Tools SuperNationals. In 2000, Armstrong joined Jerry Toliver's World Wrestling team in Funny Car - the team led the Winston points in August before finishing third.

Armstrong became the first chief to test Funny Cars in a wind tunnel. Other innovations included equipping dragsters with data recorders, installing a two-stage lockup-style clutch, and a fuel delivery system with two sources. He developed dynamometer testing for nitromethane. Some innovations later outlawed because they were too costly or too fast for the track included a three spark plug per cylinder magneto and a two-speed supercharger.

Armstrong has been inducted in numerous halls of fame including the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1995 and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2010. He was named eleven times to Car Craft magazine's All-Star Drag Racing team; he received their Ollie lifetime achievement award with Bernstein in 1997. In 2001, the NHRA ranked him tenth on their Top Fifty drag racers of all time.

Dale Armstrong died on November 28, 2014 at his home in Temecula, California at the age of 73. He had sarcoidosis.

Friday, November 17, 2017

"Happy Birthday" Bertrand Godin

November 17, 1967
Bertrand Godin 
(Photo; twitter.com)
Born in Saint-Hyacinthe, Quebec, Canada.
He started in karting in 1986 at the age of 18. Competed in Formula Ford in France. Drove Indy Lights, Formula Atlantic, Toyota Cup, CASCAR, Formula 3000 in Europe, and other forms of racing.

In 1997, he won the most important race of his career. Taking the Formula Atlantic victory at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal on the Canadian Grand Prix weekend. He followed up with a victory in Cleveland a month later.

He now devotes most of his time to a career as an automotive columnist and lecturer. He is also driving instructor for aspiring police officers at the National Police Academy in Quebec.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

"Canadian Motorsport Hall Of Famer" George Eaton Born - November 12, 1945

November 12, 1945
George Eaton
(Photo; statsf1.com)
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
The youngest son of Signy and John David Eaton. He gained fame as a Canadian race driver who drove sports cars, Can Am, Formula One and Formula A cars. He served as president of the family company for ten years. Under his leadership, Eaton's continued its precipitous decline from its historic dominance in the Canadian retail market.

His Formula One career with British Racing Motors included 13 World Championship Grands Prix and one non-Championship race, debuting on October 5, 1969. He scored no championship points.

George raced in the Can-Am series in 1968, 1969 and 1970. He was the top Canadian in the Can-Am Series in 1969. He participated in the Canadian Formula A series in 1969 and the Continental Series in 1969 and 1971.

George Eaton was inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame in 1994.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

"Happy Birthday" Michael Valiante

November 11, 1979
Michael Valiante
(Photo; michaelvaliante.com)
Born in New Westminster, British Columbia.
A former CART Champ Car, Formula Atlantic, and current Sports-car racer, Valiante began in karting where his success earned him a full-season scholarship in the Skip Barber 2.0 Series. In his first season, Valiante was both series champion and rookie of the year. Following this success he moved onto the Barber Dodge Pro Series and then to the Toyota Atlantic Championship.

Driving for the Lynx Racing team in 2001, Valiante was able to finish eighth in the series championship despite competing in only five events. His performance impressed Lynx enough to sign him for two more seasons. 2002 was Valiante's best year in the series. He won three races and led the points going into the final round in Denver, only to struggle in the race and lose the championship to Jon Fogarty. Valiante led the series early in 2003. However, his championship hopes were dashed when he missed the fourth round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca due to an illness. He went on to finish third in the championship and again scored three victories.

Valiante was set to make his debut in Champ Car at California Speedway in 2003, but the race was cancelled due to wildfires in the area. It was not until a year later that he made his first Champ Car start in Mexico City. His second start came at Portland in 2005 as a one-off drive for Dale Coyne Racing. He was not able to secure a full-time ride in the series due to his lack of financial backing.

In 2006, Valiante competed full-time with Finlay motorsports in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, where he and co-driver Rob Finlay finished ninth in the final standings. In 2008 he switched to SunTrust Racing to partner Max Angelelli in a DP class Dallara Pontiac, winning at Sonoma.

The Canadian joined Michael Shank Racing for the 2009 Rolex Sports Car Series. Driving a Riley Ford with John Pew as co-driver, he collected two podiums and resulted seventh in the DP drivers standings. In 2010 he partnered Brian Frisselle at the Shank team. With a best result of third, he finished ninth in the standings.

In 2012 he alternated between the Rolex Sports Car Series and American Le Mans Series. He started five Rolex races, winning at Mid-Ohio with teammate Richard Westbrook. In ALMS he competed in five rounds with JDX Racing in the GTC class, collecting three third place finishes.

The driver returned to Michael Shank Racing for the 2013 Rolex Sports Car Series, having John Pew has teammate during most races. He collected two second place finishes and resulted 15th in the DP standings.

In 2014, Valiante moved to Spirit of Daytona to race at the merged United SportsCar Championship, driving the Spirit of Daytona Corvette Daytona Prototype with Richard Westbrook and Mike Rockenfeller.

For 2015, Michael joins SDR/Visitfloridaracing.com once again with Richard Westbrook. This pairing has proved to be successful and the duo will be looking to capture more victories and fight for the championship in 2015.

Michael continues to spend as much time as his busy schedule allows coaching and managing his family’s very successful kart racing team, Italian Motors.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

"Happy Birthday" Teri MacDonald

November 8, 1963
Teri MacDonald
Born in Whitby, Ontario, Canada.
Teri is the sister of former NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Randy MacDonald. Currently retired from competition, she has competed in the past in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and CASCAR competition.

During the 1990s MacDonald was a member of the PPG Pace Car Team, a group of professional drivers who drove the pace car at IndyCar events. She also drove in competition in sports cars, including the IMSA series. An accident at Road Atlanta in 1997 nearly ended her career. MacDonald suffered a broken neck and she was forced to wear a halo to stabilise her head and neck.

Following her recovery, MacDonald returned to sports car racing. In 2000, she moved to stock cars, competing in the American Speed Association's National Tour before joining the CASCAR Super Series, Canada's top stock car series, for the 2001 season. She finished 14th in points, scoring two top 10 finishes over the course of the year.

MacDonald made her debut in NASCAR's national touring series in 2002, in the Craftsman Truck Series at Memphis Motorsports Park. Randy MacDonald also competed in the race, making the siblings the first brother-sister combination to compete against each other in a top-level NASCAR race since Tim Flock and Ethel Flock Mobley in 1949.

MacDonald ran in three other races during the 2002 season; her best finish was 29th at Memphis. In 2003 she ran for Rookie of the Year in the Craftsman Truck Series, however she would only compete in one event that year, at Darlington Raceway, finishing 30th.

MacDonald returned to the Truck Series for two races in 2004. On May 16, 2004 at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, MacDonald, Tina Gordon and Kelly Sutton competed in the UAW/GM Ohio 250, the first time three female drivers raced in the same NASCAR event. She finished 25th in the event, her best finish of the year; a 32nd place finish at Memphis was her final NASCAR event.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

"Canadian Auto Racing Legend" Wallie Branston Dies - November 7, 2013

October 11, 1923 - November 7, 2013
Wallie Branston
(Photo; legacy.com)
Born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Branston had many achievements including being a founding member of the Toronto Stock Car Racing Club and being inducted into the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame. In the late 1940s and 1950s Wallie became a popular figure and consistent winner on local Stock Car Racing Tracks. He was one of the first stock car racers in Canada to have major sponsorship, driving a series of Gorries and Bardahl sponsored stock cars. He raced on both dirt, pavement, road courses and ovals. He raced sports cars and was a rally driver.

A fan favourite at Pinecrest and the CNE Speedway, the Star once announced in a headline, “Branston is matinee idol of CNE stock car addicts.” After winning his fifth race early in the 1953 season, the Star’s Jim Proudfoot recounted how it took 20 minutes for the victorious driver to extricate himself from the winner’s circle, as he signed autographs, shook hands, and accepted congratulations.

He was also the “human battering ram” on the daredevil “Canadian Aces” team that went up against the Ward Beam Hell Drivers when that barnstorming troupe made its annual stop at the “Ex” in August.

In 1954, he raced in a Nascar Cup Series event at the Monroe County Fairgrounds at Rochester, N.Y., his contest ending on lap 52 of 200 when he crashed his ’53 Oldsmobile. The race was won by the legendary Lee Petty.

When his racing days ended, he spent fifteen years as the Starter at Mosport. From 1961 until 1975, during the glory years when sports cars, the Can-Am, the Trans-Am, Formula One, U.S. Auto Club stock cars and just about everything else you can think of raced there, Branston was front-and-centre, waving the green flag to start races and the checkered flag to signal the end of competition.

It was hard to miss him. Attired in black dress pants, white shirt, yellow bow tie and red sports jacket, he pretty much stood out. And his high leaps while waving the checkers are the stuff of legend, including this legendary photo from 1967 as he gave the checkered flag and the Grand Prix win to Sir Jack Brabham in a downpour on the winding course at Bowmanville, Ont..
(Photo; historiasdelmotor.com)
Branston once said the F1 races gave him his biggest thrills. “Jackie Stewart used to call me by my first name, ” he said. “It can’t get any better than that.”

Throughout his life an all-’round booster of the sport, Branston was a longtime director of the Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame, and in 1997 was inducted himself. On November 7, 2013, Wallie Branston, passed away at age 90.

For more on Wallie Branston see Norris MacDonald's column in Wheels.ca

(Photo; wheels.ca)