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LAST MINUTE HEROICS BY LOCAL DRAG RACING CLUB SAVES FATHER’S DAY CLASSIC

LAST MINUTE HEROICS BY LOCAL DRAG RACING CLUB SAVES FATHER'S DAY CLASSIC

Action from the 2009 Classic 
By Markham Hislop with Josh Penner
 

The 24th running of the Father’s Day Classic drag race almost didn’t make it off the launch pad.  Only a last ditch effort by the Calgary Drag Racing Association appears to have saved the event.  But the drama doesn’t end there, as the former American sponsor is considering a lawsuit against the Motorsport Council of Calgary after some inflammatory comments to the media by its president.

The American Hot Rod Association was supposed to sponsor the race.  According to Art Mackenzie, owner of Race City, the event was to feature the AHRA’s Nostalgia class, which consists of older funny cars and dragsters, many of them hailing from the 60s and 70s.  Nostalgia racing has proven to be very popular in the United States and the AHRA is promoting a 2010 Reunion Tour that includes stops in B.C. and Ontario. 

Up until last week, Race City was an AHRA sanctioned track and Calgary was on the Reunion Tour schedule, slotted in for Father’s Day.  Then things went horribly wrong, with the AHRA pulling out of the event and terminating its relationship with Race City.  Each side in this dispute claims to be the injured party.

Mackenzie says negotiations with the AHRA were just fine until he sent the invoice for the track rental deposit of $4,900 to AHRA CEO Troy Moe.  Both sides agree the initial invoice was higher than the agreed upon amount.  But after a revised invoice was sent to the AHRA June 7, according to Mackenzie, shortly afterward he was faxed a letter saying the Washington-based racing body was postponing or cancelling because of “multiple violations of the sanctioning agreement and reunion tour contract.”

There have long been rumors of financial problems at the AHRA, says Mackenzie, and its decision to pull out when it was time to start paying bills is just too much of a coincidence. 

“There were no problems until we asked for the deposit,” he said.  “They invented them.”

Moe disputes Mackenzie’s version of events.  He says the disagreement over rental fees could have been ironed out with Race City, but there was one stumbling block the AHRA could not overlook: the poor condition of the Race City track.

AHRA representative Brad Janishewski, of Edmonton, inspected the track June 6 and refused to pass it.  The track is simply not safe for seven second cars with no suspension and probably not even for nine second cars, according to Moe.

“We can’t take the liability associated with that,” he says.

At this point, the dispute between Race City and the AHRA was simply a disagreement between two businesses.  Then the Motorsport Council decided to throw some gasoline on the fire.  President Rick Fransecone issued a press release Wednesday calling the AHRA a “bully” and claiming that ”this time an American is trying to kill motorsports in Calgary.” 

The release went on to accuse the AHRA of concocting violations where none existed.

In another release Thursday, Fransecone noted that the AHRA had sent letters to the City of Calgary and Race City’s insurance company stating that the track was unsafe for racing. 

“This assessment was based upon someone who neither has the accreditation nor the experience to make that assessment. It was formulated when the AHRA found out that the Calgary Event would happen with or without them and would be another embarrassment in their storied history this year,” the release stated.

Not surprisingly, Moe took exception to Fransecone’s statements and says he has turned the matter over to his legal team for further action.  “We’re not a litigious company, but we have to defend ourselves,” he said.

In spite of the failed agreement between Race City and the AHRA, there will be a Father’s Day Classic this weekend.  The line up will include the Rocky Mountain Nostalgia Funny Cars, Blown Renegade Dragsters, National Diesel Hot Rod Association, Bio-diesel Jet Car, Heads Up street car classes, and CDRA bracket cars, truck and motorcycles.

The usual practice when organizing such an event, says Fransecone, is to find sponsors to help offset the costs, including paying the racers.  But the first organizing meeting didn’t happen until Monday, which left no time to sign sponsors.

As a result, the CDRA, a local non-profit and volunteer organization, has committed to pay all the costs.  If the weather remains foul and affects the gate, the local club could be in trouble.

“CDRA has put its neck on the line to pay these guys,” says Fransecone.  “They’ve made a huge financial commitment.”

Spectator gates open Saturday at noon, with Pro Qualifying at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 11 a.m. with Pro Eliminations at 1.  For more information, visit the CDRA web site. 

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2 Responses to “LAST MINUTE HEROICS BY LOCAL DRAG RACING CLUB SAVES FATHER’S DAY CLASSIC”

  1. gregh says:

    My car runs very low 10’s at this track & it’s just fine for me & I’ve spoken to 2 friends today who have much faster cars( One is a 8.8 second car & the other one is mid 7’s) who both have no issues with Calgary’s track.
    The AHRA is a financial & organizational joke who have a pile of lawsuits pending against them because they don’t believe in the most basic principal of business. Paying bills.

  2. Stephen says:

    My car runs low 9’s. Last September, I set a new personal best 60′ and ET and that was during a Friday night event when traction isn’t known to be at it’s best.

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