Tuesday, March 24, 2009

NHRA Hall of Famer Jim Dunn to Celebrate 75th Birthday at Houston's Spring Nationals

Team Owner/Crew Chief Participating in his 60th Year of Drag Racing

Where else would you expect a man in his 60th year of drag racing to celebrate his 75th birthday? At a drag strip, of course, and that's exactly what NHRA legend Jim Dunn will be doing this weekend as the team owner/crew chief takes his Canidae Racing Funny Car team to Houston for the 22nd annual O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park on March 27-29.

On his actual 75th birthday on Saturday, Dunn will be turning the wrenches on the Canidae/Lucas Oil Chevy trying to qualify Jerry Toliver for his fourth race of the season. The Jim Dunn Racing team will feature a "75th Birthday" logo to commemorate the special day and historic season.

"I enjoy the races and the spectators are great," Dunn says. "That's my home away from home. I'm just glad that I'm still walking and still have the opportunity to tune this Canidae/Lucas Oil Funny Car. Anytime we go to the starting line we say we can beat the guy. I've always said that the day I go up to the starting line and say I can't beat him, I'll quit. Racing is racing."

Toliver and the Jim Dunn Racing team continue to make strides and are coming off of their best race weekend of the young season. Toliver made four full passes in qualifying the Canidae/Lucas Oil Chevy 12th at Gainesville and defeated Mike Neff in Round 1 for his first round-win of the year. Toliver looks to carry that momentum into Houston where he was runner-up to Tim Wilkerson in 2004 and runner-up to Bob Gilbertson in 2000. 

"I think our performance at Gainesville was definitely a step in the right direction and gives us some momentum going into Houston," Toliver said. "I don't care who you are, going rounds in Funny Car is tough. It was good to get a round-win there, and for this team with a new car and new driver to do it in such a short amount of time is impressive. We're starting to put the pieces together and we're getting closer."

Dunn, a pioneer in this sport as a driver, team owner and tuner, started his career as a competitor in 1950 when the popularity of drag racing was starting to move from the streets and began to take hold on local strips throughout Southern California. Over the years, he has accumulated numerous wins and performance records including a victory at the 1972 Supernationals in Ontario, Calif., a win at the 1981 World Finals in Irvine, Calif., and a runner-up finish at the 1981 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. Dunn is also the only driver to win the prestigious March Meet at Bakersfield in both Top Fuel and Funny Car.

Since retiring from driving in 1990, Dunn's career has continued to flourish as a respected crew chief, technical advisor and car owner. He wrenched cars to numerous victories throughout the '90s including the 1997 Big Bud Shootout in Indianapolis, the 1998 Pontiac Excitement Nationals in Columbus, Ohio, and the 1999 U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis. His most recent win as an owner/tuner came last July in Seattle with Tony Bartone behind the wheel of the Canidae/Lucas Oil Chevy. In 2001 Dunn was voted No. 27 on NHRA's list of the Top 50 Drivers of its first 50 years, and in 2006 he was given the great honor of induction into the International Drag Racing Hall of Fame. 

"Everybody asks how you can do this for 60 years," Dunn says. "I must just really love pain or I'm just really stupid (laughs). It's been good for me because I enjoy working on the cars. I enjoy listening to them and hearing them. I do it for myself because I enjoy it. When the car starts and does what you ask it to, that's the whole emotional trap right there." 

A one-hour telecast of qualifying coverage for the NHRA Spring Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, March 28, beginning at 8:00 p.m. (ET). Coverage on ESPN2 continues on Sunday, March 29, when NHRA Race Day will kick off eliminator coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. (ET), and concludes with three-and-a-half hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 4:30 p.m. (ET).

Kirk Weeks

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Amateurs Clean Up at Whitney

The CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki team once again over achieved at Lake Whitney and are set up to do the same at Oak Hill. Dean Wilson and Malcom Stewart proved to be two of the most dominant riders on the track and Justin Bogle proved that he has what it takes to build himself into one of the top intermediate riders in the country next season.

Despite over seven inches of rainfall throughout the week the amateur team was able to bring home five overall titles and four podiums.

Dean Wilson proved that he can come back from injury and come back strong. His aggressive riding style coupled with his unbelievable will to win earned Dean an amazing four national titles from Whitney. This is Dean's final year with our amateur team and we look forward to watching him win many more titles before the season is up.

New team members Malcom Stewart and Justin Bogle were equally as impressive. Stewart earned his first national title since joining the team and followed it up with two podiums and a fourth while Bogle was able to put himself on the podium and inside the top ten twice.

Oak Hill mains will be finalized at the end of the week, so be sure and check back in for another detailed report on all the team's happenings. Also, be sure and log back on later tonight for a video from last week's event featuring all three team riders.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Team CANIDAE Reaches Out to Race Fans Everywhere Over the Weekend

This past weekend, Team CANIDAE Racing struck out across North America, from Mexico to Florida to New Orleans to Texas and Arizona, supporting Independent Retailers and sharing the message of Responsible Pet Ownership to hundreds of thousands of race fans and pet owners on behalf of CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods.

It was a big week for Team CANIDAE with a total of six different events taking place. First up, Branden Jesseman continues to gather steam on the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki Supercross team. After winning his qualifying heat, Branden finished on the podium Saturday with a strong second place in New Orleans at the Live Nation SuperCross East-5 race. This was Jesseman's best race of the season and he is in top form heading into St. Louis next weekend.  Read the full story

Jerry Toliver and Jim Dunn Racing turned in their best performance yet in the still-young 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Series season. Toliver has only had 10 total passes in the CANIDAE Monte Carlo so far and keeps improving. At last weekend's 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway in Florida, Toliver edged out Force Racing's Mike Neff in the first round. Toliver lost traction in the second round and was bested by veteran John Force. Read the full story

Managed by Ed Torrance, the CANIDAE Kawasaki Team Green amateur riders made their mark on the second amateur national of the new season by dominating the week in Texas, with an astonishing total of 1st, 2nd and 3rd place finishes to their name. The Team Green riders are one step closer to racing at the Amateur National Motocross Championships at Loretta Lynn’s. Full information coming to the CANIDAE Racing blog soon.

The 23rd Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250 race saw 226 total starters with only 162 finishers. This grueling 232.4 mile race in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico concluded Saturday. In the Class 10 division, Scott Gailey and Scott Whipple shared driving duty and powered the CANIDAE Class 10 machine to a third place finish with a time of 6:20:30. Congratulations guys!

In sand drag news, the 2009 NSDA series completed its second race of the season in Yuma, Arizona with some awesome racing on eliminations day. After racing the same day and finishing 3rd at the San Felipe 250 in Mexico on Saturday, driver Scott Whipple and crew member Carl Boley raced back to Yuma making it just in time for the final qualifying session of top fuel.  Whipple and crew ripped off an amazing 2.382 on their only qualifying pass good for the #3 spot on the ladder. Whipple, with only one pass under his belt, went on to be narrowly defeated by only 6/100th's of a second by Matt Ludlow, who ran his career best pass of 2.34 and low ET for the event, in eliminations on Sunday. Shane Switzer went on to grab his first top fuel win. Congratulations to Shane, Mike and his entire crew for a great win. Whipple and the 2008 championship CANIDAE Top Fuel Team currently sit in 3rd place in their quest for another season championship just 12 points off the leader. Whipple was pleased with the team's efforts, and to be the first and only person to race in the Baja 250 and a Sand Drag event in the same day!

In the Top Alcohol bracket, our hats are off to Nick Januik who won his first NSDA T/A championship from our own 2008 T/A season champion Mike DeNunzio when Mike couldn't make it to the line in time after suffering engine damage in his semi final heat win. Take good care of that Nick. Mike wants it back soon!

Stay tuned to www.canidaeracing.com and canidaeracing.blogspot.com for more racing updates. Great job Team CANIDAE!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Jesseman Dazzles in the Dome!

Branden Jesseman has been on a roll as of late but in the New Orleans Superdome, he took it to a whole new level. From the first practice, Jesseman looked very comfortable and confident as he continued to be one of the fastest riders on the track. He continued his momentum in the final practice session and set the tone for the rest of the night.

As Heat Race # 2 started, Jesseman dodged a bullet as he ducked inside a huge pile-up entering the first turn. He exited the corner in 3rd and before the end of the first lap, had moved himself into 2nd place. After following race leader Matt Goerke for most of the second lap, Jesseman made a great move in the sand section to take over first place as he set his sights on the win. The win would not come easy as Austin Stroupe would make a run at Jesseman but the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki rider from New Brighton, PA was too strong for Stroupe and took the win in the six-lap race.
CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods sponsors the "Lucky Dog" L.C.Q., which is the final opportunity for all remaining riders to make it into the "Big Show.” In the “Lites” class, Steven Clarke and Matthew Lemoine transfered into the main and in the “Supercross” class, Nathan Ramsey took the win followed by Troy Adams to move into their respective main events.

With the first gate pick in the Main Event, Jesseman placed his # 74 Kawasaki into the best position for success and shot out of the gate with a great start. He found himself in third place behind Daniel Blair. As Jesseman found his grove, he worked his way past Blair on lap 4 and set his sights on Austin Stroupe who had checked out as Jesseman was dealing with Blair.  The gap proved to be too much despite his near perfect race and Jesseman finished in the 2nd spot, behind Stroupe, while securing his best finish of the year for himself and the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki team.

Tommy Hahn missed the event due to a shoulder injury sustained while practicing on Wednesday. Hahn is expected to be back on the bike at the next round in St. Louis.

It was a great night in New Orleans, and the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki team will try to take that last step to the top of the podium next week as the series rolls into the Edward Jones Dome in St. Louis, Missouri. Come check it out, it will certainly be exciting!

Jason Cobb

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Canidae Racing Team Turns in Best Performance of Young Season

Jerry Toliver and his Jim Dunn Racing team turned in its best performance of the young drag racing season at this weekend's 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, the third of 24 races on the NHRA Full Throttle Series season. Toliver entered today's eliminations qualified 12th after four consistent rounds of qualifying and then drove his Canidae/Lucas Oil Chevy Funny Car past Force Racing's Mike Neff in the first round. Toliver had a winning elapsed time of 4.240 seconds at 257.24 mph to Neff's 4.428 e.t. at 269.13 mph.

Toliver wasn't as fortunate in the second round as 14-time Funny Car champ John Force bested him with an elapsed time of 4.178 seconds at 300.73 as Toliver lost traction at half-track and slowed to a 5.582 e.t. at 134.26 mph.

"I'm extremely happy with the team this weekend," Toliver said. "Going rounds is difficult, and I don't care who you are, it's hard to go rounds. For this team to be able to go rounds in such a short amount of time is impressive. That was only our 10th lap on the car, I think, so this Canidae car has potential. Just a couple of more laps and I think Jim (owner/crew chief Dunn) is going to have it dialed in there and we'll be competitive. It's just a matter of putting all of the pieces together and we're very close."

Next stop on the 24-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Series is the O'Reilly NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas, from March 27-29.

Kirk Weeks

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Canidae Racing Team Making Early-Season Strides as NHRA Full Throttle Series Heads to Gainesville

The 2009 NHRA Full Throttle season is only two races old, but Funny Car driver Jerry Toliver likes the direction the Jim Dunn Racing team is going with his Canidae/Lucas Oil Chevy Funny Car as they prepare for this weekend's 40th annual ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway.  He has qualified for both the rain-shortened season opener at Pomona (Calif.) and at Phoenix where a solid 4.122-second, 302.08 mph lap placed him 10th on the grid for Sunday's eliminations at Firebird Raceway.
"We're pretty happy with the progress we're making here early in the season," Toliver said.  "We're just taking small steps at a time as we try and get better.  You have to keep in mind, this is a brand-new car and this team has a brand-new driver, so we're going to get better with each lap we make.

"You could see that in Phoenix when Jim (team owner/crew chief Dunn) hit the tune-up in qualifying and we ran a 4.12 at 302.  That just shows you how well versed he is in tuning these Funny Cars.  Even though we lost first round, we are a lot closer than it might look.  We could be a lot farther off the mark, but we're definitely in the window and have something to work with."

The veteran Toliver scored his second win of the season here at Gainesville in 2000 when he defeated Dean Skuza, Tony Pedregon and Todd Paton before besting Ron Capps in a final-round battle of Camaros for career win No. 3.

I love going to the Gatornationals," Toliver said.  "I mean, it's one of the two or three really big, historic races we have on our schedule, along with maybe Pomona and Indy.  The weather's always nice, there's just a huge turnout the entire weekend and the fans are great.  

"I was fortunate enough to win here in 2000 when I beat Ron Capps in the final round.  In fact, I've been fortunate enough to win at Pomona and Gainesville both, so that's two of maybe the three biggest races we have.  It would be great to add Gainesville to the resume a second time this weekend.  We're looking forward to it."

A two-hour telecast of qualifying coverage for the ACDelco NHRA Gatornationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Sunday, March 15, beginning at 2:00 a.m. (ET).  Coverage on ESPN2 continues on Sunday, March 15, when NHRA Race Day will kick off eliminator coverage starting at 11:30 a.m. (ET), and concludes with three hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 3:00 p.m. (ET).

Kirk Weeks

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Track Conquers All Racers at Daytona

Daytona has always been know for its rough tracks and unique format. Instead of the usual layout on the stadium floor, Daytona is laid out in the grass on the infield of the “tri-oval” on the front stretch of the Speedway. Because of the extra room and toughness of the track, lap times are much longer than that of a normal Stadium race. This year’s track caused problems for every rider at every level, which made for some amazing racing. 

In the Lites qualifying Heat # 2, Jesseman would have a rough go, as he would charge into the first turn at the front of the pack only to be hit from behind sending him to the ground with his handlebar stuck in the rear wheel of another bike. By the time they got untangled, he was over a 1/2 a lap down. He charged up to 13th by the end sending him to CANIDAE “Lucky Dog” Last Chance Qualifier. 

Heat Race # 2 for the 450 riders would feature CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki rider Tommy Hahn. Off the gate, Hahn would have a good start but be forced to the outside of turn one where he made contact with another rider. Hahn’s bike would become entangled with the other rider and ripped out from underneath Hahn and drug down the track as Hahn hit the ground hard. Hahn would rush to remount his bike but would find himself in last place. Never one to quit, Hahn put on a charge that was impressive to say the least. He would work his way past more than half the field and finish in 9th place, which was good enough for a transfer position for the Main Event. 
CANIDAE All Natural Pet Foods sponsors the "Lucky Dog" L.C.Q., which is the final opportunity for all remaining riders to make it into the "Big Show.” CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki’s own Branden Jesseman would win the short 4 lap race to transfer into the Main Event along with Broc Tickle in the Lites class and Davi Millsaps and Andrew Short would be the final two 450 “Lucky Dog” riders to move on. 

In the Lites Main Event, Jesseman looked great off the start as he secured a top 10 start and stayed clear of the chaos to move up through the pack. As Jesseman flew through the air on the backside of the long track, Josh Lichtle would loose his front end and crash hard leaving Jesseman nowhere to land. Jesseman would experience a hard impact as he slammed into the downed rider’s bike as he hit the ground hard. Branden would remount and finish lap 1 in 17th place and would spend the rest of the race trying feverishly to make it to the front. By lap six he had moved to 14th but hit the ground again when was taken out by a block pass from the rider he was overtaking. Branden would rally to finish a respectable 13th place on this tremendous track. 

In the Supercross class, CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki rider Tommy Hahn got a great start as he avoided trouble in a huge first turn crash that collected some of the sports biggest names. Hahn would find himself in 3rd place for the first five laps as he rode exceptionally well up front. As the laps wore on, the track would deteriorate rapidly causing the riders to fatigue and struggle as riders jockeyed for position. At the finish line, it was Hahn in 10th after a long hard fought day.

Next week, the team moves to the Superdome in New Orleans for round 11 of the 18-race season. It should be exciting so check it out!

Tommy Hahn photo courtesy: cudbyphoto.com

Jason Cobb