Thursday, April 30, 2009

Toliver Anxious to Get Back on Track at Midwest Nationals

Jerry Toliver qualified the CANIDAE/Lucas Oil Chevy Funny Car 14th two weeks ago at the Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway, and despite a first-round loss he is confident going into this weekend's 13th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.  

"Atlanta was a great weekend compared to what we were up against the race before (Las Vegas)," Toliver said.  "During our off time between those two races we found some real issues with the car that were really uncontrollable.  We had some problems with the ignition box, and there's no way you can know that without taking them off, sending them off and having them tested.  They were giving us erratic leads to the mags, so the engine didn't like it and was just blowing up.  It was a bad deal and a huge couple of steps back.  We just didn't know why it was doing that, and then come to find out it was a mechanical issue and we resolved it.  So we feel like we're back on track.

"I think Jim (Dunn) and Tony have a good handle on this CANIDAE car now, so we just need to work on some earlier numbers, getting them down right, and we'll be good.  This car runs really well from the 330-foot mark on, so if we can get this thing going to 330, and get those numbers down a little bit, I think we'll be very competitive on race day.  Our biggest challenge has just been dialing things in - new car at the start of the season, new driver, new engines, new fuel pumps, no laps on the new car.  We were getting close and then had the snafu with the points box, and it just really threw us for a loop.  That being said, once we found that out and got rid of the mechanical issues, now we're back to getting a handle on this race car again.  I think with a few more laps we can get this thing whittled down and be very competitive."

Toliver was just that, competitive, at this race in 2000 when he won his third race of the season to go with earlier wins at the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona (Calif.) and the Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.).   

"That was a fun race," Toliver said.  "I beat Dean Skuza in the finals, it was a night race, and it was a smoke-fest in that final round.  Any time you win at a racetrack, you go back in there knowing, 'Hey, I've won here before,' so maybe there's some magic left there."

A two-hour telecast of qualifying coverage for the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, May 2, beginning at 6:00 p.m. (ET).  Coverage on ESPN2 continues on Sunday, May 3, when NHRA Race Day will kick off eliminator coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. (ET), and concludes with three hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

Kirk Weeks

Monday, April 27, 2009

CANIDAE Top Fuel Team Captures NSDA Spring Nationals Championship

Primm, NV - The Team CANIDAE Top Fuel Team led by driver Scott Whipple defeated Geoff Gill with the fastest pass of the day at 2.320/160.43 mph to win the 2009 NSDA Spring National Championship on Sunday. The team came into Sunday's final rounds as the #1 qualifier after posting the second fastest pass in Primm history at 2.303/160.83 mph on Saturday. The win moves Team CANIDAE to within one point of current leader Gill in the quest to defend their 2008 season championship.

After qualifying #2 with a ripping 2.499 pass on Saturday, Team CANIDAE's Top Alcohol Team and driver Mike Denunzio earned a semi final finish when they lost to season point leader and eventual Spring National champion Gary Mink in a very close race running 2.532 to Mink's 2.501. Congratulations Gary on a great race weekend from all of us at Team CANIDAE. The defending 2008 season champion CANIDAE T/A team currently sits in third place in this year's race for the season point championship.

Congratulations Team CANIDAE on another successful weekend of racing in support of responsible pet ownership and local independent pet food store retailers!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Toliver Loses First-Round Match-Up with Force at Atlanta

Jerry Toliver and his CANIDAE Racing team made an early exit from the Summit Racing NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway after a first-round loss to 14-time Funny Car champ John Force.

After near-identical reaction times, Force slowly pulled away with a winning elapsed time of 4.123 seconds at 308.57 mph as Toliver drove the CANIDAE/Lucas Oil Chevy to an elapsed time of 4.213 seconds at 301.74 mph.  

"Even though we lost, this was a good bounce-back weekend for us," Toliver said. "We made consistent runs in qualifying, and then made a good, solid run in the first round today that just wasn't enough. (John) Force is obviously a tough match-up, but we made a good pass and at least made him earn it. We got some good data this weekend, so it's on to St. Louis and we'll keep trying to get better." 

Toliver qualified 15th for the 16-car Funny Car field with a 4.201-second elapsed time at 299.13 mph to earn his first-round pairing with No. 2 qualifier Force. 

Next stop on the 24-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Series is the 13th annual O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals at Gateway Int'l. Raceway in Madison, Ill., from May 1-3.

Kirk Weeks

Between The Motos: Bill Keefe

Article courtesy of

Bill Keefe is the team manager for the Canidae/Motosport Kawasaki team, which has seen some success in this year's Monster Energy/AMA Supercross Championship, including a second-place finish by team rider Branden Jesseman recently. We talked to Keefe for this week's "Between the Motos."

Racer X: You've been a team manager in our sport for a few years now. Before that, what did you do?
Bill Keefe: I was at many places. Immediately before that, I was at Primedia working with the Dirt Rider guys in the marketing and sales department.

How long have you been involved in the motocross world?
I've been in motocross since I was a kid. I was an MXA test rider back when Lance Morewood... Back when MXA was really the only MX magazine. I raced motocross back then, and I rode for Mitch [Payton] - me, Troy [Lee], Jeff Jennings, we raced for him way back then on Husqvarnas. I've been in motorcycles most of my life, and then there was a time when I got involved on the automotive side, and I worked with NPTI, which was Nissan Performance Technologies, and they raced a GTP car that ran in the 24 hours of Le Mans, and Daytona, and all that. Automotive racing was really exciting and the technology was really interesting. But then, you know, I missed the motorcycle people. Motorcycle people are just great people.

They're different, that's for sure.
We're more like a community. While we are all competitive, we're there to help if somebody needs it. Not a lot of industries are like that.

It's not like that in the car industry?
I didn't find it to be that way, no. The car industry people would ruin people to gain in one way or another. I'm not comfortable in that situation, and I'm not that type of person. I think the motorcycle people are generally very good people.

You've been a team manager for the Motosport Kawasaki [now Canidae-sponsored] team for a few years, and also your son, Tyler, was racing for a while. Is that part of what brought you back to the motocross racers, to be there for your son?
Tyler was progressing, and he was going to race supercross and motocross either way. It seems like every five years or so, though, I change career paths, and that was about five years when this opportunity came up. Mark Johnson, who was the team manager at Motosport at that time, contacted me, and I spoke to him and Bill Butcher [of] and Mark Kvamme [investor in], and they decided this would be a good fit.

This year, you guys brought on Canidae dog food as a sponsor. A lot of teams have energy-drink sponsors, but not many have dog-food sponsors. How did that come about?
Canidae was involved in the NHRA in 2008, and when we met with the Canidae people, they are motorsport-type people. They understand the fan of motorsport, and they know that the fan is passionate. They're looking to expand their reach, and they like motocross and supercross, and their colors are green, yellow and black and white, and we fit the green quite nicely. So, after a few meetings, they decided that we were a team that they wanted to be a part of. We work together on doing things that are market-driven, such as the handouts [of sample dog food] in supercross, the bag on top of the truck, and the flags... Their reps are there to talk to supercross fans as they come through the pits, and they talk about their dogs... A lot of people ask me, "Why pet food?" It's really pretty simple: There are more guys on my team that have pets than have bikes. So, if you're trying to reach people with pets, supercross and motocross is a great place. Our demographic is very pet-driven.

Do they seem happy with it?
They're very happy. Getting them involved with Feld, too, was an important part of it, with the Canidae Lucky Dog LCQ winner, so that they were able to reach out even more. They've got the ad in the program, people can see them on the floor, and they can see our truck and sample the product out in the pits and see our riders. They've got great penetration on all levels at supercross, and marketing and technically, it's been a homerun. Each race we go to, their reps are there, and they purchase 40-60 tickets per event for workers and clients in the area. So they're really integrated well into their local areas and dealers.

And you've still got Motosport as a sponsor, too, which is the largest online parts source for motorcycles, right?
Yeah, I think they're number one.

So you guys have quite a strong set of sponsors on your team. It looks good for your team.
It's a great situation to be in at this time to have those two, plus all of our other sponsors are very strong. To have an outside sponsor like Canidae, then have Motosport, Scott USA, Kawasaki, Pro Circuit, Maxima, and all our other sponsors... We're in a pretty good position right now.

You also ventured into having a full-time 450cc rider this year, by moving Tommy Hahn up. It's something that Pro Circuit has toyed with doing, but never pulled the trigger on. Why did you guys do it?
Two things: Tommy had good success last year on the 450, so we knew that the potential was there for success, and looking at our team as a marketing arm, and the coverage 450cc racing gets on television vs. what the 250 class gets, it's a very powerful marketing tool to have a guy on a 450. We felt Tommy could give us the results that would be very marketable in that 450 class.

But he's spent quite a bit of the year hurt, including now having a fractured scapula...
It's frustrating, for sure. Pat Riley called it the "Innocent Climb" back when the Lakers dominated. It's funny, because you do things the first time, and you have good success, and then you go back to duplicate it, and times are tougher, whether luck just doesn't go your way, or you have new challenges, it's difficult to repeat something that happens so easily the first time.

I talked to Tommy, and he seems excited about the outdoors. How does your team view the outdoors?
Well, we're always optimistic at the beginning of the season, and with the package Davey [Coombs] put together with television, and with the live broadcast of the 450cc second motos, and the fact that Tommy is a really good starter - and hopefully has all his injuries out of the way - marketingwise, it should be successful, and hopefully we'll be able to get some podiums and be in the top five more consistently than he has been in supercross. But we'll be running three guys on the 250s and Tommy on the 450.

Did you say three guys on the 250s?

So, who's not going to be around for the outdoors?
Well, Branden Jesseman's deal is a supercross-only deal, and it was from the very beginning. Even though he's been our most successful guy in supercross, the plan was only supercross for him. We're both working hard to try to put something together and allow him to come outdoors with us, and these are tough times to add a guy, budgetwise.

And having five guys out of one truck probably isn't easy, either.
Yeah, four works well, and three works okay, but five can be tough. But we'll have Kyle, PJ, Hunter and Tommy.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Toliver Looks to Bounce Back at Atlanta

Despite a temporary set-back at Las Vegas when he was bumped in the final qualifying session and failed to make the 16-car Funny Car field for the first time this season, Jerry Toliver is confident his CANIDAE Racing team can get back on track at this weekend's 29th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway on April 16-19.

"Las Vegas was just a bad, bad weekend all the way around," Toliver said.  "We went in there with a lot of confidence in how we were improving the car, but we just had a bad weekend and ended up hurting a lot of parts.  We were fortunate that there was an off weekend between races, so the team had a chance to regroup before heading to Atlanta.
"But you're going to have a weekend like that over the course of a 24-race season, so we just have to put that one in the rearview mirror and keep marching forward starting with the race this weekend at Atlanta."
Starting the season as a new driver of the CANIDAE/Lucas Oil Chevy Funny Car with a new, untested Murf McKinney chassis, potential performance results, especially early in the year, were relatively unknown.  After qualifying for the season-opener at Pomona on a one-lap flyer due to weather conditions, Toliver qualified a season-best 10th at Phoenix, had his best race weekend to date with his first round-win of the season at Gainesville, and despite a close, side-by-side loss in the first round at Houston to No. 2 qualifier Del Worsham, Toliver qualified for his fourth consecutive race to start the season.  

Now he looks to start a new streak starting with Friday's first qualifying session; Toliver was a No. 1 qualifier at Atlanta Dragway in 2001.          

"Atlanta Dragway is a nice track and we're looking forward to a successful weekend there," Toliver said.  "Big Jim (team owner/crew chief Dunn) and the guys are working hard at this thing and that's all you can ask for."

A two-hour telecast of qualifying coverage for the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, April 18, beginning at 6:00 p.m. (ET).  Coverage on ESPN2 continues on Sunday, April 19, when NHRA Race Day will kick off eliminator coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. (ET), and concludes with three hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 7:00 p.m. (ET).

Kirk Weeks

Thursday, April 9, 2009

AMA Supercross Wraps up in Jacksonville Florida

When the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series made its second visit to the state of Florida it was not just another race, it was history. Why you may ask? Because this was the first time the city of Jacksonville has hosted an AMA Supercross Event and boy did they make a great debut. The track was in mint condition, the fans were great and the racing was even better. This was the final round of the East Coast Lites Series and the #74 of Branden Jesseman was looking to go out with a bang.

Qualifying in 4th for his Heat Race Jesseman was looking primed to put his CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki up front in Heat Race #1. After a bad start the #74 was on the outside of the top-9 looking in. Midway through Heat #1 Jesseman was battling bar-to-bar trying to get into the top-9 when the #981 of Austin Stroupe ran into his back tire causing Jesseman to go down. Jesseman was able to regroup and make a hard charge at the ninth spot but it too little too late for the #74 as he found himself outside the top-9 and heading to the LCQ.

In the LCQ Jesseman was able to put his Heat Race behind him and jump out to a great start. He quickly found himself up front and never looked back, leading his CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki to an easy win in the LCQ.

Jesseman faced a tough challenge for the start of the Main Event seeing as the #74 would have the second to last gate pick and found himself placed way on the outside. When the gate dropped for the Main Event Jesseman quickly found himself pushed to the outside and buried deep in the pack. After the third lap Jesseman was still buried mid-pack and fighting his way to the front. A few laps later Jesseman had fought his way into the top-10 and was steadily gaining momentum. As the checkered flagged waved in the wind Jesseman found his #74 crossing the line in 8th place. While he didn't end the series how he wanted too, he proved he could fight his way through the pack and into a top-ten position. Jesseman ended the series one point behind rookie Blake Wharton for fifth place, (Jesseman finished in sixth place). While the East Coast Series has ended watch out for Jesseman when the Supercross Series heads to Las Vegas for the East/West Shootout.

Coming off a DNF in Toronto in the #48 of Tommy Hahn was looking to finally put it all together as the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series returned to the states. After failing to qualify in his Heat Race Hahn was staring down the barrel of the LCQ. But instead of letting the past affect him the #48 pushed as hard as ever and pushed his CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki to a second place finish in the LCQ. Having a similar gate pick to the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki Lites rider Branden Jesseman, Hahn knew he was going to have to come from the middle of the pack if he was going to put his #48 in a top-ten position.

As the gated dropped for the Main Event, Hahn found himself pushed way to the outside and buried deep in the pack. But Hahn would push his #48 to his best ride of the year as he found himself inside the top-ten after lap 8. Instead of being satisfied with his first top-ten of the year Hahn would battle his way up to the 7th position as the checkered flag dropped. This was the best finish of the year for Hahn and after a season of injuries and bad luck the #48 of Tommy Hahn is looking like he has finally put it all together.

Jacksonville marked the end of the season for the East Coast Lites series, but don't worry Supercross fans, the West Coast Lites Series returns in two weeks when the series heads out west to Seattle. And look for the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki West Coast Lites Team of P.J. Larsen and Kyle Cunningham to be as strong as ever after having six weeks off to work out any adjustments.

A quick injury update for the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki Lites Team. Hunter Hewitt is still rehabbing his broken femur and hoping to return for the outdoor season in May.

Check back in two weeks for the Seattle Race Report.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

CANIDAE Funny Car Misses First Race of the Season

It was fairly nerve-wracking Saturday last week at Houston when Jerry Toliver had his CANIDAE/Lucas Oil Funny Car qualified 17th before his final qualifying run, but he made his best qualifying pass of the weekend and bumped into the field.  Today it was Toliver who was on the bump spot for that final qualifying session, and unfortunately he was bumped out of the 16-car Funny Car field for this weekend's 10th annual NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.  

Toliver had a weekend-best qualifying run of 4.340 seconds at 268.44 mph, but two days of hurting engine parts finally took its toll.  Del Worsham was able to claim the 16th and final spot in the Funny Car field with an elapsed time of 4.278 seconds at 283.61 mph.  Tony Pedregon claimed the No. 1 qualifying position with an elapsed time of 4.100 seconds at 302.62 mph. 

"When you're floating down there on the bottom of the ladder on your last qualifying lap, it's bound to bite you sooner or later," Toliver said.  "We just had a bad, bad weekend.  We couldn't do anything right and we hurt a lot of stuff.  It's just one of those deals."

Toliver made one last effort to improve his 16th position in the field on his final qualifying run, but the car lost the motor and blew up just past halftrack and then Worsham bumped into the field.

"On that last run, the car got out there and got loose, it spun the tires and then, 'Bang!'," Toliver said.  "We had some motor problems all weekend and we think we cured that, but then it blew up on that last run.  It shouldn't have blown up like that, but it just annihilated that motor.  I don't think there is anything left of it.  I'm just disappointed for the CANIDAE folks and Lucas Oil, but we'll put this behind us, march on to Atlanta and go from there."

Next stop on the 24-race NHRA Full Throttle Drag Series is the 29th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Spring Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga., from April 16 - 19.

Kirk Weeks

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Canidae Racing NHRA Las Vegas Advance

Toliver, NHRA Racers Have Short Turnaround after Houston

Jerry Toliver and his CANIDAE Racing Funny Car team have little time to lament the results of last weekend's NHRA Full Throttle Series race at Houston as they turn right around and prepare for this weekend's 10th annual NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on April 2-5. 

"I always look forward to our races at Las Vegas," Toliver said. "What's not to like? The Strip at Las Vegas is one of the best facilities on the circuit. And even though we're at the track most of the day, we're still in one of the greatest cities in the world. This is just a fun race weekend."

Toliver bumped into the field and qualified 15th at Houston on his final qualifying pass to give team owner/tuner Jim Dunn a unique birthday present on his 75th birthday. Toliver ran a weekend-best 4.198-second elapsed time at 288.52 mph in the CANIDAE/Lucas Oil Chevy to qualify for his fourth consecutive race to start the season with his new Jim Dunn Racing teammates. In Sunday eliminations Toliver fell to No. 2 qualifier Del Worsham despite running the fifth-quickest elapsed time in the first round. 

"It was great to get the CANIDAE car qualified for Big Jim on his birthday," Toliver said. "That was a nice present to give him. Now we need to keep working on getting consistent and going rounds on Sundays."

A two-hour telecast of qualifying coverage for the NHRA Nationals can be seen on ESPN2 on Saturday, April 4, beginning at 8:00 p.m. (ET). Coverage on ESPN2 continues on Sunday, April 5, when NHRA Race Day will kick off eliminator coverage starting at 11:00 a.m. (ET), and concludes with three hours of final eliminations coverage beginning at 4:00 p.m. (ET).

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki – Canada Hosts Series in the Rogers Centre in Toronto

When the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series headed north of the border for round 7 of the East Coast Lites series the #74 of Branden Jesseman was looking to rebound after failing to qualify for the main event in St. Louis. With one of the fastest qualifying times coming out of practice Jesseman was feeling confident going into Heat Race #1.

When the gated dropped for Heat Race #1 the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki rider Branden Jesseman was off to one of his best starts of the season as he found his #74 in the top-five. After making quick work of the couple of riders in front of him Jesseman had his sights set on the Flying Frenchman (Christophe Pourcel). As the seconds quickly turned into minutes it was clear that Pourcel was going to take the victory in Heat #1. But Jesseman wasn't out of the woods yet as he had to fend off the hard charging rookie Darryn Durham. Jesseman quickly showed the young rook that experience is everything in the sport of supercross and took home second place in Heat Race #1.

Getting a great start and finishing strong builds confidence in your Heat Race but transferring it to the main event separates the greats from the average. When you're a past Supercross Lites Champion like CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki rider Branden Jesseman you know a thing or two about showing up to the main event. And when the 30-sec board dropped sideways for the start of the main Jesseman showed why he was a past champion. Bursting out of the gate for another top-5 start Jesseman was riding with confidence. After getting passed by the #981 of Austin Stroupe and ending up on the losing end of a bar-to-bar battle with the #43 of Broc Tickle, Jesseman had to make sure to keep his confidence and ride with determination. Midway through the race Jesseman showed why he was a past champion. He found his rhythm and made a hard charge at Tickle for a spot on the podium. While his effort came up a little short, Jesseman showed that he can take a punch and give another one back. Jesseman gained valuable points on rookie Blake Wharton but still remains behind Wharton in fifth place.

The struggles continue for the #48 of Tommy Hahn as the CANIDAE Motosport Kawasaki rider wrecked in the main event and failed to finish the race. After qualifying 8th in his Heat Race, Hahn was looking to put the past behind him and put in a top-ten finish. Coming off the gate in 8th place. the #48 was looking to finally shut the door on his first top-ten finish of the year. But his bad luck continued as he made a mistake and went down. Hahn was unable to complete the race and finished in 19th place. Hahn is still hoping to finish the year strong as the AMA Monster Energy Supercross Series heads back to the states. Check in next week as the series rolls into Jacksonville Municipal Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida for Round 14. It will certainly be exciting!