It has been a very long time since Canada’s drag racing fans have had something like this to cheer for. Not since the days of living legends Gordie Bonin and Terry Capp has there been a Canadian-themed race car entered in competition in NHRA’s Professional racing ranks. That void will come to an end Feb. 14 when qualifying begins for the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season-opening O’Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries in Pomona.
Edmonton’s Todd Lesenko, who completed his first full season on the NHRA tour last year as the driver for Jim Dunn Racing, will debut a bona fide “Canadiana” Dodge Charger Funny Car in conjunction with California-based Worsham Racing. That will be both a stepping-stone and a beginning for Lesenko’s next career racing chapter.
“Growing up, I always took inspiration from what guys like Gordie Bonin and Terry Capp accomplished for Canadians in drag racing,” Lesenko said. “Last season, I was so amazed at how many times Canadian fans came up to me when I was signing autographs and told me how proud they were to have a Canadian involved in the fastest motorsport on earth. All of that has made me very determined to give Canada’s drag racing fan base something very real and special to cheer for and support again. Canadian drag racing fans are as dedicated as they come out there. So, simply put -- they deserve this.”
Lesenko, who is a successful businessman in his own right, is busy aligning himself with a number of Canadian-based companies to be part of his team’s racing equation. Lesenko, who also raced in the NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Racing Series driving a Nostalgia Funny Car, is excited about the possibilities.
“There is a perception out there that Canadian teams may be at a disadvantage because of geography or the border or whatever,” he continued. “But we’ve come to realize that there are many Canadian companies that do a lot of business in the U.S. market and vice versa.”
To start, Lesenko and Worsham Racing plan to run a condensed NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series tour in 2013 beginning with back-to-back event entries in Pomona and Phoenix.
“The rest of our 2013 season is a bit undecided at this point,” he said. “Sponsorship will have a lot to do with that schedule, but in the end, I expect we will probably run 10 to 12 events. My objective for 2013 is instead to focus on quality outings vs. quantity of events.”
NHRA Drag Racing fans can also safely speculate about an expanded team presence at some point later this season involving a second “Canadiana”-themed race car in another NHRA Professional category.
To purchase general-admission, reserved-seat, or Top Eliminator Club tickets for the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries, log on to www.NHRATix.com or call the NHRA Ticket Sales Center, 800-884-NHRA (6472). Tickets for children 12 and younger are free with any paid adult ticket.