Fans may have done a double take when they saw two dragsters roll out of the Paton Racing trailer in the pits this weekend, but there’s a method behind the multi-machine madness.
“It’s a test session gone wild,” said a bemused Todd Paton, who will drive one of the cars alongside Ike Maier in the other entry. “Running one of these cars is crazy enough, but two is just absolutely ludicrous.”
Paton and his father, Barry, who owns the team, had purchased the second car from Maier after the 2017 Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals but the car had been languishing in their shop.
Todd Paton, left, and Ike Maier
“These cars are not exactly easy to sell so we thought if we could prove how good it can run it might sell quicker,” he explained. “We took the car to Morgan Lucas Racing and got it front-halved to be like our other car, and it started out as, ‘Let’s go test it,’ which we did last fall at our local track, but it only went about three feet before smoking the tires, probably due to the lack of track prep. So we looked at this race, and the field wasn’t full yet like it is now, so we thought we could at least get the $7,500 [qualifying money] and then my dad said, ‘Well, you know, the other car will fit in [the trailer] too … “
The “other car” is their primary car, driven to modest success –- including a runner-up at the 2018 Gatornationals and a slew of 3.80s -- by Shawn Reed the last couple of years.
“The original plan was for me to drive the car just to shake it down but Ike needed to keep his license current, so we’re renting him back his own car, which made this all financially feasible,” he said.
Maier will run twice today –- an already-completed planned test squirt/system checkout followed by a full pass in the evening session –- while Todd will run his car Saturday.
“Running two cars with one crew is a lot harder than running one car for four passes,” explained Paton. “I like our chances of getting at least one car qualified; if we get them both qualified it’s going to be a busy Sunday.”
Todd Paton, whose 9-to-5 job is as Operations Manager at data-management giant Racepak, last drove at a match race last June but hasn’t run at an NHRA national event since the 2016 event in Epping, where he upset Brittany Force in round one. He may run more races later this year, cherry picking his spots with lighter fields.
But first he has a racecar to sell.