Within NHRA’s very popular co-produced competition, the Hot Rod Heritage Series—and in particular the fan favorite AA/FC class—it was certainly Chevrolet Camaros “any time, all the time” during the 2017 season.
At the end of the season, when the smoke had cleared and the final points were tallied, it was a 1-2-3 podium finish for the Chevrolet brand in the demanding modern-day nitro Nostalgia Funny Car category.
This season, for the first time in series history, the AA/FC World Championship crown, and the bragging rights that go with it, will reside in the Great White North. That became a reality during the season finale held at fabled Auto Club Famoso Raceway where the Edmonton, Alberta-based Hodgson/Papirnick Pacemaker racing team produced a title-clinching performance.
Racing their extremely formidable and rather revolutionary 1969 Camaro—a prototype produced by Victory Race Cars back in 2015—with team founder Ron Hodgson’s son Ryan at the controls, this race team became the first Canadian car ever to prevail for the coveted AA/FC class crown.
Although Ryan did not actually win the sixth and final race of the season at the California Hot Rod Reunion, his final four placing clinched the points title. Californian Jason Rupert, the 2016 champion, finished Second and Bobby Cottrell, driving for Pacific Northwest team owner Bucky Austin, finished Third, also in 1969 Camaro-bodied cars.
Ryan Hodgson’s team, which had placed Second in 2016 Hot Rod Heritage Series points, had two wins this year—one at the season-opening March Meet (also at Bakersfield).
For the Hodgson/Papirnick race team’s patriarch Ron Hodgson, the NHRA title was a major moment with his long and legendary voyage within drag racing.
Hodgson, who amongst many other successful business ventures, is the owner of GM dealership franchises in Alberta, and has been inducted into both the Canadian Motorsports Hall of Fame and the Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame.
“I’ve been involved with Funny Cars as far back as 1967,” Ron reflected. “I started racing with Bob (Papirnick) with an injected Chevy II and then we ran the series of Pacemaker cars driven by Gordie Bonin from 1972 into the 1980s. We evolved further forward drivers Terry Capp and Tim Boychuk, but we didn’t put Ryan into a nitro car until more recently. I’m very proud of my son, who has come a very long way driving in this class in such a short period of time. We have assembled an incredibly talented team, and this championship is a reflection of them all doing their job,” he continued. “We did come close to winning the series title before, so maybe things were a bit overdue and we earned a little final justice.”
The title also marked a tribute to the team’s impressive list of associate marketing partners, which includes—in addition to Ron Hodgson Chevrolet - Buick - GMC—highly valued associates Oceanus Resources, Ace Manufacturing, Yeti Snow MX, DJ Safety, Castrol Canada, and Napa Auto Parts.
Their particular Camaro combines for the first time a Victory Race Cars Funny Car chassis with a prototype Victory Race Cars-designed carbon-fiber body. The wily “70-years young” Bob Papirnick (from Vancouver, BC) and former NHRA Pro Stock racer Jim Basko (from Arizona) share the responsibility for tuning decisions for the 5.5 e.t., 260-mph capable race car.
“We’ve done well since acquiring this car, but for us to finally win it all is pretty special,” said Papirnick satisfactorily. “Our series is so competitive and every single win light all season is hard fought. For us to prevail within such a great fraternity of racers who are not only serious but also our friends is very rewarding. So what do we do for an encore? We’re going to try to repeat with our Chevy Camaro in 2018.” CHP
Photos by Bruce Biegler