MARTIN, Mich. – For the fourth time in a row Paul Noakes put the Amalie Oil InstiGator Funny Car in the final round. This time at the U.S. 131 Motorsports Park during the Northern Nationals. The team fell short of gaining its second win of the season when Noakes uncharacteristically lit the red bulb with an early start.
While four runner-up finishes in seven tries would mark a spectacular season for most, crew chief Les Mellows was a little disappointed. “We haven’t taken advantage of our opportunities,” he said shortly after the race. “It will take a catastrophic failure of Laurie’s team to not win the championship, which isn’t likely to happen, they’ve been that strong.”
Noakes was facing Cannister for the third time this season and the second time in the final round. “We made a decision to tighten the air gap,” Mellows said. “It was the wrong thing to do to a guy that was ‘in a zone’. We have the best driver out there and as a team we want him to compete on the starting line every time he stages. If we have prepared the car properly we will win!”
Noakes wasn’t making any excuses. “There are so many would haves, should haves and could haves,” Noakes said. “I let the whole team down. It was just a mistake on my part. I felt like we had the performance advantage. I was so confident going into that race, I felt confident about the burnout and I felt confident when we staged the car. Laurie and I put the lights on about the same time, I just didn’t wait for the yellow.”
While the Alcohol Funny Car Championship may be a foregone conclusion with Cannister’s significant lead, the Amalie Oil InstiGator team remains motivated to finish the season strong. “After Texas we were hoping for a top 5 finish,” Noakes recalls. “Then after the blown engine in Rockingham we were just hoping for a top 10 finish. For us to be able to regain focus and come back and race for a shot at a second place finish is a tribute to how hard this team works. Our time will come if we stay consistent and strong and keep our eyes on the goal.” Noakes remains in third place, just 5 points behind Rob Atchison and 209 points behind Laurie Cannister.
Team owner Terry McMillen is happy about his team’s performance. “In any other season four final rounds in a row is a big story,” McMillen said. “With Laurie being in six out of seven finals, it puts our story on page two. It’s an accomplishment that I am proud to say our guys have achieved with three races remaining. At the same time it’s also a tribute to just how strong Laurie and her team have been. They’ve lost two rounds all year long, that’s unheard of.”
Mellows plans on finishing the season strong. “Buckle up, it’s gonna get exciting no matter what,” he said. “We are very happy about the position we are in, we have made great strides with the car, we have worked flawlessly as a team and we have great support from our partners. As a team we are committed to finishing the three remaining races with wins, if we just capitalize on our opportunities.”
The next stop for the Hoosier Thunder Motorsports team is the Sooner Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma August 22-24. “We can’t wait to get to Tulsa,” McMillen said. “We’ve got a lot of fun things planned with Trick My Truck cast members that will be announced in the next week or so. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone again.”