MILAN, Mich.– After a catastrophic engine failure in Rockingham knocked the Hoosier Thunder team from contention, the Amalie Oil InstiGator Funny Car driven by Paul Noakes and tuned by Les Mellows, looked for big improvements at the Motor City Nationals. They didn’t have to wait long.
The team rolled the Dodge Avenger off of the transporter and immediately captured Friday night’s Last Man Standing Award and an additional five points with a 5.791 et at 244.03 mph performance. It was a career best performance for the car.
Saturday’s qualifying attempts would prove that the InstiGator’s performance wasn’t a fluke. Noakes would outrun Dale Brand during the afternoon session by posting a career best 5.754 et at 245.36 mph, remaining in the top spot after two sessions. Noakes would once again put his ride into the seventies during Saturday night’s session, only to be outdone by Brand’s run into the sixties.
The only spoiler for the weekend was a first round -.002 red light against Rob Atchison.
“I can’t tell you how disappointed we were about how the day ended,” Noakes said. “But, we’re very excited about making consistent runs like that.” Noakes was the only driver to make every qualifying attempt in the seventies.
“Terry [McMillen] did a great job putting that motor together,” Noakes added. “He put it together and took it apart and went out and tested and tore it down again until he had it just the way he wanted. He gave Les a great car to work with this weekend.”
Crew Chief Les Mellows was also optimistic. “Overall it was a successful weekend,” Mellow said. “A lot came together – a little adversity – but we were able to overcome. We’re just one step away from having the car fit the driver perfectly. Once Paul is a little more comfortable in this car, we’ll have the car that can run with any of them.”
While the weekend showed promise for the future, the team did drop a spot to fifth in the point standings. “We’re two wins away from catching up.” Mellows said. “I think we can get ourselves back in the hunt. We’re a long way from being out of it. Tom [Carter], Robbie [Atchison}, Dale [Brand} and Laurie [Cannister] are ahead of us and you’ve got Mark [Thomas] and a couple of teams behind us that you can’t take for granted.”
The team also was happy to bring back former crew member Tad Heflick to the Funny Car team. “We’re excited about having Tad back,” Noakes said. “We’re look at Tad as our car chief. This is a strong team from top to bottom.”
With the Torco Race Fuels President’s Cup Nationals just a few weeks away (June 13-15), Noakes is looking forward to getting back out on the track. “I definitely think we look strong going into Buds Creek,” he said. “We’re just one step away from winning one of these races.”