ELKHART, Ind. – With just four races remaining in the Nitro Jam drag racing season, the Amalie Oil InstiGator Funny Car, driven by Paul Noakes, finds itself right where it wants to be. This weekend’s Torco Race Fuels Northern Nationals (August 1-3) at the US 131 Motorsports Park will prove if the Hoosier Thunder Motorsports team car has what it takes to win its first championship.
The InstiGator has made final round appearances in the last 3 races, including the most recent win in Grand Bend. Noakes will also be defending his Northern Nationals title at this weekend’s event.
“We’re pretty excited about getting to race again,” Noakes said. “It was such an emotional lift for our team to defend our 2007 win in Grand Bend. I hope we can make a successful defense in Martin also.”
Crew Chief, Les Mellows likes his chances. “I think the stamina of any athlete determines champions,” Mellows said as he prepared for the race. “The Kalbones team has it [Laurie Cannister, points leader]. We seem to be hitting our stride right on time.”
“Paul is doing the best driving he has done in years,” Mellows continued. “We’re pumped and driven by the win [last race]. We’re not going to let up.”
US 131 Motorsports Park has been a track that has been favorable to Ontario natives Noakes and Mellows. The pair have recorded three wins in the past four seasons. Noakes and Mellows teamed up for a win in 2007 and Mellows tuned Rob Atchison’s ride to wins in 2004 and 2005. McMillen drove the InstiGator to a final round appearance in 2006.
“It’s our home track,” team owner McMillen smiled. “What can I say, the gator likes Martin.” McMillen, now driving the teams Top Fuel entry is excited for his funny car team. “These guys (funny car crew) are great,” McMillen added. “I expect they’ll put on a great show for all of our fans and sponsors here.”
Mellows thinks Martin is a home away from home for he and Paul. “We’ve matched race here for 15 years,” he said. “It’s the closest we can get in the U.S. to being a home track.”
While Mellows’s success at Martin might be a mystery to some, Les offers a simple answer. “I just like the track,” he said. “I can read it well and I have a hot weather tune-up that seems to agree with what the track will handle.”