Straight-line fever

a CAMERON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:45 AM ET

All the years he raced around in circles, he never thought of going in a straight line.

It was an offhand comment that turned Edmonton's Tim Boychuk into a drag racer.

"Never dreamt of it," Boychuk said of giving up his longtime hobby/passion of racing sprint cars. "Never gave it an ounce of thought, ever."

Hanging out with a couple of longtime local drag racing stalwarts down south sparked the transition.

"It's just one of those things where I was in Phoenix last February and Terry Capp and Ron Hodgson were testing (the BubbleUp nostalgia car) at Firebird Raceway and Barry Paton was there. We were standing around shooting the breeze and Ron says to Barry, 'You still looking for a driver for your car?' Barry says yeah and Ron says, 'Here, Tim will drive it for you.'

"I said, 'Sure!'

"And that's how it went."

Not that Boychuk has completely left going "roundy-round" (as the drag race crowd call it) to pilot Paton's Top Fueller. But he has adapted quickly to racing straight ahead on flat surfaces while sitting behind gigantic engines.

Boychuk's win over Bruce Litton last Sunday at the IHRA Sooner Nationals in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was his first Top Fuel title of the 2009 season and the third Ironman in his two years.

"I won the last two races of last season -- at Epping, New Hampshire, and Rockingham, North Carolina," Boychuk said.

Although this season has started slower, the finish to last season built momentum for this year.

"That's kind of been what's going on. It's kind of a big surprise. I didn't expect to be doing as well as we're doing. But we'll take it, that's for sure.

"I think the combination that brought this whole team around is when Barry (Paton) hired a new tuner when I started driving the car last year -- a fellow by the name of Jim Ermalovich. Jimbo's the guy that's been putting the tuneup on the car and I think what he's done has made it all come around for the team."

Tuners are the magicians of drag racing, some saying they wave their magic wands over an engine to make the horsepower match the traction.

So, Boychuk's job is to react. In fact, his reaction times off the line have led to his wins, he said.

"That's where we've been winning most of our races. The race in Epping, when I won against Terry McMillen, I cut a 0.53 light to his 1.51. So I had half-a-car length on him when we left the line. Then here on the weekend, when I beat Bruce Litton it was by getting him off the line."

Boychuk topped the IHRA Top Fuel leader with a 4.929-second run topping out at 294.31 m.p.h to Litton's 4.919@284.51.

Boychuk currently sits fourth in Top Fuel.

Not only is Boychuk the lone Canadian racer in the IHRA this year, he will have to carry the hometown flag at the Rocky Mountain Nationals at Castrol Raceway on the first weekend of July.

No pressure, he said.

"You betcha. I feel pretty confident we'll do well here."

Boychuk and Paton will be showing off the car on Saturday at the Iron Garage in Stony Plain. They'll fire up the car at 3 p.m.


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