Gainesville, FL – Shawn Reed wheeled the Paton Racing Top Fuel Dragster to a strong runner up finish at the team’s season opening event.
After struggling during qualifying, the team ended up 12th in the 16-car field, setting up a first round match with Top Fuel veteran Pat Dakin.
At the green, both cars left together, but Shawn began to steadily pull away, and the Hughes Oilfield Transportation dragster took the win by several car lengths, posting a 3.83 second, 322 mph run to Dakin’s 3.89.
That win set up a second round match with the category’s winningest driver, Tony Schumacher. Again, both drivers left together, but Schumacher began to smoke the tires,allowing Reed to take a relatively easy win, coasting to a 4.02 at only 245 mph.
In the semi-finals, Shawn faced number-one qualifier Clay Millican. In a near repeat of the previous round, Clay encountered traction woes early in the run, and Shawn took the win with a 4.03 at 301 mph.
The Paton Racing team thrashed to change engines before the finals, after discovering that the car’s performance had been hampered by a malfunction somewhere in the ignition system. After several attempts, the new engine fired much to the delight of the large crown that had gathered behind the team’s pit area.
Unfortunately, the Cinderella story came to an end as a fuel fitting failed while Shawn was backing up from his burnout in his final round matchup with good friend Richie Crampton. Shawn and the rest of the team could only watch as Richie soloed to a 3.85 victory.
”What a great way for us to start our season,” Todd Paton later remarked, reflecting a bit on what could have been. “Shawn did a great job driving and the team did a fantastic job today. We were able to take down some pretty big names in the category. I’m so happy for everyone on the team, but especially my dad, Barry. He started bringing our family to this race over 40 years ago, and it’s always been a special event for us. Now it has even more meaning.”
This wasn’t the Paton family’s only visit to the finals at the historic Gainesville Raceway. At the 1999 Gatornationals, the team captured the Alcohol Funny Car title with Todd behind the wheel.
”Of course, none of this would be possible without the great support we receive from Hughes Oilfield Transportation, Global Electronic Technology, Racepak, Lucas Oil and so many more,” he continued. “It was an amazing site seeing the Lagana brothers, Stewie (John Stewart) and all the teams like Brittany Force’s guys, Scott Palmer’s team and the Torrence team all pitching in, helping us get the car up to the line in time to make the final.”
The team’s next event will be the 4-wide Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, NC.