Barry and Todd Paton were both honoured Saturday night at the 7th annual Canadian Drag Racing Hall of Fame inductees Gala in Kirkland, Quebec. A total of 16 nominees were inducted into the Hall of Fame this year, and the Patons were one of three families having both father and son iducted during the same event.
Family patriarch Barry Paton was honoured by son Tony Paton, who accepted the award on his behalf, and also gave a rousing account of some of Barry’s early racing-related activites.
“It was truly a magical evening,” remarked Todd afterwards. “Dad drag raced for nearly 60 years and nearly everything he did revolved around race cars. I am so glad to see him get the recognition he deserves for all his efforts in the world of drag racing.”
Todd continued, “it’s very humbling to be inducted at the same time as my father. Tony and I just used to play with our Hot Wheels cars while Dad was racing in Super Stock and Comp eliminator. Time goes by, and after more than 30 years of driving Alcohol Funny Cars, Nitro Funny Cars and Top Fuel Dragsters, you find yourself onstage accepting a prestigious award like this.”
Todd thanked his father and mother Lynne for everything they have done, as well as his wife Lisa, and his two step-children, Matthew and Katie. He also thanked his brother Tony and his family, wife Lisa, and daughters Taylor and Alex, all of whom were present for the gala.
Barry Paton had a lifelong obsession with fast cars. At a young age, when he was starting his career as a pilot with the Royal Canadian Air Force, he caught the attention of the military police on base with his go-kart that was burning a blend of gasoline and nitromethane.
After a very brief stint in stock car racing, Barry decided to give drag racing a try, running his ’58 Plymouth Fury at Keystone Dragway in Manitoba.
Next came a 327 CID ’65 Pontiac Barry ran in Stock Eliminator for a couple of years and followed that with a 1967 Corvette which he ran in Modified Eliminator.
After retiring from the military, Barry ordered a new 1969 Chevrolet Nova with a powerful 396 big block. With only 6 miles on the odometer, he began transforming it into a dedicated race car which was named, at the suggestion of his wife Lynne, “One More Time.”
After retiring from the military, Barry took a job as a commercial pilot that brought him and his young family to the east coast of Canada. For years he, along with his wife and sons Todd and Tony, would run the Nova at all the tracks in the Maritimes, traveling occasionally to Quebec and the Northeastern United States. Running the Nova in SS/IA trim, Barry obliterated the NHRA record of 11.08 with an unreal 10.83 and won countless trophies.
In 1978, Barry felt the urge to go quicker, purchasing the old “Fighting Irish” Nitro Funny Car and fitting it with a de-stroked 383 to compete in the B Econo Altered category (B/EA) in Competition Eliminator. This only fed his addiction to speed and in 1982, he switched to supercharged Hemis when he bought Ken Veney’s Vega Funny Car and began competing in NHRA’s Alcohol Funny Car division.
A series of alcohol funny cars followed, including a 1985 Camaro he purchased from Paul Smith, in which he won his first title in Alcohol Funny Car in Warner Robins, Georgia.
In 1990, Barry became the first Canadian to qualify #1 at the Molson GrandNational in Montreal, Quebec, where his 6.06 paced the 16-car field.
At the end of the 1990 NHRA season Barry put Todd, the older of his two sons, behind the wheel of the family funny car so he could concentrate on tuning the car. He often commented that he was more intrigued by the tuning challenges of the sport and that the driving part was just a necessity at the time.
Barry, along with Todd’s younger brother Tony, tuned the car to a run of 6.01 seconds at the 1991 Gatornationals, and later on that year won the Can-Am Nationals in St. Thomas, Ontario.
In 1992, the Paton family earned their first national event win at the IHRA Summer Nationals at Cayuga Dragway (now Toronto Motorsports Park). The Paton Racing team became a regular visitor to the IHRA’s Winner’s Circle, which helped them win the IHRA World Championship in both 1993 and 1995.
In 1996, the Paton family shifted their focus to the NHRA. After switching to a new screw-style supercharger application, Barry’s tuning made the team’s Oldsmobile Achieva the first alcohol funny car to break into the 5.70’s at Indianapolis and used that performance to win the biggest drag race of them all: the U.S. Nationals.
In 1999, Barry tuned the team to victories at the Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida and the Lone Star Nationals in Dallas, Texas. These victories, along with some success at several divisional events that year, earned the team a top 5 finish in the NHRA’s season-long points chase.
In 2000, Barry shifted his focus to nitro-fueled cars, and campaigned a series of Nitro Funny Cars under the “NitroFish” banner with Todd at the wheel. At the end of the 2002 season, Barry even got a taste of nitro himself, getting in the cockpit for a couple of half-track checkout passes after being out of a race car for over a decade.
In 2003, Barry decided to switch to Top Fuel, purchasing a dragster formerly campaigned by Tony Schumacher from the Peek brothers. The team went on to win several IHRA National events in the Top Fuel category. In 2019, Barry acquired a second Top Fuel dragster, allowing the team to compete with multiple drivers while doubling up the tuning chores for himself and the team.
Barry has helped start many drivers in their nitro careers, having licensed not only his son Todd in Top Fuel, but Dan Mercier, Cameron Ferre, as well as CDRHF inductees Tim Boychuk and Paul Noakes.
Unfortunately, last year Barry passed away during the NHRA event in Dallas, Texas where the team was competing in Top Fuel. He lived his life doing what he loved best. It’s only fitting that he spent his final day at the drag races, working on his race car.
The Paton Racing team continues to compete with their Top Fuel dragsters, continuing on the legacy of their patriarch – “Captain” Barry Paton.
Todd was born in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan to a racing family. His parents, Barry and Lynne Paton, had been running a series of cars at the strips in Western Canada, and shortly after he was born, the family moved to the east coast. There, his father dominated the local drag strips with his Super Stock Chevy Nova, while his mother ran a successful local drag racing publication called “Maritime Drag News”.
Todd, along with his younger brother Tony, graduated from playing with Hot Wheels to helping the family with their series of race cars, including several alcohol funny cars.
In 1991, after graduating university and obtaining a commercial pilot’s license, Todd jumped into the driver’s seat of the family’s Alcohol Funny Car, allowing his father to better concentrate on the tuning challenges of a supercharged Chrysler Hemi. At his first NHRA national event in Gainesville, Florida, Todd bettered his father’s career-best elapsed time of 6.03 seconds by running a 6.01 E.T. during qualifying. Later that year, Todd went on to win an NHRA National Open, the Can-Am Nationals in St. Thomas, Ontario.
The following year, Todd won his first National event, the IHRA Summer Nationals, at Cayuga Dragway (now Toronto Motorsports Park). He followed that up with another victory later that year in Epping, New Hampshire.
Over the next several years, Todd piloted his family’s Funny Car to numerous event wins, capturing the IHRA Alcohol Funny Car World Championship in both 1993 and 1995.
In 1996, the family set their sights back on the NHRA. After a couple of victories at the divisional level, Todd beat world champions Pat Austin, Randy Anderson and Tony Bartone to win the biggest drag race of them all, the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Paton followed that with a victory at the 1997 World Finals in Pomona, California, as well as the 1999 Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida, the Lone Star Nationals in Dallas, Texas as well as multiple NHRA divisional event victories around the United States.
Having upgraded his license in Paul Smith’s Nitro Funny Car the day following his win in Gainesville, Todd was eager to go even faster. In early 2000, he got a call from Wayne Dupuy to pilot the “NitroFish” Nitro Funny Car.
In his debut with the team, Todd ran 4.91, 315.42 mph in the quarter mile in his very first pass in the car and won the first two rounds of competition before smoking the tires in the semi-finals.
At the team’s next event, Todd recorded the first-ever 300 mph run at The Strip in Las Vegas and ended up qualifying number 1 in a field that featured such famous drivers as Ron Capps and Jon Force.
Later that year, the NitroFish team ceased operations due to a lack of funding. Not content sitting on the sidelines, Todd and his family sold their alcohol funny car operation and purchased a nitro funny car formerly campaigned by Jim Sickles and Chuck Etchells. The team collected some round wins and steadily improved their performance. In 2002, the team ran the full NHRA season with their funny car and then in early 2003, made the switch to Top Fuel Dragster.
During this time, Todd moved to his wife Lisa’s hometown of Bristol, Tennessee, so she and his two stepchildren, Matthew and Katie, could spend more time together while jetting back and forth to all the IHRA and NHRA events.
In 2007, Todd stepped away from driving full-time to accept a position in Orange County, California with Racepak, the leader in drag racing data acquisition systems at that time. There, he managed the sales and tech support teams, before working his way up to Operations Manager. All the while, Todd would “moonlight” on his off weekends behind the wheel of one of his family’s Top Fuel Dragsters, and even the occasional Nostalgia Funny Car.
Following Racepak’s sale to the Holley family of companies, Todd founded Performance Data Systems in 2019. The California-based company provides sales and service to all the Professional teams in the NHRA, while also taking care of the Sportsman racers. In addition to support, Performance Data Systems has also developed its own line of racing data acquisition systems and software.
Todd still plays an active role in the daily operations of Paton Racing, along with his brother Tony and car chief Mark Morris, following the passing of his and Tony’s father Barry late last year. This past summer, Todd drove the team’s backup car in a series of exhibition matches around New York and Ontario against Cameron Ferre and Spencer Hyde in an all-Paton Racing match that featured exciting side-by-side 300 mph runs for the local fans.
The Paton Racing team continues to participate in the NHRA’s Top Fuel category, with the Paton brothers dedicated to carrying on their family’s legacy in the sport of drag racing.