By Al Heisley, Editor, Nitro Hot Rods Magazine
This whole racing deal started back in 1993. Tim’s Dad had recently passed away at a young age from a short bout with cancer and Tim had been asking himself, “isn’t there more to life than busting my butt for a paycheck and more trucks?” Not long after, he began reflecting on his own mortality. Tim was sitting around with a bunch of trucker buddies when Steve Bullock told him that a mutual friend, Reg Olynyk, wanted to buy a race car and that he wanted Tim involved! When Tim asked what his part would be, Steve laughed and told him that Reg wanted Tim to buy half of the team and to drive the car! After they all stopped laughing, Tim said, “Why not! It might be fun!”
Interested, Tim visited Reg’s shop to look the car over. Liking what he saw, he was sold on the idea as soon as he heard the car run. Tim and Reg bought the late model and started racing it on the dirt right away. With Tim driving, just like Reg had planned.
“It was a lot of fun” said Tim. “Yep, we had lots of fun. Especially that first year. I think I hit everything out there that I could hit!” Things got a little better the second year but the class was coming to an end so Tim and Reg sold the late model and Tim, on his own, purchased a Legend car but only raced it for one season because he and the promoter didn’t see eye-to-eye on things. Even though this car was a couple of steps slower than the late model, one of the things about racing the Legend car was that Tim was able to gain a more in depth perspective on racing that he didn’t have prior to owning and driving race cars three year earlier.
Tim then sold the Legend car and bought his next car; a 360-winged Sprint car that he went on to race for 11 seasons. At the end of that 11th season he was tired of it all and was going to quit racing all together. After all, he’d accomplished what he’d wanted too and was done so he sold the cars and all of the equipment.
A couple months later another buddy, Cal Tebb, took him to Doug Foley’s Driving School at Rocky Mountain Raceway in Edmonton, Alberta and put him in a dragster that went 9.0 – 130 mph on the first pass. Tim wasn’t at all impressed nor excited because he’d been going that fast sideways surrounded by 20 other cars racing the Sprint car.
A few weeks later, Cal and his wife, Anne, met Tim and his wife, Donna, in Scottsdale, AZ and went to a NASCAR race. After the event, they went to dinner and over drinks, Tim bought Cal’s entire BB Funny Car operation. A car running on a 7.50 Index at 175 mph; Tim had a great time racing that car through 2006 and 2007. At the end of the 2007 season, Tim sold the entire operation to another friend, Arvid Fonstad.
As most things have a way of working out, in 2008, Tim and his wife Donna, were at their home in Scottsdale, AZ when Ron Hodgson called to tell them that they were testing a new funny car at the old Firebird Raceway in Phoenix and invited them come down to the track and see what they were doing.
When they arrived, Ron was talking to Barry Paton. After introductions, Ron asked Barry if he was still looking for someone to drive his Top Fuel Dragster. Barry said that we was still looking and Ron said, “Tim will drive it!”
Next thing they knew, they were off to San Antonio in April where Tim practiced driving the fueler. He quickly got the hang of it so they went off to Rockingham where Tim was able to get more seat time. Because he had no trouble driving the car, he was licensed in the dragster while they were there.
Next, they headed to Edmonton, Alberta, Tim’s home track, for his first Top Fuel race. He was runner-up. He was finally happy. He had a quick powerful ride and he was happy with the speed itself and really liked what he’d found.
Also at the Edmonton race, Arvid Fonstad, the guy that had bought Tim’s BB/FC a year earlier, still hadn’t licensed in it yet and asked Tim if he’d drive the car. So, in 2008 Tim did double duty. He drove the BB/FC 7.50 car and the Top Fueler during the entire Edmonton event.
In early 2009, Tim and Ron Hodgson put together a deal to build the car Tim has today. When the 2009 race in Edmonton came around, Tim had three cars to drive; the Top Fuel car, his old BB/FC and his new nitro funny car! A lot of work but he only made three passes in his new nitro funny car over the four days so it worked out.
As 2009 moved along, the T/F deal was starting to dry up because of the expense of maintaining and operating it. The one thing Tim didn’t like doing was letting go of the great sponsors that helped him with the car. So Ron and Tim decided to just run Tim’s new nostalgia nitro funny car. In the meantime, another bud of Tim’s, Brad Janishewski, had four jet cars and he needed a driver for one of them. So, Tim being Tim, went down and licensed in the tank jet car. That was three years ago, October 13, and “I’ve been driving that part-time ever since. If it’s an open weekend I’ll fill in but I won’t to do double duty again, it’s too hard.”
Tim and Ron raced the NF/C together until 2014 when Tim bought Ron out. You see, Tim wanted to race the entire IHRA circuit and Ron only wanted to race on the West Coast. It’s important to note that Tim and Ron remain friends and usually pit close to each other when attending the same race.
Tim’s dad passed away in five months in 1992 from cancer and as noted above, Tim told himself that “there has to be more to life that working my tail off. It was right after that that the opportunity to drive the late model became available so I jumped at it.”
Spending more time traveling together in their motor home than in their Edmonton or their Scottsdale homes, Tim and Donna are living the life of modern day nomads. Tim’s a third generation trucker and is comfortable driving and living that lifestyle. Because there is at least a week between races they can drive at least two thousand miles between tracks without any problem. Now that Tim is driving for pleasure rather than a living he can drive 200 miles in the morning and 200 in the evening which gives them plenty of time to sightsee and enjoy where they are at the moment.
Tim and his dad started a trucking company in 1987. They built the company to 50 trucks and 150 trailers before his dad got ill in 1992. He passed away in May 1992 at 56 years old. It was then up to Tim to handle everything from billing to working with their customers. Tim continued building the company to more than 150 trailers and several million dollars in sales so the company was very successful until a major customer shut one of their plants down. While it put them in a tight spot, it was also a blessing because another company wanted to buy Tim out. So, that’s just what he did. He sold out and right away started buying up small mom-and-pop operators who wanted to retire. When he purchased them he also got their customers in the deal so he was able to rebuild fast. Then, the company who bought him out wanted to get rid of one of Tim’s former biggest customers which Tim quickly picked up again. That single customer requires 9 trucks alone so he’s right back up to 29 trucks and 45 trailers. What’s really nice is that he has two main customers who he has to see each twice a year, he has great people running the day-to-day operations of company. They call him when they need him and he’s still involved in all major acquisitions of rolling and fixed equipment. Tim is not semi-retired as some may think. He still negotiates rates every year and keeps his finger on the pulse of the company every day. For Tim and Donna, it’s an ideal situation. They love their lifestyle and working together.
In the next chapter, Tim’s daughter, Angelina, from an earlier marriage, will be marrying fellow racer, Cameron Ferre who is now driving the Paton families Top Fuel dragster. The wedding is planned for later next year and Tim couldn’t be happier. Life is great. “Every second I’m above ground breathing is a terrific day. It’s great to be alive!”