Billes Records Third AMS Pro Mod Challenge Win of 2004 in E-Town

For the third time this season, veteran Canadian Pro Modified competitor Al Billes called upon his driving skills and ability to string together consistent performances on the quarter-mile to climb to the top of the podium at an NHRA AMS Pro Mod Challenge event.

This time around, Billes, of Barrie, Ontario, proved to be the class of the elite eight-car field at the K&N Filters Supernationals in Englishtown, New Jersey. Drawing upon all his resources, Billes claimed the No. 4 qualifying spot with a last-session effort of 6.253, 229.43 behind the wheel of his supercharged Stratford Motor Products-sponsored ’53 Corvette.

On race day, Billes took on, and eliminated, multi-time World Champion Shannon Jenkins and young lion Zach Barklage before rolling into the beams beside Gotham City Racing’s Danny Rowe in the final. Billes left first, and used his .081 starting line advantage to full effect, stretching out his lead to take a dramatic 6.253, 228.58 to 6.257, 228.92 decision over the man from California.

“This car may not be the quickest and fastest, but it is very consistent when it comes to race day,” explained Billes. “We got kind of stressed when the final session came around and we were unqualified. This eight-car field is tough and the caliber of cars that run it are the reason for that without a doubt. When you get behind the eight-ball initially, it just compounds the challenge.

“It was great to win here on Father’s Day, and I’d like to dedicate the win to my dad, David, who has spent years building cars and racing competitively,” Billes added. “He got me into racing in the first place, and this one is for him.”

The win keeps Billes in front of the season-long points chase, with the next stop on the ten-race NHRA AMS Pro Modified Challenge tour coming next week in St. Louis, Mo., at the Sears Craftsman Nationals.

Photo by Roger Richards/

Billes Overcomes Engines Woes to Score First IHRA Pro Mod Win of 2004

A racer never knows what the cards may have in store when it comes to using a national event as the test venue for a new engine package, which was exactly the situation that Canadian Pro Mod competitor Al Billes and his crew faced upon arriving in Milan, Michigan for the Hooters IHRA Motor City Nationals.

It was stressful enough that the Stratford Motor Products-sponsored team had to put a new untried combination on the track, but to make matters worse they were dealt a few bad hands along the way, seriously wounding the new power plant in their supercharged ’53 Corvette during the second qualifying session.

“We were running a new engine combination in Milan this weekend” explained Billes. “With zero in-car testing of this engine we didn't know what to expect.”

Billes has been in the game long enough to expect the unexpected, however, and that’s exactly how things went for the Barrie, Ontario-based veteran. During the first session Billes experienced a bout of tire shake, but it was on his second attempt at cracking the tough 16-car field that more severe damage was done, resulting in Team Billes having to replace a few internal engine components.

They got the tune-up right just in time for the final qualifying session, and posted a great last-ditch mark of 6.256, 227.26 to secure the No. 3 spot in the field for Sunday’s elimination rounds.

In the first round, Billes was paired against the always-dangerous Fred Hahn. Both drivers cut nearly identical reaction times, and Billes went straight down the groove to advance as Hahn suffered severe tire shake.

Round two saw a nitrous vs. blower battle with Mike Castellana in the other lane. Once again the results were the same - Castellana shook and Billes went on for the win.

In the semifinals, Billes found himself in a peddling dual with defending World Champion Mitch Stott. At the launch Stott spun the tires, while further down the track Billes also spun the tires. He was able to regroup, however, and hold off the hard-charging Stott, who was determined to make a close race of it.

In the final, Billes was up against former World Champion and defending race champion Mike Janis. This one ended early as Janis spun the tires at the hit of the throttle, giving Team Billes their first IHRA win of the season.

The next stop on the Hooters IHRA tour for the Stratford Motor Products - sponsored ’53 Corvette will be the AC Delco Canadian Nationals at Toronto Motorsports Park July 30-Aug 1


Courtesy of Brian Wood


A Season-ending Statement - Courtesy of Al Billes!
Bruce Biegler - October 26, 2004

Canada's most prolific Pro Modified class racer, Al Billes, went for the jugular during last weekend's IHRA event in North Carolina and that may have produced his most impressive career victory yet.....

Driving the ultra-powerful Stratford Motor Products-sponsored '53 Corvette, the Barrie, Ontario-based driver left very little on the table while winning the IHRA's season-ending Bethesda Softworks World Finals -- his 10th career IHRA national event victory. Billes proved he had the quickest car in the massive and record-setting Pro Modified program when he unloaded a career quick 6.102 secs during qualifying and then never looked back.

On raceday Sunday, Billes and his team got progressively quicker while disposing of the field in consistent fashion. After opening final eliminations with a 6.224 secs 227.19 mph win over Ronnie Hood, Billes carded three straight runs at 6.196, 6.195, and 6.191 (secs) while beating Von Smith, fellow Canadian Carl Spiering and ultimately Mike Castellana in the championship final. Billes's victory came over the quickest 16-car assembly of Pro Mod cars yet (featuring a stunning 6.226 secs bump spot) and vaulted the talented driver into a 2nd place finish in final 2004 Hooters Drag Racing Series points. That is the third time that Billes has finished 2nd in final IHRA Pro Mod points.

"Going into the event we knew there would be close to 50 cars," said Billes. "Our objective was just to qualify and then take things from there. After we went a couple rounds I began to think we could win this thing. In the final after I swapped feet and then saw Mike fall back I thought for a moment I might have redlit. Then I was just praying -- don't break -- don't break! Its funny all the thoughts that can run through your mind in just a little over six seconds."

Billes's 6.102 secs was in fact a new IHRA national ET record for Pro Mod cars. He used a similar 6.127 secs time trial run which was well within the required 1%.

"We always knew the car had the power to be the quickest -- it was just a matter of putting it all together," Al reflected about the new national mark. "We finally figured out the car at Budds Creek -- but our performance here had a lot to do with the conditions. The surface was phenomenal and the weather was cool and overcast. That was the key to both the speed and the consistency."

Al Billes will round out his 2004 racing season at the AMS Pro Mod Final round during NHRA's ACDelco Las Vegas nationals next weekend. Billes, who has 3 AMS Staff Leasing Challenge wins to his credit this season, currently sits second in points 300 behind leader Mike Ashley. With some 500 total points available at the final event, a potential AMS Pro Mod Challenge championship also remains within his reach.

(Bruce Biegler photos)




Al Billes
The Summit Racing Equipment-sponsored Jim Oddy Pro Mod racing team is proud to announce that they have come to terms with veteran Canadian Pro Mod team owner and driver Al Billes to replace the retired Fred Hahn as driver for the team.

"I just can't imagine a better person or driver to fill Fred Hahn's position on the team," said team owner Jim Oddy. "I've known Al since he started driving, I sold him engines when he first started and watched him become one of the best drivers and tuners in Pro Mod. The fact that he finished second in NHRA and IHRA Championship points this season and currently holds the IHRA ET record tells you all you need to know about his talent both as a driver and tuner."

Billes will be much more than just the new driver of Jim Oddy's Summit Racing Equipment-backed car. The 2005 season will see a two-car effort for the Jim Oddy Racing team. Billes' '53 Corvette will be painted identical to Oddy's new Dodge Stratus and will have sponsorship from Oddy Racing's primary sponsor Summit Racing Equipment and major associates Isky Racing Cams and Blower Drive Service and all other associates.

The 'Vette will compete in selected races on the AMS/NHRA circuit and in Canada with an engine program developed using NHRA rules. The team's 2005 Dodge Stratus will compete for the IHRA World Championship and have a dedicated engine program based on IHRA rules. Billes will drive both cars.

"We will race both cars but our main efforts will be to win the 2005 IHRA World Championship for Summit Racing Equipment and all of our other sponsors," said Oddy.

Oddy, based in Elma, NY, and Billes, from Barrie, Ontario, Canada, both will retain their own race shops and dyno facilities in order to prepare and maintain both cars at championship levels.

"I can't tell you how excited and proud I am to be chosen by Jim to drive for his team," said Billes. "I just want to race and win a World Championship. I think driving and working with Jim and the rest of the Summit Racing Equipment team gives me the best opportunity to do that I've ever had. I do have one personal goal and that is to be the first Canadian Pro Mod driver to win a World Championship. I think driving for Jim can make that happen."

The team plans to get both cars and engine programs race ready then begin pre-season testing early in 2005 to get Billes and the team comfortable and familiar with each other. The new Stratus will debut at the first IHRA race of the season, March 31 in San Antonio, Texas.

"Our goals for next season are the same as they were last season and every season that I have raced," said Oddy. "To win races, have fun and if possible win a championship for our sponsors."

Major sponsorship for Jim Oddy Racing in 2005 comes from Summit Racing Equipment; major associates include Isky Racing Cams, Blower Drive Service, Red Line Oil, Hoosier Tires and MSD.

Courtesy of Jeff Burk
Photo copyright 2004 Jeff Burk



Jim Oddy's new Dodge Stratus has been picked up at Jerry Bickel's Missouri shop and is back in Oddy's Elma, NY engine shop for completion. This year theSummit Racing Equipment-backed supercharged Pro Mod will be driven by Al Billes in the IHRA Hooters series and will debut at the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals in San Antonio March 31-April 2.

"We've got a great-looking new car," said team owner and engine builder Jim Oddy, "and car chief Billy Leverentz and I are going to make sure it has a great engine and set-up. Along with a new driver, everything will be new this year, but the team is looking forward to the challenge."

In addition, Billes will drive his newly Summit-liveried '53 Corvette built by Tim McAmis at selected events on the NHRA AMS/TLR Pro Mod Challenge circuit. The complete schedule of these events for the team has not yet been determined. Billes won three AMS events in 2004 in addition to the Pro Mod Challenge race-within-a-race at the final event of the season.Last year Billes finished second in both the IHRA and AMS series' points.

The Barrie, Ontario, Canada native will also take part in the newly formed Pro Modified Racing Association, which will hold five events in the area of Toronto and Ontario, Canada and upper New York state. Billes has also been nominated as Pro Driver of the Year for the award. Other drivers nominated for the Canadian-only recognition include Jeff Arend, Rob Atchison and Rick Distefano. Voting remains open until Jan. 31.


Article and illustrations courtesy of Jeff Burk & Greg Ozubko

Oddy_Summit.jpg (132206 bytes)            Billes_Summit.JPG (105463 bytes)




Al Billes, new driver for Jim Oddy's Summit Racing Equipment-backed Pro Mod team, has yet to let out the clutch in competition, but he has already recorded his first victory of 2005. The Barrie, Ontario driver was named the 2004 Canadian Pro Driver of the Year by the readers of DragRace Canada magazine,receiving 47 percent of the online vote.

"I knew Al was a great driver when I hired him to drive for my team," said team owner and engine builder, Jim Oddy. "I knew he would be a great asset. I just didn't realize how popular he was in Canada. Obviously, being honored by his countrymen says a lot about him. He certainly earned the honor, and our team and sponsors are all very proud of him."

Last year Billes finished second in the championship points in both the IHRA and NHRA AMS Pro Mod circuits before he joined Jim Oddy's team for the 2005 season.

At the request of their major sponsor Summit Racing Equipment, the team will concentrate on winning the IHRA World Championship this year, beginning with the season opener Amalie Oil Texas Nationals in San Antonio, TX, March 31-April 2. Billes will drive Oddy's new supercharged Dodge Stratus built by Jerry
Bickel Race Cars.

As their schedule allows, the team will also attend a limited number of NHRA AMS Pro Mod events, including the U.S. Nationals. Billes will also compete in the five-race Pro Modified Racing Association series, driving the '53 Corvette he drove in 2004.

Major sponsorship for Jim Oddy Racing comes from Summit Racing Equipment.

Courtesy of Jeff Burk


Billes/Oddy Summit Team Taking Shape!
Bruce Biegler - March 9, 2005

Quite possibly the most formidable 1-2 punch in Pro Mod racing history is quickly taking shape as Al Billes and Jim Oddy make final preparations for the 2005 racing season.... 03a.jpg (93982 bytes)

The IHRA and NHRA Pro Modified class may never have seen such a melding. Ever since Al Billes, the Barrie, ON-based racer, was named by Jim Oddy as the replacement driver to Fred Hahn for the Summit Racing Equipment Pro Modified team, class competitors have been worried -- and well they should be.

Billes and Oddy have both been involved in the class since the dawn of it's creation and individually over the years have amassed countless event wins and championship titles. Together for the 2005 racing season, Billes will drive two Pro Mod cars, both sponsored by Summit Racing Equipment. One will be a spectacular new 2005 Hemi-powered Dodge Stratus which owner Jim Oddy has pegged for IHRA Hooters Drag Racing Series competition while the second will be Billes’s tried and true ’53 Corvette, (also Hemi-powered) which will focus on the NHRA AMS Staff Leasing and new Canadian-based PMRA circuits.

03b.jpg (39169 bytes)The development would not have been worse news for the Pro Mod class competition. Arguably, there is no other team out there with the combined years of class experience and tuning prowess.

For Billes, the opportunity to race for a major sponsor like Summit marks the pinnacle of a very long journey which saw him achieve astounding results in his career despite being a 100% independent racer. “I’ve always wanted to win a championship but I was at a point in my life where I had to make some hard decisions because of the expense involved in racing," he said. "When Jim offered me the opportunity to come and race for his team I was thrilled because it will allow me to keep my dream alive. Then to have the opportunity to drive one of the most powerful and prominent Pro Mod cars in the world and to be associated with a high profile company like Summit Racing Equipment – I feel very fortunate.”

Billes was also particularly inspired by the potential for performance this season, particularly within the new NHRA AMS Staff Leasing Pro Mod rules.

“Our first focus has and will be to win races,” he added. “The 29% blower overdrive 03c.jpg (97823 bytes) and the 100 lbs weight break does make for the possibility of the first "legal" five second run in the class. I think that barrier would be a nice feather in the cap for whoever gets it. The class will definitely be quicker and Jim and I have spent a lot of time working on our power program over the winter – so things could get interesting.”

Al Billes and Jim Oddy will begin their venture together when the IHRA opens it's season at San Antonio, Texas March 31st-April 2nd. The team's NHRA AMS class debut will likely come also in Texas -- at the O'Reilly Spring Nationals (April 8-10th).

Photos by:  Bruce Biegler

Article courtesy of





First Win For The New Team

It didn’t take long for the new team of Al Billes and Jim Oddy to show what they could do on the drag strip.

Two weeks after a taking the top spot in the qualifying order for the AMS Pro Mod Challenge during the NHRA national event at Houston Raceway Park, Billes took his Summit Racing 1953 Chevy Corvette to the Pro Mod win at the 35th annual IHRA Spring Nationals at Rockingham Dragway in Rockingham, North Carolina.

Billes took the win when he saved his best run of the weekend for the final round of eliminations and beat Quain Stott with a 6.162-second pass at 230.80 miles per hour while Stott covered the quarter mile in 6.206 seconds at 229.31 miles per hour.

For Billes and Oddy, the win came after a stressful weekend that saw the team get only one qualifying pass and make it through eliminations with some of the slowest ETs in the field, until they got to the final round.

“It came together when we needed it to,” Billes said, after the race, adding that the car did not perform up to its potential until the final round. “We turned all the screws and made all the adjustments and it worked out,” he said. “We must have done the right things.”

After a disappointing appearance in the IHRA season opener at San Antonio, Billes and Oddy put in a lot of time testing the Corvette, both at San Antonio after the IHRA event and in Mooresville, North Carolina two days before the start of the event at Rockingham.

“That definitely helped,” Billes said of the testing. “You can never do enough testing. Being from up north, you can only do dyno work during the winter, so you end up doing a lot engine work and not a lot of racing the car.”

The team came to Rockingham expecting to get three qualifying attempts. When rain forced the cancellation of Friday night qualifying, three attempts suddenly turned to two qualifying passes on Saturday. But two attempts soon turned to one when Billes began feeling ill on Saturday and elected to skip the afternoon qualifying session. That decision meant that he’d have just one opportunity to make the field.

With just one chance to make the field, Oddy and Billes were faced with the task of choosing a setup that would be sure to let Billes get down the track, yet still be aggressive enough to put the team solidly into the field of 16.

“We were soft, very soft,” Billes said. “We wanted to run a 30 (6.30 seconds) because we thought that would keep us in. We ended up running a 31.”

Oddy said that with just one chance to make the field, just getting into the top 16 was the most important goal.

“We set it up soft to make the program,” Oddy said. “We knew we could work on the car today (Sunday) if we got it in the program.”

Billes was in the first pair of cars to go down the track in the final qualifying session and put the car into the seventh spot in the order. But with 29 cars left to run, and 13 of them not in the field, the Summit racing team had to wait nervously to see if Billes’ 6.312-second ET would be quick enough to make the show.

“We were nervous about whether or not it would stand up,” Billes explained. “There was a lot of pacing going on.” In the end, Billes’ ET proved to be quick enough to put the team into the 11th spot in the qualifying order.

That earned Billes a first round matchup against Ed Hoover, who won the season opener in San Antonio. In that race, Hoover shook the tires hard when he launched and had to back off the throttle of his car. Billes had a clean run down the middle of his lane but the 6.272-second elapsed time was the second slowest of all the winners in that round of eliminations.

In the second round, Billes faced off against Charles Carpenter. In that round, Billes had the quicker start, with 0.087-second reaction time to Carpenter’s 0.113-second start, and stayed out in front the whole way down the track. Billes’ winning ET for the race as 6.231 seconds at 230.25 miles per hour, while Carpenter made it down the quarter mile in 6.366 seconds at 219.19 miles per hour.

Billes got his third-round win over Dennis Radford because he was better able to control a car that was shaking its rear tires. Radford got off the starting line with a 0.039-second reaction time while Billes took 0.097 seconds to start. But cars shook the tires when the launched, but Billes was able to pedal his Corvette and get back into the run, pulling out a 6.576-second ET at 224.25 miles per hour. In the left lane, Radford tried to pedal his car but was never able to get the rear tires hooked up again, so he backed off the throttle.

While Billes was progressing through the rounds, Stott was on the other side of the ladder. Stott beat Keith Baker, Jim Halsey and Rickie Smith to earn his spot in the final round. When the final round began, Stott got off the starting line first and held the lead to the 660-foot marker. But then Billes powered his Corvette by Stott and pulled away to take the win. Stott finished the race in 6.206 seconds at 229.31 miles per hour. In contrast, Billes had his quickest pass of the weekend as he made it down the quarter mile in 6.162 seconds at 230.80 miles per hour.

“We pulled that one out from under a rock,” Oddy said of the final round pass. “We were struggling all day. We turned all the knobs we could turn.”

Billes said that the final round win over Stott was the toughest win of the day. “Quain is so consistent,” Billes said. “We kind of stole this one from him. He’s been running so well and so consistently. We kind of stepped it up for the final round and snuck up on him.”

The win at Rockingham was the first of the season for Billes and the first win ever for the new team of Billes and Jim Oddy. Billes joined the team after the end of the 2004 season to replace Oddy’s long-time driver, Fred Hahn, who retired during the season last year.

The next race on Billes’ schedule is the 5th Annual ACDelco Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park in Richmond, Virginia. That race is scheduled for May 26th through 28th.

Courtesy of



The Summit Racing Equipment-backed Pro Mod team of owner/tuner/engine builder Jim Oddy and driver Al Billes have been the dramatic act of IHRA Pro Mod racing so far this year. In the three 2005 IHRA National Event races held so far they have raced and qualified two entirely different race cars, a Tim McAmis-built '53 'Vette and a Jerry Bickel-built '05 Dodge Stratus. They have qualified on the last lap at every event, and then usually qualified at or near the top and set the track or national speed record in the process.

Despite their struggles they have managed to go enough rounds to put their Summit Racing Equipment-backed supercharged team solidly into second place in IHRA World Championship points just 15 points behind nitrous racer and 2003 IHRA Pro Mod Champ, Shannon Jenkins.

The Elma, NY-based team's trials and tribulations at the just completed IHRA ACDelco Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park is a mirror image of how the season has gone so far.

They failed to get down the track on their first two attempts and that left them their usual (this season) one shot qualifying scenario on Saturday morning. The only difference this time was that on their last unsuccessful qualifying attempt Friday night the car shook so bad that it badly damaged the rear suspension.

"We didn't have all of the parts we needed in the trailer so we worked until 4:00 in the morning straightening, fabricating and borrowing enough parts to fix the car and take it to the starting line Saturday morning for the last qualifying session," said Jim Oddy.

On that lap Billes drove the Dodge Stratus to a 6.169/234.94 which broke the existing VMP track speed record. On the next lap the team broke the track ET record and re-set the IHRA national speed record for Pro Mods with a 6.129/236.22 lap. They then came back and ran another 'teen at over 235 mph.

In the semi's the drama returned for the team as Billes stepped off of the clutch with a reaction time of .040 to Shannon Jenkins' .066! Billes was pulling away when the engine broke a rod at around the 1000-ft mark and coasted over the finish line recording a 6.194 ET at just 215.48. In the other lane Jenkins charged to a 6.172/228.07. Billes got to the finish line just four-thousandths of a second before Jenkins. Unfortunately, the engine damage was bad enough that the Oddy Racing team couldn't make the call for the final round, allowing Mike Janis and his supercharged Dodge Stratus to single for the win.

The runner-up finish for the Summit Racing Equipment-backed team pushed them into second place, just 15 markers behind Shannon Jenkins. They would have been tied with Jenkins but when they broke the rod they oiled the track down past the finish line and the penalty for that infraction was 15 valuable Hooters Cup points.

Well, what else would you expect for the most dramatic team in Pro Mod?
The next stop for the team is June 4-5 at the "Super Summit" at Summit Racing Equipment World Headquarters in Columbus, Ohio followed by the IHRA Mopar Canadian Nationals at Grand Bend, Ontario, Canada June 10-11 and the AMS Staff Leasing NHRA race at Englishtown, New Jersey June 17-19.

Major sponsorship for Oddy's Racing team in 2005 comes from Summit Racing Equipment. Major associates include Isky Racing Cams, Blower Drive Service, Red Line Oil, NGK and MSD.

Article courtesy of  Jeff Burk

Photos courtesy of  Jamie Walters



At The Top Of The Points Race

Al Billes may not have won the battle but he took the lead in the war after he made it to the semi-final round of eliminations during the IHRA Sixth annual Mopar Canadian Nationals in Grand Bend, Ontario,

Billes’ semi-final appearance, coupled with Shannon Jenkins’ second-round loss to Burton Auxier, put Billes at the top of the Pro Mod season championship points standings. At the end of the race, Billes was first in the points race with 309 points and Jenkins was close behind with 305 points. Ed Hoover is in third place with 250 points.

“We made big strides with the car this weekend,” Billes said of his new Summit Racing Dodge Stratus Pro Mod race car. The race at Grand Bend was only the second time that Billes and team owner Jim Oddy had raced the new car in IHRA competition. The first time out, at the IHRA national event at Virginia Motorsports Park on Memorial Day weekend, Billes took the Stratus to the final round of eliminations.

Billes made the field in Grand bend by qualifying in the number two position in the order, with a quickest qualifying ET of 6.240 seconds at 231.28 miles per hour. Jenkins was the top qualifier with an ET of 6.191 seconds at 227.11 MPH.

But like he has done in three of the four IHRA races this year, Billes came into the final qualifying session outside the field and had to make good in his final attempt if he wanted to make the field. And like he had done previously, Billes got the run he needed and secured his place in field.

“We’re doing it to see how fast we can age Jim (Oddy),” Billes joked, adding that the team would prefer not to wait until its last qualifying pass to make the field but that it has been taking them a couple of runs each weekend to get the setup right for the track they are at.

“I guess that’s got a lot to do with getting a new car ready,” Billes said. “It takes a lot of runs to get the setup and we don’t make anywhere near as many runs as we’d like.”

After shaking the tires during his first two qualifying passes, Billes got the run he needed in the third session late Saturday afternoon when he took his Dodge Stratus straight down the middle of his lane and into the top of the order. That earned Billes a first-round race against Eddie Ware.

In the first round, Billes had the quicker start, with an 0.073-second reaction time to Ware’s 0.096-second start. Ware stayed close for the first 660 feet of the race, but then Billes’ Stratus started pulling away for the win. Billes ended the race in 6.246 seconds at 231.68 miles per hour. Ware’s ET was 6.326 seconds at 218.19 MPH.

Like he did in round two, Billes took his car straight down the groove in round two, beating Jim Halsey with a 6.227-second ET at 233.08 MPH to Halsey’s 6.269-second pass at 225.41 miles per hour.

That set up a third-round race against Billy Harper to see who would get to the final round of eliminations. Billes left the starting line first but had not traveled far when his car shook the rear tires and started to go sideways, forcing him to get off the throttle. Harper took his car straight down his lane for the win.

“We took some big strides with the car but we shook the tires in the semi-final,” Billes said of his race weekend. The race at Grand Bend was only the second time the team has raced the new Stratus in national event competition.

It’s different,” Billes said of the new car when asked to compare it to his 1953 Corvette that he drove during in the beginning of the 2005 season. “The setup is just different. It responds well to changes in the setup,” he said, explaining that the team cannot use much of the data it has collected during past racing seasons.

At the same time, he said, the team has been conservative in the changes it makes because it wants to be sure to qualify for every race. “It’s hard to look at the setup and say ‘We have to go way over her’ because if we do and we miss it, we won’t make the field,” Billes said. “Instead, we’ll say ‘Let’s just go part way.’ We just do what we need to do to get through the round.”

By taking small steps, the team is working to build consistency rather than constantly going after the quickest ET. “We don’t want to try to be number one and then end up not being in the race at all,” he said.

That’s because consistency will be a key to winning the IHRA Pro Mod championship this year, particularly with Jenkins just four points behind in the season standings. “Shannon is going to be tough. He’s really running well,” Billes said. “His car is running in the 61s (the 6.1-second range), just like a bracket car.”

The next race on Billes schedule is the NHRA national event at Old Bridge Township raceway Park in Englishtown, NJ. That race is scheduled for June 16th through 19th.

Courtesy of



The Summit Racing Equipment-backed Pro Mod team of owner/tuner/engine builder Jim Oddy and Canadian driver Al Billes used the IHRA National Event at Grand Bend -- the first of three IHRA National Events held in Canada -- to move into the lead in the chase for the IHRA Hooter's Cup World championship for Pro Modifieds.

"I've devoted this season to winning the IHRA World Championship for my sponsor Summit Racing Equipment and getting my new driver and friend Al Billes his first World Championship, so it's nice to be leading the points right now," said team owner Jim Oddy,  "I think IHRA Pro Modified is the toughest circuit in drag racing right now and with a lot of races left this season we know it's going to take everything this team's got plus some racing luck to win the World Championship."

The team went into Grand Bend in second place and with their new supercharged Dodge Stratus still being sorted out. The team qualified in the No. 2 spot with a 6.240 and managed to get the Top Speed of the meet with a 233.08 clocking. (The team set the new IHRA national speed record for Pro Mods at 236.22 at the last IHRA event in Virginia with consecutive laps of 234-plus, 235-plus and a final 236.22.)

In eliminations Al Billes drove to the win over supercharger racer and privateer Eddie Ware in the first round with another 6.24. In the second round Oddy stepped the power up a bit defeating the nitrous entry of driver Jim Halsey with a 6.22/233 pass.  The win over Halsey put them into the semi-finals against nitrous racer Billy Harper.

"We felt we were going to have to step it up against a premier car and driver like Billy Harper and his Viper," Oddy said, "So we did and it bit us. We shook the tires, Al had to lift, and we were done."

The team will now spend the next couple of weeks working on some small   problems they found in the new Dodge Stratus and preparing for the 100 hour round trip from upstate New York to the high country of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

"We'll have to try and come up with something to deal with the high altitude there," Oddy said. " It'll be a whole new experience for me since I've never been to that track. But if you are going to win an IHRA Pro Mod championship you have to be able to race under a lot of different conditions. That's why it is so hard to win a championship on this circuit."

Courtesy of Jeff Burk



Canadian Pro Mod class star Al Billes continued his record setting ways during last weekend's NHRA K&N Filters SuperNationals in New Jersey. While Billes ultimately did not win the event's featured AMS Staff Leasing/TLR Pro Mod Challenge event -- he still managed to humble the competition with a stunning performance driving his Summit Racing Equipment Chevy Corvette.

E-Town_'53_05.jpg (87192 bytes)During his third and final qualifying round, Billes skipped his Hemi-powered machine to an amazing 6.030 secs at 236.92 mph, the quickest and fastest run ever seen in "legal" Pro Mod class history. Billes backed up that mark with an equally impressive 6.081 secs at 236.63 mph effort in round one and with that grabbed both ends of the recognized NHRA Pro Mod record. Billes already holds both the ET and speed mark on the IHRA tour (6.101 secs at 236.22 mph) giving him a rare and possibly first time distinction in drag racing. He is holding no less the four national marks in a Professional category.

E-Town_Record_Scorebord.jpg (66548 bytes)"That 6.03 is a big plus for our team because it's a fair bit quicker then anyone else has run," said Billes. "It really was a summation of about 2 or 3 years work with our own engine program back in Barrie, Ontario. All of that hard work has led us to this point and it's beginning to pay dividends."

While Billes acknowledged the run was quick -- always the perfectionist -- he wondered about what was left on the table.

"It really wasn't a perfect run in fact it rattled the tires and wiggled around in low gear," he revealed. "The fact it went that quick after all that tells me there is potential for even more. If the conditions are right -- this car is capable of running 3-5/100ths quicker."

JW_AL_E-Town_05.jpg (128672 bytes)For the drag racing purists out there Al provided us with a summary of the short times: .994 at 60 ft -- 2.648 at 330 ft -- 3.964 secs and 188.17 mph at the 1/8th mile mark.

"I saw this type of performance on paper but you always have some doubt until it actually happens," Al added. "I think we can get a "five" out of it but that will be a function of the conditions -- where and when. We would certainly like to accomplish that for our great sponsor -- Summit Racing Equipment."



Article and photos courtesy of


Ten minutes with...

Al Billes

(9-20-2005) BARRIE, ONT - Today we sat down with Canadian Promod standout Al Billes at his home in Barrie, Ontario where we discussed his health, his racing program and the future of Al Billes Racing.

PMSource: It has been 8 weeks since your accident in Milan, let me start by asking how are you feeling, physically and mentally?

Al Billes: It has been a very long 8 weeks; the worst of my injuries has been the head trauma. Two concussions in two weeks resulted in myself getting what is termed “Post Concussive Syndrome”. The result of this has been that for the first six weeks post Milan I was dizzy, nauseous, queasy, felt as though I was in a fog, head aches, neck trouble…definitely not how I had intended to spend the summer. After the sixth week the symptoms started to subside slowly, they have not ceased only subsided. The doctors predict up to 6 months to be back to 95% of how I was before the accidents. I never expected this type of injury from racing.

As far as mentally, this experience definitely takes its toll. It is stressful feeling this way for so long and having no idea when and how much of the symptoms will subside. The experience has given me an understanding for those people who have chronic pain or other illness, what a horrible way to have to live. If these symptoms are similar to what the boxers, hockey players, football players etc. go through when they have concussions, and to have repeated occurrences they must be strong people.

PMSource: You have been a mainstay in IHRA Pro Mod since your return in ‘98, it seems strange looking at the qualifying lists from recent events and not seeing your name. Some have suggested that your driving career is in question, is retirement on the horizon?

Al Billes: I have wanted to race since I was a kid, It’s what I grew up around and the only sport that I really have wanted to be competitively involved in. My reigning plan has long been that when I turn 40 years old, if there is no financial backing to race, I would change my focus somewhat. I turn 40 this year and do not have any sort of major sponsorship to support the racing and therefore will change hats so to speak, from driver and try my hand at tuning. This does not mean I will not drive anymore, just not as much for the moment, I also need to give my body the time necessary to properly heal. Lately I haven’t really felt like driving, an analogy may be that when you have a stomach bug you don’t much feel like going out for a steak, but when the bug is gone that all changes.

PMSource: Earlier this season you held all of the national records in both IHRA and NHRA Pro Mod. In Englishtown this year, only your second AMS/TLR event at 29%, you ran a record setting 6.03 @ 236.92 mph leaving a lot of people, fans and drivers alike with gaping mouths. Here’s a question I’m sure everyone would like the answer to, why is your engine program so strong?

Al Billes: There are a number of reasons our engine program has been steadily improving. My father owns an engineering firm that has been developing engines since the 1960’s, although mostly in stock cars and road race cars. I worked for an aircraft engine manufacturer in R&D of piston engine development for eight years, this provides for some experience to build from. My father’s company has an engine dyno, which we started using four years ago to run the supercharged engines on. During the winter months we would spend some time on the dyno learning initially what these engines do and don’t like, how to improve durability, and than finally we would get into development work. Along with our shop we spent some time winter testing with Les Davenport out in Calgary, which was a valuable experience. The time spent has slowly but definitely yielded improvements in our engine program both in durability and power. Development, to be successful, takes a great deal of time and dedication, the exciting aspects come to light when you see those performance gains such as the 6.03 at 236.92, which is by no means all that the car is capable of.

PMSource: The Al Billes Racing Engine program includes notable Pro Mod racers Tony Pontieri and Ray Commisso but your engine building skills extend beyond Pro Mod. Most people are not aware of the fact that you also build engines for Ralph Andreacchi competing in the newly formed PMRA door slammer series, Jeff Shneer who drives a beautiful ’68 Mustang in Top Sportsman and current OSCA EZ-Street champion Joe Carano. Are these guys a select few, or can anyone purchase an Al Billes Racing Engine?

Al Billes: I will build engines for anyone, and have built many engines including stock car, and nitrous engines.

PMSource: Looking at the list of people with one of your engines I have noticed a trend, your not only open to Canadian racers are you?

Al Billes: Probably the single biggest reason I haven’t developed the engine business is due to our location. The border in the past has been detrimental to the type of engine building business venture I would pursue. It’s more difficult to ship engines and parts back and forth across the border. For this reason most U.S. racers understandably will stick with engine builders they have easy access to.

PMSource: Okay, back to racing now. Spies reported spotting you in Carl Spierings pit and your lack of presence in the Summit pit at the IHRA event in Martin, subsequently there has been a rumor floating around since then that you and your crewmen, Jason and Theo, are no longer associated with Jim Oddy Racing. Any truth to this? And if so can you shed some light on the events leading to the split?

Al Billes: We are no longer involved with Jim Oddy. We have had a good relationship with Carl Spiering and the Cutler Hammer team for a number of years now, and simply wanted to provide any support to him and his team that we could.

PMSource: In all the pre-season press releases and news articles you were being touted as the new “driver” for the Summit Pro Mod. Was the use of your ’53 Corvette and equipment something that came about as the season was drawing closer and the ’05 Stratus wasn’t yet completed, or was it negotiated as part of the deal from the beginning?

Al Billes: The initial plan was Jim wanted to use my car and race program at AMS races to take advantage of the weight break, and his car at IHRA races. When it became apparent the Stratus wouldn’t be finished in time for the start of the IHRA season I offered to use my entire race program while he finished his car.

PMSource: Let me ask you this, was your Corvette originally scheduled for the match race in Lancaster against Mike Janis?

Al Billes: Lancaster was an expensive race for me. Jim wanted to use my program at this race to save his car for the IHRA races, which were the main focus in terms of the championship.

PMSource: It seems that it is time to change the subject, I’ll ask the usual question, what are your plans for the future, the 2006 season isn’t far off, is the ’53 Corvette being repaired for competition, is the ’63 Corvette being prepped for next year or is everything still on the back burner?

Al Billes: Jason, Theo, Harry and John Waldie will stay involved with Al Billes Racing; Plans are to run with RDR (Rick Distefano Racing) for the IHRA championship. Assist Raymond Commisso; and work with all those I currently am involved with. Possibly if the appropriate opportunity arises, work with an IHRA Funny Car. I will sell either or both cars, I can always get another when it comes time to race again.

PMSource: Is there anything else you would like to say to your fans?

Al Billes: I would like to say thanks to all those who have supported me…the support from fans, friends and family makes a big difference when you are stuck at home feeling sick. Also, we are eagerly expecting an addition to the family some time in March.



When Stars Align!

Pro Mod Exclusive -- When Stars Align!
Bruce Biegler - October 2, 2005

In a very significant Canadian drag racing development just this week, a new racing alliance has been confirmed including two of Canada’s top-rated Pro Modified racers; Alberta’s Rick Distefano and Ontario’s Al Billes.

The merger is a big positive for Al Billes, who endured a devastating pair of crashes this summer which not only derailed his potential ridden joint racing plans with Jim Oddy, it also put his future as a race car driver on hold. But Instead of staying on the sidelines, Billes, along with his talented right hand man Jason McKnight, have struck a deal with Distefano the objective of which is to build an IHRA Championship winning team for 2006. The new group, which will also include long time Distefano crewmember Andy McIntosh, have already begun testing Distefano’s supercharged ’53 Corvette.

The announcement also offers a fresh start for Distefano who after finishing a strong 4th in IHRA points last season, was forced to curtail his racing schedule during 2005 primarily due to business reasons at his highly successful concrete company based in Calgary.

“I had a very busy work schedule and I had to take some time off to attend to that,” he continued. “But I was also not happy with the direction my team was heading so bringing on Al and Jason was the best move I feel I could have made. The car will be based in Eastern Canada next season at Al’s shop. All of that is going to help us save on traveling expenses and it will allow us to attend all the IHRA races.”

Distefano revealed that the new alliance became obvious to both he and Al once they got talking about it.

“We both realized this was a no-brainer anyway you look at it,” said Rick Distefano. “Al and I did some R&D work together a couple of years ago but now we are going to rekindle that and take it all to the next level. I have a very good feeling about this and so does Al. I feel we have the nucleus of a truly “great” team.”

While still on the mend from the two concussions he received, Al Billes too is very optimistic about the new opportunity.

“We all know that Rick’s car is already very fast,” said Billes. “We both have good R&D programs and we feel with this merger we can move ahead of the pack. We’ve already had the motor on the dyno and we found some interesting things. We tested the car at Toronto Motorsports Park and our short times to the 1/8th mile were definitely very stout.”

Billes is also taking the sensible approach as far as his health goes.

“It’s been slow and painful,” Billes revealed. “I felt nauseous and dizzy for two months straight – everyday and all day. It’s been brutal, but the last three weeks have been better. Because of that I have already decided I will not drive at all next season so that will allow me a complete focus on Rick’s car. I will not be getting back into a race car until I’m absolutely sure I’m 100%.”

While Billes and Distefano have set there targets for the 2006 racing season, fans will get a bit of a preview during the next couple of weeks. The new team will attend and race at both the season ending IHRA World Finals at Rockingham as well as the NHRA ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals. While officially considered “testing” those outings will likely also have the effect of giving the Pro Mod competition even more to think about over the winter.

(Bruce Biegler Photos)



Canada’s Rapid Response Team
Bruce Biegler - April 21, 2006

Perhaps no driver anywhere in North America’s thriving Pro Modified racing scene is more overdue to win at the national event level then is Calgary Alberta’s Rick DiStefano. Following a rather blockbuster announcement during the off season that he would be joining forces with Eastern Canadian class brain thrust Al Billes, expectations have been high for the formidable new Canadian team.

At their first two races together this season things have looked very promising. Billes and his talented supporting staff did choreograph “Ricky D” to the Pro Mod pole at both the NHRA ACDelco Gatornationals (6.050 secs – a career best) and the IHRA Amalie Oil Texas Nationals (6.062 secs). While those event efforts grabbed much attention they also fell short of the team’s goal – a trip to victory lane.

“The car really performed fantastic at both Gainesville and San Antonio,” said Rick DiStefano. “At the IHRA race we ran a 6.06 (secs) in the cool night air and also a 6.06 in the heat of the day. To run like that in vastly different conditions tells me we are on to something.”

“To earn back-to-back poles in this very competitive category is certainly a great way for us to start the season,” he added. “Obviously it would have been better if we could have won one of those races. But I’m confident that will come. The merger between Al and me couldn’t have happened any smoother. I was pretty sure we would run fast like this right away. Now I think all we need is to get some events under our belt together as a team.”

The team will be highly focused on that very objective from this point forward beginning at Rockingham Dragway this coming Friday night. They would like nothing more then to be sipping champagne come Sunday evening at the conclusion of the IHRA Spring Nationals.

DiStefano and Billes are committed 100% to the IHRA’s eMax Drag Racing Series this season with their Hemi-powered ’53 Corvette.

(Bruce Biegler Photos)







Toronto resident Ray Commisso has been racing in the Torco’s Pro Modified class for over three seasons. Before the Skull Shine World Nationals he had never even qualified for an IHRA Pro Mod field event. At Norwalk Raceway Park not only did Commisso qualify, he defeated Mike Janis in the final to capture an Ironman. Commisso posted a solid 6.126/232.35 in the final to defeat a tire-shaking Janis. “IHRA Pro Mod, without a doubt, is the toughest Pro Mod field in the world,” Commisso said. “Just to come here and be beside all these guys I’ve looked up to my whole life, to race against them in qualifying and win the event is like a dream come true. I really don’t know what to say. I’m so overwhelmed we’re even here.”



After an impressive 6.01 run yesterday by Raymond Commisso, he was able to back that up today during the second qualifying session with a 6.02.  Although, he was again the quickest car, his teammate Tony Pontieri in his '57 Bel Air wasn’t far behind him.  Pontieri was the quickest for the third session with a 6.04.  “It feels great,” said Pontieri.  “I cannot take all the credit though.  Al Billes is here tuning for us.  He called me on Monday night after [Norwalk] IHRA, after Raymond won that national event, and said Tony, do you want to go to Indy?  I got quiet for a second, and my wife asked what happened.  I said they invited us to Indy, and she said to go.  So we came into the park here on Thursday, and we were all excited.  The run sheet then came up and Raymond and I were at the front of the field to qualify, I thought this is going to be beautiful.  Let’s do it. 

" I don’t want to give us bad luck, but let’s try something.  We got up there together and both of us let the clutch out, we had the race of our lives.  Doors handle to door handle, all the way down.  He just squeezed me out on the top.  It was like we won the national event, but it was our own little party.  All these guys out here run pretty hard, but like I said, without Al Billes I don’t think we’d be running as hard as we are.”Although the team has been the quickest so far this weekend, they aren’t letting it go to their heads.  Pontieri went on to comment, “Today is the day I whipped everybody’s butt, but it’s going to turn around someday and it will be somebody else.  As much as I give it, I can take it too.  I’m okay with that.  Either way, I’m excited.”

With Raymond Commisso and Tony Pontieri running very well, the credit all seems to go back to Al Billes.  “They are good working race cars and good combination, good powerplant, the track is pretty good.  We’re just carrying on from where we were.  It was an unfortunate short sabbatical, but I’m back just with a different driver.”



The NHRA US Nationals bring out the best racers in the United States, and sometimes the best in other counties.  Toronto native Raymond Commisso went to the final round against Josh Hernandez and the US Nationals could have possibly been won by a Canadian.  Regardless of his hometown location, Commisso showed he just wanted to race the best he could. 

“This whole weekend was absolutely awesome and a dream come true,” said Commisso.  “We qualified No. 1, went a 6.01 and 6.02, we went to the finals, it would have been nice to win, but I’m just as good.  I’m just happy to be here.  To be in this final round was absolutely amazing to me and my team.  For Al Billes my crew chief, his horsepower, my sponsor Steelback Brewery, Torco Race Fuels, thanks, we’ll do it again next race.”

Al was not racing at the US Nationals; however, he was tuning three of the four cars left in the semi-finals.  Working with the Canadian powerhouse teams of Raymond Commisso and Tony Pontieri, Billes also took on giving tuning help to Doug Palmer.  Not only did Billes get three cars to the semi’s he tuned Commisso to the No. 1 qualifying spot with a huge 6.01. 

“It’s nice to be racing again, regardless,” said Billes.  “Unfortunately, I’m not able to drive yet, but at least we’re back at the race track.  I enjoy the NHRA and IHRA; we’ve always run both and I enjoy them.  It’s really just great to see all the guys doing well.  Taking what we’ve worked on for the last couple years.  If I can’t use it, I might as well let some other guys have fun with it.”