PORT McNEILL — Chris Beattie of Port Hardy finally realized his longstanding dream of competing in a drag race.
He would really enjoy it if his next race includes a dream car.
Beattie piloted his family’s 2008 Chevrolet minivan to a surprising runner-up showing Sunday in the street class final of the North Island Timing Association’s first drag-racing points series event at Port McNeill Airport.
“He’s been wanting to race for years,” said Susan Beattie, Chris’s wife. “So I finally said, ‘Aw, just race the van.'”
As Chris piloted the silver, 6-cylinder Uplander through elimination heats and closed in on a berth in the final heat, the crowd in the bleachers began to get behind the unlikely dragster.
With the 53-car field featuring a dragster and multiple pro and super-pro competitors with chrome pipes, giant tires and custom paint jobs, it was Beattie’s family wagon that drew a hearty ovation from the bleachers as he rolled up the approach road for the final heat.
When he was narrowly beaten by the Toyota Tacoma pickup of Nanaimo’s Carl Rasmussen, that same crowd groaned in disappointment.
In more traditional drag-racing action, Port McNeill’s Terry Mackay topped the Super-pro field to claim his first home-track victory since racing began on the one-eighth mile airport strip in 2009.
Matched for the second straight year against Courtenay’s Ken Anderson, Mackay turned the tables and defeated Anderson to reverse last year’s runner-up finish.
“We’re all here for the fun, but there’s nothing wrong with winning, either,” said Mackay. “I’m happy it was a win for Port McNeill and happy for the track. It’s been a good two days.”
After racing in the 1970s, Mackay, 65, had pretty much retired from the sport before buying a car and jumping back into drag racing three years ago. He admitted his 1974 Chevy Vega, a new model when he began racing, was something of a “nostalgia” car at this point.
The two-day event got off to a bit of a slow start Saturday as organizers and drivers waiting out threatening skies. But the rains held off, and Sunday’s competition was held for the most part in bright sunshine.
“We pulled it off,” race organizer Maureen “Mo” Anderson said. “We had six people not show up because they were afraid of rain, but we pulled off two races.”
When it was all finished Sunday afternoon, Beattie and fellow Port Hardy racer Collin Shaw re-installed the van’s back seats while Susan and their kids, Brandon and Liron, loaded the rest of the family gear that had rested in a pile on the grass during racing.
Asked if he thought his first drag race would take place in a van — and result in a spot in the final, Beattie laughed.
“No,” he said. “I’ve been asking (Susan) for a race car for years. She said, ‘We can’t afford it, we can’t afford it.’ But it’s something I always wanted to do.”
By the time the family was packed, Susan seemed ready to relent, suggesting they might look into the Pontiac Sunfire that another driver raced over the weekend.
If so, it won’t go to waste. It doesn’t sound like Chris has the bug out of his system.
“I think I’m gonna be hooked on this,” he said with a smile. “It’s a lot of fun.”