Ed Hutchinson in his replica 1957 Corvette

Ed Hutchinson in his replica 1957 Corvette

Burning rubber: Retired firefighter wins NHRA Northwest Nationals

Retired firefighter used mental exercises to hit the gas

It took 17 years to get back to the national final, and now Ed Hutchinson can finally say he won his Wally.

The Metchosin drag racer drove his replica 1957 Corvette to first place in the super gas category of the National Hot Rod Association’s Northwest Nationals in Seattle on Aug. 4.

“I’ve taken the hobby to the max and there’s not many people in B.C. who’ve won a Wally, it’s such an honour get one.”

The Wally is a highly regarded trophy in the drag-racing community, an 18-inch-tall figurine of legendary California drag racing organizer Wally Parks, standing with a tire. And it means a lot to Hutchinson.

“I’m still flying high. To finally win it, dealing with one thousandth of a second, it’s incredible. Parks founded the NHRA … it was his idea was to take street racing to the strip, that’s how it was born,”  he said. “What’s the point getting your car impounded?”

Hutchinson, 57, is a retired Victoria firefighter. He started drag racing 20 years ago at Western Speedway with a V8. Money, time and a lot of ambition has taken him to the top of super gas racing in North America.

His car has 1,000 horsepower and is as good as any car in its class. Having previously reached the quarter- and semifinals multiple times, and once, in 1996, he reached the final – and lost – this time he knew he was going to win.

“That (loss) was heartbreaking,” he said. “Mental preparation (this time around) was key, it made all the difference. Funny thing is, I could feel the win coming. I had my sponsored hat and new shirt all packed in the car ready, I knew I was going to win. I was so pumped and concentrated if I didn’t win I would have been perplexed.”

To be ready, Hutchison did a self-studied series of exercises designed for drivers, called the Racer’s Mind.

“I recommend it to anyone for any sport, it’s all about peak concentration and is good for any type of sports or work. It helped me focus on the starting line, you’ve got to hit that tree (green light) down to a thousandth of a second.”

It’s a testament to the power of the mind, coming from someone a spent a good portion of his life preparing to pull people from burning buildings.

Hutchinson named his car and team Flashpoint Racing, a nod to his time teaching stop, drop and roll to the community.

He’s sponsored by the Firefighters Burn Fund of Victoria, unique as it’s one of his three key sponsors, along with Lucas Oil and Triangle R.V. Sidney.

It’s no secret one of the keys to winning in the NHRA is popping money into your car, so winning nationals helps as he took in a a little under $20,000.

“You need sponsors. Just to get the car off the Island on the ferry is so expensive, so they help me get there. Racing is like a disease, once you win an event, it’s amazing how far you’re willing to go.”

There is still one event on the 2013 calendar as Hutchinson will race in Las Vegas in October.

From the track:

In his first NHRA division race after winning the Wally, Hutchinson bowed out in the second round on Aug. 12.

“I went from hero to zero,” he said.

His car is a Don Davis chassis with a modified replica of a ’57 Corvette done three years ago.

His 1996 car was also a Don Davis chassis, with a replica ’27 roadster body which he sold and is still racing.

The Northwest division includes B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan, Washington, Idaho, Oregon and Montana.