The Canada Heads Up Shootout Series Heats Up for 2021

Although small-tire doorslammer drag racing is predominately popular in the United States, the Maxima Racing Oils Canada Heads Up Street Car Shootout Series Presented by Speedwire Systems gives Canadian-based racers a place to compete at the upper levels of the sport without having to leave their home country. With a full season planned for 2021, guaranteed payouts, a wide variety of classes, and an emphasis on track prep, things are quickly heating up north of the border.

Spearheaded by Ian Hill, 47, the Maxima Racing Oils Canada Heads Up Street Car Shootout Series Presented by Speedwire Systems is one of the best-kept secrets in North American drag racing. Hill has 30-plus years of experience behind the wheel as a driver, and nearly a decade doing duty as a race promoter.

2020 Super Street champion and current record holder Nick Agostino gets his ’69 Camaro up on the tire (Photo by Blake Farnan)

Mainly focused around the Ontario region, the organization evolved out of the street car-style shootout races that were prevalent in Northern Ohio, New York, and the northeast United States throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s.

“There was an annual race up here and the organizer didn’t want to continue, but I didn’t want to see it die out,” said Hill of how he first got involved. “Five years ago, we partnered with RPM Magazine for the first Smackdown race at St. Thomas Dragway and it’s been growing ever since.”

It was that race, the series’ signature event, that propelled Canada Heads Up into the spotlight for local racers and beyond. With a fairly unrestrictive ruleset and a variety of classes for both small-tire as well as big-tire, the Smackdown ushered in a revival of interest in Super Street-style racing for Canada.

In 2020, Canada Heads Up saw its biggest year to date and entries continued to grow rapidly as the year progressed, despite the Covid-19 pandemic’s restrictions and shutdowns. “When we first started, we had four or five cars in Super Street,” Hill noted. “Last year we had 17 signed up for points, and now my list is 25-plus for 2021 and increasing.”

Although the organization currently only hosts its events at tracks in Ontario, such as St. Thomas Dragway and Toronto Motorsports Park, it attracts high-profile racers who regularly play on a much larger stage. Notorious outlaw racer Nick Agostino captured the CHU Super Street championship in 2020 with a clean sweep of event wins while also setting the class elapsed time and speed records. Additionally, former NHRA Pro Stock racer Tony Pontieri finished third, and other big names, including Jerry Mitrovic, often attend CHU’s events.

The Canada Heads Up Shootout Series has its roots in street car racing (Photo by Blake Farnan)

Going in to what will be his third season with Canada Heads Up in 2021, Hill is fully committed to developing and growing the series. With a total of 14 classes available for entry, each category is specifically designed to be a feeder to enable drivers to easily progress to the next when they’re ready.

“We also offer free tech cards for our junior dragster racers, all supported by local sponsors, that pays out per day, per event, plus a points series with cash payouts,” added Hill.

“EZ Street is one step under Super Street, and the real difference is the front suspension,” Hill clarified. EZ Street retains the “street car” feel and is perfect for drivers who have fast cars — perhaps those which have been back-halved or utilize an aftermarket rear suspension such as a four-link, and want to go class racing. “The 235 Outlaw relaxes the rules a little so more cars can get into it, and it’s easy to move up to EZ from there.”

Below 235 Outlaw is the Street 275 class, which is similar to 235 Outlaw, but puts a 5.50-second cap on elapsed times and serves as the starting point for the series’ heads-up categories.

2020 EZ Street champion Anthony D’Aversa on a nitrous-powered pass (Photo by Blake Farnan)

“Then come our index classes, and they can easily step up, as well. At the start of 2020, we had a 6.50 racer move into Street 275, our Street 275 champion stepped into 235 Outlaw, that champion moved to EZ, and EZ moved up to Super Street. It’s a neat progression to see,” continued Hill, who enjoys making so many opportunities available across the board.

Unlike many other organizations, though, the Maxima Racing Oils Canada Heads Up Street Car Shootout Series Presented by Speedwire Systems has a strong drag bike following – there’s even a dedicated Bike Director who works in conjunction with the Tech Director, Registration Director, and other CHU team members.

“I don’t look at bikes like some other associations do where they only call them up to the lanes when the cars are done,” he stated. The group’s heads-up and 8.88 index bike classes are strategically and intentionally intermixed into the standard program, typically racing first, third, and fifth in the mix. “No one leaves when our bikes come up to race. We want them as a main part of the show, not a secondary add-on.”

Although longstanding favorites such as Super Street, EZ Street, and Outlaw 235 are all still on the program, new for 2021 with Canada Heads Up is Pro10five.

“It takes new Pro 275 rules, but allows the old Cecil County Dragway Outlaw 10.5 tire rule permitting the 33×10.5W slick tire,” explained Hill, who enjoys giving old school big names a place to campaign their cars. Agostino is planning to make the jump to Pro10five, as well, which opens the door for a new star to enjoy the spotlight in Super Street. “While we don’t quite have top radial-prepped surfaces just yet, we’re getting close and our prep is perfect for this type of tire.”

Luc Ricard of Quebec set the tune-up a little too hot (Photo by Blake Farnan)

Hill is working hard to ensure racers of all skill levels have a place to race while also being cognizant of budget constraints and financial concerns. “We make it affordable and easy for people to get involved, and want more racers to come and see what we’re all about,” said Hill of the open-ended invitation to race with his group.

Fridays are generally reserved for test sessions so racers can get their combinations dialed-in for the conditions; qualifying takes place on Saturdays while eliminations are contested on Sundays. “We’re trying to get back to more of an enjoyable atmosphere-type event with teams barbequing and relaxing in the pits on Saturday nights after qualifying,” shared Hill, who has a goal of strengthening the social aspect of racing instead of encouraging exhausting all-nighters spent thrashing. “We want to bring back the family, the friends, and the fun.”

Perhaps even more exciting, though, is that Hill has already set aside $100,000 for guaranteed payouts (including index classes) for the Canada Heads Up 2021 season – and that number continues to climb as more sponsorships come in.

Competitors enjoy the peace of mind in knowing exactly what they can take home at each event, whether there are two or 20 entries in any given class, and that they won’t leave empty-handed. Hill also knows the importance of running the organization like a business, not a hobby, and reinvests profits to continue to improve it for the racers.

His strategy is paying off, as more and more racers are showing their confidence by signing up to run with the Maxima Racing Oils Canada Heads Up Street Car Shootout Series Presented by Speedwire Systems. “We’ve got at least eight cars right now that are getting completely torn down, back-halved, firewall-forward rebuilt, or updated with a new full chassis,” shared Hill of how many are making their off-season updates to progress within the series. “There’s major money being spent, and it shows that people trust we are here for the long haul.”

2021 Ian Hill Racing Productions Season Schedule (Ontario, Canada)
June 5-6 Canada Heads-Up St. Thomas Dragway
June 26-27 Canada Heads-Up Toronto Motorsports Park
July 10-11 Canada Heads-Up Toronto Motorsports Park
July 24-25 RPM Magazine Smackdown 5 St. Thomas Dragway
August 14-15 Canada Heads-Up St. Thomas Dragway
September 11-12 Canada Heads-Up Toronto Motorsports Park
September 25-26 Canada Heads-Up St. Thomas Dragway
October 2 Northern No Prep Nationals St. Thomas Dragway
October 3 Fall Small Tire Shootout St. Thomas Dragway

For more information on the Maxima Racing Oils Canada Heads Up Street Car Shootout Series Presented by Speedwire Systems, Ontario’s home for street car class racing, visit www.IanHillRacing.com or search for Canada Heads Up on Facebook.

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About the author

Ainsley Jacobs

P.TEN Marketing's Ainsley Jacobs is a freelance motorsports marketing professional with extensive experience in marketing and communications, website development, social media management, photography, journalism, and more.
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