Just a 30-minute drive away from Kahnawake, the Napierville Dragway welcomed 25 Kahnawa’kehró:non racers to partake in the annual Indian Day Race, otherwise known as the Indian Summer Drag Racing Championship.
Around this time of year, racer John “Johnny” Diabo readies himself and his pristinely kept red and black 1971 Chevrolet Chevelle for the annual race.
This time, however, he came back home with a little more than just a pat on the back and a good reunion story. He returned home as champion, coming in first place in the car race.
“Usually we don’t go out to win; we just go out to participate and have a good time, and it just went all the way this time,” Diabo said.
“It was a surprise. Not a lot of emotions, but quite the surprise,” he added.
Among the racers was last year’s winner, Cashton Diabo, who brought his 2019 Chevy Camaro to the racetrack.
“It was his first time winning, and it was pretty cool to see,” Cashton said of Johnny’s achievement. “I had to hand off the trophy to him actually!”
Such is the legacy of the Indian Day Champion’s trophy – the winner from the previous year bestows the award to their successor.
This tradition began a quarter-century ago, when Peter Pie White won the first-ever championship trophy in 1997 and passed it along the following year.
Johnny has participated in the Napierville Dragway since the beginning, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.
“As long as I’m alive, I’ll probably participate again and again,” Diabo said.
He returned home with not one, but two trophies in hand. He also won the Jimmy Goodleaf Memorial Drag Race Trophy, an award that is essentially given to the MVP of the circuit. Diabo made a point to thank the track organizers for their hospitality.
“The track treats us well every year they have it,” he said. “Everyone gets along. You’d be surprised. There’s no bad people or people butting heads.”
On the day of the race last Sunday, the weather seemed promising, with calls for clear skies and cool temperatures. Diabo suspects that it was a bit too chilly for most, however, resulting in the attendance of just 25 racers of the usual 40 or so.
Still, he encourages young drivers to keep up the sport, noting that the race is open to those 18 and over.
“I want them all to keep coming out,” Diabo said. “There were a lot of young drivers, and I’d encourage them to keep at it and have fun with it.”