IHRA Drag Review Magazine — DRM - Aug. 15, 2008
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Sportsmen Shine At Pittsburgh

Koontz Takes Home a Souvenir from the North

It didn’t start out as a promising weekend. As a matter of fact, it looked like Sunday’s Sportsman Nationals result was going to be the same as that of Friday and Saturday’s Pro-Am. But little did Mike Koontz know that it would all change in the blink of an eye.

Koontz, the defending Division 9 Top Sportsman champion, decided to take a gamble when he loaded up his Jerry Bickel-built 2000 S-10 and headed north to Pittsburgh Raceway Park.

After a less than ideal start to the weekend, with two early round exits during the divisional events on Friday and Saturday, Koontz was sure that the same fate was in the cards for Sunday as well.

“I was terrible in the two divisional races,” Koontz said. “I was ready to go home because I just couldn’t do anything right. But then Sunday came along and I just kept rolling.” Koontz, a general contractor from Virginia, definitely kept rolling - all the way to the winner’s circle.

“I think I must have been having a little too much fun the first two days of the race,” Koontz said with a laugh. “But once I got in the groove on Sunday, I just got lucky. I was really concentrating and just kept going rounds.”

It took five tough rounds before Koontz would finally get his hands on an Ironman – the first with a Sportsman Nationals title emblazoned on it.

After a win first round, Koontz went on to challenge Tim Molnar in round two of Top Sportsman action, but Molnar would provide an early gift with an

- .018 red light. Koontz took advantage of the free time trial and ran it out the back door to record a 7.518/180.36 run on his 7.55 dial.

In the semifinals Koontz received yet another bye run gift, but his final-round opponent, Scott Wasko, had to earn his way past Mark Payne in the semifinals.

Wasko and Koontz both left the line with respectable lights, with Wasko enjoying a slight advantage .025 to .0288. At the line, however, the win light flashed in Koontz’s lanes as he was the beneficiary of a double-breakout finish.

Wasko’s -.029 package was good enough for the runner-up spot with a

7. 421/175.71 (7.45) lap. Koontz snagged the win with an -.006 package on a 7.504/181.60 (7.51) run.

“Heading into the final round I was really fired up and excited,” Koontz said. “In my eyes, I’d already won just by getting into the finals. To actually take the win was just a bonus. When you come to these IHRA events, you have to show up ready to race. All of these competitors are tough, and IHRA really puts on a good show.” Never having come to a race “up north,” Koontz was thrilled with his decision to make the haul to Pittsburgh.

“It was the first time I’ve come north to race and I was really hoping to have done well in the divisional races so I could make up some ground on Steve Corker,” Koontz said. “I really love traveling to different tracks and not knowing who I’m racing. It is much more of a challenge and I get to meet a lot of new people. I didn’t know a single person at this race and I think that just helps me to focus more and do my own thing.” Despite his rough start to the weekend Koontz capitalized on his trip in the end, and as a result walked away with his first national event win.

“This is more special to me being that it is a national,” Koontz said.
“Winning a divisional you get a small Ironman – but now, I have a great big Ironman, which is awesome.” Thanks to the support of his wife Julie and the great work by P.A.R. Racing Engines, Koontz will continue to chase another title in 2008.
- Paula Smith

Slaughter Kills at PRP
Brad Slaughter, of Champion, Ohio, drove his 2008 Danny Nelson Racecraft Chassis dragster to a pair of Top Dragster wins during the Pittsburgh Raceway Park triple header.

Slaughter’s first win of the weekend came during the second Summit Pro-Am race when he defeated former champion Nick Folk with a stellar .014 package. Folk was .010 at the tree and broke out by .013 for the loss.

As day three came to a close, Slaughter won his twelfth consecutive round of competition, using an .011 package to snag the Sportsman National Ironman from Bob Cireddu’s .014 effort.

“It was fun to race Brad in the final, even though we came up a little bit short,” Cireddu said. “What’s funny is Brad’s probably the one guy I have raced the most in my career. It could have been a Saturday night final at Thompson.” Regarding his runner up finish, Cireddu wished to thank his parents, wife Gina, daughter Marisa, as well as Brian and Karen Cireddu. A special mention is also extended to Invincible Race Cars, Abruzzi Racing Transmissions, Mickey Thompson Tires, Zapp Trailer Sales, and Magnum Technical Services for their support.

Both Slaughter and Cireddu began their drag racing careers in northeast Ohio, competing at Thompson Raceway Park. These extremely tough competitors battled on the local scene for some 15 years. Now they have advanced to Top Dragster and continue to win along the IHRA trail.

“Bob Cireddu had beaten me twice already this season at Thompson.

I felt like it was my turn to turn on the win light against him,” Slaughter said with a laugh. “With me not having a car fast enough to qualify for any other national events in Top Dragster, I knew staging that this could be my only shot at getting a national event win. I wanted to really make it count.” Slaughter made both of his final round appearances count. His new dragster was working well and the driver was on his game. After a string of nine double-zero reaction times, Slaughter managed to run dead-on his dial in both of the final rounds.

At age 32, Slaughter is employed at Delphi Packard Electric as a materials engineer. He and wife are the proud parents of an 8-month old daughter.

“I want to thank my wife Jessica, our daughter Emily, my mom, Jim, Bob Davies, our nephew Tyler Morrison, Team Schuster, the Bayus family, Mitch and Darrin Sotera,” said Slaughter. “I especially want to thank my dad.

Since Jess and I had the baby, my dad has done everything on the car from keeping it maintained to cleaning it. I couldn’t do it without him.” Slaughter has driven many rides over the course of his racing career.

Whether it is a door car, roadster or dragster, he always manages to find the winner’s circle. The Racecraft Chassis dragster that he now pilots is no exception.

“I would just like to say great job to Brad on his double-up performance,” and Danny Nelson of Racecraft Chassis. “Many thanks for his help in making Racecraft one of the top chassis manufacturing companies in the country!” Slaughter’s racing plans include more IHRA events at the divisional level.

If a faster ride were to present itself, he would chase the national events.
But for now, he is content with the success of two all-motor IHRA victories and an Ironman.

Sponsors on board Slaughter’s dragster include Willow Lake Park, Danny Nelson’s Racecraft Chassis, MSE (Master Street Engineering), Church- BoysRacing.com, Rupert Alky Carbs, Rossler Performance Transmission, and Alex Nagy Products.
- Matt Zapp

Bertozzi’s Excellent Vacation
Anthony Bertozzi’s racing calendar for July was empty. As has already been well-documented this year, he’s not chasing points in defense of his Super Stock championship, and he had planned well in advance to take the entire month off to spend time with his family.

“When they added the third race to Pittsburgh, I still wasn’t going,” he said.“but Malinda and about six girls wanted to have a girls-only weekend at the beach, and she said, ‘Why don’t you just go racing?’ I didn’t even have Rodnut [crew chief, Rodney Eades] with me. He already had a vacation planned.” Things quickly turned sour at the track when he broke a transmission in his SS/AM ’98 Grand Am on the first run.

“So there I am, covered in grease and transmission fluid, and Rodney’s probably laying in the Caribbean sipping pina coladas! I’ve gotten so spoiled with Rodney, I swear he sabotaged me. He does that so I appreciate him more!” Bertozzi joked. “I know he doesn’t do that, but he does such a good job, and it seems like every time he’s not there, something breaks. I had a spare transmission, but it was different, and the converter wouldn’t go on the shaft. I was ready to put my stuff in the trailer and go to Atlantic City. I wouldn’t have even stayed for Stock! Scott Overman was a big influence, though. He jumped right in and said, ‘Just tell me what to do!’ He wanted us to race, whatever it took.

“I can’t say enough about Scott Macy,” Bertozzi said. “I was on the phone with Tim Sloan, and he told me to find Macy. I knew he was a nice guy, but I didn’t know what he did for a living. He was great. He swapped the shafts and helped get everything together. Between the transmission deal and a heads-up run I had, there must’ve been about 15 people helping out. I really want to thank Macy, Ron Richards and his dad Weaver Richards, Richie Preiser, and everybody else who helped out.” Bertozzi limped down the track on his lone qualifying run for Pittsburgh Raceway Park’s Thunder Nationals, landing in the 30th and final position.

Jim Evanuik paced the field with his sleek and unique GT/A ’02 Escort, with a -1.078 under 9.222. Bertozzi faced a star-filled lineup, including Michael Lyons, Scotty Stillings, Michael Volkman, and then Paul Cambria in the semifinals. Cambria drove his Hustler GT/AA ’00 Firebird with uncanny precision, knocking off a pair of double-oh lights before posting an .012 light against Bertozzi. Bertozzi trumped that effort with an .006 bulb, and was able to push Cambria into a 9.775 breakout under a 9.82 dial, while hitting a 9.285 on a 9.27 to advance to the finals. Peter D’Agnolo wheeled his SS/PEA-1 ’67 Camaro into the finals by downing Brian Clayton’s GT/CA ’84 Camaro in the semis.

D’Agnolo continued a solid roll with an .024-initiated 9.766 on a 9.74 to nip Clayton’s .055 light and perfectly dead-on 9.990 by .005. In the finals, D’Agnolo took a bite out of the tree and came up with an unwanted -.012 red. Bertozzi stayed the course with an .012 launch, but with the race already decided, both drivers lifted early.

“We limped it back together, and it all worked out,” said Bertozzi.
IHRA’s double- and triple-headers have made it possible for Bertozzi to rack up points claims without specifically “chasing” points. The game isn’t up yet, but with his latest victory, Bertozzi moves into the points lead.

Bertozzi thanked his wife Malinda, daughter Britney, crew chief Rodnut, NitroPlate, Mickey Thompson, Jeg’s, Torco, Holley, B&M, Jay Higgins and CVP (Carolina Vinyl Products), Tim Sloan, and Scott Overman of True Fitness Solutions, as well as all the sponsors that have supported him through the years.
- Michael Beard

Teaching to Win
Woodville, Alabama’s Luke Bogacki has had a tremendous season, all told, but he had higher hopes for his rookie season in Stock eliminator. He showed himself to be a quick study, and he marched into the late rounds on numerous occasions, yet the semifinals seemed to be a stumbling block.

“[Car owner] Bryan Robinson and I came up with this brainstorm late last season, and we really believed we’d come in and have success immediately in Stock,” said Bogacki. “It wasn’t quite that simple. This is a complicated class and it’s a lot different than what we’re used to. We had a big learning curve just to get a competitive car. We’ve had a good car for a couple months now, but I seem to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.” At Clay City’s Summit Pro-Am Tour event, Bogacki competed in his dragster and his Vega, leaving the seat of the AA/SA ’68 Nova open. He filled that seat with regional ace and former IHRA North Stars Street Champion Steve Foley.

“We put Steve Foley in the car last weekend and he won, his first time in the car,” Bogacki said. “We were joking around and I told Steve he taught that car how to win, so hopefully it would be a domino effect!

“I had mixed emotions Saturday night,” recalled Bogacki. “That was my first win in my new American Race Cars dragster, so that was awesome, but in Stock that was my fourth semifinal loss of the season, and I hadn’t made a final yet. Plus, that round was huge for me: it was my last divisional claim,and had I won I would’ve taken the lead in Division 4. On top of all that, I had driven really well all day, and I just fell completely out of the car that round.

I was really frustrated with myself. I was probably more disappointed about that than I was excited about winning Quick Rod.” Bogacki climbed back into the car for Sunday’s Thunder Nationals at Pittsburgh Raceway Park. He qualified with an early shutoff .091-over

11. 241. Wayne Totaro led the Stock field with a stout -1.170 under 10.530 in his B/FIA ’02 Firebird.

He found his stride again with a string of ‘teen lights and solid finish line driving to defeat the likes of champions Aaron Allison and Anthony Bertozzi along the path to the semifinals. There, he took an .039 to .098 advantage over the Duck Tape ’74 Dart Sport of Terry Knott. Knott ran closer to the number with an 11.231 on an 11.21, but Bogacki’s holeshot allowed him to wheel in an 11.127 on an 11.06 pass to the finals. Friday’s Summit Pro-Am winner, multi-time track champion Britt Mizia, moved to his second final of the weekend with an .024-initiated 11.202 bye run.

Bogacki mowed the tree in the finals to take a .002 to .046 advantage over Mizia. While Bogacki pedaled him, Mizia parked his A/SA ’63 Savoy, but Bogacki took the double-breakout win with an -.02 under 11.030 to Mizia’s

- .035 under 11.075. “I watched Glen Ferguson and Kenny Underwood both run fast in Hot Rod in front of us, and the Top Sportsman cars were both under,” Bogacki said. “I dialed .01 under what I wanted to. It’s a good thing, because I didn’t do a good job of catching his drop. I’m so happy, and so relieved to get a win in Stock! Foley taught the car how to win, and now, I finally got my first win in it this weekend.” Bogacki expressed his thanks to a long list of friends and associates.

“Obviously, a huge thank you to my car owners, Bryan and Cassie Robinson, engine builder Brian Rogers, chassis builder Matt Tinnin, as well as Donnie and the guys at the boat shop back in Iuka, CSR Performance Products, Mickey Thompson Tires, Bill Taylor Engineering, American Race Cars, Huntsville Engine & Performance, JEGS, and each of the marketing partners who make this success possible.” Bogacki’s additional marketing partners include Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate Coatings, Advanced Product Design, Milodon, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Nitrous Express, K&R Performance Engineering, K&N Filters, Moser Engineering, Figspeed.com, B&M, Auto Meter, AFCO, ISC Racers Tape, Goza Racing Products, TD Performance Products, and Dixie Race Products.
- Michael Beard

Dustin Rocks the Competition at Pittsburgh
John Dustin and his Rockville, Maryland-based Ford-powered dragster knocked out the competition at Pittsburgh Raceway Park during the IHRA Sportsman Nationals. Dustin scored the Quick Rod Ironman with a victory over Clint Mills.

In the fifth and final round, Mills cut an .016 light and posted an elapsed time of 8.891. Dustin was .024 at the tree and dead-on the 8.90 index with a mark of 8.901 for the win.

“Regarding the win, I would like to thank my wife Lenore and my parents.
My mom and dad just celebrated their 39th wedding anniversary and that’s a huge accomplishment, too. Thank you also to the Bower family, Howard and Steve Carter, plus the 12 people from Genova’s Restaurant,” said Dustin. “A special thanks to my dad for keeping the cars tuned up and ready to race, ASR Starter, and Joe and I Construction.

Prior to Sunday’s racing action, Dustin had not experienced much success at Pittsburgh. He was running both Hot Rod and Quick Rod. Combined, he only had two round wins out of five races. But his Quick Rod victory at Pittsburgh served up a sizable portion of redemption.

“It is getting harder and harder to travel,” Dustin said. “I used to be on the road all the time but my travel plans went down as fuel costs went up.

The win on Sunday helped to pay for the weekend. I definitely want to thank the owners of Pittsburgh Raceway Park for putting on a three-day race.

They are the nicest owners we have met in a long time. IHRA needs more operators like the Tedesco family.

At age 35, Dustin now has national event wins in both Quick Rod and Hot Rod competition. He took home a Hot Rod Ironmen at both the 2004 Rockingham Spring Nationals and the 2005 Presidents Cup Nationals. He also picked up the 2005 divisional win at Virginia in Quick Rod.

“My hardest race of the weekend had to be the semifinal round on Sunday,” Dustin said. “Scott Campbell made a good run and just broke out by a little bit. I was dead-on with an 8.906 for the win. It was also fun to get past Ray Connolly in round three.” In order for Mills to make the final, he took out some very tough IHRA hitters, too. The list included Donny Urban, Ron “The General” Folk, and Steven Schmidt.

Professionally, Dustin works as an auto technician at Flower Hill Automotive.

He converts that weekly knowledge to weekend success. His Quick Rod dragster is a well-maintained ’97 Fabrications 225” Hardtail. The dragster’s power comes from a self-built 358” small block Ford. Machine work for Dustin is provided by C & C Automotive.

The biggest news of late in the Dustin camp occurred in September,

2007. John married his beautiful wife Lenore. Now the couple continues to travel and race together with the support of John’s parents.

“I would like to congratulate my friends who also did well this weekend.
Rob Bower scored a double-up in Hot Rod. He won both the Friday and Saturday races. Steve Carter also made the finals with a runner-up to Brian Folk on Friday. It was fun to see them do so well,” said Dustin.
- Matt Zapp

A long-Awaited Return
In 1992, Lance Pinto won the IHRA Empire Nationals while running Hot Rod eliminator with a non-electronics footbrake car. Some 16-years later, he returned to the winner’s circle at Pittsburgh Raceway Park during the tripleheader Pro-Am. On Sunday afternoon, he took the Super Rod Ironman with a victory over Tom Dimond.

47-year-old Pinto is a self-employed auto technician at Lance’s Automotive in Ontario, New York. He has been in business for himself since

1996. Despite growing a mechanical repair business, Pinto has managed to keep racing. His nearest race track is eighth-mile Spencer Speedway at Williamson, New York.

“My car is a 1990 Cavalier,” Pinto said. “It is set up with a 496-inch big block Chevy and a flat tappet cam. I want my car to run well and be maintenance free. The last thing that I want is to work on my car at the track. This is a very reliable and consistent combination.” Support for the Cavalier comes from Sam DeMario Auto, Pete Z at Apple Tree Enterprise, Bruce and Dave at Engine Assembly, and Cira Brothers Auto.

“I would like to dedicate this race to my nephew, Specialist Kenneth Jacobs. He passed away unexpectedly at the Schoffield Barracks in Hawaii.

My thoughts and prayers are with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law Dawn and Larry LeBerth,” said Pinto.

The last few rounds of the day for Pinto were not that easy. He had to get past IHRA standout Tim Schmidt in the third round. As the tree cycled, Schmidt was a mere .005 red for the loss. Pinto was .018 green and flat out the back door to post a 9.864 at 141 mph.

He then had to take on three-time world champion Steve Furr. Pinto stepped up his game and ripped an .012 light and backed it with a dead-on 9. 905 for the win. Furr was right there with a .009 reaction but took the stripe and broke out 9.890 for the loss.

“My toughest race of the day had to be Steve Furr,” Pinto said. “It is tough when you look over there and see the big number two on his window.

Fortunately for me, I ran six rounds of competition and never lost my lane.
That helped a great deal. I have been sneaking up on a win for some time. I really did not start traveling until the 2001 season. This is still kind of new to me. It felt great to get the win at Pittsburgh.”

Pinto wished to thank, “My wife of 28 years, Laurie. My oldest daughter and crew chief Kristina (16), my younger daughter Maria (10), my best friend and fellow racer John Cira, his son John Jr, my brother Marty, and Florida Marty, Sam DeMario, the McGrath’s including Steve, Mike and Joe, Gary and Barb Antinora, Brian and Rob at Garvy Racing, Dan Fletcher, and Marc Caruso.”

Dimond had a great outing himself. He defeated Jack Schnitzer in round three and then George Donhauser in the fourth. As the semifinals rolled around, only three cars remained. Pinto took the bye-run and Dimond was paired with Billy Smith. Smith was .001 red and ran a near perfect 9.897. Dimond got the win with his .013 and 9.858 effort.
- Matt Zapp

Underwood Snags Another Ironman
Kenny Underwood already has a Hot Rod win and Quick Rod runner-up finish on the books for the year. He added a Sportsman National victory to his resume by getting the 10.90 win at Pittsburgh Raceway Park.

In the final round, Underwood got the best of three-time champion Glenn Ferguson. The race of past champions was not disappointing as a very tight double-breakout win was awarded to Underwood.

Underwood was .009 at the starting line and threw a 10.867 up on the board. Ferguson was .012 out of the gate and slightly quicker at 10.858. “I would like to thank Jeg’s, their entire team of associates, and Coughlin Brothers Racing. Thank you also to IHRA and the team at Pittsburgh Raceway Park for running a great weekend of racing,” said Underwood. “I would also like to thank my girlfriend Michele Perry. She continues to put up with me after 17 years together.” The dynamic trio of Bertozzi, Underwood, and Coughlin (BUC Racing) continue to campaign the dominating NitroPlate-Jegs Camaro.

“Anthony Bertozzi still has me wheeling the Camaro,” said Underwood.

“The Jeg’s High Performance World Products 540” big block Chevrolet is still running great and kicking butt. The engine makes a consistent 900 horsepower and continues to hit the 10.90 index at 145 plus mph. Mike Fuqua and Nitro Plate Coatings remain the primary backer on the car. Thank you to everyone involved.” The Pittsburgh victory makes for Underwood’s third IHRA national event win since his championship year in 2006. He has taken home hardware from Epping last season, Milan this year and now Pittsburgh Raceway Park. Along the way, he has assembled many divisional Ironmen as well.

“Anthony, Mike, and John are great to drive for. It is a good fit for all of us,” said Underwood. “We are going to keep plugging away one race at a time. It is a good time doing this for a living.” Underwood is a Florida native who splits his time between the Sunshine State and the great state of Ohio. When the racing season is going hot and heavy, Underwood helps out at Jeg’s High Performance within the motorsports division at Columbus. He most often uses the central Ohio locale as a racing base to the IHRA events.

In addition to racing Bertozzi’s Hot Rod Camaro, Underwood has also jumped behind the wheel of the Cumming’s Motorsports-backed dragster.

He entered Top Dragster at the start of the year at Immokalee and then Quick Rod at Milan. No matter what car or class he tries, success usually follows Underwood to the winner’s circle.

In order to make the final round at Pittsburgh, Underwood took out some serious IHRA players. His hit list included Anthony Platania, Jon Nagy, and then Jon Jablonski in the semifinal round.

Ferguson took out the red hot Rob Bowers in the third round on Sunday.
Bowers had won both divisional events of the weekend on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ferguson then put together an .006 package to best New York’s Marc Caruso and the Godfather-like ‘70 Chevelle. Caruso was right there with a .014 bulb and dead on run, it just wasn’t enough. For his superman effort, Ferguson was awarded the single shot in the semifinal as the field narrowed to three.

Both Ferguson and Underwood drove tough all day long. Underwood did get the famed “lucky round” that any good driver needs on occasion.

“I snuck past fourth round and that’s for sure,” Underwood said. “I was .057 at the tree. Luckily I was right on the number at 10.906 against Nagy. He was all over the tree but I got the stripe by .005.” As the story goes, it is hard to loose when it is your day to win. Underwood took full advantage of his good fortune and turned it into an Ironman.
- Matt Zapp