There are 15 (!) categories being contested at this weekend’s 14th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park, and 10 of them are reserved just for the Sportsman racers. That means there are a ton of drivers on the property, and THAT translates to a gigantic pool of really neat stories waiting to be dug up. Let’s start with a few notes.
If the alcohol classes are your thing, we posted a story yesterday that you’ll be interested it. You can get to it quickly by clicking here.
This category was not run in 2019, so David Rampy has reigned for three years, and that seems extra appropriate because Rampy has won at Norwalk more than anyone. The Comp Eliminator category has been contested at this event 11 times, and he won five of them and – oh! – Rampy was runner-up in Stock in 2010.
Other Norwalk Comp winners since the 2007 inaugural event were Bruno Massel (2017); Doug Doll (2016); Joe Santangelo (2015); Robert Bailey (2013); Al Ackerman (2010); and David Eaton (2007).
Let’s talk about Brian Browell, though. He’s No. 3 with his D/D entry, and the Lafayette, Indiana, racer is likely itching to alleviate the aggravation of runner-up performances at Norwalk in both 2010 and 2013. Browell’s most recent national event victory was in 2001 at Atlanta Dragway (he also won there in 2000), but in no way has he been idle since then. The reigning Division 3 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series (LODRS) Competition Eliminator champion has been to 10 final rounds at the big show since then, including three in 2019.
Freehold, New Jersey’s Frank Aragona, a multi-time world champion in the category, and his ’32 Bantam are at the top of the roster in Comp Eliminator heading into Friday eliminations with his 7.379 that was .751 under the J/AA index. Never, ever underestimate this man.
David Barton, you stop it right now! It’s a little unfair what this guy has done so far this year, what with winning in Comp in Charlotte and then taking the same car to Houston to win the Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown. The Sinking Springs, Pennsylvania, resident is here with a 2014 Ford Mustang that clocked an efficient 8.784 on the 9.90 FSS/D index. Barton has yet to win a national event in Super Stock, but the scorecard shows that a guy with the same name reached his first final round in the category at Brainerd in 2005 driving an SS/AA ’68 Dart.
There are 13 Ohioans on the Super Stock roster, including Mike Walter, who won the inaugural event in 2007 over Indiana racer Ricky Decker (also on the entry list).
The most recent Norwalk winner in this category was Northeast racer and motorsports journalist John DiBartolomeo, who went back-to-back with Super Stock wins at Norwalk in 2018 and 2019 – and also won it in 2013.
The Zaskowskis are out in full force, with Brad in the SS/J ’86 Camaro and Bill in that sassy little GT/K ’66 Nova. Brad scored one of his seven national event wins at this race in 2014 and was runner-up in 2015.
The Worner fellas are also bringing double-trouble (the most over-used yet completely accurate phrase ever when it comes to these two – at least in racing). No. 1 and No. 2 in the world, Bryan and Byron are fun to watch because not only are they ridiculously good at what they do, they also run the same category. Yeah, that means they occasionally have to race one another, and that has happened twice so far in NHRA national event final rounds. In 2015 they raced in Reading and in 2017 they raced in Epping. Both times it was Byron with the win, but it would be tough to draw a conclusion based on that if they should come up against one another here.
And to extend the double-trouble theme while using an old and well-known NHRA Announcer Bob Frey phrase, DID YOU KNOW? Norwalk’s Summit Motorsports Park was the site of not one, oh no, but TWO double-ups in 2017? Jeff Strickland made it happen in Stock and Top Dragster, and Nick Folk was the man in Super Stock and Super Comp.
Chuck Beach sold his racecar and moved South, so he shall pass the torch that he was handed in 2019 to whomever wins this race. But don’t worry, if you’re a Hemi fan, his ’68 Barracuda is on the property with its new owner, Nick Reiter, who is running it in F/SA.
The Shipp gang is back together at the track this weekend at Summit Motorsports Park, with 2013 Norwalk Stock winner Randi Lyn returning to the NHRA series to pilot her stunningly clean ’67 Firebird and brother Joey in his G/SA ’69 Nova. Sister Kristi’s GT/OA ’69 Camaro Super Stocker was recently revived by her partner in (totally harmless) crime, Hunter Patton, so she’s entered as well. Oh yes, and over there in Super Gas? That’s their dad, Randy Shipp.
Wait, there’s another DID YOU KNOW moment coming on…. and here it is: DID YOU KNOW that the Shipp kids grew up with Bob and Etta Glidden as occasional babysitters? They’re all from Whiteland, Indiana, and they were all heavily involved in drag racing. Makes sense, right?
Aside from 2013 winner RL Shipp, past winners here looking for a repeat are A/SA ’70 Barracuda campaigner Larry Hill, of Hickory, Kentucky (2012); Palestine, Ohio’s Aaron Allison and his FS/B ’15 Camaro (2015); and 2016 Stock winner Joe Santangelo (who also won Comp at Norwalk in 2015). He hails from Marlborough, Connecticut, and wheels that striking* black B/SA ’69 Camaro. P.S. Santangelo likes to win and has done so frequently – including just a couple of weeks ago in Super Stock at the New England Nationals in Epping.
Remember in the first paragraph of this story when we were talking about some really cool stories that are contained within the fences at Summit Motorsports Park? Chris Knudsen’s C/S ’69 Chevy Camaro is one of them, for sure. It’s the same car his father won Brainerd with in 1988, and in 2019, he kicked off the season in the same car with a Pomona Winternationals win in his honor.
*Striking – as in, raise up like a cobra in a wheelstand at the launch, then strike opponents down viciously at the stripe
Joey Cambria’s runner-up at Division 1’s Lebanon Valley LODRS race last weekend might have generated a burst of frustration that has the potential to be parlayed into victory at this national event. He’s here from Shillington, Pennsylvania, looking to get back to the winner’s circle for the first time since the Reading nationals in 2010.
Shawn Fricke closed out 2020 with a Las Vegas victory at the JEGS Pacific SPORTSnationals, and he’s repping Flemington, New Jersey, in Super Comp while wife Jackie pilots the Finke Racing rail in Top Alcohol Dragster at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals. Their niece, Taylor Iacono, is making her national event debut at Norwalk driving the Super Comp dragster that belongs to Tori Iacono.
Look out for Amanda Boicesco, though, because she’s the most recent winner on the tour after her near double in Epping with her dad, Super Gas icon Iggie Boicesco. He was runner-up here in Super Gas in 2009.
If we’re looking at it right, whomever wins Super Comp here will have never before claimed a Norwalk trophy, and it’s a unique one to have. Of course racers receive a traditional Wally, but in the past, they also received a commemorative ice cream scoop.
Novi, Michigan’s Alana Haas, wheeling her Haas & Carouthers dragster at the #NorwalkNats, is aiming to follow in the footsteps of her father, super class ace Rock Haas. He’s a multi-time division champion and won a race in Ohio, himself, in 2006. The elder Haas was the Super Gas victor in Columbus that year, and he was runner-up at the Norwalk national in 2008.
Aiming to extend his reign and bring another trophy back home to Richmond, Kentucky, 2019 winner Jeremy Mason is enrolled in Super Gas with his ’66 Nova. He’s joined by fellow former Norwalk Super Gas winners Rob Kropfeld and his ’67 Camaro (2017); 2013 winner and Ohio native Ray Connolly; and Wabash, Indiana, racer Nathan Vrooman, who was triumphant in 2012.
Duane LaFleur is here hoping to extend his win streak after scoring the trophy last weekend at the Division 1 LODRS opener at Lebanon Valley.
The only repeat winner so far in Super Gas at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals has been Mark Horton, who won the first event there in 2007 and repeated in 2011.
Ohio’s own Glenn Butcher was extra-quick in qualifying with a 6.348-second pass at 216.55 in his ’69 Camaro to lock in as the No. 1 qualifier. The driver who was the first Top Sportsman winner in ADRL almost exactly 10 years ago claimed his first NHRA Top Sportsman win in St. Louis in 2018.
Fast Freddy Perkins, of Plainville, Connecticut, is a spectacular showman – one glimpse of his bitchin’ black ‘Bel Air (of the 1957 variety) producing a thick cloud of burnout smoke ahead of a run and you’ll know this without a doubt. Fast Freddy is racing in Top Dragster, too, and last year he finished in the top 10 in both categories.
Oakland, Michigan’s Chris Osborn is on-site with the intention of defending the title he won at Norwalk in 2019. Osborn, driver of a ’69 Camaro, isn’t the only previous Norwalk winner racing for the Top Sportsman trophy this weekend; Gary Wojnowski Jr. won this race in 2016.
No, you’re not seeing double! There are two Bob Mandells on the ladder. Bob Mandell Jr. has two previous national event wins in the category, and Bob Mandell III is a two-time Top Dragster winner. They’re each in a ’55 Chevy Bel Air in Top Sportsman at Summit Motorsports Park.
Danny Nelson isn’t here to protect his possession of the 2019 title he won at this event, but runner-up Tyson Fabish is. Fabish, of Medina, Ohio, won this race in 2014. He’s a three-time national event finalist who reached his first money round at the 2009 JEGS NHRA Northern SPORTSnationals in Columbus.
It’s way too hot in Arizona right now, and Paradise Valley racer Phil Dion is banking on Norwalk being the better bet. Dion won the Dallas divisional in Top Dragster, and this field is further populated with recent medalist Anthony Bertozzi, who won the Atlanta divisional. Ohio’s Mike Coughlin, here with the big ol’ Team JEGS racing family, last saw the inside of an NHRA Top Dragster final round at the Baby Gators, the popular LODRS event at Gainesville Raceway.
No. 1 qualifier Al Peavler, of Olney, Illinois, had one of several notably quick Top Dragsters in qualifying. His 6.131-second pass at 226.47 mph was best of all, but Pascal Lecompte and JB Strassweg were right there with a 6.134 and 6.135, respectively.
That’s it from here for now. Get your round-by-round results at DragRace Central.