Story courtesy of NHRA
Photos by David Smith and Diane Kubicke
Before a packed house at the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at New England Dragway, John Finke had a .006 reaction time in the under-the-lights Top Alcohol Dragster final and ran a 5.36 to stop No. 1 qualifier Richard Bourke. In Top Alcohol Funny Car, defending event champ Frank Manzo overcame a rare late light to run down John Anderika by seven-thousandths of a second, 5.60 to 5.69.
“This is one of the best wins I’ve ever had – definitely the best one that wasn’t a national event,” said Finke, a three-time national event champion. “I almost didn’t believe it when I got out of the car at the top end of the track. I thought ‘I did win, didn’t I?’ because I never saw my win light come on. I didn’t know for sure until the crew came down there flashing the lights at me.”
Finke had endured five runner-ups since his last victory, at the Englishtown Division 1 event in 2009. “The last couple of years were pretty tough,” he said. “We got close a few times but could never get the job done.”
If it hadn’t been the best divisional/regional outing of Finke’s career, it would’ve been the best of Bourke’s. The New Jersey driver qualified No. 1 with a career-best 5.25 and took out Lebanon Valley winner Dan Mercier in round one with a 5.27. After a close win over Dan Page in the semifinals, he slipped to a 5.48 in the final.
Finke had the best reaction times of his career: a .015 in the first round against reigning world champ Duane Shields, a .022 against East Region points leader Rich McPhillips, and the .006 in the final against Bourke.
After a .054 reaction time in the first round and a .034 in the semifinals, Manzo slipped to a .139 in the final and made his first run all weekend that wasn’t in the 5.50s. “I saw Anderika way out there at half-track and thought, ‘Oh, he red-lighted,’ ” said Manzo, who still trailed Anderika at the 1,000-foot clocks. “Then I looked up at the scoreboard and saw that it wasn’t on and thought, ‘I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.’ I wrung that thing’s neck in 2nd gear and still wasn’t sure if I was going to get him.” With an 8-mph edge, he barely did, 5.60, 259 to 5.69, 251.
It would have been a second holeshot win in a row for Anderika, who took out Norwalk national event winner Paul Gill in the semifinals, 5.71 to Gill’s tire-shaking, backpedaling 5.70. “I never saw Manzo the whole way,” said Anderika, who lost the Norwalk regional final to Chris Foster earlier this year by an even closer margin: two-thousandths of a second. “But you’re running Frank, so you never take anything for granted. I never even looked for my win-light that time. I looked for his, and when we crossed the finish line, there it was.”
A pair of New Hampshire racers took wins this weekend with Angela Ray, Plaistow, N.H., winning in the divisions MXI/Magnaflux Top Sportsman series presented by Select Performance and Casey Grubb, Milford, N.H., beating Peter Sanca in Super Street. Ray drove a ’67 Mustang to a lap of 6.464 seconds at 277.73 mph to defeat Larry Willard and his ’41 Willys.
In Top Dragster it was Willard’s son Nick posting the win for the family with a pass of 6.806 seconds at 195.34 mph to beat out Paul Neal running 7.094, 189.18 out of Everett, Mass.
Kent Hanley and Elroy Dame won in Super Stock and Stock respectively as Hanley, Newtown, Conn., won when Tom Boucher fouled at the starting line and Dame, Eliot, Maine, ran down Steve Szupka in his ’69 Road Runner. Hanley nearly scored a double advancing to the final in Super Comp as well but fell to Jason Hoff, Littlestown, Pa. who ran 8.906, 180 mph.
Tom Stalba led the remaining winners knocking out Mike Sawyer in Super Gas in his ’63 Corvette. Sal Biondo held off Frank Aragon in Comp Eliminator; and Tiina Duncanson won over Ed Armstrong in the finial of Pro Stock Snowmobile.
Northeast Division racers head to Atco Raceway for the next NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event, August 3-5.