Manzo Collects Third Straight At The Valley
By Billy Anderson
Frank Manzo collected his third straight and fourth overall title at the eighth annual Lebanon Valley Dragway Division One Federal-Mogul Drag Racing Series event July 6-8. Despite cloudy weather, rain held off until the very end of the event, delaying only the Super Stock final for twenty minutes. Other winners at the West Lebanon, NY facility were Michael Gunderson (Federal-Mogul Dragster), Jim Pursglove (Competition), Lincoln Morehead (Super Stock), Lee Zane (Stock), John DiBartolomeo (Super Comp), Ray Sawyer (Super Gas), and Larry Willard (Super Street).
Manzo's victory culminated with a defeat of Bob Newberry in the final in much the same fashion as his previous two: Manzo ran a 5.8-something while Newberry recorded a 5.9-something. It was the fifth such Manzo-Newberry final in the eight-year history of the event. Newberry collected the first two (1995 and 1997), Manzo the next two (1999 and 2000), and then the rubber match this year. Manzo also won in 1994 over Rich Fenwick, and was runner-up in 1996 to Craig Gleason. The only year in which Manzo was not in the final was in 1998, when Paul Gill beat him en route to his first divisional win. In 2001, Manzo and Newberry waltzed to the final with ease.
Manzo qualified number one with a 5.86, then improved to Low E.T. in round one with a 5.74, 247.11 defeat of Fred Tigges' 6.38. Matco Tools Spring Super Nationals winner Eric Lourie could not return for the semi-finals, so Manzo took an easy 6.71 win after shaking the tires, pedaling the throttle, and then finally throwing in the towel at half-track. Newberry qualified third with a 5.95, then picked up to a 5.89 in round one at a coasting 231.24 mph after breaking a crankshaft over Paul Lee. In the semi-finals, Newberry improved again, this time to a 5.79, 244.56 to defeat Gill's troubled 6.68. Manzo took the final for the third straight year, 5.83, 244.49 to 5.93, 244.43.
For Gunderson, he was finally able to win in his third appearance at Lebanon Valley. In 1998, he lost to Ron Still in the final and in 2000 to Jeanie Booz. For 2001, the A/FD driver was able to break through and collect winning accolades. Gunderson qualified fifth at 5.66. After defeating Billy Gibson in a rematch of the 2000 final, 5.65 to 5.74, the semi-finals featured two upsets. First, Cliff Bozzelli, who had won the first three Division One races of 2001, along with the Matco Tools Spring Super Nationals, watched his win streak dissolve when he suffered engine damage after leading Tim Slagle by more than a car length at half track. Slagle graciously took the win in the Chicken Chokers entry with a 5.72, 245.56, his best lap of the weekend.
For Gunderson, he was able to upset Winston Low Qualifier Art Gallant. Gallant ran 5.52 and 5.57 in qualifying in a brand new car that was suffering from top end handling problems. Apparently, the wing was not working properly at the top end, as the car ventured into a wheelstand at 1000', forcing Gallant to shut-off. His best speed in three laps was 221.56 mph in round one. In the semi-finals, it finally caught up to him. Gunderson laid a huge holeshot on Gallant, .420 to .529, and managed to sneak by at the top end to win by .011 seconds after Gallant pulled the chute in order to maintain control of his vehicle. Gallant's slowest run of the event, 5.65, 205.52 was not enough to hold off Gunderson's charging 5.75, 246.10 in the battle of nitro entries. For the final, Slagle fouled early with a .179 reaction time, and his 5.75, 244.23 was all for naught. Gunderson ran a 5.79, 244.16 to finally taste victory at Lebanon Valley.
In Competition Eliminator, Pursglove won for the first time in his career. Pursglove qualified lucky 13 with a competitive 8.09 (-.51) pass. After a round one single in which Glen Treadwell couldn't show, Pursglove took the upset of the round against Arnie Martel. Martel, who has been on a tear this year, holeshot Pursglove, .525 to .612, but appeared to back out of the throttle too soon in an attempt to save index from the Competition Index Control (CIC). When the safety trucks rolled a short while afterward, it appeared that there was engine damage involved with the loss. Pursglove's 8.14, 164.11 (-.46) happily collected the win. Pursglove then defeated a problem-plagued Richard Schonberger before pairing up with Frank Aragona Jr.
Aragona, the number one qualifier at 8.541 (-.759) in his F/EA '32 Bantam., had managed to make it to the semi-finals without an opponent lining up against him due to some form of breakage. In the semi-finals, however, it was Aragona's turn to suffer breakage as he coasted to a 9.53 (+.23) allowing Pursglove's 8.22 (-.38) from the Mufflermania D/A to advance. Waiting for Pursglove in the final would be Greg Kozera, the only driver to suffer a CIC violation in eliminations. Kozera's D/ED needed a 7.51 (-.52) to drive around Jeff Taylor, who shut off too early and coasted to an 8.09 (-.51) in the quarter-finals. After defeating a broken Allyn Armstrong, Kozera fouled in the final, handing Pursglove his first title.
The Super Stock final was delayed twenty minutes, enough to allow the luck of George Vignogna to wear off. Vignogna had managed to get through the first three rounds without an opponent due to breakage and odd-lot bye runs. Finally, in round four, he paired up with Larry Jewell, whom he beat with a dead-on 9.14 in his SS/AS '97 Sebring. He beat former Competition champion Sal Biondo, and Mike Iacono to advance to the final. Morehead defeated Guy Desjardins, Ken Miele, Yves Perigny, Frank Scudiere, and Eddie Bloom before getting a bye in the semi-finals. In the final, Morehead overcame Vignogna's luck to collect the win.
Zane took the Stock title in his J/SA entry over Dan Lynch. Lynch's H/SA '69 Camaro fouled, but Zane would have been tough with a .518 reaction time and a dead-on 12.274. In the semi-finals, Zane defeated 2000 Matco Tools Spring Super Nationals champ John Gray on a holeshot, 12.35 (+.09) to 11.35 (+.02). Lloyd MacKay was Lynch's semi-final victim.
DiBartolomeo collected Super Comp with his dragster over Barbara Seemann. Seemann fouled with a .396 reaction time, negating an 8.90, 159.82 lap. DiBartolomeo cruised to a 23.65. DiBartolomeo had defeated the remaining doorslammer, Dave Sottile, in the semi-finals, 8.87 to 8.84, 2000 runner-up Wally Roberts, who had a.399 foul, and Val DiGenova in a double breakout affair in the quarterfinals. DiGenova cut a .401 R.T., but lost, 8.888 to 8.887. Seemann had run a perfect 8.900 coupled with a .411 R.T. in the semi-finals over a fouling Don Butkiewicz.
New England racers Sawyer and Willard celebrated their victories together. Sawyer's Sudden Impact 2000 Camaro from Acton, MA had collected Super Comp at the New England Dragway Funny Cars Under the Stars event a few weeks before. Sawyer continued the winning in Super Gas, including two rounds decided by .007 seconds. In round one and five, Mike Moniz and Tom Seemann both lost by that margin. In between, Sawyer collected the Bounty by defeating Atco winner John Michaels. In the semi-finals he defeated Matco Tools Spring Super Nationals runner-up John Benoit. Ed Alessi, Jr. fouled in the final, handing the win to Sawyer.
For Willard, the father of Jet Dragster driver Jessica Willard, he brought his trusty '57 Chevy from Leominster, MA to turn back all
competitors in Super Street. Prior to beating Dean Olschewske in the final and fellow Super Gas winner Ray's son Brian Sawyer, he defeated Division 1 hitters Don Rudolph and Dennis Territo.
Overall, the eighth annual edition of the Lebanon Valley Federal Mogul Drag Racing Series event lived up to the billing laid down by its predecessors. Close racing continues to be a hallmark of this event, and while the stories weren't as bright as in previous years, enough happened to keep even the hard-core fan on his toes for the entire weekend.