Bozzelli, Lourie Lead E-Town Sportsman Action
by Billy Anderson
Just as in the Professional categories, Federal-Mogul action at the 32nd annual NHRA Matco Tools Spring Super Nationals was populated with story-filled drama.
It had been since 1990 that the Englishtown crown traveled home with a driver based in a Division One state. That year, it was John Rose, Jr. who defeated Mike Kosky for the title. In 1997, Dr. Jeremy Torstveit, who claimed Division One as his home division, won the event. However, Torstveit was from Arizona, and thus the trophy did not actually travel to a Division One-based state.
That all changed in 2001 when Federal-Mogul events in Divisions Two and Three kept the closest outside invaders from competing. The fifteen dragsters competing all were based in a Division One state, thus precluding any other outcome than a Northeast Division car entering the winner's circle.
Art Gallant of Boxboro, MA, entered the event hot off two straight number one qualifying efforts at Bristol and Atlanta. He continued his dominance, claiming the Sealed Power Low Qualifier bonus with a 5.454, 233.03 from his injected nitro dragster.
With only fifteen cars, the field was light in performance. The closest racers to Gallant were Cliff Bozzelli (5.587), Billy Gibson (5.588), and Bruce Insinger (5.650). Gallant used his round one odd-lot bye to set Low E.T. of 5.399, also a new track record. He followed that up with wins over Tim Slagle in Len Cottrell's Chicken Chokers entry and Insinger. Gallant's 5.42, 251.53 from his semi-final match gave him lane choice for the final against Bozzelli.
Bozzelli had opened eliminations with a troubled 13.26 single when Fred Ahrberg couldn't return for round one. In cooler conditions on Sunday, Bozzelli ran respective laps of 5.52, 255.00 and a career best 5.50, 254.95 in wins over John Headley and Billy Gibson.
Bozzelli, with the help of Anton Fuchloch of Noonan and Fuchloch fame, recorded a consistent 5.53, 253.61 to best Gallant's deep staging 5.57, 250.92. For the former Division One champ, it was his second national event win to go along with a Columbus victory in 1997. The 2001 Matco Tools Spring Super Nationals trophy traveled to Absecon, NJ with the Bozz Baby Express team.
FEDERAL - MOGUL FUNNY CAR
When a Division One event starts with six-time national champion Frank Manzo, 1992 national champion Bob Newberry and multi-time divisional winner Paul Gill, chances are one of them will make it to the final. When all was said and done, it was first-time finalists Eric Lourie and Scott Woodington battling for the title every Division One alcohol driver wants to win.
Gill was the first to be defeated. The Moduline Dodge qualified third at 5.823, but rolled through the beams in round one. Woodington was the beneficiary of Gill's miscue, and pedaled to a 7.18, 140.49 after qualifying 12th with a 6.63 in the ex-John Sieger Achieva. Woodington got another break in round two when IHRA contender Fred Tigges shook the tires, but Woodington recorded his best elapsed time of the event, a coasting 5.98, 211.99. The New Jersey driver then received an additional break by getting a bye run in the semi-finals, but not due to an odd-lot bye.
In round one, Australian Steve Harker, who qualified number two at 5.761 and suffered a brief fire in the final qualifying session, appeared to defeat Craig English, 6.18 to 11.26. Unfortunately for Harker, his Dodge Avenger came up light on the scales and he was disqualified. English would have received the odd-lot bye in the semi-finals, except that he did not show for round two, thus eliminating him from competition. Woodington coasted into the final with a 30.92, 34.73 lap.
Manzo was the second of the Division One triumvirate to beat himself. Manzo had qualified number one with a great last session 5.684, 254.18 and followed it up with a round one 5.667, 253.52 in the heat on Saturday. When Sunday dawned cool and overcast, the Kendall Avenger made even more horsepower, and Manzo shook the tires and himself out of competition. Lourie was the beneficiary, running his best lap of the weekend, a 5.97, 245.05 in the Best Appearing Car.
Newberry took himself out in the semi-finals. After qualifying fifth with a 5.857, Newberry, running a screw blower, improved to a 5.79 and 5.73 in round wins over Ed Fisher and Bruce Mullins. With Manzo and Gill out, it appeared to be Newberry's race. When he stepped on the throttle for the burnout in the semi-finals, however, the blower backfired. Lourie again was on the receiving end, and used a 9.78, 102.68 lap to enter the final with lane choice. In addition to Manzo and Newberry, Lourie had defeated Paul Lee in Ed Parker's Cape Codder in round one.
In the race between two of the most unexpected finalists of the weekend, Lourie was able to run consistent enough to win. A tire shaking 6.25, 238.05 was able to hold off Woodington's 7.44, 123.49, whose engine expired on the lap.
For Lourie, he joined New England racers Dick Bell (1991) and Arnie Karp (1986) on the Englishtown winners roll call, and did it the way they did it: by defeating Manzo and Newberry.
Competition Eliminator, always tough in Division One, was one of the wildest affairs ever. Indexes were slaughtered left and right. In round two, all eight winners suffered a Competition Index Control (CIC) violation. The worst was Dan Kilheffer's, who ran a -.697 (7.373) lap in his C/ED, which would result in a permanent .09-second reduction following the event. The worst part of it is that opponent Bob Rossi fouled in his A/A Achieva. The least offensive hit was by Steve Johns behind the wheel of Nelson Whitlock's B/AA Cutlass. The 1993 Comp champ ran a -.523 (7.387) to defeat former Divisional winner Erich Bollman's D/A Probe.
The all-star quarterfinals opened with Division One hitters Kilheffer and Jonathan Aloisio. Aloisio's D/SM Grand Am could only run -.482 seconds under his index, previously reduced by .11 seconds by CIC violations. Kilheffer needed a -.565 (7.315) lap, even further under the revised index. Sealed Power Low Qualifier Frank Aragona, Jr. ran a -.586 (8.294) lap under an index already reduced by .11 seconds to defeat a troubled Jeff Taylor. Arnie Martel received the benefit of a foul by Rob Slavinski to avoid a CIC violation. Finally, two former Comp Champs battled, as David Rampy got the best of Johns, -.454 to -.225.
The semi-finals opened with Martel drilling Rampy in a titanic battle, -.651 (9.189 on an index already reduced by .06 seconds) to a -.619 (7.351 on an index already reduced by .10 seconds). Aragona was able to defeat Kilheffer without an index violation, as his -.495 (8.305) bested Kilheffer's even quicker -.519 (7.301).
For the final, Aragona fell asleep, and his .737 reaction time was never able to catch Martel. Aragona took another CIC hit with a -.607 (8.193) to lose to Martel's safe -.508 (9.182). Aragona's lap was -.797 under the original index, thus the new G/ED index will be reduced to 8.80 from 8.99.
There was a funeral service for all the indexes shattered during the weekend by Comp racers around the country.
FEDERAL-MOGUL SPORTSMAN ACTION
In Super Stock, Dan Fletcher continued his winning ways. He defeated Michael Barsky in a double break out final, 10.068 (10.08 dial-in) to 11.095 (11.11). Fletcher also won the event in 1997 and 1995. Fletcher had defeated Sal Biondo in an all-star semi-final match, when he pushed Biondo under the dial-in.
Fletcher made the semi-finals in Stock, but lost to Todd Bednaz, who raced Ralph Conte for the Matco Tools title. Bednaz, who was playing the role of crew chief on Eric Lourie's winning Federal-Mogul Funny Car, broke out by more than Conte's E/SA '71 Duster for the loss. Conte broke out by .002 seconds; Bednaz's F/SA '68 Camaro by .017 seconds. In the semi-finals, Conte, like Bednaz, defeated a Super Stock star, defending Federal-Mogul champion Peter Biondo.
Jean-Ann Zetterberg became the 32nd female to win an NHRA national event, following on the heels of Malinda Bertozzi's Super Comp win in Gainesville. Zetterberg got the win automatically when 1998 event winner Kent Hanley fouled by .003 seconds.
Dale Koncen won Super Gas in a double breakout affair with Top Sportsman driver John Benoit. Koncen's '81 Camaro ran a 9.870, 136.17 to defeat Benoit's 9.868, 158.56 from his Cutlass.
Matt Schurman won the first ever Super Street title at Englishtown. His '68 Camaro defeated Ray Balian's '66 Chevelle, 10.917 to 10.898.