Words by:Anthony Caruso III
Frank Aragona Jr. won his third Competition Eliminator Championship in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series during the 2019 season. He clinched the championship at the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, North Carolina, in October.
“They say there’s nothing like the first, but the third one is the charm,” he said. “It felt just as good as the first and second one, if not better. We had an amazing season, and we were able to win Indy this year, which was a long-term goal of mine. I had never won it before this year. It was an amazing year all around.
For the New Jersey native, winning Indy was a bucket list item. He was able to check that one off after years of trying to win the sports’ most prestigious race.
“When we all start out the year, everyone wants to win the championship,” Aragona Jr. said. “But my main goal for the year since I had already won the championship was to win Indy because I hadn’t won it yet. It had been on my bucket list for a very long time. My main goal was to win Indy. We also brought out a new car, which we felt was a good piece of equipment to increase our chances of winning Indy. We got the car worked out early. We won some Divisional events before we went out to Indy.
“We went to Indy with a very strong car and a lot of determination -- and we won Indy -- and that gave us enough points because Indy is an extra round of racing, which gave us an extra 10 points. With those extra 10 points, it gave us the points lead at that point. Then, from that point, you’re looking at winning another championship, which is what we did.”
Aragona Jr. said his last win with the old dragster was at the Divisional during Memorial Day weekend at Maple Grove Raceway in Mohnton, Pennsylvania, on May 26. Then, he won the NHRA Divisional at West Lebanon, New York, in June in the new altered automatic car.
He also won the Divisional at Heartland Motorsports Park in Topeka, Kansas, in July. His final win before the Indianapolis event came at the Divisional at Atco Dragway in Atco, New Jersey.
He won the championship with 718 points. According to Aragona Jr., it is one of the highest Comp Eliminator point totals of all-time.
Aragona Jr. went to 18 events in 2019. He beat out Craig Bourgeois, who finished second despite going to 14 events. The Louisiana native had 580 points.
“He [Craig] got off to a great head-start, as he won several races to begin the season,” he said. “It even looked like he was going to run away with the championship with that great early-part of the season with so many wins early on in the year. But, towards the end of the year, he didn’t have the same luck, as he did during the early part of the year. We had a great season from the mid-point in the season towards the end of the year that allowed us to win it.”
Aragona Jr. won two events following his Indianapolis win. He won the national event at Maple Grove Raceway in Sept.
Then, he doubled-up with a Wally to go along with the Championship when he won at the NTK NHRA Carolina Nationals.
“A lot of preparation, a lot of hard work, a lot of sacrifices, and a lot of money,” Aragona Jr. said about traveling the country to compete. “I have a lot of good people around me. I couldn’t do it without my dad. He works on the car pretty much 24/7. This year, we also had Dave Yediny -- who is a crew chief for the Skillman’s -- when he wasn’t working for them on the off-weekends, he was with us at the race track. We had great help from Yediny, my dad, all our friends, and family. I run an electrical contracting business, and my employees are great. They keep the business going while I’m off chasing my dreams.”
Aragona Jr. is the third Comp Eliminator driver to win three Championships. He joins Bill Maropulos and David Rampy, who recently retired from drag racing.
Since 1981, Maropulos won in 1985, 1987, and 1993. Rampy won in 1990, 2014, and 2017.
“It’s pretty amazing to be in a class with them,” he said. “It’s good to know, and I’m among two greats there. Maybe next year, I can break this tie and stand alone with only one with four. It truly would be amazing. It’s absolutely amazing to be able to go back-to-back in this tough class. It’s crazy.”
He is also the first back-to-back championship driver since the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Dean Carter won during the 2003 and 2004 seasons.
“I’ve been very fortunate,” Aragona Jr. said. “I dreamed about winning one, and here I am now with my third one. Let’s see if I can get four.”