Words/Photos Phil Hutchison
It was a mix of current and former champions along with two first time winners at the Northeast Division NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing season opener at Maple Grove Dragway outside of Reading, PA.
Leading the winners was current Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Competition Eliminator world champ Frank Aragona Jr. from Freehold, NJ. Aragona wheeled his E/DA dragster to a win over former NHRA champ Lee Zane driving the new F/DA of Al Ackerman as Zane cut the tree too tight and left 0.001 too early giving Aragona the win.
Super Stock winner Roy Kinslow from Stockton, NJ drove his newly acquired SS/KA ’83 Firebird to his first ever NHRA win. Kinslow beat the GT/FA Chevy of Sterling Simmons in the finals running a dead on 10.69 on a 10.69 dial to Simmons’ breaking out 9.463 on his 9.49 dial.
Multi-time winner Joe Santangelo came close to wining Stock Eliminator a week ago at the national event in Richmond but at Maple Grove, the Marlborough, CT racer went all the way beating Larry Papas from Wayne, NJ in a heads-up final. Santangelo’s wheel standing ’68 Camaro beat the Papas’ ’98 Formula Firebird with a 10.423 to Papas’ 10.51.
Tom Stalba from Hammonton, NJ, no stranger to the winner’s circle having won the Super Comp title in 2018, won at the Grove for his fifth divisional career victory beating Canadian Richard Stroud with an 8.915 to Stroud’s too quick 8.890.
Super Gas went to Renfrew, Ontario Canada racer Charlie Kenopic driving his ’63 Corvette roadster. Kenopic defeated Virginia racer Leonard Marshall’s similar Corvette in the finals with a hole shot aided 9.936 to Marshall’s quicker but later 9.931.
Reigning Division 1 Super Street champ Keith Mayers had a bull’s eye on his back and on his car as being the champ, he had a Bounty on his back and the racer that defeated him during eliminations would get the Bounty money. Lucky for the Ellendale, DE racer, no one did the deed and Mayer’s left Maple Grove with the Bounty intact. Meyer’s unique big block powered ’85 Porsche took out the ’67 Nova of Jon Leahy with a 10.925 to Leahy’s breaking out 10.854.
Top Dragster was a husband and wife affair as Derry, NH racers Deborah DiGenova beat her husband Val in the finals running a 6.802 on her 6.80 as Val pushed his dragster too far running a 6.828 on his 6.83 dial. The win was Deb’s first ever NHRA divisional Wally.
Recent Gatornationals winner Sandy Wilkins took his Sand Flea ’69 Camaro from the pole to the winner’s circle. Wilkins, from Mount Ulla, NC, beat the ’63 Corvette of Brian Conrey in the finals. Conrey ran right on his 7.03 dial with a 7.035 but his 0.104 reaction time killed any chance of beating Wilkins’ 6.681 on a 6.63 dial. The victory was Wilkins’ 10th career NHRA win in his first trip ever to the Pennsylvania track.