In ancient Greece there lived a warrior named Pyrrhus who assumed the throne of Epirus . Pyrrhus was known for his prowess on the battlefield and it was through this legendary figure that we all learned the meaning of the term, “a victory at too high of a cost.” Now Joe Aluise Jr., was not around when Pyrrhus was in existence, of course, but the truck leasing company Vice President from Westminster, Md., could relate to Pyrrhus's famous saying of “one more such victory and I am lost” when it comes to describing his 2003 GM Performance Parts Top Stock championship. Aluise broke more than his share of parts in his quest to become the first Mopar to claim the crown, but that's okay, broken parts and all, Aluise and his trusty Belvedere were both left standing after the final round, albeit a bit shakily.
Though it looked hopeless at times by his own admission, when it was all said and done, Aluise emerged as the King of the Hill in the second annual running for the GM Performance Parts Top Stock crown.
“We formulated our game plan and it included running the 426-inch Hemi for the first part of the season,” explained Aluise. “Then we brought out the 500-inch crate motor in Richmond . We strategized with the weight for the cars and decided which would be the best program. It all worked out for us and everything came together. There were a few times when it looked like it wouldn't, but then it all worked out in the end.”
“The breakage was pretty severe at some races and we didn't know if we'd make it out there to race a time or two. “
Even though he had a commanding lead in the points standings towards the end of the season, Aluise refused to concede victory until it was all over. He had seen what overconfidence could do to a seemingly clinched victory over and over in his storied career.
“That's one of those things that I never, ever look at as being wrapped up,” explained Aluise. “We've never counted on what people could read. We always went out there with just one thought in mind, that we needed to win the race to win the championship. Even at Rockingham, I was still nervous. Until they told me that I had won, I never relaxed.”
Aluise emerged as one of the more successful runners with four national event victories. Ironically, they came after the engine change.
“There were a couple of things at the first part of the season that kept breakage to a minimum,” explained Aluise. “The second half of the season, we put in the crate motor and we ended up breaking a lot of stuff. It was all related to the heavy weight we were forced to run. We were running an 8 ¾” rear end in the car and there's only so much weight and torque that thing can handle before it starts breaking stuff.
“When it all comes together in that capacity, you start ripping the rears out of these things and it isn't a pretty sight. When you rip the rears out and the motor over-revs, you lose the sprags from the transmission and obviously you hurt the valvetrain. I remember it was really catastrophic one time in qualifying and we were lucky just to make the next race.”
“There was one time that we actually went to the racetrack with a broken car,” explained Aluise. “When you get the cars as heavy as we were, which was 3,800 pounds, well, that's a heavy racecar.”
The combination of a wearily-earned 2003 World Championship and the imminent disbanding of the class has forced Aluise to throw in the towel for 2004 and beyond. At least, it appears that way according to Drag Review.
“I'm beside myself just trying to figure out what I'm going to do. I've looked at running a late-modeled circle-track car. I don't know that I want to go back to the NHRA because I love the heads-up racing. I'm leaning towards the circle track thing. It looks like it could be fun.”