Written by Bobby Bennett; Photos by Norman Blake, Dave Wallace and Steve Collison Thu, 2020-05-07 20:03
There's nothing more prestigious than winning Top Fuel at the NHRA U.S. Nationals, and that's exactly what inspired a group of sportsman racers to use the first round of eliminations as a protest platform. No sportsman division had dared to stand up to the seemingly invincible sanctioning body, not to mention during their flagship national event. There's always a first time for everything, however, and in 1981 a group of disgruntled sportsman racers took the NHRA to task in front of their paying customers.
This makeshift group of sportsman racers had been rumor fodder in the pits for a few months prior to the event, yet when they confronted the sanctioning body the issue was always sidestepped. On Labor Day weekend in 1981 they took the unprecedented step of airing their concerns before one of the largest crowds of the year. After all, they had nothing to lose.
Photos by Roger Richards Sat, 2020-03-14 14:00
David Latino doubled up in Super Stock and Stock and reigning NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series world champions Ray Miller III in Super Comp and Sandy Wilkins Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers scored victories at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. Racing in the Mello Yello, E3 Pro Mod, Top Alcohol, and SAMTech.edu Factory Stock Showdown was postponed to a later date.
Latino claimed the first half of his double -– the 41st in NHRA national event history –- by scoring in Stock with his C/SA Corvette when reigning Comp eliminator world champion Frank Aragona Jr. red-lighted with a -.023 reaction time in the final round. A short time later, Latino wheeled his GT/GA Cobalt to victory in Super Stock, defeating red-lighting Anthony Bertozzi. It was Latino's first win in nearly five years.