Sometimes the toughest thing in racing is being the man on top.
Just ask Gianni Cantusci.
Cantusci came out of nowhere to win the Super Stock World Championship at the 2011 Summit Tournament of Champions earning him the coveted No. 1 on the side of his car for the 2012 racing season and the title of world champion for an entire year.
But as Cantusci came to find out, that isn’t always a good thing. While the number on the side of his car earned him more respect in the garage area, that little sticker also meant his competition would throw more at him than ever before and try a bit harder than usual to come out on top. Not always the best of situations for a guy that is not used to being the center of attention at the dragstrip.
“It seems like with the No. 1 you get beat up on quite a bit,” Cantusci said. “Everyone tries harder to beat the champ. I know when I raced someone with single digits I always raced a little harder and I got to experience that first hand. It has been tough with the new number on the side, we only won one race this year despite going to a lot of races and sometimes we ditched the number altogether and went back to our old number at some races. It has been a trying season.”
But as trying as it has been, this weekend Cantusci will be back behind the wheel of his 2000 Pontiac Firebird with the No. 1 proudly adorning the side as he goes for a second championship after qualifying for Super Stock via a third place finish in Division 1. It wasn’t the dominating return to the TOC he had hoped for, but he will certainly take it.
And while a win in the Tournament of Champions would mean another year of getting beat up and pushed to the brink, Cantusci says he would gladly put up with all of those all over again to wear the championship number once again.
“If I thought it was tough at regular races this season that is nothing compared to what it is going to be like this weekend as a champion trying to defend that title,” Cantusci said. “That is a big weight on my shoulders as we try to keep our title. If nothing else, we are going to give it our all.”
Cantusci’s quest for a second championship will actually begin on Friday as he enters his Super Stocker in the Summit Sportsman Spectacular to try and tune the car and pick up a few extra bucks in preparation for the tournament on Sunday. It won’t be easy, but if Cantusci can pull out the win once again it would turn around a tough year and give him a second shot at taking the No. 1 somewhere special from his home in Stittsville, Ontario.
“We traveled quite a bit this year and that includes being here this weekend,” Cantusci said. “We have never been here before, but so far we like what we see. We are going to race the Saturday race to get some laps on the car and hopefully make a little extra in the process. If we can do it again on Sunday, that would be something special.”
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