Now a drag racing executive; Kenny Bernstein GM Len Imbrogno was once a nitro racer
Len Imbrogno has held high ranking positions with race teams and sanctioning bodies.
Imbrogno now serves as General Manager for Kenny Bernstein Racing, but back in the day, in 1979, he drove a low-budget Funny Car for Ohio-based team owner Ken Thornburg.
“That's when it was fun to drive,” Imbrogno said. “It's amazing; you couldn't run an alcohol car today on the budget we ran those cars on back then.”
Thornburg’s budget took a big hit during the 1980 NHRA Gatornationals in Gainesville, Fla., an event that would be the last for the two.
During a qualifying run, Imbrogno’s Pontiac-bodied flopper pulled into a large wheelstand and upon landing made an abrupt right turn in the Armco guardrail. The result of the impact took a large chunk out of the fiberglass (as well as the chassis) and the wounded flopper came to a rest after running over the cinder blocks holding the finish line Chrondek timing equipment.
Imbrogno pointed out the accident in today’s racing world would have required a trip to the hospital.
“Just a little knot in the head,” Imbrogno described as the lone injury. “Yeah, I probably had a minor concussion because I had a headache for about a week -- but back in those days they asked me if I wanted to go to the hospital and I said no. Now it's probably mandatory if you do something like that.”
If you’ll notice in the accompanying YouTube.com video, the on-board fire extinguishes launches at impact.
“Actually the tip of the fire extinguisher broke off the bottle and it flew over the crowd into the parking lot and through the windshield of a guy that I knew,” Imbrogno said. “All the people in Florida and it ended up through the windshield of somebody we know.”
Did he send Imbrogno a bill for the damage?
“No, he didn't,” said Imbrogno with a laugh. “He thought it was funny.”
WATCH LEN IMBROGNO'S LAST RIDE