SUNDAY NOTEBOOK -
'STEVIE FAST' GETS FIRST-EVER PDR WIN - There's only one first time. That was "Stevie Fast" Jackson's message June 9, as soon as he beat Mark Micke for the inaugural Pro Drag Radial (PDR) title at the conclusion of the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI at Virginia Motorsports Park.
"How about that?" he asked excitedly before even unbuckling the seatbelts in his Procharger BBC-equipped '93 Mustang. "Those other guys might win some down the road, but there can only be one first winner in the books and we got it done! Yeah!"
That he got it done in the car that he basically made a name for himself in before it was sold to Al-Anabi Racing team owner Sheikh Khalid Al-Thani of Qatar last year made the win all that more special to Jackson.
"I feel very blessed. When Sheikh Khalid called me and said he wanted to send the orange Mustang back over here for me to run it in the Pro Drag Radial deal I couldn't believe it," Jackson said. "I thought when I left Qatar (early this year) that I wouldn't even see it again until next season, but dang, when I saw it sitting there on the shipping dock it was like seeing a child being reborn or something, if you can imagine that. I mean, that's my baby!"
Jackson, from Martinez, GA, also had the honor of being half of the first pair to make an official pass for the class as he lined up alongside the nitrous-fed '02 Camaro of Kyle Huettel as Pro Drag Radial qualifying opened the ADRL U.S. Drags about 4 p.m. on Saturday (June 8). A lengthy delay for track drying and grooming after a brief, but heavy morning rain shower also cost all classes a third scheduled round of qualifying.
Jackson didn't make it down the track under power that first attempt, but ran 4.539 at 178.50 mph in round two and slotted into 12th place after 24 entries made attempts on the VMP eighth mile. Huettel was first with a straight-off-the-trailer 4.280 at 175.16 mph, though he lost in round one upon encountering what would become all-too-familiar traction problems for the entire class. Tim Lynch, Jeff Cooner, Kevin Fiscus and Keith Berry rounded out the top five in qualifying, while Kenny Hubbard secured the 16th and final position for race day with a 4.624 at 163.39 mph.
Jackson improved to his best pass of the weekend with a 4.523 at 177.21 for a first-round win over Berry's twin-turboed '02 Corvette, then faltered a little to 5.504 at 171.43, but still managed to get by Steve Woolley and his '66 Chevy II to reach Hubbard in the semis. Hubbard got away first in his supercharged 2000 Camaro, but lost grip early while Jackson motored past for a 4.803 win at 166.64 and a date with Micke in the final round.
Micke and his Jefferson City, MO-based '78 Malibu qualified 15th with a 4.575-seconds pass at 177.88 mph, but on race day improved considerably to 4.408 at 183.37 in a first-round win over a traction-challenged Lynch. Micke won over a tire-smoking Paul Majer in round two and beat Mark Woodruff in a pedaling contest in the semis as both racers struggled to find traction.
In the final round against Micke, Jackson left with a humungous .168 advantage off the start--though he posted an atrocious .217 reaction time himself. "Oh my gosh, neither one of us had a light, we both sat there for an hour," Jackson said upon receiving the run's timeslip from a crewmember. "That's kind of embarrassing," he added with a laugh.
Jackson took the win in 4.526 seconds and going 178.26 mph, with Micke a distant runner-up at 4.790 seconds and only 138.81 mph.
"I went up there determined to just run my own race. I knew I couldn't outrun him if he hooked up, but I was determined to not beat myself," Jackson said later. We just wanted to not make any mistakes, make a good lap and make him beat us. If you can do that, very often the results are very favorable.
"This was a tough weekend, a tough, tough weekend, but my guys worked their butts off and they deserved this one. It's also been tough doing double duty (Jackson also raced an Al-Anabi '68 Camaro in Pro Nitrous), but Sheik Khalid, he had faith in me and I'm just so thankful for his generosity. I want to dedicate this win to him."
LONG WAIT OVER FOR LAURITA IN PRO NITROUS - After last visiting victory lane in September 2010 for his career-first ADRL win at Norwalk, OH, Jim Laurita finally made it back June 9, after defeating first-time finalist Matt Suite for the Pro Nitrous title at the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI in Petersburg, VA.
Driving for just the third time with a clutch in his Switzer Dynamics '68 Camaro, the Morgantown, WV, coal mining company owner started from the number-one position with an outstanding 3.771-seconds pass at 198.90 mph that stood up as low ET and top speed of the meet. Following him on the qualifying list were teammate Pat Stoken at 3.806 and 196.85 mph, John Hall, Steve Jackson and Danny Perry.
"It's taking an awful lot of work and we've got this new car here in only its third time out, but things are really starting to come together," said Laurita, who raced through Robert Patrick, Randy Weatherford and Jackson in order to reach Suite driving Steve Vick's ADRL-branded '68 Camaro. "I've got a fantastic crew and Brandon Switzer of Switzer Dynamics tuning on it for me, so I couldn't be happier with the performance, especially after just three races, it's really something.
"But it's not just about the car; it's about getting me dialed in, too, getting the crew dialed in; I mean, I've been racing for three years with an automatic (transmission), so this has been a pretty big change."
In the final round, Suite put together a game 3.934 at 185.95-mph effort, but it was no match for Laurita, who left first with an impressive .021 light, easily his best of the day, then ran 3.822 at 198.09 to set low ET and top speed of eliminations.
"Everything worked perfect in the final," Laurita said. "I just stayed calm, went up there and did my thing. And the car was perfect, porpoising on every gear change, I couldn't have asked for a better or smoother run, really."
Meanwhile, the winner's circle beckoned.
"You know, when we won that race in Norwalk I would never have thought it would take nearly three years before we were back here," Laurita admitted. "Hopefully, it won't take that long to do it again."
MONTECALVO DEDICATES XPS WIN TO LOST COMPETITOR - When Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) driver Bert Jackson was killed in a racing accident at Rockingham Dragway late in 2011, it dealt a severe blow to the close-knit, mountain-motor community that resonates to this day. So when John Montecalvo beat first-time finalist Lester Cooper in the XPS final of the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI in Jackson's home state of Virginia, he immediately dedicated the win to his fallen friend.
"You know, we visited Bert's grave on the way down here this weekend and his family and teammates, they're all here at the track, so I want to dedicate this win to Bert and to them," Montecalvo said. "I know he's riding with us on every pass--not only when we win--and I just want to honor his memory whenever we're out here racing hard like he always did. We really miss him being here a lot."
Montecalvo's march to victory began with a 4.145-seconds qualifying pass at 175.52 mph that landed him seventh in the full 16-car field. Dean Goforth led the way with a 4.068 run at 178.45 mph in his 2013 Camaro, while Cooper began the best showing of his ADRL career from the ninth position after qualifying with a 4.170 at 172.28 mph.
Other notables in the field included NHRA Pro Stock star Vincent Nobile with a sixth-place start and second-round finish as a substitute driver for Mark Martino in Larry O'Brien's Dodge, and two-time defending class champion Cary Goforth whose weekend went opposite to his father's as he never made a decent qualifying pass and started 14th before losing in the first round.
In the opening round of eliminations, Montecalvo, from Center Moriches on Long Island, made his best pass of the weekend, a 4.129 at 176.81, and needed it to defeat fellow New Yorker John Pluchino by 16-hundredths of a second at the eighth-mile stripe. He then easily handled Kevin Bealko and Elijah Morton, who both had to shut off early, before reaching Cooper in the final.
Meanwhile, Cooper had no easy path, first taking down former IHRA champion Doug Kirk, then number-one qualifier Goforth and current ADRL Extreme Pro Stock points leader John DeFlorian with a masterful handling of a loose race car to win by just three thousandths--less than a foot--in the semis.
Once there Cooper nearly matched his qualifying time with a best-of-eliminations 4.178 at 171.84 mph, but a 4.157 at 174.91, combined with an excellent .018 reaction time, was more than enough to deliver the win to "Monte," as he's known by all in the XPS pits.
"I am so happy for Lester and his guys. I have a lot of respect for them. They work hard and do a good job out here--they did a great job today--and this track was pretty tricky. It was hot and they managed to get Lester down it pretty quick every time, so my hat's off to them."
Montecalvo also revealed his 826-cubic-inch Sonny Leonard motor was "hurt a little bit" before the final, but not so much he wanted to change it out.
"We had Sonny come over and look at it and we made a team decision to stick with it," he said. "We do have a spare motor in the truck, but felt this one would make it through. Plus we had the car tuned for this one, so we really didn't want to mess with that unless we absolutely had to and fortunately it held together okay."
Montecalvo introduced a brand-new 2012 Camaro to the class early last season, but shelved it after a few races in favor of returning to the '08 Cobalt he drove to the final IHRA mountain-motor Pro Stock championship in 2009 and the ADRL Extreme Pro Stock title the next year.
"Man it seems like forever since we last won, but it's not, really. We did win last year at Memphis, but since then we've struggled so much that it just feels like a long time," he said after climbing from the car in the turnoff area at Virginia Motorsports Park.
"But this old Cobalt's remembering how to win, I think," Monte added. "And the driver's doing okay, too, I guess. They've got these young guns out here so I've got to stay on my toes just to hang with them and now we even had Vincent Nobile to deal with this weekend. We wore the old man out and now they're sending the kid after us. When they start sending grandkids, I'm gonna' have to retire!"
SMITH FINALLY WINS IN ADRL PRO EXTREME - He's won three IHRA Alcohol Funny Car championships, two Arabian Drag Racing League season titles, the 2010 NHRA Pro Mod championship and even the U.S. Nationals in 2008, but until this weekend Von Smith had never won an American Drag Racing League (ADRL) event. That changed June 9, at Virginia Motorsports Park, near Richmond, where Smith drove his Al-Anabi Racing '69 Camaro to the Pro Extreme win for the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI.
"I don't want to sound like bragging, but I've won at just about everything Howard (Moon, crew chief) and I have tried, but I was starting to wonder if it was ever going to happen over here," Smith admitted after making his quickest and fastest run of the event at 3.639 seconds and 210.08 mph to beat Joey Martin, who ran into severe tire shake with his '55 "LowMad" before coasting to a 6.543-seconds finish at just 77.16 mph in the final round.
Smith's ET and speed in the final were the best of each for the class throughout eliminations.
"The car left with the wheels up and carried them a long way out there," he recalled. "It was a pretty cool ride.
"I obviously have to thank Howard and all my guys for getting me here, but also (team owner) Sheikh Khalid for sticking with us," Smith added. "He calls me in the mornings, usually wakes me up, and he's never wavered in his support, always saying we could do it and that's meant an awful lot to me."
Smith didn't make it down the track under power in the opening round of qualifying on Saturday (June 8), but settled into the number-six slot with a 3.693 at 208.30 in the second and final session. A third scheduled round for the entire event field was scrapped due to a lengthy delay for track drying and grooming after a brief but heavy rain storm blew through early in the day.
"I feel a lot more confident in the direction we went in here," Moon said. "The first run we made I had my old stuff in it and we smoked the tires, so I changed something and it turned right back around."
In round one of racing, Smith ran 3.686 at 208.84 to outdistance a solid 3.746 run at exactly 198 mph by Gene Hector and his "Small Block Mafia" '63 Corvette. Round two saw Smith cut an excellent .013 light against defending class champ Mick Snyder before leading stripe-to-stripe with a 3.694 at 208.62 against Snyder's 3.701 at 206.10 in his Powersource Transportation '63 Vette.
That sent Smith to the semis, where he strapped a .040 holeshot on number-one qualifier and Al-Anabi teammate Alex Hossler that translated to a .024 margin of victory an eighth-of-a-mile later as Smith's 3.693 at 209.07 beat Hossler's quicker 3.677 at 206.61-mph pass.
"I was waiting for the track to cool down because during the day it was touchy out there," Moon said. "We were fortunate that Von cut a light on Alex because it spun the tires pretty hard. I had told Von that we were just going to race the track and it went another .69 there, but I'm very glad that we had lane choice for the final so we could go back to the other side (right lane)."
Martin never made a good pass in both qualifying attempts and started 13th of 14 entries. He came alive in eliminations, however, running 3.725 at 205.19 in a first-round clash with number-two qualifier Jason Scruggs, who was on and off the throttle on his way to a losing 3.955 effort at 197.13 mph. Martin next took down a traction-challenged Neal Wantye with a 3.731 at 204.70 in round two before improving to 3.716 at 205.32 in the semis against third-place qualifier Tommy D'Aprile, who suffered tire shake early in the run.
"It was a pretty uneventful week, which I guess was good for us," Smith said shortly after climbing from his car at the top end of the track. "We normally struggle a little at first, which we did, but once we got the car sorted out it was on a string and it stayed that way all weekend long. Man, I'm tickled pink; this is awesome to finally get a win here. It's been a long time coming."
HUETTEL PUTS PRO DRAG RADIAL ON THE ADRL MAP - Well, that didn't take long.
After a five-hour delay for track drying and grooming prior to the start of the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI at Virginia Motorsports Park, Kyle Huettel delivered one of the most impressive runs in ADRL history with the very first pass for Pro Drag Radial (PDR) as an official ADRL class.
Named alongside fellow drag radial driving star "Stevie Fast" Jackson as the pair to usher in the Pro Drag Radial era for the eighth-mile doorslammer series, Huettel lined up in the left lane, looking down an untested track that hadn't seen anything quicker than a quad go down it for nearly two days.
No matter, the popular racer from Cypress, TX, launched his nitrous-fed 2002 Camaro hard into a 1.083-second 60-foot time, followed by 2.872 to half-track at 330 feet before an astounding 4.280 at 175.16 mph flashed across the VMP scoreboard above his lane. Jackson, meanwhile, lost traction early and coasted to a five-second pass at barely a hundred miles per hour.
Regardless, the attention remained firmly focused on Huettel, despite his protestations. "It ain't me doing it; I just let go of the button," he insisted. "All the credit belongs to my crew, Billy (Stocklin), Jason (Michalek) and all my guys."
Still, the run, which stood up through a second round of qualifying to officially make Huettel the first number-one qualifier in Pro Drag Radial history, wasn't quite as effortless as it may have appeared from the stands.
"I told my guys before the run, 'Damn, my knees are shaking,' and they just told me to settle down, everything's gonna' be alright, but that's how excited I was," Huettel said. "I rolled up there and there was three-thousand fans off to the left of me and I just wanted to get out there and set the bar.
"But I enjoyed it. This has been a great experience. I love all the fans coming around to our pit and talking to us about the car and stuff; I love the way the ADRL has treated us; it's been a great experience all around."
MUSI GETS FIRST TOP SPORTSMAN TOP QUALIFIER - After the first round of Top Sportsman qualifying for the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI, Lizzy Musi shared the top spot with Chuck Mohn after both ran 4.132 seconds, though Musi was a tick over two miles per hour faster at 174.66 mph.
Both were in the lanes and ready for their second and final opportunity to set the field Saturday night (June 8), when ADRL officials held a hastily assembled meeting with the Top Sportsman, Top Dragster and two Jr. Dragster classes with an offer to hold the second round Sunday morning, in order to get all pro classes completed before the 11 p.m. curfew at Virginia Motorsports Park.
"I made it clear that if anyone objected we would not impose the decision on them," ADRL President Kenny Nowling said. "I do not want these guys and gals to feel like they do about some other organizations, that they're treated like second-class citizens.
"In fact, we did have one Top Dragster driver who wanted to make his second pass last night, so we let him," Nowling added. "He was the only one to make that choice, though, because most bracket racers--and I used to be one myself--would prefer to make a run closer to when they'll be racing anyway."
When Top Sportsman finally took to the track again at 10 on Sunday morning (June 9), Mohn seized sole posession of the top spot with a 4.120 pass at 174.53 mph in his '69 Camaro, but in the final pair of the session, Musi stepped up with a 4.107 at 174.89 to earn the first number-one start of her racing career. Still, she insisted her Edelbrock-backed team, which was being helped at the U.S. Drags by Kevin Bowen, crew chief for reigning ADRL Pro Nitrous champ Bob Rahaim, wasn't going after the top position.
"We did bump up the nitrous a little on that pass, but that was just to give it a little more power and smooth out the transition at the gear change," she explained. "We're bracket racing here, so it really doesn't make sense to go as fast as possible. In fact, the car has been tuned down quite a bit since last year (September) at Memphis."
Eddie Careccia of Mars Hill, NC, made the only three-second pass in Top Dragster to earn the number-one spot with a 3.974 at 186.36 mph, while in the Jr. Dragster classes which determine qualifying by reaction times, Bethany Crick was first with a perfect .000 light in Pro Jr. Dragster and Caleb Russell posted a .048 to lead in Top Jr. Dragster.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK -
FAMILIAR POSITION FOR Al-ANABI'S HOSSLER - For the third-straight race, Alex Hossler qualified number-one in Pro Extreme June 8, at the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI in Petersburg, VA. Hossler was the only driver of 14 entered in the class to reach the 3.50s on the Virginia Motorsports Park eighth mile, covering it in 3.594 seconds at 209.56 mph in the opening qualifying session with his Al-Anabi Racing '69 Camaro.
"Yeah, our qualifying average is looking pretty good so far this year," Hossler said. "Now we have to get it together for eliminations; we haven't done nearly as well there."
Hossler made only the one pass in Saturday's action after a plugged fuel nozzle during the run created a leaned-out condition "that torched the head a little" at the top end, he said. "We probably could've fixed it had we known how much time we had, but we were taking our time, just making sure everything got done right."
Regardless, Hossler did well to run so strong after crew chief Frank Manzo was kept at home by an ear infection, though he remained in touch with acting crew chief Billy Stocklin throughout the day. "Frank's doctor told him he shouldn't get on an airplane," Hossler explained. "We miss him, but Billy's got a pretty good handle on things, so I think we'll be okay."
Former back-to-back Pro Extreme champion Jason Scruggs improved his second-place showing from 3.634 in the opening session to 3.605 at a class-leading 212.43 mph in the second and final qualifying round after a third round was eliminated from the schedule when heavy rains early in the day forced a lengthy delay for track drying.
"We lost a number (one hundredth) in the 60 foot, which is why, I think, that we didn't go faster," Scruggs said. "But you never know with these things; it's such a fine line we're on."
Rounding out the top half of the 14-car field were Tommy D'Aprile, defending class champ Mick Snyder, Von Smith, John Stanley and 2009 class champ Todd Tutterow. Eliminations were scheduled to begin at noon on Sunday (June 9), with the winner between Hossler and Bubba Stanton to receive a bye in round two.
"I heard some guys were complaining, but I think the track was okay today; I mean, we went .895 to the 60 foot and ran that .59, so it couldn't have been too bad," Hossler continued. "And you saw some good runs in the other classes, too, so I think they did a pretty good job considering all the rain we had. But I sure would've liked to have had a few more runs yesterday and today. If we had made that second pass, I think we could've gone a little quicker."
LAURITA LANDS NO. 1 IN PRO NITROUS - Pro Nitrous qualifying for the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI turned into a battle between teammates June 8, as Pat Stoken briefly bumped Jim Laurita from his class-leading perch in round two.
"We're working with Reher-Morrison on a new fuel injection package and these are the two cars we're using to develop it, so it's an open-book deal where we're sharing all the information and just trying to get both cars to run as good as we can. They're almost identical," explained Brandon Switzer, crew chief for both Laurita and Stoken.
With a five-hour delay to the event's intended 11 a.m. start time after a brief, but heavy rain shower exacerbated the deluge on the track the day before, only two of three scheduled qualifying sessions were run to determine the qualifying order among 16 entries.
Laurita was quick off the mark in his Switzer Dynamics '68 Camaro, leading the field with a 3.841 at 195.53 mph after the first round was in the books, followed by Al-Anabi's Stevie Jackson and Stoken, who both ran 3.880, but Jackson ran about three-quarters of a mile an hour faster to get the nod at 192.66 mph.
In round two, Stoken stepped up with a 3.806 at 196.85 to assume the lead, but Laurita responded immediately in the next pair out with an excellent 3.771 pass at a class-leading 198.90 mph. Meanwhile, John Hall improved his position from fourth to third with a 3.850 at 195.65, while Jackson also dropped a hundredth to 3.870 at 193.71, but dropped a position to fourth place.
"It's all coming together; the gains we're making as far as the performance and the development goes, we're all real happy with," Switzer said. "It's actually coming together even a little bit better than what we planned."
A TALE OF TWO GOFORTHS - It was the best of times; it was (almost) the worst of times. So went qualifying for the two-car Goforth Racing Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) team at the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI in Petersburg, VA.
Dean Goforth, in the brand-new Jerry Haas-built 2013 Camaro he drove to victory just three weeks earlier in the XDRL race at Belle Rose, LA, continued his success with a pole-sitting 4.068 run at 178.45 mph, while his son, Cary, the two-time defending ADRL class champion, ended up mired 14th of 16 entries after mustering a best of only 5.799 at not even a hundred miles per hour in his 2010 Pontiac GXP.
With just two rounds available to set the qualifying order after a lengthy track grooming delay cost the entire ADRL a third planned session, Goforth Sr. opened with a solid 4.123 that placed him third behind first-round leader Scott Hintz (4.108/177.18) and Trevor Eman (4.114/175.91), winner of the previous ADRL event in Cordova, IL. His son, however, started with a tire-shaking six-second pass and repeated the experience in round two.
"I don't know what I did to get it right, but I did it, so I guess that's good," Dean Goforth said later. "The more important thing right now is that we get Cary's car figured out for tomorrow."
Running alongside D. Goforth in round two, Pete Berner stepped up from 12th to second place with a 4.096 pass at 175.78 in his Summit Racing '13 Camaro. Elijah Morton also made a big gain from 8th to third at 4.101/176.37, while Hintz slotted into fourth based on his first-round performance, and for Eman it was the same for fifth.
NOBILE NAILS IT IN XPS QUALIFYING - Prior to the start of the ADRL Simply Phones U.S. Drags VI, John Nobile joked that he and Bear's Performance team owner Larry O'Brien would be hoping his son, NHRA Pro Stock star Vincent Nobile, would make the old guys look good as Vince made his Extreme Pro Stock debut at Virginia Motorsports Park.
The 21-year-old delivered in only his second run down the track in one of the mountain-motored cars.
Nobile's first pass as a guest driver in O'Brien's 825 c.i Hemi-powered 2010 Avenger resulted in the six-time NHRA winner crossing the center line from left to right just ahead of Brad Waddle, who fortunately had shut down early with tire shake off the line in the debut of his brand-new 2013 Mustang.
"I felt the car move right as soon as it got going, so I did what I'd normally do in my NHRA car and grabbed second gear to settle it down, but this thing had so much torque and power that it just took off on me," Nobile recalled. "It's so different from the 500-inch (NHRA) cars; it just sets you back in the seat and keeps pulling. You can really feel the speed; it's probably going eight or nine miles an hour faster at the eighth mile."
Lined up in the right lane for round two alongside Hintz, Nobile again went to the right off the start, but this time he was ready for it and manhandled the Dodge away from the wall and stayed with it to post a 4.115 at 173.87 that placed him sixth and set up a match against class veteran Richard Penland in round one of racing.
"I actually shut it off a little early on that run," Nobile said. "It's too bad we lost (testing) yesterday to all that rain because we could've sorted all this out, but I think I'm starting to get a handle on it. Hopefully we can go a few rounds tomorrow because this sure is fun."
O'BRIEN AND NOBILE LEAN ON EACH OTHER - When his brother and crew chief, Wayne, decided to retire after 27 years of racing together, Larry O'Brien remained determined to keep O'Brien Brothers Racing going as the only Mopar-based team on the ADRL Extreme Pro Stock (XPS) tour. So, more often than not, it's become a one-man show as O'Brien soldiers on.
"I decided to get out of the seat and do the crew chief job and I've been enjoying it immensely," said O'Brien, 59, who owns and operates Bear's Performance, a manufacturer of high-performance chassis, suspension and driveline components in Oldcastle, Ontario.
"I load the truck, I do the driving, I put the awning up, whatever it takes. I don't care; whatever it takes to keep it going that's what I'm gonna' do," said O'Brien after making the 12-hour solo drive to this weekend's ADRL event at Petersburg, Virginia. "Heck, that's just a stone's throw," he added. "It's those drives to Houston that hurt when you're by yourself."
So when at the last moment driver Mark Martino opted out of joining O'Brien for the trip to Virginia, the determined Canadian barely skipped a beat. On the advice of a fellow XPS competitor he reached out to Vincent Nobile, currently sixth in NHRA Pro Stock points in his Mountain View Tires 2013 Dodge Avenger.
"I decided to come by myself and feel very fortunate that there was enough on the table that the Nobiles were interested and I jumped on it," said O'Brien, who personally developed and built the unique 825-cubic-inch Hemi engine in his 2010 Avenger. "To have a young man like Vincent here with his expertise to get behind the wheel is a real honor. So, we've just come here to see what we can do and have some fun."
Nobile said he jumped at the chance, as it came on a rare off weekend from his full-time NHRA duties and offered the bonus of keeping him in a Mopar.
"I like driving for Dodge; they take good care of me over there and hopefully we can represent them well as a team over here, too. It's just the three of us--Larry, my dad, and me--but we're going to do our very best to make everyone proud," he said.
"Actually, we're hoping that Vincent makes us look good," his father, John, quickly interjected with a laugh.
"I got the call Wednesday night from my dad, asking if I could drive the car this weekend, so it was a last-second deal," added Nobile, who quite literally grew up at O'Brien's feet. "Since I was in diapers I was around guys like Larry because of my dad racing with them for years in IHRA. I know all those guys personally a lot better than I know the guys over in NHRA."
Still, despite his inbred familiarity with the cars and drivers of the Extreme Pro Stock class, Nobile has never before let out the clutch on one of these mountain-motored monsters. The 21-year old said he feels more than ready to change that this weekend behind the wheel of O'Brien's ride.
"I've always wanted to drive one of these cars, always heard they're pretty badass, so I'm thankful to Larry for the opportunity," Nobile said. "All I've ever driven before has been the 500-inch (NHRA Pro Stock) cars, so this is something a little different. It'll broaden my horizons a little bit, so we'll see how it goes and what happens. I know it's going to take a little getting used to, but I'm feeling pretty confident with the support of Larry and my dad behind me."
Unfortunately, heavy rain on Friday washed out the ADRL's scheduled test session at Virginia Motorsports Park and dealt a setback to Nobile's early adaptation, but did nothing to dampen his enthusiasm or confidence.
"I definitely would've liked to work out the kinks today before we have to go qualifying, but like I said, with the help of Larry and my dad from their experience at driving these cars, I think they'll give me a lot of good input and I think I'll know exactly what to do once I get out there," he said.
"We'll be okay; the first step is to qualify; make a nice hit and then go from there."