Bobby Lagana Jr., is making the trek from Edmonton, Alberta, all the way to Elegant Builders Raceway Park in Lancaster, and he’s enjoying the long drive much better due to a very special trophy that is aboard his large transporter that houses his potent Top Fuel dragster.
Lagana emerged victorious this past weekend in the Top Fuel eliminations of the International Hot Rod Association’s (IHRA) Mopar Rocky Mountain Nitro Jam Nationals in Edmonton.
During the journey from midwestern Canada to Lancaster, Lagana was to stop off at his team’s race shop in Norwalk, Ohio, to load up with more parts mostly clutch related. After a visit with close friends today in nearby LeRoy, he will head to Lancaster for Friday night’s “Nitro Night of Fire” match race event against fellow Top Fuel veteran Bruce Litton.
Eventually the winning Edmonton trophy will find its way to Lagana’s hometown of Scarsdale, where he will present it to his father, Bobby Lagana Sr.
“My dad had a heart attack about three and a half weeks ago and was in the hospital almost all that time,” said the 35-year-old Lagana. “Then he came home but shortly after had to go back into the hospital due to some complications. He is still there and I can’t see him right now because being on the road during this busy time of the year doing Top Fuel match racing is my job. When I get home, this trophy is for him. For now the trophy is with me keeping me company.”
When Lagana match raced Litton a year ago in Lancaster, a most bizarre incident took place in the second of two scheduled runs that evening. Usually after a Top Fuel team makes a run, they have to go back to their pit area and tear down and rebuild most of the engine, clutch and drive train components. They never attempt to fix a car on track –that is until last year’s Lancaster race.
“Bruce had his car break on the burnout with a rear coupler problem,” recalled Lagana. “So I staged my dragster and took off when the light went green. I got about 100 feet down the one-eighth mile strip at Lancaster and my throttle cable broke and I coasted down the rest of the track.
“I got backed up to the starting line area and Bruce and I sat there broken. We both felt like we let the fans down. So we decided to get our pit crews out to the starting line and fix both our cars problems right there and make another attempt at the run. No one had ever seen this done in Top Fuel drag racing before. It was truly bizarre.”
Both teams repaired there cars, and about 30 minutes later they completed their second runs much to the delight of the crowd.
“I remember when we were trying so hard to fix our cars, Ralph came up to us and said you really don’t have to do this if you don’t want to but Bruce and I wanted to do it for the fans,” said Lagana of the conversation with EBRP promoter Ralph Galluzzi.
“It was a bit risky because these cars are designed for one launch off the starting line and they are not designed to launch twice off the line without going back to the pits for a complete rebuild,” he said. “But there was no time other then the quick repair we needed. When I hit the throttle a second time it went okay.
“It’s funny but there were a lot of people in the drag racing world who were not at the track that night that heard about our unusual race and at first they thought it was a phony story. When I assured them it happened they couldn’t believe it.”
Earlier in the evening last year at Lancaster in the first match race run, Lagana made a clean pass hitting 210 miles per hour in 3.48 seconds just missing the Lancaster Top Fuel record of 3.46 at 215. He is seeking to break the record Friday.
“I think we’ll try for the record this year without all the unusual drama,” he said.
Friday’s event at Lancaster will also feature wheel standers, Funny Cars and Pro Mods.
• John Nelson was slightly injured last Saturday at Holland Motorsports Complex during the Race of Champions Modified Series Holland 100 when the Modifieds of Patrick Emerling and Andy Jankowiak were involved in a two car accident on the last lap that launched Emerling’s car into the catch fence and starters stand that was manned by ROC chief starter Nelson and assistant flagman Steve Kellogg. During the incident, Kellogg grabbed onto Nelson and prevented him from falling out of the stand.
This week, Nelson released a statement on the incident.
“I’m good, sore with bumps and bruises along with five stitches in my left arm. But, truly thankful my guardian angels were both above and along side me. Steve Kellogg gets ‘The ESPN Play of the Day’ for that catch of my right arm so I didn’t hit the track.
“A sincere thank you and admiration for the EMT’s that immediately were on the stand with us and the Holland Fire Department and ambulance services. Those guys were outstanding and I’m lucky they were there to respond and transport.
“Nobody did anything wrong and accidents happen. I’d be more disappointed if either driver wasn’t going for the position while coming to the checkers. Thanks again for all you thoughts, prayers, text, etc. Hope to see you all soon back at the track.”
• Phil Vigneri Jr., of Elba, claimed his first career Ransomville Speedway 358 Modified feature race victory on July 2.
“It’s been 10 years of racing Modifieds since my Sportsman days and they say it takes about 100 races to get your stuff together and I believe it,” said Vigneri Jr. “We needed the win. It was long overdue. We earned it. This is a tough game. It’s tougher than people think. It’s a lot tougher than my Sportsman days. I’m going to enjoy it.”