As Bobby Lagana Jr. launched his potent Top Fuel Dragster down the ∂-mile drag strip at Elegant Builders Raceway Park in Lancaster on Friday, it took just one look at his rear wing to realize who Lagana has dedicated his drag racing efforts to over the past few months.
Inscribed on the wing were the words, “We miss you Dad.” Lagana’s father, the drag racing veteran Bobby Lagana Sr., died last year and his son has been bringing a remembrance of his father to the drag racing public ever since. Lagana Jr. made his dad proud as he beat Bruce Litton in two match races and just missed setting a new EBRP Top Fuel elapsed time record in the process.
“My dad died last September,” said Lagana Jr. “It was very sudden. He had a heart attack. He loved this drag racing. He loved coming up here and us coming up here.
“I know my dad would have approved of the effort we gave tonight. What mattered most to my dad was putting on a show for the fans. I sure hope they think that we did that tonight.
“Everybody that’s lost someone they love, they always miss them but being at the track without him is tough. He was 72 but young at heart.”
In his first victory Friday, Lagana posted a run of 3.72 seconds. He stepped it up in the second run, hitting 3.57 seconds at 201.65 miles per hour. Litton did have two great side-by-side runs with Lagana despite not winning. Litton’s times were 3.81 at 142.41 in the first race and 3.55 at 171.80 in the second pass. Both drivers’ elapsed times in the second race were just a tick off the all-time EBRP Top Fuel record of 3.46, set by the legendary Shirley Muldowney in 1995.
“After the first race we took some of the ignition timing out to calm the drive shaft down and it worked but I hit a bump out there and the car actually got in the air a little bit on the second run,” Lagana said. “Otherwise I was going to drive a little further to try to get the record. We were close. It was still a great side-by-side run and the fans loved it.
“We were here the last two years and the notes we had in our notebook worked and it was right on. It’s just that one of the problems that we have is that the car progresses and sometimes gets some better parts on it and you have to learn how to tame it down some.”
Litton was happy with the night’s proceedings. “I was just a tick off the track record but it’s one of those things where it’s dark and it was foggy for me. It was fogging up in the car so I shut it off a tad early but I’m happy because it was one heck of a show. Perhaps the best ever here for Bobby and me. It was for the fans.”
Litton’s crew also made some adjustments to their dragster between the pair of races that made a positive difference.
“We actually backed down the car a little bit,” Litton said. “There’s a saying – less is better. We looked at our notes and records on this place earlier today. Notes are great but everything can be different from race to race.”
Also racing during Friday’s annual “Nitro Night of Fire” program at EBRP was pairs of Pro Modifieds and Alcohol Funny Cars. In the Pro Modified class, Gary Grahner beat Jack Grainy in three runs. In the Alcohol Funny Car competition, Chris Zgoda bested Vince Rastelli in both runs. The Nostalgia Nitro Funny Car of Rick Kopp was also on hand but side slapped the wall hard. Kopp was not hurt.
EBRP’s weekly IHRA drag racing classes were also in competition Friday and a very special moment occurred when veteran Dick Siepel, in his Corvette named “Blind Faith,” was able to win the Top ET final. It was his first drag race triumph at EBRP in the last 20 years. The win was even more special because Siepel’s night was almost over in the first round.
As Siepel staged the car at the starting line, leakage was spotted and he had to be backed out of the lanes without racing. He was able to re-enter competition in the buy-back round and went all the way to the final, defeating Wayne Cleveland.
“I blew a radiator cap and it started watering down the track,” said Siepel. “We fixed it. I got a great crew. We’re a bunch of old guys like myself. We got out there again and did our thing with good old ‘Blind Faith.’ That’s really blind faith when you build your own cars. We built it in 1994 and brought it out in 1996 for the first time.”
In other class races Friday, Billy Leber defeated Ken Staschak in Quick 16; Mark Przybylski bested Dan Posluszny in Street. Mike Peters beat Mike Nearhoof in Bikes and Reid Ricketson downed his brother-in-law, Dale Eckert, in Mod ET.
• The International Motor Racing Research Center at Watkins Glen will host another of its Conversation Series talks this coming Saturday at the center. Noted race promoter, motorsports attorney and team owner Cary Agajanian will make an appearance at the 1 p.m. event. Admission is free. Among his many career accomplishments, Agajanian is the co-owner of the Bryan Herta Autosport Indy Car Series team that won the 2011 Indianapolis 500 with the late Dan Wheldon driving. The center is located at 610 S. Decatur St. in Watkins Glen.
• Jeff Brown has won two consecutive NASCAR Pro Modified races at Holland Motorsports Complex. Tyler McPherson claimed his first DIRT.car 358 Modified victory Saturday at Merrittville Speedway. His brother, Cody McPherson, won the DIRT.car Sportsman event Saturday. Retired DIRT.car 358 Modified/Late Model driver “Flyin’” Brian Stevens and 1970s Late Model/Modified standout Carl Game were inducted into Merrittville’s Wall of Fame on Saturday.