Local auto racing: Fagnilli enters Summit Nationals with momentum

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Had Tony Fagnilli known that all he needed to do to win a NHRA national event was to buy a new car, he would have done it years ago.

Fagnilli goes into to the NHRA Summit Nationals this weekend in Norwalk, Ohio, with a head of steam after an impressive win June 15 at the NHRA Thunder Nationals in Bristol, Tenn., beating defending race winner, racing rival and friend, Macro Abruzzi.

The 50 year-old auto repair shop operator from Kennedy Township raced a 1997 Firebird for years. Inconsistency plagued Fagnilli, though, so he went to an eye doctor thinking there was something wrong with his vision.

"It's pretty gratifying to get a new car over the winter, spend 10 weeks getting it ready and realize it was the car that was worn out and that my vision was fine," he said.

Fagnilli is returning to his favorite NHRA track on a mission with a car that was voted Best Engineered by NHRA at Bristol.

"From the [Bader family, who oversees operation,] to the staff, everyone at Norwalk is so nice," he said. "It's just a great place to race and all the racers in this class are guys I've raced with in IHRA, so its like a reunion.

"Everyone wants to win at Norwalk, especially the Top Sportsman and Top Dragster guys. It's so hard to win there."

Before Bristol, Fagnilli was coming off of an impressive showing at the Lucas Oil divisional race at Indianapolis with his 2011 Pontiac GXP where he won three rounds of racing when the race was postponed until the next day.

"I tried to convince the director to continue the race at the next divisional event, but that didn't happen so we had to pack up and return home since we all had to work the next day." Fagnilli said.

At Bristol, he was going rounds with little to no problems en route to his second national event win. (His first was at the 2003 IHRA World Finals.)

"We changed one spark plug the entire weekend," he said.

In the final at Bristol, Fagnilli defeated Abruzzi by the narrowest of margins, .005 seconds or about 18 inches.

"I got lucky that I didn't give the race to Marco," Fagnilli said. "I got off the gas just prior to the finish line and thought, I am not close enough to the finish line, so I got back on the gas."

The Summit Nationals at Norwalk always attract competitors and fans from Western Pennsylvania.

At least 10 local racers have entered at Norwalk according to NHRA, including three drivers in Top Alcohol Dragster: Mike Kosky, from Cuddy; Brandon Greco from Roscoe; and Mia Tedesco, of Murrysville, who will be making her third NHRA national event appearance of the season in the A/Fuel Dragster, which is owned by the Hirata family from Lowell, Ind.


Lernerville Speedway has a special July 4th event featuring the BOSS Outlaw Wingless Sprint Cars along with the RUSH Dirt Late Model Series. Brandon Spithaler, from Evans City, is third in points in the BOSS series. Spithaler is the defending sprint car champion at Lernerville. Lernerville Hall of Famer Johnny Beaber will return as a driver with the BOSS Series. ... Motordrome Speedway, the NASCAR weekly racing series oval in Smithton, Westmoreland County, will have a 25-lap event for Chargers today along with fireworks. ... Pittsburgh's PA Motor Speedway will be back in action Saturday with an on-track autograph session. The green flag drops at 7 p.m. Saturday. Danny Holtgraver, fresh off Ohio Sprint Car Speedweek picked up the victory last week at PPMS. ... Pittsburgh Raceway Park in New Alexandria will be back in action Saturday with racing in all classes. ... The National Dirt Racing League has ceased operations.

DJ Johnson: DJ1360rpm@aol.com.

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