WALLY WEEKEND FOR NATIONAL DRAGSTER CHALLENGE
Many years back NHRA used to call their national event trophies “Oscars”, which eventually they had to change under threat of a lawsuit. So, the handsome award got a name change to “Wally” after the founder of the organization, Wally Parks. Now, every year, the NHRA in-house news organ sponsors an annual event at each sanctioned track known as the National Dragster Challenge, and the coveted Wally is the prize handed out to those lucky enough to win their bracket on that date. This weekend, as part of the 55th anniversary of Island Dragway, bracket winners received not only the payout but a Wally for their winning ways. And this trophy brings out the best in racers, who try their best to be able to put one on their shelf.
The winners in Super Pro and Pro were both tightly associated with the Atlantic Scale Company as both Donny Algieri and Jim Young “weighed” in with their best performances of the season. Algieri, son of company owner and longtime racer Joe Algieri, has struggled with trying to get his RED to bite from the starting line. He finally figured out the problem and while he did lose in the first round, after buying back into the bracket punched out the field to pick up his first title of the year, and his first Wally award to boot. By fate alone Algieri lost in the opening round to Danny Collins and his altered, then faced off with him again in the second round and sent him to the trailer. The dragster advanced from the quarter finals on a solo and took on the ever tough Rich Wilk in a semifinal match. Wilk had disposed of Jean Ann Zetterberg in the QF but was un
able to stop Algieri as a .005 light and 6.18. 165 sent him on over a losing 6.27, 161. Rich Williams and his Chevelle bested Robbie Boyd to pair off with Bryan Mirsky to see who would occupy the other side of the ladder in the final. Mirsky had taken out Randy Wendtland to earn his shot. Williams clocked a 7.82 at 129 to show Mirsky the exit with a ticket of 8.40, 110.84. Algieri sealed the deal in fine style as he gave up a head start of over a second and a half to Williams, then cut a .003 RT and an on the number 6.17, 164.41for the victory. Second place was Williams’ via his 7.84 at 127.58 mph.
Jim Young is noted as one of the best racers in the Pro division, and an employee of Atlantic Scale. He showed how he earned his reputation by marching through the early rounds of the bracket and being on the ladder for a bye run in the quarters. Steve Gillan was hanging tough and gunned down Craig Sonderfan for a QF win, 10.27, 130 for the Monza to the Chevelle’s red lighting 9.79. Frank Maffiore Jr bested Ed Taynor Jr, 11.35 versus an 11.29 pass. And Joe Dukin put his S-10 truck into the final four when he took the measure of Carl Milano on a 9.14, 143 to a 10.87, 103.83. Young and Gillan had a tight semi race where both cars dipped under the dial, and Young emerged for a 10.79 to 10.25 win as he ran out by a smaller amount. Dukin then secured a final spot when Maffiore went red. The finalists were close in reaction time in the deciding race but Young took a slim advantage and a slightly under the dial 10.757 at 123.89 mph to put on the win light. Dukin gave it a great effort but the truck hit a further under 9.076 and 139.30 to just miss the mark.
Any time you talk about Street eliminator you have to think that Bill Hakucsa is the odds on favorite, but not a lock in this tough bracket. He almost pulled off another hat trick but was stopped in the final by Bob Gay and his Corvette. Gay knocked out Doug Eberhart and Sean Conway took out Bill Doczi in the QF as Hakucsa bumped Jon Jordan into a loss. Gay and Conway had at each other in the semifinal where they were door to door all the way to the top end, and a run out math session selected Gay the winner, 12.34, 110.06 on a break out to a 12.64, 105.37 that reflected a bigger run under by Conway. After Hakucsa ran alone, he staged against Gay and Gay caught the better launch then stayed in the pedal to win on a slip of 12.35 at 110.04. Runner-up numbers for Hakucsa were 11.65 and 122.70.
Prior to this event Don Hookway had been in only two finals rounds of Bike this season, and he lost both of them. But when it counts and there is a Wally on the line, everybody brings their A game to the show. Hookway won over Artem Romaliysky in the QF while Joe DiPiazza was handling Barry Stephens and Scott McGrath took care of Ken George. DiPiazza ran unopposed in the semis and Hookway edged out McGrath for his chance at the title. Hookway picked up 4 hundredths on the start and almost gave the race away when he ran under the number at 9.44, 143.49, until a glance at the time in DiPiazza’s lane reflected a larger break out number of 8.64 and 142.51 mph. What can be better than your first victory at the most crucial time?
John Crowley took the Trophy class when Ted Covalence fouled out in his T-bucket while turning in a right on 10.84, 122.18. Crowley nailed the title with a 12.67, 104.47 in his Nova.
Dave Hebig beat Troy Lippincott for the Consolation One honors and Rob Zetterberg was the best of Consolation Two when he dashed past Pat Campomizzi. Hebig’s BBC dragster went 6.23 at 165.13 while overtaking the SBC entry of Lippincott who broke out at 7.37 and 138.29., Zetterberg hit the tree better and pushed his Monte Carlo to the win with a 9.83, 126.32 that left Campomizzi’s Dodge a bit short with a 13.24, 100.97.
So the annual Challenge race is in the books, along with the celebration of fifty five years of drag racing in Great Meadows. On behalf of the management and staff of Island Dragway, we appreciate your patronage and hope to see much more of you for many years to come. Thanks for all the memories over all these years. We are happy to have you as part of the family.