THE YEAR THAT WAS 2019
So yet another racing season has come and gone, seemingly in the blink of an eye. Years ago someone answered a question about the passage of time with the response; the days are long but the months are short. And that seems appropriate to how quickly this past year has gone into history. Now may be a good time to review those long days and short months.
Coming off one of the most challenging seasons in track history in 2018, 2019 dawned with serious hope of something better, anything better. And the promise of that improvement played out. It all began with the declaration of Melissa and Carl being named Persons of the Year in Division One, an award well deserved. Weather was far less severe this Spring and was nowhere near the factor it had been before. And with good weather came good racing, and lots of it.
The points battles were intense practically from start to finish with a few exceptions. Early in the year Andrew Bracuto ran away with the Super Prop tallies on his way to what would eventually be a repeat of the top seed for the finals. But he was pushed by Robbie Boyd and Richie Williams, who both stayed in the hunt right up until the final race or two in their quest to knock off the defending champ. Mike Franek ran up big totals in Pro that neither Rob Zetterberg nor Tanner Kootsares could overcome. Bill Hakucsa once again was top dog in Sportsman although Russ Picone led the way for most of the year and Gary Coleman provided another threat to the seemingly perennial bracket winner. And Barry Stephens also returned to his wining habits in Bike, holding off last year’s D1 champ Don Hookway and last year’s track champ Chris Miele. Russ Picone edged out Jerry Schloomer for the Friday Night Gamblers honors. And the youngsters had a fantastic year as Alexis Sanseverino inched past sibling Shawn for Jr. Dragster by less than two rounds of racing. And John Hedenburg won the season long battle with Jaina Embley in Jr. Street on the final day of points.
The facility got a few more improvements as well. After last year getting the septic issue resolved and opening the concession stand, this year saw a new and improved way to get across the canal into the paved pit area, something that didn’t look like it might be featured on engineering disasters. Along with that, long awaited paving was done in areas of the pits and staging lanes making for a smoother surface throughout. The new welcoming sign at the entrance gate tells the story in few words, welcome to historic Island Dragway, still making memories.
Along with many successful special races, from the Nostalgia events to the anniversary funny car program and Top Sortsman events, racers and fans alike could find something to enjoy each event day.
Unfortunately, with all the good, there were also some bad things that came along. Early in the year we heard of the passing of former track photographer and friend Frank Maffucci in March. And then in May, we lost a long time employee to ill health when Bob Kopak passed away. And late in the year we heard of the death of Funny Car owner Rocky Roxlau, whose Time Bomb Vega set track records and tons of memories at the track over the years. In racing, as in life, people come and go over time, but our memories keep them forever alive in our minds and hearts.
And so we lower the curtain on another season, looking back on what has been and forward to what is to come. We are anxious to the 60th anniversary season for Island Dragway with wild anticipation. When anything can last through six decades, a dozen presidents, gas shortages, terror attacks and all the other things that impact our lives, just staying in existence is a major feat of endurance. And to do so with the support of the greatest racers and fans in the sport of drag racing makes it all the more rewarding.
So, from the entire Island Dragway family, the management and all the staff, thank you all so much for your continued support last year and for all the years. We hope you enjoy racing with us as much as we enjoy having you here. And we hope we can earn your continued support as we begin anew in 2020.
Meantime, have a safe and happy holiday season, and a prosperous new year. We can’t wait to renew the call to report for staging.