When we ’ re kids , the idea of death is often a far-off concept we give little thought to , but as the years pass , and life becomes ever more precious as we ’ re surrounded by family and friends , our realities change . As much as we might try to deny it , we know that everyone ’ s days are numbered , so we strive to make each one of those days more meaningful , more fulfilling . That was my friend – no , our friend , John DiBartolomeo .
Born July 21 , 1953 , John was a “ Joisey ” boy through his formative years and remained a Jerseyite through the early years of his marriage to the former Dottie Hadrava . For the last 19 years , John , Dottie and their children , Franklin and Christina , lived in Beaver Springs , Pennsylvania , literally a stone ’ s throw from the dragstrip that originally bore the town ’ s name . Franklin and his wife , Jenny , and son , Evan , now reside in Huntersville , North Carolina .
John D , for that was the name he was known by among his hundreds of friends , was a multi-faceted individual possessing an astonishing number of highly polished skills . He could take a solid block of aluminum and form it into a practical piece of racing hardware in the morning so it could be added to the constantly growing list of products marketed under the DRC Race Products banner , and still have time for more .
He had choices . He could sit down at his computer and compose an easily understood yet highly technical article for one of the numerous enthusiast publications that prized his contributions , or he might roll up his sleeves and start working on one of the race cars that crowded his shop . But whatever task he decided to take on there were the interruptions he couldn ’ t avoid – the more or less constant dings announcing the arrival of yet another email , the texts overflowing his phone and , of course , the non-stop ringing of his phone .
Everyone wanted a piece of John DiBartolomeo , from customers to fellow journalists to racers and racing officials , and the reasons were obvious to all of us who knew and loved him – he
John DiBartolomeo 1953 – 2022
By Jon Asher
was there for us . As cliched as that might sound , John could easily switch from being an aftermarket manufacturer advising a potential customer about a product to a writer helping someone else compose a story . If that wasn ’ t enough he ’ d still have time to discuss proposed rules changes with another Sportsman racer , and when that racing official called , John was always ready with succinct suggestions that probably should have been adopted wholesale .
If ever there was a misnomer it ’ s calling a successful drag racer like John D a “ Sportsman .” It is , in some respects , somewhat dismissive , for anyone who follows the endeavor knows that winning a points race , much less an NHRA national event , takes more work , diligence and effort than anyone sitting in the grandstands can ever truly understand . John D won seven of those national events , a record this writer can ’ t fully fathom . Ironically , most of the races John won came on rainout Mondays , when the grandstands were empty and the media had long since disappeared . I ’ d tease John , saying I knew he was fabricating his victory story because no one had actually seen it happen . Then he ’ d email me a photo of he and Dottie holding the trophy .
John and I worked together at Drag Racing Action Magazine , with me being the editor and John being the all-important tech writer . Without his contributions the magazine wouldn ’ t have been as good as his contributions made it . His connections with the aftermarket industry meant that we had the latest information on the hottest new stuff . Of course , John had to explain everything to me because my technical expertise was limited to being usually able to distinguish a race car from a school bus .
Then there was The Conversation that every drag racer has had , continues to have , and will continue to have long into the future . The Conversation . That ’ s when two or more individuals start offering their personal plans for the salvation of drag racing . Even after John began his battle against cancer in late 2021 , our phone calls would begin with an update on his condition and inevitably devolve into something else . More than once he ’ d interrupt to say , “ Wait . Are we having The Conversation ?” Not surprisingly , however , each and every time we talked John would bring up his family , everything from how things were going with Dottie ’ s job , Franklin ’ s new child and even Christina ’ s televised cornhole competitions . Family meant everything to John .
When John replaced me as editor of the magazine , he later told me that he thought it would change our relationship in a negative way . It actually accomplished the opposite . When I was still covering the races , John was the first person I sought out at the track because our conversations were always informative , educational and , most of all , pure fun . I will be but one of hundreds who will miss John in the coming days and years . All of us are better off for having known him .
Details regarding a memorial service for John in Pennsylvania will be announced shortly . DI
PHOTOGRAPHS BY PHIL HUTCHISON
44 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 176