SPORTSMAN RACER OF THE YEAR |||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||||
PETE D ’ AGNOLO that
For freshly crowned Super Stock champion Pete D ’ Agnolo , there was no big secret to putting together one of the most dramatic and successful championship runs in NHRA ’ s 2022 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series .
“ Luck had a lot to do with it ,” says D ’ Agnolo . “ It was ‘ right place right time ’ for the most part ; when I made a mistake , the car bailed me out – and vice versa .”
But reason would tell you that D ’ Agnolo – a 36-year-old who first began racing at the age of 17 – needed more than luck to battle a competitor like Greg Stanfield for the title . Stanfield , the defending and five-time world champ , looked stellar early with three wins and a runner-up on his scorecard by late May .
D ’ Agnolo wasn ’ t exactly taking it slow with a win at the NHRA east coast opener in Gainesville , followed by back-to-back semifinals finishes in Reading and Norwalk . Another trip to the semis – this time at Atco Raceway in New Jersey – was a big nudge .
“ We had a bunch of decent finishes , and a couple good friends were like , ‘ You need to pursue this .’ I made a deal with them that if I did really well at Indy , we would ,” says D ’ Agnolo , who , in fact , claimed victory in seven rounds to earn his first coveted U . S . Nationals title . “ Without that , we would not have continued ,” he affirms .
A runner-up at the Carolina Nationals immediately followed , and then D ’ Agnolo was a finalist at the St . Louis divisional in a season that was becoming increasingly intense .
That intensity reached max-level a long way from home . With the help of friend and fellow racer Frank Affronti , D ’ Agnolo and his 1967 Chevrolet Camaro ventured west to Las Vegas to see if their luck could continue . Through three rounds , D ’ Agnolo was charging and strong , but the same was true for Stanfield on the other side of the ladder . Ultimately , they lined up side-byside in the quarterfinals .
“ In my opinion , that race was going to decide the championship ,” says D ’ Agnolo , who initially thought he would have a slight advantage as the round was scheduled to be run under the lights . A shift in the schedule , though , pushed it to the following day .
“ During the day , [ Stanfield ] is really , really good ,” says D ’ Agnolo . “ When we didn ’ t get to run night , it was a huge disappointment , then I had to sleep on it until morning . I wouldn ’ t say it was stressful , but I was anxious .”
It was a blow when D ’ Agnolo lost a double-breakout , and although the round gave Stanfield the points lead , it did not decide the championship .
The following weekend in Las Vegas , D ’ Agnolo closed out his 2022 scorecard in the quarterfinals finish that moved his final tally into a realm few ever see . His final score was 699 points , but Stanfield wasn ’ t done . If he reached the semifinals at the NHRA Finals – a race D ’ Agnolo could not attend – Stanfield would be champion .
Fortune fell on D ’ Agnolo ’ s side , as Stanfield exited in the quarters with a final score of 691 . D ’ Agnolo was the 2022 Super Stock world champion .
“ It was a dream season , and we were so fortunate the car ran flawless ,” says D ’ Agnolo , who also picked up a $ 30,000 win at the Summer Fling in Columbus just days after his U . S . Nationals victory . “ My dad raced this car forever , and this means the world to him . We do this as a family , so it was really special .
“ I didn ’ t get to congratulate Greg Stanfield on what a season he had . I have all the respect for him , and he deserves recognition . What he did was incredible – I was just fortunate enough to beat him .” – KELLY WADE DI
PHOTO : CHRIS SIMMONS
NOMINEES : JIMMY HIDALGO JR . / JOE ROUBICEK / GAGE BURCH / BO BUTNER / MATT DADAS
102 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 180