HAMILTON, Ohio – If there ever was a definition of the ‘working man’ or ‘little guy’ in the NHRA Top Alcohol Funny Car ranks, veteran racer Tony Bogolo would certainly fit the bill. While he experienced success on the IHRA circuit with a roots supercharger, Bogolo has made a steady ascension up the NHRA ranks since switching to a screw supercharger in 2012. After battling it out with former two-time Champ Chris Foster much of the year, Bogolo clinched his first championship in style with a win at the NHRA North Central Lucas Oil Regional Series finale at Gateway Motorsports Park just outside of St. Louis, Oct. 20-21.
Bogolo, who manufactures racing safety equipment with his company RamJet Racing Products in Hamilton, Ohio, didn’t make the decision to attend the St. Louis event until the last minute. Inclement weather pushed the schedule a day sooner than normal, putting the small volunteer team behind the proverbial eight ball from the start.
“We finally decided to go at the last minute,” said Bogolo. “We didn’t leave Ohio until 6:30 Friday morning. Then we found out they had moved both qualifying sessions to Friday. Luckily we had the car ready to go in the trailer, but we didn’t have very much time to get ready to run once we got there. Once we got to the track we found out they didn’t have any methanol fuel for sale, so we had to get some from Foster just to be able to run.”
“We had some ignition problems at our last few races, so I just bypassed all the retard boxes and ran it straight on the mag,” Bogolo continued. “I wasn’t able to use the six shooter like we normally do, so I just put a tune up I thought would go down the track. I was really surprised it ran a 5.56 (elapsed time) right out of the trailer like that. I figured it was going to run a .66 or so.”
Staying true to his form as a budget racer, Bogolo sat out the final qualifying session and ended up in the 4th position. In the first round, he defeated Phil Esz with a 5.63 at 257.83 mph, setting up the penultimate round for the championship in the semifinals. The scenario was clear, if he defeated number one qualifier Kirk Williams, he would be the Champ. If he lost, Foster would be the Champ. Williams was up in smoke early and Bogolo streaked away to the round win and championship with a 5.63 at 256.94 mph. With nothing to lose in the final, he squared off with No. 3 qualifier Ray Drew. Drew experienced tire shake while Bogolo stayed consistent with a 5.59 at 256 to score his first victory of the year.
“It’s just been a great year for us,” stated Bogolo. “We made the finals at four of the six events we went to. That’s more finals than I have been to in my career! My Crew Chief James Roberts, my crew Barney Sandlin and Rob Pfeister did a great job to earn this Championship. I also have to thank my sponsors UltraSonic LLC, Victory 1 Performance, Gene’s Machine Service, RamJet Racing Products, Holbrook Performance Parts and Polar Compressors.”
“I also have to say Chris Foster and his team are a class-act, I have known and raced with those guys since my IHRA days, maybe before. He was the first one to congratulate me on the Championship.”
After sporting sponsorship from fellow competitor Esz’s Ultra Sonic LLC several times last year, the two racers will form a strategic alliance for 2018. Bogolo has purchased Esz’s last car, a Murf McKinney chassis with a 2003 Camaro body. Bogolo hopes the improved aerodynamics over his older Dodge Avenger body will help the team find more speed.
“We think the Camaro will be a better body for aero,” Bogolo explained. “It’s not the newest one, but it’s new for me. Our old car has done pretty good, but that McKinney car is a nice car. We are going to work together to see if we can help each other out. It will be somewhat difficult as he runs a torque converter and I run a clutch, but we will do what we can. I’m really looking forward to it.”
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**-Attached photo courtesy of Gateway Motorsports Park
Contact: Will Hanna/Pro Race Communications