After taking a couple of years off to start a family with her husband, multi-time Super class division champion Tom, Stalba eased back into Top Alcohol Dragster competition in 2010 and finished the year 8th in the Northeast, but this season she picked up a whole bunch of steam, especially right in the middle.
Like most everyone in the region, it all started not far from home for the Hammonton, N.J., racer at the Maple Grove points meet in May. Stalba was the No. 4 qualifier on the basis of a 5.437, 262.59 mph, but she was out early and went on to keep the engine warm by competing at the national event at Englishtown and then in Norwalk, where she picked up a couple of round wins and finished in the semifinals.
At Lebanon Valley Dragway, Stalba continued to show progress and put up good numbers in qualifying, 5.400 and 265.52 mph, to earn the No. 2 position and a start against Richard Bourke. With a round-win in the bag, Stalba moved on and up to Epping, N.H., where she would make her way to the winner's circle, and getting there by knocking out then-division points leader Daniel Page in the final round was a big feather in her cap. At the Atco meet just a week later, Stalba took him out in the first round, reset her career best by breaking into the 5.30s for the first time (5.366), and went on to finish in the final to move around Page in the standings.
Manzo's scorecard didn't start off stellar. A runner-up at the division race in Indianapolis was followed by a very early exit in Norwalk for the driver of the Al-Anabi Racing Funny Car, but by the kick-off of the Northeast schedule, he was good and ready to drive right into his 21st division championship that would be part of his 15th world title. Manzo was perfect in the final six division events he competed in this season, scoring six wins to finish with an astronomical 425 points.
Fighting for second in the final hours were Eric Lourie and Todd Veney, with Wayne Morris hanging in there and finishing third based on a win at the Gainesville meet early in the year. Lourie and Veney both ended the year with 267 points, but Lourie won the tie-breaker for the No. 2 position.
Terryville, Conn., racer Lourie stuck close to home, competing in two national events and five divisionals and picking up a win at Lebanon Valley and a runner-up at Atco. Veney put a few more miles on the Permatex/Follow a Dream racecar, and for his efforts was rewarded with four overall final-round finishes for the season (three at the divisional level and one at the Summit Racing Equipment-backed national in Norwalk).
Biondo earned his fifth NHRA Division 1 championship title and very narrowly missed earning a second world championship in a Vinny Barone-owned entry by bringing home to Maspeth, N.Y., three wins (one at the national level) in eight final rounds in the Comp Eliminator category.
After traveling west to Pomona for the Winternationals, Biondo made his way along the national trail and scored a victory at the Gatornationals in Gainesville. He continued to race voraciously but didn't bring out the racecar at a divisional event until July, and the strategy proved effective as he warmed right up to a win in Epping, N.H., at his second division race of the year.
Ondrejko, of Roslindale, Mass., knew what he was after from the start, and he started the successful defense of the championship he earned last season by racing to victory at the Top Sportsman opener at Atco Raceway with the Northeastern winter snow barely a memory.
It wasn't exactly smooth sailing from there - the divisional in Reading was won by Connecticut-based driver John Prime while Ondrejko bowed out first-round, but he recovered a bit with a semifinals run in Lebanon Valley, a round win in Epping, and a final-round at his home track in Cecil County.
Ronald Proctor was nipping at his heels with a runner-up at Lebanon Valley, a semifinals performance out of the division in Columbus, and the Cecil County win, and Jeff Brooks was keeping it scary with a runner-up at Reading and a win out of division in Charlotte. But Ondrejko closed the door on another successful season as he capped off his efforts standing in the winner's circle at Maple Grove. His 368 points trumped Proctor's 336, and Brooks finished third with a 303 total.
The Littlestown, Penn., driver jump started his season by traveling south as the winter wound down, and his first race of the year, Bradenton, was a precursor to the Gainesville trophy that would be awarded a week later. A quick stop and a couple of round wins in Commerce, Ga., were followed by a return to the Northeast, where Hoff would complete his scorecard with five events and 335 points to next-closest competitor Jason Bridge's 324.
Canadian racer Bridge, taking a more varied approach with home division and out-of-division excursions, went to the final round at the Reading meet in May and was the winner at Cecil County. Following a semifinals finish at the October divisional at Maple Grove and surely with the Northeast title on his mind, Bridge traveled west to Las Vegas but was unable to produce enough points to grab title honors from Hoff, the IHRA 2010 Summit Allstars champion in both Top Dragster and Quick Rod.
Look for more recaps of the Northeast Division's championship chases soon, with breakdowns of the Division title runs within the other six regions to follow.
Top Ten Point Standings Top Alcohol Dragster 01 Karen Stalba 299 02 Mike Kosky 266 03 Dan Mercier 257 04 Daniel Page 256 05 John Finke 235 06 Richard Bourke 203 07 Jackie Fricke 171 08 Tom Pickett 116 09 Dave DeAngelis 62 10 Ken Winward 50 Top Alcohol Funny Car 01 Frank Manzo 425 2t Eric Lourie 267 2t Todd Veney 267 04 Wayne Morris 214 5t John Anderika 203 5t DJ Cox Jr. 203 07 Paul Gill 160 8t Dan Pomponio Jr. 149 8t Fred Tigges 149 10 John Headley 105 Comp Eliminator 01 Sal Biondo 412 02 Charlie Greco 357 03 Kyle Cultrera 325 4t Dave Yediny 304 4t Frank Aragona Jr. 304 06 Calvin Hill 271 07 Tom Stalba Jr. 260 08 Al Ackerman 259 09 Chip Ippolito Jr. 249 10 Steve Szupka 227
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