August 1, 2004

It was a hot and humid Saturday night in Syracuse, New York, during the summer of 1994. I was enrolled in an intensive five-week gross anatomy course at the Upstate Medical Center, and, as was my routine, I had just finished a late-night session with my study group in the cadaver labs. While my thoughts were full of medical terms for every artery, vein, muscle, and nerve of the human body, there was only one thing on my mind-street racing. It was close to midnight, and I knew the street freaks would be out in force that night. It didn't take long to prove that hypothesis correct.

I caught up with the street crowd on one of four different designated areas off Erie Boulevard, just in time for the feature event. I was standing in the bed of someone's pickup that night watching it all unfold. Somehow, two groups of racers had come out of the crowd of 300-500 people and decided they were going to race at the same time. I remember thinking how many nights I had stood out in the street, listening to the negotiations, wishing someone would finally just give in and race. And here we were trying to decide which race to watch.

Vinnie DiFlorio was an up-and-coming street hero during that time, and his black notchback was getting ready to do battle with a trailered, big-block Chevelle. There were cars and people everywhere in that little side lot, and two other Mustangs-both low-12-second bolt-on/nitrous cars-were to square off at the same time. To our right, the Mustangs were going through their routines-burnouts, purging their nitrous systems through the intake, and deciding who had which lane. To our left, the deal was the Chevy got the hit but no nitrous. Vinnie's ride was good for low-11s on the mill, and with the sauce it was anybody's guess. Man, the big-block sounded mean as the burnouts got underway.

The street that was chosen that night was a four-lane road with a rather wide median. It wouldn't have mattered-all four of these guys were going to race. Suddenly, the headlights were on both Mustangs to our right. Bam! The race was on. Then, as if orchestrated by the NHRA, the main event-big-block Chevy versus nitrous-stuffed 5.0-went down at the same time from our left. I was looking back and forth as if it was some sort of sick, high-octane tennis match, trying to decide who was winning each race. The white notchback was going to beat the purple GT by a nose, but the main event was close. Within 10 seconds of the start of both races, they passed by the screaming crowd of street junkies in a simultaneous, 120-mph quartet of high-rpm tenor. Vinnie had pulled out a win, and another big-block musclecar had fallen to the new king of the street-the small-block Ford.

That's how it was back then, but, wisely, the local authorities have shut down most of those activities. While street racing still goes on, thankfully the real action is at the track. As for Vinnie, he's busy competing in MOM's Racing, an organization I initiated while in graduate school to give street racers an opportunity to enjoy their style of racing at a local dragstrip, away from civilians. And, as he was on the streets of Syracuse, Vinnie is a dominant player at MOM's Racing.