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Bongiovanni Scores His First NHRA Mello Yello National Event Win With Cobra Jet Mustang
Anthony Bongiovanni helps celebrate 50 years of Cobra Jet with a NHRA National Event Win
Since Al Joniec’s win at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona in 1968, Cobra Jet Mustangs have filled the books with national records and a multitude of race victories. New and old, Cobra Jets continue to win and this past weekend, Super Stock racer Anthony Bongiovanni added one more with his victory at the NHRA Mello Yello New England Nationals.
Bongiovanni is well known in the Cobra Jet community—his stable consists of seven Ford Performance CJ Mustangs that run in Stock, Super Stock and Factory Showdown. His team has won the Ford Performance Cobra Jet Showdown twice, and Anthony has won on the Divisional level, but in Epping, New Hampshire, the New Jersey-based racer scored big with his supercharged Super Stock FSS/B 2014 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet, taking home his first NHRA national event victory and the coveted NHRA “Wally.”
“It was a tough weekend, but I made it to the final and I wanted to make the most of the opportunity,” he told us. To secure the win, however, Bongiovanni had to defeat Tom Boucher and his 9-second 1997 Pontiac Firebird. “I was dialed quicker so I spotted Tom off the line. He had a slight advantage on the Tree, but coming into the lights I knew I was going to catch him. I got the nose of my Mustang ahead of his bumper, and crossed just barely in front of him.
“I was absolutely thrilled,” said Bongiovanni. “It was amazing to have my daughter Michelle there, too. We haven’t been out racing much together and we spent the whole weekend together. It was surreal and there was no better feeling in the world at that moment. The only thing that would have made it better is if Beverly and my other daughter Genna were there to help us celebrate. It was a great day and a lot of fun. The Cobra Jet made it easy, I had no concerns. Nick Casertano built a great car and my crew chief Ricky Hertzog made sure it was prepared well. It’s won Best Engineered and now it’s a NHRA national event winner. That was the best race car I’ve ever had on race day,” he added.
Bongiovanni started the weekend winning Class eliminations both in Stock and in Super Stock, where racers compete heads-up within their own specific class. This gave him two small Wally trophies, with two more up for grabs. Bongiovanni lost early in Stock, but he continued to go rounds in Super Stock, and by late Sunday he was able to hoist a trio of Wally trophies.
Long before climbing aboard an 8-second Mustang, Bongiovanni helped his daughters Genna and Michelle in the Jr. Drag Racing League, where they had great success. After a few years, he built his first drag-race specific Mustang for NHRA Stock Eliminator. His racing team now includes seven Cobra Jet Mustangs, including two Super Cobra Jets with the 4.0L blower.
Over three days of intense racing, Bongiovanni defeated tough competition and he relied on the performance of his Martino Race Engines supercharged 5.0L Coyote. “We were struggling before Epping, but we worked hard and felt good going into the race. It rained the first day, so we only got one [qualifying] run before eliminations. My daughter Michelle was also competing and her car didn’t run as anticipated.
“So going into First round, my concern was getting her car down the track. She hasn’t been able to race much this year due to school and work, so her making a good run was the only thing on my mind. Michelle was two pairs ahead of me, and I when saw her launch I knew it was on a good pass. She didn’t win, but we gave her a chance and she’s ready to get back behind the wheel.”
Bongiovanni geared up for his race against Mike Letellier, who was driving a COPO Camaro. “I had a .021 light against Mike, caught him early and pedaled him for the win,” said Bongiovanni, who ran 8.45 on an 8.41 dial. Bongiovanni then faced the 7-second Dodge of Scott Gove. “I have never been chased in my Super Stock car. Gove put me in the left lane and I set up my mirror so I could see him even after I launched. I hit the tree then watched him come at me. I wear a HANS, so I can’t turn my head very far and I pedaled it so I wouldn’t break out. Then, all of a sudden he goes out of view,” said Bongiovanni. “I don’t have a lot of runs in my memory bank to be good at being chased, so I did the best I could do to make it tight,” he added. Amazingly, both drivers ran going dead on their dial-in (8.41 for Bongiovanni and 7.86 for Gove), but the better light (0.29 to 0.134) and the round win went to the Bongiovanni.
That win gave Bongiovanni a bye, and in the Fourth round he faced Byron Worner, also driving a Camaro. “This was a good, close race,” said Bongiovanni. “I was .025, he was .022, I ran dead on with a four, and he broke out.”
Next up was Scott Albrecht, who was driving a Chevy Cobalt with V8 power. “Scott and I were dialed the same and we go about the same speed,” Bongiovanni stated. “When we left it seemed like he was a hair ahead of me. Then I started inching ahead of him and I was trying to decide if I could hold him off, or if he was going to catch me.” Albrecht cut the better light (0.048 to 0.053), but he ran one over his dial and Bongiovanni went dead-on his 8.45, winning by just .0071 of a second. This gave Bongiovanni the confidence he needed for the final to dial the car, hit the tree and to drive the stripe, which he did with perfection.
Bongiovanni’s win didn’t come easy and he’s quick to credit those who make his team successful. “My crew chief Ricky Hertzog works so hard on the cars, it’s hard to maintain them all but he gets it done. I also have to thank Kenny Miele of ClassRacer.com, our engine builder Tom Martino, Select Transmissions, Nick Caesertano who built the 2014 Super Stocker and B&B Race Cars. Ray Scardelli is also a big part of what we do, in fact, he first introduced me and my daughters to drag racing. In addition, Bongiovanni receives help from Micro Strategies, Resource1, NEC Financial Services and he is a brand ambassador for Optima Batteries.
“Drag racing is such an awesome sport,” said Bongiovanni. “It offers great opportunity for so many people. It’s proven to be a tremendous market tool for my companies Resource1 and Micro Strategies. The track is a great place to cultivate business relationships and also a place where I can spend time with my family and friends. In the last decade we’ve shared it all and grown from Jr. Dragsters, up to Stock and Super Stock and the Factory Stock Showdown. This sport is so challenging and humbling. You can be competitive with yourself and against the competition. At times it’s tough, but a win like this gives you the enthusiasm to work harder. It was so cool to win, but win or lose, we do it as a family. I was so proud, and my kids and Beverly were over the top.”