September 16, 2014, AA/FD HQ—For the fourth time in as many events, this weekend an undefeated Tony Bartone helmed the “Bartone Bros.” AA/Fuel Dragster to yet another win in Top Fuel Eliminator, in this instance at the New England Reunion in Epping, New Hampshire. Moreover, for the fourth consecutive race this year the New York-based Bartone also set both Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet. His command of the class has been so thorough that with one race still left on the NHRA Heritage Series schedule, Bartone has already claimed the 2014 Points Title.

“People think we just showed up and dominated,” Bartone explained, when asked about the effort it took his team to reach this level of virtuosity. “In all honestly this is our fifth year of competition. We kept developing the program until we got it right.”

Indeed, the New England Reunion was another exercise in humbling the rest of the class. At Epping, Bartone qualified in the #1 position, with a ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.73, coupled with a Top Speed of 236-mph. In the final round of eliminations, Bartone had improved those numbers while dispatching #2 qualifier Jim Young, with a 5.70 at a blistering top-end trap speed of 271 mph to Young’s second-best 5.89. To his credit, Young and his “Tri-State Racing” Chevy-powered fueler made Bartone earn the victory, after Young left first with a .058 reaction time to Tony’s relatively tardy .108 starting line light. Young still had a wheel out on Tony at 1000’, but Bartone marched around his tenacious competitor.

But tenacity is a word also applicable to the Bartones.

“Somebody coined the phrase that this is a ‘California-centric’ series, and it is a California-based thing, but we went to them all,” Bartone said. “My brother (Michael) and I made a commitment to run all the events.”

That dedication paid off. But even after running the proverbial table four races in a row and clutching the 2014 Heritage Series Points Title trophy, the Steve Boggs-tuned entry of the Bartone Brother isn’t done.

In reference to the upcoming season-closing California Hot Rod Reunion at Famoso Raceway, Bartone said he’d be there.

“It’s on the schedule,” he confirmed.

His reason for towing all the way across the country to California one more time?

“We want to sweep the series,” he said. “That would be something in itself.”

The California-based teams have been put on notice. They have one more opportunity to save face, and possibly extract a little revenge. Arguably, the damage has already been done. But none of the West Coast Top Fuel teams want to see Bartone finish the season undefeated.-30–


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September 11, 2014, AA/FD HQ—With two races left on this year’s NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series schedule, all-conquering AA/Fuel Dragster driver Tony Bartone arrives in New England Dragway this weekend poised to clinch the 2014 NHRA Hot Rod Heritage Series Top Fuel Points Title.

Thus far this year the New York-based Bartone Brothers and their crew have traveled across the USA to Bakersfield, Boise and Bowling Green, laying waste to all comers. They not only swept these races — meaning they have won every single round of competition this year — but have also posted Top Speed and Low Elapsed Time each time. All of that domination must be exhausting. Luckily for the Bartone boys, this weekend the Long Island City residents have a relatively short commute of 250 miles to the NHRA New England Reunion in Epping, New Hampshire.

Upon arrival there, Tony hopes to finish off the field and win the Points Title. The Heritage Series Top Fuel points are tallied by any driver claiming his best four finishes out of five possible events. With his current lead of 127 points, a New England Reunion semi-final finish for Bartone means he will be impossible to catch. 

One drivers who hopes to thwart Bartone’s plans — or at least delay the inevitable — is Wisconsin-based drag racer Jim Young, who is second in points. In New Hampshire, Young will be driving the Chevrolet-powered “Tri-State Racing” entry of Stephen and Ernest McClain.

 To claim the Points Title Young will have to win the next two events and Bartone would have to lose first round, or not qualify at one or both remaining meets. With that in mind, Young is not above resorting to chicanery and disinformation.

“I told Bartone that the race was rescheduled to the week after,” Young said. “So maybe he won’t show.” 

If Bartone fell for Young’s gambit, as soon as he checks his text messages and finds out the truth he will only have to haul his operation a couple of hours to Epping. If this year’s performance on the dragstrip is any indicator, he’d make it there in record time. -30-



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August 11, 2014, AA/FD HQ—Despite a series of determined efforts by his competitors to staunch this year’s proverbial bleeding, at the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise, Idaho front-engine Top Fuel Dragster driver Tony Bartone won his third straight NHRA Heritage Series event and continued his merciless assault on anybody standing between himself and the 2014 Points Title.

Before the clutch dust settled in Boise on Sunday night, there was no shortage of optimism and bravado amongst Bartone’s adversaries.

“We want him first round,” driver Jim Young said, before adding: “Go big or go home.” Young, who was a distant second in the 2014 Heritage Series Top Fuel points, qualified in the #1 position at Boise with a ¼-mile elapsed time of 5.80 seconds and saw this race as an opportunity to upend Bartone and salvage his season. Others echoed Young’s sentiments. “Tell anybody that will listen, we are going to win this thing,” declared Frank Ousley, engine consultant on Jim Murphy’s “WW2” entry, who was slotted 3rd in the points race. “We want this next one!!!” the head of the “Champion Speed Shop” team texted, moments before lining up against Bartone in the semi-final round.

All strong words. None of which mattered. Deaf to the dissent and the bluster, Bartone continued his undefeated streak, and has now won ten straight rounds of drag racing in 2014. At Boise, after qualifying second with a 5.83 at 261 mph, Bartone drove around Ron August (5.85 to 6.13), Adam Sorokin (5.90 to 6.12) and finally Young, (5.76 to 6.39). In each of these heats, Bartone lazily spotted his competition the lead at the hit, and then furiously gave chase while relying upon his Steve Boggs-provided horsepower to blast by the other racer and get to the finish line first. The last round against Young was the most demoralizing to the other racers. Bartone’s 5.76-second clocking stood for Low ET of the Nightfire Nationals, and his trap-speed of 267 mph earned him Top Speed of the Meet laurels.

Which is merely following form for the Long Island City, New York-based racer. Bartone has not only not lost in 2014, in each event he also set Low ET and Top Speed. In short, Tony is crushing it.

And now, with two events left this year, and with Young and Murphy’s Points Title hopes not only unlikely but a very distant mathematical possibility, the remaining drama in the Heritage Series comes to this: Will Tony Bartone go perfect for the season? -30—

(The next event in the NHRA Heritage Top Fuel Series is the New England Hot Rod Reunion, September 12-14 at Epping, New Hampshire.)


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Champion Speed Shop lights up Boise, Idaho.



August 7, 2014, AA/FD HQ—Despite a start-and-stop 2014 season, Adam Sorokin, driver of the Chevy-powered “Champion Speed Shop” AA/Fuel Dragster, is spooling up to spoil the hopes of his competition at this weekend’s Pepsi Nightfire Nationals in Boise, Idaho.

Sorokin welcomes the challenge of taking down the likes of Tony Bartone, a New York-based dragster driver who has dominated the front-engine Top Fuel circuit thus far in 2014 with back-to-back wins at the Bakersfield March Meet and Bowling Green, Kentucky.

“We can run well at Boise,” Sorokin said. “That track doesn’t necessarily reward the big-power cars, but the one that can get down the track at the end of the night. The trick is being there at the end.”

In 2014 Sorokin posted a semi-final finish in Bakersfield, but the team opted to skip Bowling Green.

“After the March Meet, we were only 3 or 4 points from being in 3rd place in the championship,” Sorokin said. “Not going to Bowling Green hurt us points-wise and dropped us to 8th. So not really being in contention for another championship, we just want to win the remaining races.”

Last week the team underwent private tests to raise performance and lower expenses.

“We’ve been working to get the combination to reduce the work the guys have to do between rounds and stop forcing us to pay these piston manufacturers so much of our money!” Sorokin exclaimed.

With three races left on the calendar, Sorokin is poised to upend the hopes of anybody in his way, meaning not only Bartone’s but also those of Jim Young, who is second in points and tenaciously giving chase.

At Boise, Young will be in his third different dragster in as many races. Having towed his own small-block Chevy-powered fueler from his home in Wisconsin to Bakersfield in March, and then commandeering the McClain’s Brothers’ big-block Bowtie rail at Kentucky in June, this weekend Young will be stabbing and steering a Chrysler-derivative Hemi.

“(This is my) first hemi,” Young confirmed, while thanking Utah-based dragster owner Steve Harwood for the opportunity to remain in contention for the Top Fuel Title. “I hope the wick’s longer than a Chevy’s.”

Despite long odds of catching the 2014 AA/FD Heritage Series Points leader, Young remains cagey and optimistic. “I hope to face Bartone in the first round. Go big or go home.”

In the way of Sorokin, Young and Bartone’s aspirations will be a cluster of California-based hitters, including, Jim Murphy, Rick White, Rick Williamson, and Terry Cox.

One factor working for Young: The Harwood-prepped “Nitro-Hemi” entry won Top Fuel at Boise last year. One factor is Sorokin’s favor: He likes upsetting apple carts, only to see which way the apples roll.

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(photo by Chris Graves)

(photo by Chris Graves)



June 15, 2014, AA/FD HQ—In consecutive NHRA Heritage Series events, AA/Fuel Dragster driver Tony Bartone has unleashed blistering back-to-back attacks on his drag-strip adversaries, taking Top Fuel Eliminator Saturday at the 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, KY.

This season Tony and Michael Bartone, who hail from New York, have toted their operation to Bakersfield and then Bowling Green, and, under the tutelage of tuner Steve Boggs, have yet to lose a round of racing. In Kentucky, they set the bar on Friday, qualifying in the #1 position while laying down a stout quarter-mile elapsed time of 5.83 seconds.

In eliminations, the Bartone Bros. entry only got stronger, posting three consecutive 5.7-second clockings. After soloing in the first round with a 5.75, in the semi-finals Bartone dispatched defending Bowling Green winner and 2013 Heritage Series Points Titlist, Jim Murphy, 5.76 to 5.87. For the event win, Bartone outran scrappy crowd favorite Jim Young.

Against Young, who runner-upped with a 6.04 in Ernest and Stephen McClain’s big-block Chevy-powered “Tri-State Racing” machine, Bartone not only won the event, he also set Top Speed of the Meet with a stellar 254.81-mph blast.

Bartone’s speed was just a nano-tick faster than that of Dave Hirata’s, who had posted a 254.71-mph top-end charge while qualifying second in Dale Suhr’s “Orange Crate” railjob out of Iowa.

In fact, Indiana-based front-engine Top Fuel freshmen Hirata posed the most serious challenge to Bartone’s win streak, having turned Low ET of the Meet in the first round of eliminations with a sizzling time of 5.74 seconds. However, Hirata’s threat was snuffed when a reverser malfunctioned in the second round of eliminations, enabling Hirata’s competition, Young, to advance to the final round unopposed.

The next Top Fuel points race in the NHRA Heritage Series is the Pepsi Nightfire Nationals, August 7-10 in Boise, Idaho.

Bartone defeats Tri-State Racing

Bartone defeats Tri-State Racing (photo by Chris Graves)



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Dave Hirata boils the skins in Dale Suhr's "Orange Crate" AA/Fuel Dragster

Dave Hirata boils the skins in Dale Suhr’s “Orange Crate” AA/Fuel Dragster

AA/FD HQ, June 10, 2014—Exuberant, fresh-faced Dave Hirata is among the fearless AA/Fuel Dragster drivers converging from all points of America to battle at this week’s 12th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion in Bowling Green, Kentucky for an 8-car showdown between the always gnarsome and unpredictable front-engine Top Fuel class.

As the new driver of Dale Suhr’s stealthy but beastly “Orange Crate” Top Fuel dragster out of Waterloo, Iowa, Hirata insists that this Hot Rod Reunion is not just a fight for control over the competition, but a contest of wills between the driver and the race car itself.

“Things are slowing down and I’m getting more comfortable,” Hirata said about his return to driving front-engine machines, after an anxious outing at the season-opening Bakersfield March Meet.

“Rear-engine cars are sissy cars,” Hirata said, when asked to contrast the “Orange Crate” with the rear-engined A/Fuel dragster that Hirata races in competition in NHRA’s Top Alcohol Dragster class. “Front-engine dragsters are men cars. I’m getting more used to the front-engine dragsters, which are a riot to drive.  You never know what will happen.  The sensation of everything is magnified because of the vision… there is none!”

This shoot-’em-up will be the second of six NHRA Heritage Series events in 2014 to feature the AA/Fuel Dragsters. Indiana-based Hirata is among a number of Midwest-based Top Fuel racers descending upon Bowling Green’s Beech Bend Raceway. Nitro racers are also coming from both coasts. Among the most-feared combatants is the “Bartone Bros.” entry out of Long Island City, who will carom to Kentucky after setting California on its ear two months ago at the Bakersfield March Meet. At that event, driver Tony Bartone trampled the competition, setting Top Speed of the Meet (262-mph), Low ET (5.62 seconds) while taking the event title.

Among Bartone’s adversaries who want to show Bartone the way back to the Statue of Liberty is the Northern California-based “WW2” entry of Jim Murphy, who took Top Fuel at Bowling Green last year en route to winning the 2013 Heritage Series Championship.

This weekend in Kentucky, Bartone wants to continue his domination. Murphy wants to repeat. And Hirata is here to show the rest of the class that he knows the quickest route to Top Fuel Eliminator is a straight line. -30–

The Top Fuel Schedule for the 12th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion is as follows:

Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1: Thursday, June 12, 3 p.m
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2: Friday, June 13, 12 noon
Top Fuel Qualifying Final Session:  Friday, June 13, 3 p.m.
Top Fuel Eliminations, Saturday, June 14, 11 a.m.

Live streaming of the 12th Annual Holley National Hot Rod Reunion is available via

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NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule for 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green

NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule for 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green

Heritage Series Top Fuel Schedule at this weekend’s 12th Annual Holley Hot Rod Reunion at Bowling Green, Kentucky:
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 1: Thursday, June 12th, 3 p.m
Top Fuel Qualifying Session 2: Friday, June 13, 12 noon
Top Fuel Qualifying Final Session: Friday, June 13, 3 p.m.
Top Fuel Eliminations, Saturday, June 14th, 11 a.m.

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