44th Pepsi Nightfire Nationals, Firebird Raceway, Boise, Idaho, August 16, 2015—In a circuitous return to superior form, hot shoe Tony Bartone bagged Top Fuel Eliminator in Boise for the second year in a row, snaking his New York-based, Steve Boggs-tuned “Bartone Bros.” AA/Fuel Dragster to victory with a stunning final-round shot that also earned Bartone both Low ET and Top Speed of the Meet laurels with a blistering quarter-mile clocking of 5.66 seconds at 255 mph.
Despite those dominating last-minute numbers, “T-Bone’s” path to a repeat Nightfire Nationals title was fraught with uncertainty.
“I thought we were in trouble the whole weekend,” Bartone confided. “I tell people all the time ‘Give Steve Boggs one more lap.’ It took him quite a while to figure it out but he got his act together in the final round.”
At Boise, for three days the “Bartone Bros.” sleek rail shook and smoked as often as it grabbed traction, and when it did hook up the numbers paled somewhat to those posted by others, most specifically racers like Bill Dunlap and his “High Speed Motorsports” machine and Rick Williamson and the “Team Craig” digger.
As Bartone struggled, his fate seemed even more cursed as the new alliance between Jim Murphy and Roland Leong caught proverbial fire in the opening round of eliminations, when Murphy’s “WW2” dragster moved to the top of the class with an outstanding elapsed time of 5.77 seconds.
Which led to a semi-final showdown with Bartone, before which Jim Murphy said: “I just shut off at 5.4 seconds, and (still) ran 244 (mph). I am sure we will take it all the way this time, as we are racing Bartone.”
Murphy had been anticipating this match for months and having renowned repeat-winner and notorious nitromaniac Roland Leong in his pit only added positive equity to “WW2’s” odds. But unfortunately for Murphy, possible impatience led to an early foul start. Murphy wasted a fine 5.79 as the “Bartone Bros.” smoked the tires. Yes, the New Yorkers advanced courtesy of Murphy’s startling-line blunder.
“That’s the third time I’ve red-lit in forty years of racing,” Murphy said, struggling to remain philosophical.
Murphy’s gift set the stage for a final round rematch between Bartone and the man who recently snapped his 22-round winning streak in Kentucky, Bill Dunlap. Dunlap qualified in the #1 position with a 5.78 at 251 mph and blithely advanced through his opponents in fine style, including a semi-final round trouncing of the “Champion Speed Shop” dragster, where he recorded a 5.79 to Champion’s losing 6.27.
In the final, however, both Bartone and Boggs hit their normal cock-walking stride. Against Dunlap, Bartone left first and put up punishing numbers at every increment, adding a couple of hundredths of a second to his lead at each timing cone. Dunlap gave fine, if not futile chase, and in defeat posted an otherwise remarkable 5.74 at 245 mph.
“I was so elated to win, because we struggled and it was so unexpected,” Bartone exclaimed.
“If we didn’t do it, Dunlap would’ve had two wins and we would’ve been (holding the bag),” he added, in reference to bolstering his chances to repeat as NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Champion.
“I never thought we were going to win, until I got the win light at the 1320,” he concluded.
But when asked if he ever saw Dunlap in their final-round race, he cracked wise: “Only when he got in his car.”
Yes, the Bartone Bros. are back. -30-
Pepsi Nightfire Nationals Top Fuel Eliminator Results, Sunday
AA/Fuel Dragster Round 1
Adam Sorokin, .049, 5.87, 218.80 mph def. Dusty Green, .098, 5.96, 208.36. Tony Bartone, .113, 5.84, 240.77 def. Ron August, Jr., .117, 6.56, 169.34. Jim Murphy, .086, 5.77, 243.55 def. Rick Williamson, .135, 5.99, 237.59. Bill Dunlap, .190, 5.80, 245.90 bye.
AA/Fuel Dragster Round 2
Bill Dunlap, .118, 5.79 seconds, 250.97 def. Adam Sorokin, .059, 6.27, 203.86. Tony Bartone, .089, 13.22, 65.76 def. Jim Murphy, -.039 red light, 5.79, 241.20.
AA/Fuel Dragster Final Round
Tony Bartone, Long Island City, NY, .109, 5.66*, 255.34 mph def. Bill Dunlap, Capitola, Calif., .187, 5.74, 245.05.