Drag Racing Action Online  Images Phil Hutchison and David DeAngelis

Rochester N.Y. racer Peter D’Agnolo, 2022 NHRA Super Stock World Champion, drove his SS/CS ’67 Camaro to a win at the 54th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals. D’Agnolo, who won the event in 2022, defeated Kevin Helms in the finals. Helms from Plant City Fla., a former NHRA world champ, got his ‘95 Olds Achieva SS/CM off the line first with a 0.008 light but lost in a double breakout running an 0.018 under 9.332 to D’Agnolo’s less of an infraction 0.014 under 9.566.

D’Agnolo said after the win, “I had never raced against Kevin Helms and in fact we had never met. He was the nicest guy. I knew he was a champion and also worked with Schumacher’s Factory Stock program, but this was our first time racing against each other.”

After the race Helms, who already has a win in 2023 with a victory at the Orlando Lucas Divisional said, “Just a great race, and knew it would be. Decided by .004 In a double breakout. I didn’t catch the dump as good as I wanted to and that was the difference.”

D’Agnolo’s trip to the finals wasn’t an easy one.  No gimmes on his way to the title. D’Agnolo says, “All my buddies were saying that everyone would be redlighting since I have the #1 on the window. It didn’t work out that way as I had to race some of the best racers.”

In the first round D’Agnolo released an unbelievable 0.001 reaction time against Allen Wade’s SS/CA ’69 Camaro. D’Agnolo used the RT to get past Wade who ran a closer 9.18 on his 9.16 dial as D’Agnolo was  a 9.554 to his 9.52 dial.

D’Agnolo said, “It was not set up that tight. It was a surprise to me. When I let go, I knew I got every bit of it. And when I saw the green I knew It was close. It was a lucky accident. I was expecting something in the fifteen to eighteen range I don’t use an adjustable button, just RPM and tire pressure.”

In round two D’Agnolo had Division Three hitter Tyler Bohannon from Louisville KY in his FGT/C Camaro. Conditions were great with cool dry weather. Both racers got off the line with nearly identical RTs broke out by a bunch with D’Agnolo’s -.025 under 9.455 taking the win over Bohannon’s quicker  9.374 on his 9.41 dial. D’Agnolo adds, “It was a real fast round. Neither of us knew how fast we were going. Both of us wanted to get there first. And neither of us were letting off until the end. I was on the brakes and still went too quick. It was a fast round with a lot of breakouts.”

Round three against Florida racer Doug Duell’s FSS/E Challenger could have meant the end of D’Agnolo’s weekend as Duell had an excellent 0.004 light to D’Agnolo’s slower 0.029. Duell’s Mopar slowed to a 9.285 on his 9.17 dial as D’Agnolo posted a winning 9.544 on a 9.46 dial.

“The spot wasn’t huge so I had a good look at him. And after racing Tyler I’m thinking am I running fast again? But later I found out he spun, and I clicked it a little early.”

Come Sunday for the semifinals against David Barton’s ’14 Mustang, FSS/C, d D’Agnolo changed the dial in on his window from a 9.49 to a slower 9.57. D’Agnolo said, “The weather on Sunday just was terrible compared to the other days, it was the worse air we had all weekend for sure. Barton also dialed up too due to the weather swing. It would have been slower, but we had a hurricane tailwind.

“Picking a dial in was a crapshoot. Dad and I talk but the final decision is mine. I saw Helms and Worner (Bryan), who ran right before us, were way over their dial and when I saw the scoreboards I thought, ‘you have to take the finish line’. This wasn’t some fast round like round two. It was total opposite between from Saturday to Sunday.”

The decision to dial up worked for D’Agnolo as his nearly dead on 9.571 on the 9.57 dial put the champ into the finals as Barton was close but a slower RT killed any chances of the Pennsylvania driver getting to the finals. Barton ran an 8.834 on a 8.82 in the loss.

In addition to his dad, Sam, D’Agnolo thanks his mom Nancy and sister Julie along with his uncle Tony. “I also want to thank Frank Affronti who owns the Comp car I drive and Bernie O who helps with the Comp car. I also want to thank Hoosier Tires for coming on board over the winter. It’s nice to be getting tires.”