Drag Racing Action Online

Images: Phil Hutchison

After a successful but abbreviated 2023 season, the Mid Atlantic Super Series held their championship banquet in Trevose Pennsylvania March 16.

In addition to the Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street champs receiving their honors for their 2023 series wins, for the first time, Junior Dragster and the Top 32 champs were recognized for their series wins.

As has been one of the more popular segments of the banquet, the Special Award category added Junior Dragster Wrench of the Year to the award ceremony for 2024.

Winning the inaugural Junior Dragster Wrench award was Beatrice Aragona. Beatrice’s husband Frank Aragona Jr passed away in February of 2023 and Aragona, a three time NHRA World Champ, was a huge supporter of the Juniors and was a regular before his illness kept the team sidelined. Beatrice and Frank Aragona Sr have kept the dream alive along with Frankie III racing at all of the Mid Atlantic events in 2003 and the team just missed winning the championship, losing to 2023 champ “FJ” Vignola by the smallest of margins.

Beatrice said after the unexpected but greatly appreciated award, “It was beyond emotional in so many ways. I was shocked to have been recognized as wrench of the year.” Beatrice said. “The thanks really go to the junior dragster family that is always there to help. I’m so happy to be part of the junior dragster community.”

Accepting the Top 32 Wrench of the Year for Bill Hacker were Zach Gale, Ron Riegel and Beckah Hacker

Also new for 2023 was Top 32 Wrench of the Year. Winning the first ever award was Bill Hacker who tunes the Top Sportsman Camaro of Ron Riegel.

Stalba, left, and Series President Rob Keister celebrate Stalba’s Sponsor of the Year award

Tom Stalba, who in addition to racing his own Super Gas and Super Comp cars in the series along with his son Paul competing in the Juniors, took home the Sponsor of the Year award.  Stalba’s AA Auto Salvage was instrumental in sponsoring the annual Dave Stine Memorial event and the Jr Dragster series in 2023.

“The Junior program was needed, and Rob and his team made adjustments to have the kids part of his program,” Stalba said. “He needed support for it and AA Auto Salvage and Stalba Motorsports stepped up to help them out. It’s a great weekend of racing for all.”

Stalba continued, “Rob’s team does a great job. It’s an awesome series and we love to race two races in a weekend. With all they have to offer between the racing, points, giveaways, sponsors, and the banquet it’s hard to pass up.”

Mid Atlantic Wrench of the Year went to Super Gas racer Jake Barbato.

Kelli Barbato and Rob Keister

Accepting on behalf of her dad, Kelli Barbato said, “I couldn’t be prouder to accept this award for my dad. He’s taught me everything I know about how to race, how to work on racecars, and now even how to build one from our streetcar. He’s always there to give a helping hand to others and it’s cool to have a dad that everyone goes to for advice. Thank you to everyone that voted for him.”

Comeback of the Year went to Dave E’Nama, who, after a decades long layoff came back to the quarter mile in his Mopar Super Street entry. His Dodge which was originally raced in Super Stock, enjoyed success in the series scoring a runner up to Frank Volpe III at the Sunday race at Cecil County

Super Comp racer David Rowe took home Most Improved Driver. Rowe, in 2022 competed in eight of ten Mid Atlantic races finishing in a dismal 23rd spot. In the off-season David rebuilt the motor to get some more power out and try to turn on some win lights. The change yielded his first ever Mid Atlantic win along with good finishes in the NHRA D1 series.

With so many racers and events choosing Driver of the Year was not easy but 2023 Super Gas champ Bob Phillips took the award back to Oley PA. along with his Super Gas trophy.

Driver of the Year Bob Phillips

The last Special Award went to Brian Gauntt Jr. Series President Rob Keister said, “Brian was responsible for the graphic design and flyers the Mid Atlantic series uses throughout the season.”

After the Special Awards were handed out it was time for the winning Mid Atlantic racers to be recognized.

Winning the inaugural Junior Dragster title was Francis “FJ” Vignola from Mahwah NJ. Vignola went enough rounds in 2023 to take the title over Frank Aragona III and Paul Stalba.

FJ said after receiving his unique trophy, “It was such an exciting night. I was so honored. I’m blown away with all the gifts. Especially the 40lb award. I did not expect it to be that heavy.”

Flanked by the other Top 5 Junior racers,  Paul Stalba, Frankie Aragona III,Gabby Maclosk and Charlotte Ecks, FJ” Vignola holds his beautiful trophy

Jarrod Kissinger from Bernville PA. won the Top 32 Challenge in his blown dragster winning events at Maple Grove and Uncle Buck to claim the first ever Top 32 Challenge title.

The usually reticent Kissinger said after his historic championship win, “Even with the great competition 2023, it was all about getting back to having fun at the race track and not worrying about points, just let things fall where they will.”

Kissinger added, “Lets get everyone out to the Mid-Atlantic Top 32 this season and enjoy the racing.”

Fuel Factory Super Street champ Don Burgese didn’t take a sigh of relief until he went through the traps at the series ending race at Maple Grove. Burgese went into the finale in second place to points leader Frank Volpe III and needed to go more rounds than Volpe to claim the title. In the end it all worked out as Burgese went to the finals at the Grove beating Scott Lang.

Long time racer Bob Phillips driving his Mopar Neon, claimed the Super Gas title on the strength of wins at Cecil County and a runner up at the Uncle Buck event along with late round finishes put the Pennsylvania driver in first place for 2023.

Chase Fahnestock, defending 2022 Super Comp champ, used a win at Sunday’s Uncle Buck race and a runner up to Kathy Smulligan at the last race at Maple Grove to defend his Super Comp title. It was close but Fahnestock now has three straight Mid Atlantic titles.

Chase gave his fiancé Ally credit for his winning seasons in drag racing. During his acceptance speech Fahnestock said, “Ally, you told me your contribution to the team is minimal but to put it in perspective, before I met you, I never went to the finals or won a national event, never won two events in a season. You’re never afraid to jump in when we need an extra set of hands.”

Chase continued, “I want to thank Fuel Factory and the Stricker’s at Road Runner along with Mickey Thompson Tires and wheels for the win along with Glick Fire Equipment.”

“Rob does a great job as always with the banquet,” Fahnestock adds, “Having the Juniors here tonight was a cool sight to see, being I was one of those kids many years ago. The personalized gifts people donate are always a cool addition to the jackets and trophies are something I look forward to in the series.”

Kathy Smulligan, who won the Super Comp title at the Maple Grove finale and had a Top Ten finish in the series adds, “Running the best .90 racers in the Northeast at a MASCA event only makes you better and sharpen your skills as a racer.”

“Rob and his team always have everything spot on and the racetracks are prepped great! Two races for one tow with some of the best racers in the east coast…Priceless!”

Series President Rob Keister works the crowd at the annual awards banquet

After the banquet series president Rob Keister had this to say, “As I sit down exhausted after a long few weeks of prepping and hosting another Mid Atlantic Super Series Banquet, I am astonished by what we have accomplished in my 13+ years of being the president of this great series.”

“My team & I know we don’t have the budget to compete with the big dogs of the sport but what we do show is a personalized touch to every Top 10 driver showing them that we truly do appreciate their support and that a series like this doesn’t happen without them showing up.

“We have formed an amazing team over the past 3 years with the addition of Dana Nahill & Ashley Kubicke to help with registration and just overall fresh ideas when things can get a little mundane, in fact Dana & I are already working on fresh ideas for the banquet only 24 hours after this year’s banquet ended.”

  Dana Nahill

Series Vice President  Dana Nahill adds, “At the Mid Atlantic Super Series we are a family and I’m thankful and proud to be the vice president of this association for the last three years and counting. When we are at the races, I find myself stepping back for a moment and looking around and what I see are families doing what they love together; laughing, smiling, and having the best time making memories that will last a lifetime.

“These times are priceless; watching two rivals on the track give each other a fist bump before getting in their cars, seeing a father tighten the belts on his daughter or a mother push her sons junior dragster through the water box. I’m honored to have been a witness to these moments, these snapshots of family and friendship.”

Keister said, “We knew at the end of the 2022 season we had to make a change for the 2023 season as it was becoming harder and harder to secure weekend dates at facilities without being forced to make it a track rental weekend which can become very costly to the racers, we decided to form our own Junior Series with a points funds thanks to some great sponsors, this also allowed races who have a .90 car and a junior to enjoy a weekend racing and teaching the future of our sport in a more relaxed atmosphere.

“We also created a Top Dragster & Top Sportsman series that was originally at Maple Grove Raceway and was passed onto me to continue after ownership change. The Top 32 challenge puts an exclamation point on the “Fast Cars in the 1/8 mile” and we had a lot of success in its first year and are looking to grow it for years to come.”