Lagana and team achieve much but fall just short in Tire Kingdom Top Fueler
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 10, 2012) – Another team may have spent the evening after missing the field at their sponsor’s event wallowing in that horrible emotional cocktail of anger and disappointment, but the Tire Kingdom/Service Central-supported Paul Richards Racing Top Fuel crew had reality – and brighter days – to focus on.
Driver Dom Lagana, of Scarsdale, N.Y., knows that the team is on an upswing, and their performance at Auto-Plus Raceway at Gainesville gave him much to feel positive about after making his quickest pass of the weekend in the final qualifying session. His respectable 3.926 at 308.99 mph was only .001-second away from making the field, and he finished one place outside of the top 16.
“First and foremost, we wanted to get in – it’s our sponsor’s race, and I feel terrible about that,” said Lagana. “But last year at this time, we couldn’t even make the last run because we had such a big explosion in the third round of qualifying. We stayed in the show last year, but we had fifty-thousand dollars work of junk parts sitting back in the pits, and I’d rather be in this situation than in that one.
“We had a couple of new things in the set-up, and I think everybody did an amazing this weekend. Four runs within a 3.92 to a 3.96, and they were all over 300 mph, that’s just a testament to everybody on this team. We worked our butts off in the winter, and everybody did a great job here. There were no errors. Our goal is to qualify – at this point that feels like winning the race for us. But we have a good reason to hold our heads up – we ran really well this weekend, and now I’m chomping at the bit to go to Charlotte. I’m so excited because the car is running unbelievable. Man, it’s a pleasure to drive.”
Lagana and his older brother Bobby Lagana Jr., who is also the lead tuner on the car, were struck by a tragic loss just before the event, which was to be their season debut. The Lagana family learned that their dear friend, “Big Jim” Weinert, had passed away in his sleep on March 7.
“We lived with Big Jim, both of his sons worked on our car forever,” said the elder Lagana. “The entire family, including Jim’s wife Carrie, were as much a part of this team for the last four or five years as we are. He’s been like a second dad to us. Carrie wanted us to stay to try to qualify, and Jim would have wanted us to stay.
“We wanted to go down the track every run – he did the track prep in IHRA and taught us a lot, and he was always on us if we smoked the tires, it didn’t matter how good our other runs were. It was important to us to get down the track this weekend, and we did that, but we were also hoping to be quick enough to get into the show. Still, missing it by .001-second our first race out? That’s nothing to be ashamed of.
“We feel like we did our best for Tire Kingdom and all of our friends over there, but we wanted them to be able to stand behind our car on raceday. They’re the ones that make this go, they believe in us, and they’re wonderful people. We have to thank them. And God Speed Big Jim. God Speed.”