It could come this weekend since he six semifinal appearances in eight races
Entering just his fourth full season in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, Vincent Nobile has already posted an impressive list of accomplishments. But you can count the Pro Stock standout impatient when it comes to winning at least one event.
With strong ties to Old Bridge Township Raceway Park, the site of this weekend’s 45th annual Toyota NHRA Summernationals, the Melville, N.Y. native is pining for his first career victory at his home track. The 22-year-old Nobile came close in 2011, finishing as the runner-up in his first Pro Stock appearance at Englishtown, but he remains eager to finish the job for the first time.
“I would be able to compare this race to Indy and put it next to Indy as a must-win for me,” Nobile said. “It’s an important race for me because my whole family is going to be there. It would be great to win and share the winner’s circle with 100 friends and family.”
Shawn Langdon (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Mike Edwards (Pro Stock) and Michael Ray (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised nationally on ESPN2.
Nobile will get his chance to join the winner’s list at the historic track as the race also marks the ninth of 24 races during the 2014 Mello Yello Series season. He enters the race with plenty of momentum, posting six semifinal appearances in eight races, including last weekend at Topeka where he was also the No. 1 qualifier for the second time this year.
His new Mountain View Tire Chevy Camaro, which debuted at the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte, has been to the semifinals in three of four races, showing championship-caliber consistency that Nobile knows will be imperative during the stretch run of the season.
“We’re definitely learning more and more,” Nobile said. “It’s a gradual process, but we’re getting a good handle on things. The consistency of the car has really impressed me. Going to six of eight semifinals is a pretty good stat if you ask me. It’s just a matter of time before we start winning races and it wouldn’t surprise me if we won a bunch of them this year.”
Nobile certainly wouldn’t complain if the first of those came this weekend at Englishtown. After dealing with the pressures of what a home-track race presents for the past three seasons, Nobile also feels he has a strong grasp of how to succeed in those situations.
He lost to Allen Johnson in the 2011 Summernationals final round, but he expects to be more prepared should that moment present itself again on Sunday.
“The first year I raced there I had never been so nervous,” Nobile said. “I learned to cope with that because I understand that my family is there to support me. Sometimes it gets hectic, but they know I’m here to do my job.”
It’s a job that is never easy in the Pro Stock world. Nobile lost in the semifinals at Topeka to reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, a three-time Englishtown winner, and he is among a host of championship contenders in the class.
Greg Andersons’ five career wins at Raceway Park pace Pro Stock and he is looking to make an impact after returning to competition in Houston following heart surgery, while his teammate Jason Line has three wins in New Jersey. Allen Johnson has three wins this season, including last weekend at Topeka, but nobody has been better than points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has two victories in 2014. She also finds herself in the same situation as Nobile in looking for her first Englishtown victory.
“It would definitely be nice to end this three-race stretch with a win,” Nobile said. “I was really confident in Topeka but I cut too good of a light and went red. That happens but you have to go up there trying to win races, especially against a guy like Jeg or anyone in this class. To win at Englishtown would be great since it’s at my home track and to end this three-race swing on a good note would be important, too.”
In Top Fuel, two-time Etown winner Doug Kalitta is the current points leader, while New Jersey native Antron Brown, who has three victories this year, is seeking his first Englishtown victory. Spencer Massey, who has two straight victories, is another championship contender, as is reigning world champ Langdon, 2008 Englishtown winner Tony Schumacher, 2012 winner Steve Torrence, defending Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force and new Kalitta Motorsports driver J.R. Todd.
Hagan defeated Don Schumacher Racing teammate Jack Beckman to win the event last year in Funny Car but is chasing his first victory this season. Points leader Robert Hight has been red-hot with six final round appearances in seven races this season, but has yet to taste victory in Englishtown. Past Englishtown winners John Force, Cruz Pedregon, Tony Pedregon, Del Worsham, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Bob Tasca III and Tim Wilkerson will all be contenders along with Alexis DeJoria, Topeka winner Courtney Force, and Jack Beckman.
Michael Ray won this event in Pro Stock Motorcycle last season and so far the Star Racing driver has been the No. 1 qualifier at two events in 2014. Points leader and Charlotte winner Andrew Hines has tasted success at Englishtown before, winning in 2004. Last year’s Pro Stock Motorcycle world champion Matt Smith and local favorite Eddie Krawiec, a former track manager at Raceway Park, will both be looking for a second Englishtown victory.
As always, fans will have the opportunity to interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity in motorsports gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and enjoy some cherished face time and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
The event will also feature thrilling racing action in the Lucas Oil Series and the Pro Mod Series.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying begins Friday, May 30, with sessions at 4 and 6:15 p.m. The final two qualifying sessions will take place Saturday, May 31, at 12:45 and 3:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, June 1.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at (732) 446-7800 or visit www.racewaypark.com. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.