Biondo, LeBrun win NHRA'S first "instant green' race at Maple Grove
Story and photos by Dale Wilson
Super Stock racer Sal Biondo and Stock great Dave LeBrun won Maple Grove Raceway's NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series' special race-within-a-race, the first "instant green" race in their respective categories in modern drag racing history.
Biondo, of Maspeth, New York, racing Andy Boltz's '92 Firebird GT/I Automatic, won the 32-car Super Stock shootout and the $1,600 first-place prize over GT/F Automatic Mustang racer Jeff Roell of Poughquag, New York. LeBrun, driving his C/Stock Automatic '69 Camaro from Uncasville, Connecticut, beat fellow Stock racer Bob Broadbent of Hampton, New Hampshire in his F/Stock Automatic '69 Camaro.
All four drivers were racing on an "instant green" Christmas tree, a concept presented by Division 1 director Bob Lang and Maple Grove's George Case just for this race. The race, held on Friday of the Memorial Day weekend as part of the Division 1 points race series, marked the first time in recent memory that NHRA class racers went off on a starting system other than the standard three-bulb, handicapped tree. Instead, 32 Super Stockers -- a full field -- and 25 Stockers raced on a handicapped green-light start, dialing in their own handicaps.
"We wanted to offer our racers a chance to race on an instant green start, to eliminate red lights," Case said. "But this race was also for fun. It's something that Lang and myself have been thinking about for some time."
The purse was put up by the racers themselves, plus some money from Maple Grove, for a $100 entry fee and a 32-car maximum field. Cars entered ranged from Bucky Hess's Super Stock/A Automatic '68 Barracuda to Mitch Radell's Super Stock/M Automatic '68 Chevelle in Super Stock to Steve Calabro's A/Stock Automatic '69 Camaro and John DiBartolomeo's U/Stock Automatic '70 Nova in Stock.
Case said the instant green concept would be offered to Stock and Super Stock racers at the Grove's Dutch Classic later in the year. One interesting spectator of the race was NHRA's director of sportsman racing Len Imbrogno. The instant green race was the talk of the Maple Grove pits throughout the entire racing weekend.
Regular eliminations for the Division 1 points race for all classes will be held on Sunday.
One racer who praised the special fun race was Super Stock winner Biondo, who has won his share of both Super Stock and "Super" category trophies. Biondo was one of a handful of Stock and Super Stock racers who staged their cars deeper than normal, and thus had better reaction times.
"This was pretty neat, not being able to go red and leaving pretty much high and wide-open, 4,600 rpm as opposed to 3,000, which is where I usually leave in the Super Stocker," he said. "The instant green is the way to go. Not being able to go red was great."
In the Stock final, LeBrun hit a .229 reaction (a "triple zero" was a perfect reaction time) in the final, and ran 10.907 off his 10.75 dial-in. Broadbent had a .459 tree and hit a breakout 11.396 off an 11.40 dial. In Super Stock, Biondo had a .424 tree and ran 10.747 off a 10.74 dial, while runner-up Roell had a .496 react and ran 10.278 off a 10.30 dial.
Super Stock racer Russ Linke, who helped put on the special
"instant green" race, said that "everybody loved it. Michael Iacono
(a recent runner-up at a national race in Super Stock) said he loved
it and wanted to do it again. I had more people who wanted to get in
this race. There was nothing bad about it."