If there is a guy who has done it all in a door-slammer it is Joe Lepone Jr. The legendary Pro Stock racer—now tuner/driver—works on everything from Pro Modified cars to Outlaw 10.5 machines. His travels have taken him all over the world and his uncanny abilities in the clutch-can and behind the wheel got him hired as the official driver of D Bar D Racing’s 1970 Duster Pro Street car. This weekend he returns to the legendary racing facility, the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona—located on the Los Angeles County Fairplex.
“I have been to Pomona 16 times over the years in NHRA competition and collected a win, three runner-ups, and a number one qualifying spot,” says the veteran racer who competed there from 1982 through 1996. This weekend, August 17-19, will mark his 17th time at the famous drag racing facility where he will be competing in the Pro Street division of the NMCA-West Flowmaster Drag Racing Series. It is race two of the western series and dubbed the 2nd Annual Lucas Oil West Coast Shootout, presented by JE Pistons. The high-stakes, low 6-second/230 mph Pro Street category is sponsored by Turbos by Garrett.
Lepone will take control of D Bar D Racing’s 2,300hp nitrous-gulping Pro Mod-turned-Pro Street car that has run a best of 6.07 at a scorching 243 mph. His relationship with the D Bar D Racing Team goes back a few years when he commandeered its 1970 Camaro SS into the NHRA record books in Comp Eliminator A/PM category with a 6.10 at 234 mph. Lepone and D Bar D Racing has also run up and down the west coast competing in the high-stakes game of Pro Street with a few different racing groups. This weekend the team’s new Duster is poised to take-on one of the largest and most fierce Pro Street fields California has ever seen with 20 cars pre-entered so far.
Lepone shares some thoughts with us, “Pomona has always been one of my favorite tracks because of the people. They have the greatest fans in the world there. My first national event win was there and same with my first number one qualifier. It is neat to go back there and to do so with these cars, they are great. They (ed note: Pro Mod/Pro Street) aren’t the cookie-cutter cars like Pro Stock. It is going to give the fans of any brands something to cheer about. It is going to be exciting with all of the combinations running. This Pro Street/Pro Mod stuff is like how it was in the ‘80s when I started racing. We’re all professionals in the sport but off track the camaraderie is awesome.”
The D Bar D Racing 1970 Duster replaced the team’s 1970 Camaro this year as it’s 130 pounds lighter, helping the team be more versatile with the wide-range of drag racing classes they enter throughout the year. The drivetrain is a direct carryover from the Camaro to the Duster. The highlight is a Pat Musi Racing 903ci engine with four-stages of Edelbrock nitrous and an Edelbrock EFI system. Lepone slams the gears of a Lenco four-speed transmission and utilizes a multi-disc clutch to fine-tune it all to the track conditions. We asked the longtime Chevy racer how it was to drive a Mopar and his response, “it is all the same from the driver’s seat!”
Lepone shared some thoughts about the Pomona facility as he likes the racing surface a lot and feels his experience there will give them an edge. He also wanted to thank team owner Derrol Hubbard for giving him the seat in this highly competitive Duster. A side-note about Hubbard is that he races a successful Drag Radial Nova in addition to the Pro Street car. There is also a good crew that keeps Lepone at the top of the game and it includes Bob Wooten, John Beckner, Tim Goulet, and Greg Hollman of REF Headers. “Since we’ve been together we’ve qualified at every national event, set records, and now that we have a Pat Musi engine we are definitely a threat to win,” inserts Lepone. He concluded, “We have a car with only six runs on it and we have already gone really fast with it.” The Pat Musi 903ci combination is 5-second capable but track and weather conditions will determine if that’s possible at Pomona.
The march to the winner’s circle in NMCA-West Flowmaster drag racing will be tough this weekend because he has a who’s-who list of West Coast racers entered. None, however, is more menacing than Jay Payne. Yes, the Jay Payne who regularly runs NHRA Pro Modified and is a legend in his own right in the Top Alcohol ranks of NHRA drag racing. Payne is bringing the FireIce sponsored Camaro that has been in the 5-second zone with its Roots-blown engine package.
Lepone also said another competitor who is always tough is Mike Maggio and his Maggio Motorsports crew. The team holds the world record with a 260 mph blast but that was with a Screw-blower and he has to run a Roots supercharger in NMCA-West competition. Lepone said he is definitely not one to overlook though as a top contender come this weekend. Lepone, Payne, and Maggio will also face the likes of Pro Street legend Mike Bowman and his twin turbocharged Chevelle. As if those racers aren’t enough to tickle your senses, another player is newcomer Seth Greg-Hunter as he emerged the Pro Street victor from NMCA-West’s inaugural shootout in May. The field of 20 nitrous, supercharged, and turbocharged racers will be on track for three days looking to take home the cash, the glory, and an NHRA Wally trophy.
About NMCA-West Flowmaster Drag Racing Series
The NMCA-West Flowmaster group is an extension of ProMedia’s two eastern-based racing sanctioning bodies of NMCA-Flowmaster and NMRA-Keystone. NMCA-West kicked off 2012 in Bakersfield this past spring and added Pomona to the schedule after local noise and pollution issues temporarily closed Fontana Raceway. The NMCA-West race at Pomona is the only non-NHRA drag racing event at Pomona this year and it has a record number of pre-entries heading into the race weekend from 20 Pro Street cars to some of California’s wildest street legal race cars. The NMCA series are home to the Aerospace Components NHRA Unleashed program.
The 2nd Annual Lucas Oil West Coast Shootout, presented by JE Pistons, is lighting up the Auto Club Raceway at Pomona August 17-19, 2012 with a Racer Appreciation Party on August 17th at the NHRA Museum.