LE Tonglet has a new orange paint job and new body on his Suzuki GSXR for the next three races.
“We hope we can have the same success we had with our last orange bike,” the 2010 Pro Stock Motorcycle champion said. “It would be nice if the horsepower came with the paint.”
And it would have been nice if funding came from strong performances. But that isn’t how life works, in the real world or in NHRA drag racing. No one knows that more than the 22-year-old from Metairie, La., who in a 10-week span saw Kenny Koretsky yank then reinstate his financial support of the team.
So Tonglet, who slogged through the Houston and Atlanta races and has slipped back to 10th place in the standings, once again has Nitro Fish Gear sponsorship as the bikes resume competition at this weekend’s Toyota SuperNationals at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park at Englishtown, N.J.
He’ll be battling hometown hero Eddie Krawiec, the two-time and reigning class champion and points leader. He has won two of the class’ three races this season so far, and Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson teammate Andrew Hines claimed the other.
Citing what he called a “very unfair and unfortunate non-parity situation” that he and many thought favored the Harley-Davidson duo, Koretsky said in March that he no longer would fund Tonglet’s bike team — the one he stepped in and rescued for the final eight races of 2010 to help the second-generation biker win his crown as a rookie.
Tonglet’s talent never was at issue. “I believe in the abilities of LE Tonglet and his family 110 percent. To me, LE is the best rider in NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle racing,” Koretsky said.
“But in these hard economic times,” the Philadelphia-area businessman said, “I need to be smart with my money. “Even the best riders cannot overcome the current separation of parity that now exists between the three manufacturer brands in PSM. For this reason alone, I have regretfully decided to immediately cease all support for LE and his family.”
He had a change of heart and announced May 23 that he wanted to jump back in and support the Tonglet family’s effort as a major associate sponsor. His Nitro Fish brand will fund the biker this weekend and at Chicago (June 28-July 1) and Norwalk (Ohio, July 5-8).
In the Top Fuel class, Don Schumacher racing still has the upper hand, with Spencer Massey, Tony Schumacher, and Antron Brown 1-2-3 in the standings. Morgan Lucas has two victories, and his teammate Brandon Bernstein is challenging for his first since October 2009. They’ll be among the teams to watch, as will the overdue Al-Anabi tandem of Shawn Langdon and Khalid alBalooshi.
Another home-area favorite wanting his first trophy there in the Top Fuel ranks is Antron Brown, who won there in 2002 and ’05 in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.
“I love being able to race in front of my friends and family. You do end up with people constantly tugging at you, but you are prepared for that going in,” Brown said. “Living in Indianapolis, now, I don’t get back to New Jersey that often. But, when I do get there, I want to maximize the experience as much as possible. Of course, come Sunday afternoon, you want to be able to share a win with everyone.”
His four Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car colleagues — Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Johnny Gray, and Matt Hagan — all want to win for their own understandably selfish reasons. But each would like to do it this weekend, because their boss earned his only Funny Car trophy at this storied racetrack 40 years ago. The only other DSR Funny Car driver to win was Whit Bazemore, who won 31 years after Don Schumacher did, in 2003.
Besides, as Beckman put it, “I can’t imagine any Funny Car driver considering his career complete without a trophy from Englishtown,.” He said Raceway Park “is synonymous with Funny Cars. I can’t tell you what it would mean to get a trophy from a track with so much history.”
The Pro Stock class also has history and mystery for a young man from Dix Hills, N.Y., who cut his teeth in drag racing at Englishtown in the Jr. Dragster ranks. Vincent Nobile, son of Pro Stock veteran John Nobile, will be chasing his second victory of the season while looking back a bit as the NHRA commemorates 20 years of the nationwide Jr. Dragster class that the late Raceway Park operator Vinnie Napp inspired with his own half-scale dragster he built for his kids in 1992.
“I grew up racing junior dragsters there and watched my dad race there a lot, too,” Nobile said. “Most of my memories as a kid are at the track from the times we raced juniors there and all of the local events during the weekends. It feels like home to me.
“I’m very confident in my driving and my car this year, so I’m very excited about racing there again,” the NAPA/Mountain View Racing Pro Stock Dodge Avenger driver said. “Hopefully this year we can go just a little farther than last year. We made it to the final round, but unfortunately I red-lit. I still have nightmares about that moment, because winning at Raceway Park would just be the ultimate.”