Dom Lagana hopes to eclipse team barrier at IHRA Northern Nitro Jam
MARTIN, Mich. (August 2, 2013) – The year was 2003.
Clay Millican was still king of the IHRA Top Fuel world and there was little anyone could do about it. Millican won 10 out of 12 races that year on his way to a runaway victory in the championship over Bruce Litton, his third of six titles in a row.
Bobby and Dom Lagana following their first career win at Grand Bend in 2006
But buried among Millican's gaudy stats and impressive accomplishments was another major feat by another, lesser funded team that would prove a turning point in the career of two brothers. That year Bobby and Dom Lagana eclipsed the two biggest barriers in the world of drag racing and they did it all at one race – the 2003 Northern Nationals at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.
For a struggling team barely able to make the field from one race to another, the four second barrier at 300 miles per hour was a bar that had eluded the severely underfunded team for some time. The Lagana brothers watched it happen race after race, year after year among their peers, but the numbers eluded them.
Then, in August 2003, the two brothers traveled to U.S. 131 Motorsports Park once again just hoping to make the field and what they came away with was a moment that still stands as the greatest moment in the nearly two decade-long career of older brother Bobby. Bobby Lagana went 300 miles per hour in less than five seconds.
"Out of all of the stuff we have accomplished, out of everything we have ever done in our careers, that was the greatest thing by far. When you reflect on the greatest times in our career, that was the moment that truly meant we had arrived," Lagana said. "All of those years where we were half a second slower than everyone else and didn't qualify, our dream was just to get to four seconds. We dreamed about it, we strived for it, but it is such a hard thing to accomplish. When we did it that weekend, it was a moment I will never forget. It was the pinnacle of everything we had ever done."
Dom will be driving the "Nitro Ninja" Top Fuel machine at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park
For two brothers from New York, that moment meant they had arrived on the Top Fuel scene.
And while victory would elude the team for another three years, when Bobby finally did win his first Ironman trophy in 2006, he points to that moment at Martin, Michigan in 2003 as the turning point in his career.
"After eclipsing that barrier, it really opened a lot of doors for us. We started gradually improving, getting better equipment and getting a lot of help from the other teams including Clay's team," Lagana said. "After we hit that mark, it gave us new goals to strive for including getting to our first final and ultimately our first win."
That first win came at the Grand Bend Motorplex in 2006 over none other than Clay Millican.
Now Lagana and the Twilight Zone racing team will head back to Martin, Michigan for the 2013 CarSafe Northern Nitro Jam presented by Perry Harley Davidson August 9-10, exactly 10 years to the day when Lagana eclipsed the four second barrier in 2003.
Only this time Bobby's brother Dom will be the one behind the wheel of the newly-designed "Nitro Ninja" 8,000 horsepower Top Fuel machine. Bobby drove the car at the last two races, winning twice in Edmonton in early July.
So why make the driver switch for Martin?
To make history, Bobby says.
Bobby Lagana Jr. at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in 2003
"Exactly 10 years ago we broke the four second barrier and since then we have hovered in the upper fours. This weekend in Martin, we want to set a new mark for our team – the 4.5 second barrier," Lagana said. "That is the run that has eluded us lately. We have been running a lot of really fast 1,000 foot times in Dom's car and who knows, with the right conditions and a little magic, maybe we can set a new mark for our team in Michigan.
"We love going to U.S. 131. We go there two or three times a year and we really enjoy racing on that track. When we get there we will make some hits and get it dialed in, but if the conditions are right we will try for the homerun."
To date Dom's best quarter-mile pass is 4.62 seconds at 323 mph, while Bobby's best is a 6.63 at 324. Bobby admitted that he had run a 4.59 once driving for another team, but he wants to reach that mark with his own team and he wants to do it this weekend.
"Getting to 4.59 is a lot like getting from five flat to 4.99. It is a number that is a major benchmark and it will take everything coming together for us to do it, but we have a car capable of getting it done," Bobby said. "Dom is driving because, let's face it, the 50 pound weight difference is huge and we can definitely get a little more performance out of a lighter guy."
If Dom and Bobby Lagana can get it done, it will be among the best passes in IHRA history. The current IHRA quarter-mile record is held by Clay Millican at 4.484 seconds set at Rockingham Dragway in October of 2005. The speed record is also owned by Millican at 328.14 mph set at Maryland International Raceway in 2007.
"Martin is like our home track and we would love nothing more than to set our new mark there," Lagana said. "We have accomplished so much over the years, but it all dates back to that day in 2003. What it would mean to us to do it again this weekend would be fantastic."
The Laganas will be battling Bruce Litton, another famous name from IHRA's past, in a 320 mph match race. Earlier this year Dom edged Litton in a match race at Englishtown and the two will be looking to continue that rivalry in Michigan.
The 2013 CarSafe Northern Nitro Jam presented by Perry Harley-Davidson is set for August 9-10 at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan. It will feature two big nights of racing with everything from Top Fuel Dragsters and Nitro Funny Cars to jets, nitro bikes, Fuel Altereds and much more.
CLICK HERE for schedules, ticket links and more information on the CarSafe Northern Nitro Jam presented by Perry Harley-Davidson at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park.