Meet the 2014 IHRA Sportsman Champions, Part 1 – Super Rod, Hot Rod, Top Eliminator, Modified, and Jr. Dragster
JOHN TOLISANO III – JR. DRAGSTER
Sometimes, it is just your day.
Such was the case for 18-year-old John Tolisano III during the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals as the young man from Jupiter, Florida overcame a tricky racetrack and ever-increasing odds to win the Summit SuperSeries Junior Dragster World Championship at the IHRA season finale at Memphis International Raceway.
And he did it all in his final race ever in a Junior Dragster.
"It still doesn't seem real. To win my last race ever in a Junior Dragster and for it to be for the World Championship, it is just amazing," Tolisano said. "It is still so hard to believe, but I am sure it will sink in one of these days."
Under cloudy skies and on a racetrack that had seen off and on rain showers throughout the weekend, Tolisano entered the final day of the Summit World Finals looking to make magic happen in one of the trickiest classes to tune, with single-cylindered, single-digit horsepower machines providing a true challenge.
And it was that difficulty in finding a happy medium for his dragster that left Tolisano and his family searching for just the right numbers in an afternoon that produced plenty of upsets across more than a dozen classes competing in the sportsman championships that weekend.
"We started the weekend off well, but toward the end of the weekend we were really all over the place," Tolisano said. "The weather conditions really played with us a bunch, but in the end we were able to figure it out and it ended up well for us."
That ending included three red-light starts by Tolisano's first three opponents and an epic showdown in the final between Tolisano and championship runner-up Michael Wayne Turman. With the Summit SuperSeries Junior Dragster championship on the line, Tolisano got the jump on the line with a .021 reaction time to Turman's .039, followed by a 7.992-second pass on a 7.96 dial at 79.84 mph to take the win. Turman had a 7.915 on a 7.90 at 81.46 mph in the runner-up effort.
"The afternoon had been so up and down for us, we really didn't know what to expect in the final," Tolisano said. "But we were able to put together a good run and run the numbers and that led to me standing here in the winner's circle."
While the final race resulted in Tolisano's best run of the day, the rest of the afternoon saw the team toying with a number of different dials to try and find the perfect number. Tolisano broke-out on all three of his afternoon runs leading up to the finals, running a 7.945 on a 7.95, a 7.909 on a 7.95 and a 7.983 on a 7.91, but all three of those runs resulted in wins with his three opponents all turning on the red light.
Tolisano had wins over Dawson Wiggins, Allison Muchler and Noah Pollard on his way to the championship round. Turman had wins over Jeremy Barbee, Chad Logan and Leendrick Lacle on his way to the final.
With the win, Tolisano took home a brand new Junior Dragster built by JR Race Car with an elaborate Summit Racing Equipment livery designed and painted by Jerron Settles of Imagine That Customs. He also received $3,000 from Summit Racing Equipment and a prize package that includes a championship Ironman, championship ring and more.
Tolisano earned his way into the championship race by winning the Summit SuperSeries runoff at the Division 2 East Summit Racing Equipment Team Finals representing his home track of Immokalee Regional Raceway. His opponent in the final, Turman, was runner-up at the Division 4 Summit Team Finals representing Little River Dragway.
"I want to thank my mom, dad, brother and everybody that has whipped my butt along the way to help make me better," Tolisano said. "I also want to thank Summit, JR and everyone at IHRA for putting this race on. It really is amazing."