Pete D’Agnolo had a truly classic performance to become this year’s International Hot Rod Association Super Stock World Champion.
He drove a familiar white 1967 Camaro in the IHRA Summit Sportsman National Championship races. His father, Sam, originally purchased the vehicle as a street car and put 3,000 road miles on it before it was converted into a racecar in 1970.
Nearly 50 years later and after several thousand miles of speeding down racetracks at either an 1/8-eighth or a 1/4-mile at a time, it’s still a reliable ride. It’s so reliable that the 31-year-old racer from Rochester, New York, has racked up several big victories in it over the past couple of seasons. No win was bigger than this year’s Summit Sportsman National Championship title.
It was a particularly tough field of Super Stock competitors with Maine’s Jerry Hatch getting out to an early lead. The Longhany family from North Carolina had some big moments, while the championship race ended up as a battle between D’Agnolo and Michigan racer Mark Nowicki, who had a series-best four wins on the season.
“It was incredible with the way the points were this year,” D’Agnolo said. “Mark had pulled out to a pretty decent lead. It came down to one round at the end.”
D’Agnolo had the support of his family behind him. His parents, brother, sister, uncle and girlfriend have all been involved in his racing career. There are also the guys back at the shop, S&R Automotive in Western New York.
From the Empire State, he traveled to South Carolina in March to start his championship pursuit. He made a late decision to attend the Darlington event, which turned into a triple-race weekend to make up for a postponed race at Palm Beach.
D’Agnolo was the runner-up in the Palm Beach makeup race on Friday and then swept the rest of the weekend.
“It was a last-minute decision to go that weekend,” he recalled. “We hadn’t planned on running the Super Stock division. We had planned to run another race so we had the car ready to go. We saw the triple at Darlington and the car was together from the Summit World Finals at Memphis, and we hemmed and hawed. Once we decided to go, it was an absolutely perfect drive from Rochester and everything just clicked.”
After the strong start, he made it to a pair of semifinal rounds at Keystone Raceway in Pennsylvania before returning home to Empire Dragway. He came through with another strong performance, going to the final round both days and scoring a win on Sunday.
“At Keystone, there were a couple of runs where I just got beat,” he said. “But, Empire was key to winning it. I had the wins at Darlington with the big car counts which helped me in the points. Then, it was a great weekend at Empire.”
The Summit Sportsman National Championship title was the latest big accomplishment for D’Agnolo, who won the IHRA Summit Tournament of Champions race in Memphis in 2016.
He echoed a common theme among drivers about racing at IHRA events: There is a true camaraderie among the drivers, but tight competition on the track.
“I would go to the races and half the guys I hadn’t raced before,” he said. “You didn’t know how their driving styles were. You soon learned you had to be on the top of your game because they’re all tough.”
For more, visit IHRA.com.