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Pro Stock’s Vincent Nobile Is Living Two Dreams

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2011

Vincent Nobile, in right lane, has come a long way in very little time in the NHRA Pro Stock ranks. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Tami Pope)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Topeka, Kan. – Things just did not line up for John Nobile during his drag racing career. He never became a huge star but it was not for lack of talent nor lack of want-to and certainly not for lack of effort. Mostly, for lack of fate.

But the years and the money which John Nobile spent chasing success at goofy little drag strips, in series that only racing’s hard-core have heard of, were in no way wasted. In fact, these days they can viewed as an investment – an investment in stardom which appears to be sitting at the doorstep of his 19-year-old son, Vincent.

During a lull in action at Heartland Park Topeka, site of this weekend’s NHRA Summer Nationals, Vincent Nobile said that everything coming his way in this, his sensational rookie Pro Stock season, is a gift from dad.

“My father comes to every race,” Nobile said. “And my mother has been coming to races as well. It’s just really nice to have my family backing me up. And especially having my father, who raced his whole life, be able to be there with me. I’m following in his footsteps and it’s really great.

“I like making everybody proud. That’s the best part about it. Making the Mitsos family (the family of the team owner Nick Mitsos) proud, making my father proud.”

There is plenty to be proud of around the Nobile family these days.

Vincent has had zero problems qualifying for Pro Stock fields. And once in them, knocking off drivers fans have actually heard of. In Las Vegas and then Charlotte, he reached the final rounds.

Pro Stock driver Vincent Nobile.

Then came Baytown, Texas two events ago.

Nobile, using veteran-like reaction times, got to the final again but didn’t stop there. In the finals against the massively experienced Rodger Brogdon, he got his first NHRA national victory. Nobile did it thanks to a .007 final light.

The victory came in just his fifth NHRA start.

He told the media afterward that he was “living the dream”.

Nobile arrived in Topeka tied with Greg Stanfield for fourth place. They were 95 points behind leader Jason Line.

The dream started to materialize one day when he was doing college homework – he’s majoring in business administration at Adelphi University in New York. The phone rang, his father answered. It was Mitsos, owner of Mountain View Racing and a friend of the family.

Mitsos wanted him to drive his Pro Stock car.

“I saw Vincent drive his father’s car last year and right away it was pretty obvious that he had a lot of talent,” said Mitsos, who also serves as the team’s crew chief. “We are a young team that is looking to take the next step and Vincent was a perfect fit for our program.”

What Mitsos saw was raw talent when he watched Nobile drive his father’s car.

“He saw I was cutting really good reaction times, and he saw I was hitting all my shift points right on time,” Nobile said.

As Nobile sits in a very uncomfortable chair in a small room in the press center at Heartland Park, he does not look or act like the young athlete whose craziest dreams are coming true.

No rocking back and forth, no nervous fiddling, no efforts to avoid eye contact as he conducts a small interview. Nobile, who is stunning NHRA fields packed with some very hard men by stacking up round wins like beer cans in dorm rooms, just acts, well, normal. Happy, but normal.

He talks about Heartland Park, his times there in qualifying and the fact that he will begin Sunday’s eliminations “behind the eight-ball” because of weather-altered schedules and runs.

But talk comes back to Baytown. And, to his family.

Prior to his final run there, mom was a basket case. In front of a national television audience yet.

At least she was there.

“My mom was not a fan whatsoever,” Nobile said. “She would not set one foot on the race track. She wouldn’t come and watch me practice. There was just a whole lot of nerves. She was just very nervous because I’m her baby. She didn’t want anything to happen to me.

“Everybody was telling her, ‘Sue,’ that’s my mom’s name, ‘you’re son is doing fine, he’s doing good. You can come to the track and not have to worry. Finally, this year she came to Pomona (for the season opener). The only race she missed was Gainesville. She’s a fan now.”

Dad was cool before the victory in Baytown.

But when it was over, when Vincent climbed out of the car to grab his first Wally, familial hell broke lose.

“Seeing my father’s emotions at the finish line,” Vincent smiled.

“He taught me everything I know about driving a race car. He literally taught me everything from starting it up to driving it down the track. He gave me every single advice that someone could give.”

John Nobile has turned the decision making over to Vincent now. He offers advice and still serves as a reference library, but it is now the son who does the thinking.

About his own career, that is. Vincent cannot stop thinking about his father’s career.

“He never had the opportunity that I have,” Vincent says, “meaning, horsepower-wise, because Allen Johnson builds some great horsepower. Unfortunately, my father was never able to show his full potential out here in NHRA. But he did win a championship in 2004 IHRA Pro Stock.”

The Wally from Baytown sits on a table next to Vincent’s bed.

“It sits there as we speak,” he said. “It doesn’t get too far from there. I don’t even let a lot of people hold it.”

Nobody will be surprised, however, if it gets some company soon. Perhaps a couple more Wallys, probably a rookie of the year trophy and, who knows, perhaps a championship Wally.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 22 2011
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