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Nobile Shakes Early-Season Woes At Las Vegas

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 3 2012

Vincent Nobile sprung back into form during the SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas last weekend. (Photos courtesy of the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Driver Vincent Nobile and his Mountain View Racing Pro Stock team was not just one of the best feel-good stories in the NHRA last season, they were one of the best in all of racing.

Over the weekend, the team and driver took major steps toward showing that their wonderful 2011 season was not a one-off deal.

Nobile drove his way to the finals at the SummitRacing.com Nationals at The Strip in Las Vegas on Sunday. In the finals against veteran Allen Johnson, he shook his tires. But en route, he shook off a disappointing start to the 2012 schedule.

“We got off to a little bit of a slow start this season so this was exactly what our Mountain View team needed,” said Nobile. “Even though the final round didn’t go the way we wanted it to, we still felt good about the way the car ran. It shook the tires in the final otherwise; we probably would have been able to give Allen a much better race. We’re looking for wins, but we’re also very happy with the results.”

Last season, Nobile drove onto the good-story list as a 19-year-old rookie. He was a college student in New York when Mountain View owner Nick Mitsos took a chance on him and put him into the seat of his Pro Stock car.

With his family undergoing emotional torture in track staging areas on every run, Nobile began peeling off victories. He ended the year with  three victories and a fifth-place finish in the battle for the NHRA Full Throttle Pro Stock championship.

“Two years ago, Vincent’s father, John, told me, ‘You have to take a look at my son. He’s a natural. He can really drive one of these cars,’” Mitsos said. “Once I saw Vincent drive for the first time, I knew that

Pro Stock driver Vincent Nobile had a big weekend.

John wasn’t just bragging. It was obvious that Vincent had a lot of talent and I figured he’d be a perfect fit four our team.”

Nobile reached the final round in his third career start in Las Vegas in 2011 and scored the first of his three wins two races later in Houston, Texas. He also scored wins in Norwalk, Ohio and Phoenix, Ariz. Nobile qualified for every race, was ranked among the top five drivers in the class for 19 of the 22 events in 2009 and compiled a very respectable 31-19 record in elimination rounds.

But Nobile, still a student at Adelphia University in Long Island, N.Y., couldn’t get out of the quarterfinals in his first three events this season. In the Gatornationals, the race before Las Vegas, he lost in the first round to Rickie Jones.

But Sunday in Vegas, Nobile beat four-time champion Jeg Coughlin to open eliminations. He followed that by beating defending series champion Jason Line in the quarterfinals. In the semifinals, Nobile knocked off former champion Greg Stanfield, who fouled.

“The guys I ran in the first three rounds have 12 championships between them,” said Nobile. “That just goes to show you how tough this Pro Stock class is. There are no easy rounds. The race against Jason was especially tough. He’s so hard to race against because he’s got the best car in the class and he’s a tough driver.”

Nobile said Sunday that he was motivated by his uncle, John Pluchino, who drove to the Pro Stock victory during Saturday’s American Drag Racing League event in Baytown, Texas.

“My uncle, Johnny, won his final round on a big holeshot and I was just trying to do the same thing he did,” said Nobile.

“All things considered, this was a great weekend for our family and a great weekend for the Mountain View team,” Nobile said.

Next up is the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. It’s a marquee event on the schedule and one for which Nobile says he is now ready.

“We’re now going to the Four-Wide race in Charlotte and that should be very interesting,” he said.

The NHRA left Vegas with an unofficial 2012 driver-to-beat in the Funny Car class.

Robert Hight and 2012 Wally No. 3.

That would be Robert Hight of John Force Racing. The victory at The Strip was his third straight this season. It makes him 3 for 4 on the week which the Major League Baseball season starts.

The secret? It’s the age-old secret to success.

“This is three in a row for us and Robert and the Auto Club Ford Mustang so we’re off to a good start,” Hight’s crew chief, Jimmy Prock, said. “We worked hard this winter to try and make ourselves better. We got off to kind of a bad start in Pomona, but we re-grouped after that. Everybody’s been working hard. The competition has been really tough, but we’ve just tried to run consistent and take it round by round.”

In Vegas, Hight and Prock were dang close to perfect. They were No. 1 in qualifying and blew through eliminations.

In the final Hight never trailed in the race. He got off the line first and his elapsed time of 4.154 seconds was well out in front of Bob Tasca III’s 4.213 second run.

“This class and the parity,” Hight said, “it has never been this close. It is exciting and it makes winning three in a row all the more special. It is a lot of pressure on the driver. When our other teams go out early and those guys are over here helping my guys between rounds. When the crew chief walks away that means you have the car and it is all on you.”

In Top Fuel at The Strip, Antron Brown did about everything except win the event.

The Don Schumacher Racing driver advanced to the finals, broke the track record in the process and, he took the points lead away from teammate Tony Schumacher.

Brown established the new track record in Sunday’s second round victory over Schumacher when he ran a 3.779-second pass. He also defeated Shawn Langdon and Morgan Lucas on the way to this third finals appearance of the season.

In the finals, he lost to another teammate, Spencer Massey.

“It was incredible that we went over 321 miles-per-hour and have it decided by thousandths of a second in that (round one) win over Shawn Langdon,” Brown said. “We brought out a brand-new car this weekend, so it was great to make it to the finals. We were just going after it today. With all the cars running at a high-level in this series, you have to just keep working it and working it.”

Brown now leads the Top Fuel point standings by four points over Morgan Lucas, 357-353, four races into the season.

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

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Tuesday, April 3 2012
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