JOLIET, Ill. (July 7, 2017) – First-generation Division 3 Competition Eliminator racer Tony Pontillo didn’t have generations before him to expose him to drag racing but the drag racing bug found him nonetheless.
“When I was 20, I bought a brand new 1986 Camaro,” Pontillo reminisced. “I started bracket racing with it and then I put a roll cage in it and it progressed from there. I would bracket race locally at Great Lakes Dragway.”
After racing locally for a few years, the opportunity of a lifetime came across Pontillo’s path.
“There was a guy in town that was named Randy and he was sponsored by Lucas Oil and Forrest Lucas,” he said. “He couldn’t drive his dragster for a year so they kind of had try outs and I ended up getting the job. I started driving the Lucas Oil-sponsored dragster for that year and did really well in Super Comp in Division 3 and the following year, they sponsored me and I bought a brand-new dragster made by Spitzer. I probably wouldn’t still be drag racing in this day and age if it wasn’t for that opportunity. I don’t know if I would’ve ever known how to progress because I come from a family that has no racing background. I kind of did all of this on my own.”
Through his pure ambition for the sport, Pontillo experienced a lot of success in the Super Comp category.
“I ran Super Comp for a long time,” he added. “I won a lot of Super Comp races and an IHRA division championship but after many years, it got to the point where I wanted to race to the finish line. I didn’t want to race in a break-out, index category anymore and I wanted to race ‘first one to the finish line wins’ kind of deal.”
For Pontillo’s needs, Competition Eliminator completely fit the bill.
“I’ve always watched Competition Eliminator,” Pontillo said. “I used to go to the fence and watch Comp racers like Jerry Arnold and the Bailey family who still races to this day. I build engines for a living so the challenge of working on your car from the moment you get home to the moment you get to the next racetrack is great. That’s what Competition Eliminator is all about and that’s what I love most about it.”
After all the passes down various tracks across the country, Pontillo admits there is a special comradery that comes with drag racing and even extends into Competition Eliminator.
“We’ve run a ton of circle track cars over the years and the comradery is not in that sport like it is in drag racing,” he said. “In open-wheel sprint cars, you’re wheel to wheel with someone and you’re fighting to get position. If you bump a wheel with another person, there’s gonna be an argument later. We don’t have that type of thing happen in drag racing, thankfully.”
“My favorite memory of racing in Competition Eliminator has got to be our runner-up at St. Louis in 2015,” he said. “We were new to the sport and we didn’t have a lot of help but to make it to the finals again Craig Bourgeois was really cool. Craig ended up being the champ that year so when you lose to someone that you look up to like that, you can kind of take a runner-up finish easier. I’m sure our first win will come soon; it’s just a matter of time.”