(photo by Brian Losness)
45th Pepsi Nightfire Nationals, Firebird Raceway, Boise, ID—In the words of LL Cool J: “Don’t call it a comeback.” Yes, call it a catapult. After a season-long absence from anything resembling a Winner’s Circle, two-time defending champ Tony “T-Bone” Bartone returned to dominating form, blithely stabbing and steering his Steve Boggs-tuned “Bartone Bros.” AA/Fueler to Top Eliminator at Boise, while also setting both Low Elapsed Time and Top Speed of the Meet.
With his win here, Bartone, the defending 2014 and 2015 NHRA Heritage Series Top Fuel Titleist, took command of his quest for a “Three-Peat” Championship. While laying down his victorious 5.69 at a spectacular 261 mph to defeat Jim Murphy’s valiant 5.77 at 240 mph, Bartone catapulted from fourth to first in the 2016 NHRA Heritage Series Points Race.
“It was a very important day for the team to get back in the points hunt,” Bartone explained. “We ran well, and we’re on our game. We had no issues — hurt no parts, never took the heads off — and it was a picture perfect weekend.”
Bartone is on a roll. And with less than one round of racing separating his points total from that of 2nd place Murphy and 3rd place Adam Sorokin, he says his team can maintain their rousing resolve at the last event of the season, the California Hot Rod Reunion at Bakersfield in October. When asked what race fans and fueler freaks can expect from the Bartone Bros. at Bakersfield, he was very blunt.
“All out balls-to-the-wall,” he answered. “That race may be our last hurrah in the Nostalgia Top Fuel class.”