JOLIET, Ill. (June 1) – For competitors in almost any sporting event, there are few honors that compare to being named to an Allstar team. Each of more than 60 elite NHRA Sportsman racers who have qualified to participate in this weekend’s 25th annual JEGS Allstars race at Route 66 Raceway certainly realize that they are a part of something special and each one is determined to make the most of it.
Initiated in 1985 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Ky., the JEGS Allstars is a special event which features an individual and team competition for racers representing each of NHRA’s seven geographic divisions. Racers from all over North America will converge in Joliet to compete in the following NHRA Lucas Oil Series categories; Top Alcohol Dragster, Top Alcohol Funny Car, Competition, Super Stock, Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, and Super Street. At the end of the competition, the overall winning team will share in a $20,000 bonus out of a total purse of more than $100,000.
This year, the team from the Northeast Division will be looking to win their fourth consecutive points title and seventh overall. Leading the way for the Northeast Division team will be Top Alcohol Funny Car star Frank Manzo, who recently won his milestone 100th career Lucas Oil Series divisional event. Manzo is also the most successful driver in the history of the JEGS Allstars with six victories. Manzo leads a team that includes a host of former national champions including Sal Biondo (Comp), Michael Iacono (Super Stock), and Lee Zane (Stock).
The Southeast Division team, which lost last year’s overall team title on a tie-breaker, has its own share of star power in the form of 2002 NHRA Super Stock champion Anthony Bertozzi, current Comp Eliminator points leader Glen Treadwell, and Super Street racer Mike DeSio, who has already banked a pair of national event victories this season. Last year, Bertozzi accomplished a rare feat when he not only won the Allstars title, but also returned a day later to win the United Association Route 66 Nationals, earning a significant bonus from JEGS Mail Order. The Division 2 team has also won six JEGS Allstars overall points titles and would love nothing more than to gain an edge on their Northeast Division rivals with a seventh title.
The host team from the North Central Division has won five overall points titles but none since 1999. With a 2009 roster that includes Top Alcohol Dragster world champion Bill Reichert, reigning Super Stock world champ Ricky Decker and Stock eliminator veteran Ben Wenzel, they could easily end their draught at this year’s event.
The South Central Division has also claimed five overall titles including the most recent one in 2003. The team that is headed for this weekend’s event in Joliet is formidable as it will include Steve Harker, who won the Top Alcohol Funny Car title at last weekend’s O’Reilly NHRA Summer Nationals in Topeka and IHRA Super Stock champ Slate Cummings, and defending JEGS Allstars Super Street winner Craig Abbott.
Amazingly, the West Central Division team has never won a JEGS Allstars title but that could change this year as Super Stock ace Gary Stinnett, Super Comp ace Terry Edwards, and recent Topeka Comp champ Bruno Massel are among the favorites.
The team from the Northwest Division also figures to make some noise as its ranks include former U.S. Nationals winner Doug Lambeck in Comp Eliminator, Stock eliminator record holder Hal Sorenson, and highly touted Super Street driver Tom Manfred. The Northwest Division has won two overall JEGS Allstars titles (1988 and 2005).
The squad from the Pacific Division is also looking for its first overall team title and this year’s line-up offers perhaps the best chance for a victory. In addition to reigning Comp champ Dan Fletcher, the team features Greg Luneack, a multi-time national event winner in Super Stock, reigning Top Alcohol Funny Car winner Doug Gordon, and Stock Eliminator ace Steve Wann.
Although the JEGS Allstars is a highlight competitive event, the spirit of friendship and camaraderie is still present, especially during Friday evening’s racer appreciation barbecue which is open to all of the JEGS Allstars competitors, their families and crews. The barbecue is scheduled for 8 p.m., at the conclusion of Friday evening’s Pro Stock qualifying session at Route 66 Raceway. During the barbecue, there will also be a special lottery drawing held and two lucky JEGS Allstars contestants will have the unique opportunity to have the JEGS in-car camera installed in their race car for the duration of the event and the footage will be included in the ESPN2 television coverage of the event.