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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Vince Musolino Takes Advantage of Hot Start to Claim First Top Dragster Title

Typically, Vince Musolino chooses to race close to his New York home and doesn’t race in many national events. That changed dramatically this year when he woke up at midseason and suddenly realized that he was a legit contender for the world title.

Vince Musolino’s drive to the 2023 Right Trailers Top Dragster world championship is a classic story of answering the call when opportunity knocked. Typically, Musolino chooses to race close to his New York home and doesn’t race in many national events. That changed dramatically this year when he woke up at midseason and suddenly realized that he was a legit contender for the world title. 

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What followed was a cross-country journey through Dallas, Las Vegas, and Pomona that paid off handsomely on the final weekend of the season when he locked up the championship in Pomona. Musolino previously won the 2016 Division 1 title but found the chase for a world title to be an entirely different experience. 

“Every year, we hit a few divisional races close to home, and if I do any good, we continue with it. Otherwise, we just go bracket racing,” said Musolino, who operates an auto repair shop in Bridgeport, N.Y. “After I won my third divisional, I had a bunch of people come up and tell me I had a good shot [at the championship], but I wasn’t sure. I looked at Clint Geise, and he already had a big score.”

Vince Musolino, near lane, was nearly unstoppable at Division 1 NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series events in 2023, winning four races to help clinch the world title. He opened the season by beating Eric Khory in the final round at Maple Grove Raceway. 

Musolino did get off to a great start by winning three of the first four divisional events he entered. Opening the season with a quarterfinal at Cecil County Dragway, he quickly seized command of the Division 1 standings with back-to-back-to-back wins a Maple Grove Raceway, Numidia Dragway, and the second Maple Grove event, which was added to the schedule following the closure of Atco Dragway. 

If there is a defining moment in Musolino’s 2023 season, it would almost certainly be the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals in Reading, where he not only claimed his first national event title but also added a crucial 95 points to his score. 

“I decided to hit the Maple Grove national; I hadn’t run one in a long time, but I won that race, and [at] that point we made the decision to keep going and really pursue the title,” Musolino said. “I could have gone to Norwalk, Epping, or Columbus, but I’ve never ever said I was going to try and win a championship. I have three young kids and a daughter that also races in Top Dragster, so we plan our schedule accordingly.”

As the schedule shifted to Numidia Dragway, Musolino scored again when he stopped Marty Jones in the final. 

When it comes to championships, sometimes fate also intervenes, and in Musolino’s case, his brother-in-law’s wedding helped make the West Coast trip a reality. 

“Last November, I knew he was getting married in Los Angeles, so I talked to my friends, Ken and Debbie Moses, about bringing my car out there so I could race in Las Vegas,” Musolino said. “It’s just ironic that it all worked out that way. Ken even said if we need to go to Pomona, we’ll do it, but at that point, I still wasn’t sure we’d need to. I still didn’t think we could win it.”

Musolino finished the season with races in Dallas, Las Vegas, and Pomona, but the road to the title wasn’t easy. In Dallas, he had to race world champions Darian Boesch, Jeff Strickland, and Danny Nelson. He got past the first two but not Nelson. 

“I looked at the ladder before the first round and realized that it wasn’t going to be easy,” said Musolino. “Then I went to Las Vegas and made a mistake in the second round, and well, I have a temper, so I was ready to just pack up and go home. Thankfully, [2022 Super Stock champ] Pete D’Agnolo sent me a text and talked me off the ledge.”

Musolino admittedly doesn’t race in many NHRA national events, but he went to the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals in Reading and was glad he did after winning the Right Trailers Top Dragster title. That victory provided the motivation to head west to pursue the world title.

The drama of the points battle went down to the wire at the In-N-Out Burger NHRA Finals, where Geise lost in the first round and Musolino defeated Summer Richardson to officially clinch the title. 

“Normally, I like to be the last car down the track, but this time, I decided to go up early to see if I could put some pressure on him,” said Musolino. “Then [Richardson] came up last, so that didn’t work. I was in the back of the lanes, and thankfully, I couldn’t hear what was going on ahead of me. I didn’t know that [Geise] had lost. I just ran my round, and when I got to the end, everyone was celebrating, so I knew it was over. 

Musolino earned his fifth and final win of the year when he stopped Al Kenny in the final round at Virginia Motorsports Park. After that, he ventured to Dallas, Las Vegas, and Pomona to finish off the title chase.

“It was an unreal feeling when it was finally over. I actually got some sleep that night. Then we did the banquet on Monday, and that was amazing. We had to close the doors to my shop for two weeks to go racing, and I’m sure I’ll be paying for that until the New Year, but it was worth it. The whole deal was surreal, and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. “

Musolino’s many supporters include his wife, Colleen, kids Natalie, Cenzo, Sal, and Mia, and his father, Scotty. He also thanked Ken and Debbie Moses for taking his car out West, Race Tech Race Cars and Components, Inc., Joey Hessling at Advanced Product Design, Mickey Thompson Tires’ Jeff Farber, Hughes Converters’ Kevin Kleinwebber, Kenneth Moses Transmissions, Walter Sipp and Kyle Fickler of ProCharger, and Scotty Bleskoski, who is Musolino’s right-hand man when it comes to racing.

2023 TRACK RECORD, 631 points
Cecil County Dragway (Div. 1)QUARTEFINALS
Maple Grove Raceway (Div. 1)WON EVENT
Numidia Dragway (Div. 1)WON EVENT
Maple Grove Raceway (Div. 1)WON EVENT
Pep Boys NHRA NationalsWON EVENT
Virginia Motorsports ParkWON EVENT
Texas NHRA FallNationalsQUARTEFINALS
In-N-Out Burger NHRA FinalsQUARTEFINALS

This article originally appeared in the Year in Review issue of National Dragster.

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