The Bongiovanni’s Need for Speed, Part 1
Nineteen-year-old Michelle Bongiovanni has already amassed 10 years of drag racing experience and at such a young age, she’s just getting started. Newcomers normally start off in a slower car in Stock and Super Stock and people are surprised to hear she’s driving an eight-second 2008 Ford Cobra Jet. This year she transitioned from Junior Dragsters and is already giving older, more experienced drivers a run for their money.
But how does a young girl decide to get behind the wheel? Her dad, Anthony Bongiovanni, who also competes with her at events across the country along with her sister, Genna, brought her to a race when she was eight, and Michelle remembers having the time of her life.
“I fell in love and was standing and cheering. His friend mentioned how his kids were racing, and I got in the vehicle and loved it,” she said.
“I was always into cars, and when Michelle showed interest in racing junior dragsters 10 years ago, I was all in. We also convinced my oldest daughter Genna to do it as well,” said Anthony. “We learned it was a real team effort to be successful at juniors, and we all had a lot of fun traveling and being together.”
Driving together has been a great bonding experience with his kids, Anthony remarked. And after they both moved away from the juniors, he decided to move into the Stock and Super Stock ranks of the NHRA so they could continue racing together.
In addition to racing a 2016 Cobra Jet in Stock and a 2014 Cobra Jet in Super Stock with his daughters, Anthony has also owned his own business for 30 years. “The other great part about racing is the exposure it brings to my companies. Racing has given us great marketing value and brand awareness,” he said. “We have a large following of customers that join us at the track regularly, and we’ve used the racing to increase our brand for Micro Strategies and Resource 1.”
In mentoring his daughters in the sport, Anthony was also learning. Having a mentor helped them all learn a lot quicker than on their own.
“Personally, I tried to learn from everybody, but one individual, Peter Biondo, helped me get a jump start and accelerated the learning process,” said Anthony.
Michelle added, “Having a mentor helps you to be more competitive and stay focused. There are a lot of people to look up to, and you form deep bonds with people in the sport. You become like a family, and that helps you perform better over time. Also, racing gives us a special bond – I can go to my dad for anything.”
Drag racing was a natural fit for Michelle; she loves learning about the car and helping her dad prepare it for racing. “I’m naturally a competitive person, but not very athletic, so I didn’t fit well with other sports. Drag racing is a great for me because I like individual sports, and it’s just me and my race car,” she said. Her favorite part about racing is the acceleration and the wheel stands in her car. “But I get most excited seeing my win light go on,” she said.
While Anthony also loves the competition, he added, “the things that gets me most excited is watching my kids compete and seeing them excel in this sport. Every pass they make is exciting for me. A number of other individuals drive in our race car program, but racing with my kids is special.”
For the final race of the year, The Dutch Classic, Michelle noted that she wanted to “go faster than I ever have before,” and set a record in her stock eliminator car.
“Everyone is going for broke in this race,” said Anthony. “I put the strategy together in determining how we can go faster. It’s more than personal performance; how do we get our cars to go faster?”
In the second part of this series with Michelle and Anthony, we’ll find out how the Bongiovannis prepare for races, what their top advice is for young racers in the industry and the exciting results coming out of their Dutch Classic run. Click here to read Part Two