The Bongiovannis’ Need for Speed, Part 2
As the end of the racing season approaches in October, drag racers prepare to end by achieving as much speed as possible. Especially Anthony and Michelle Bongiovanni, who planned to make the 2016 Dutch Classic at the Maple Grove Raceway their fastest race ever.
Michelle and Anthony have their own process for getting ready for each race, and preparing takes a good amount of their time. For this race specifically, they focused on finding every bit of horsepower possible. To that end, they went further than normal by dyno tuning their cars and making changes to increase the performance.
“My day job is running a technology business, and I enjoy applying those same strategies to our cars. All our vehicle drivetrains are managed by computers, and we’re starting to add some of the same analytics techniques I use in my business to our race car program,” said Anthony. “Not only does this help us go faster, but it helps us be more efficient, reduce maintenance cost and maximize the number of runs we get on any particular component.”
It’s not all just vehicle prep though; before each race, they discuss everything that could make a difference and develop a strategy together, taking into consideration the weather conditions and the specific track. And don’t forget about mental preparation.
“Drag racing is more a mental game than physical, so it’s essential to stay focused,” said Michelle. “My biggest piece of advice for up-and-comers is to be calm and not afraid of the car – nervous is ok, but afraid is not. If something goes wrong, you have to be able to stay calm and not panic.”
At the Dutch Classic, Michelle focused on driving and controlling her Ford Cobra Jet at faster and faster speeds. “This race is all about going as fast as you can, and my dad is going to tune up the car to go faster than it’s ever gone. Continuing to learn how to control the car is really important to me,” she said.
“One thing I always try to instill in my kids is not to panic. You have to feel you’re in control of the car, and as a parent, that’s one of my biggest worries every time she fires up,” added Anthony. “Anyone can step on a gas pedal and fly, but it’s so much more than that; you have to be mentally prepared.”
On site at the Dutch Classic, Michelle and Anthony came prepared to troubleshoot anything and everything. In an eight-second race, there’s no room for mistakes; problem-solving in the moment can make all the difference.
“It's very gratifying to be self-sufficient during difficult situations and solve problems when things aren’t going your way,” said Anthony. “I remember once we were having a lot of difficulty getting the car to do a burnout and get up on the two-step at the starting line during qualifying. There wasn’t any time to waste, so we had to be very analytical – and quick – in finding a solution, which ended up being a bad setting in the fuel injection computer.”
What may seem like a lot of preparation just for one race ultimately paid off as both Michelle and Anthony ran faster than they ever have before at the Dutch Classic. Michelle finished no. 24 out of 164 racers for NHRA Division 1 and Anthony won the race against 124 other cars. He says you can’t make it all about winning though. “One of my biggest pieces of advice for newcomers is to stay humble and make sure you’re having fun,” he said. “Ninety-eight percent of the time you’re going home after losing your last race, so it’s more important to enjoy the experience.”
Michelle adds, “Making the day all about winning can cloud the other things that make racing so great, like one of my favorite parts about competing – meeting new people. Half my best girlfriends are racers!”
The 2017 season is already ramping up for the Bongiovannis as they get ready for their first event in February. And if the end of their 2016 season is any indication, this year is going to be a big one for both of them. You can keep up with the Bongiovannis on Facebook and Instagram, and we’ll be posting regular updates from them throughout the season.