By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Todd Veney, the pilot of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Permatex Top Alcohol Funny Car, which is owned by the blind Jay Blake, got a late start to his racing career. He began racing a Funny Car when he was 30-years-old.
While he was chasing his dreams, he had several opportunities to move up to the Nitro Funny Car class, where he would compete against the professionals, like John Force, Ron Capps, Robert Hight, Courtney Force, Alexis DeJoria, etc. He even quit a job and sold a prized possession for that chance.
“I used to have a writer position,” stated Veney. “I worked at the National Dragster for 19- years with Phil Burgess. I’m still a writer today, but with a different company. I quit the National Dragster position, because I thought I was going to drive a Nitro car. I also sold my car for that opportunity, then when things didn’t work out, I didn’t have a job, or my car. The sponsorship that I also had at the time dried up in 2008 when the economy tanked.”
Today, he is a writer for Mr. Gasket, where he writes product descriptions, packaging, press releases, and attends several trade shows per year. When he is not putting pen to paper, he is driving the Permantex/Follow A Dream Top Alcohol Funny Car at speeds of more than 300 mph.
“I’ve never wanted to race anything but a Top Alcohol Funny Car,” Veney acknowledged. “My dad Ken was a famous driver – he’s one of the best ever, who is in the Hall of Fame – it’s something that I always wanted to do. This has been a life-long goal to win in these cars.”
Unlike many other Sportsman drivers, Veney’s team has a major sponsor, who helps pay the expenses of the team. Blake, who is the owner and crew chief of Veney’s car, is the first blind crew chief in Motorsports, and was the driving force behind the Permatex relationship.
“Jay is an easier sell than most people,” Veney stated. “He was in a horrible accident in 1997, and he’s been able to overcome it to follow his dream. That’s why this team operation is called Permantex/Follow A Dream. He’s not just another guy out here. Permatex has really good products, and we use them on the car. Jay approached them about a deal, and after a long time, he turned a small operation into what it is today. He does a lot for this team. Without him, none of this would be possible.”
When Veney was competing in the East Region, he would face the greatest Sportsman driver ever. Frank Manzo, a 17-time Top Alcohol Funny Car driver, who retired following his final Lucas Oil championship last November.
“He’s the best no question,” Veney added. “I’ve been lucky to beat him before, as I’ve beaten him four times in my career. On the other hand, he’s mopped the floor with me at least forty times. My memorable moment was four years ago at Atco Dragway when I beat him in the semi-finals. Anytime you can beat Frank, it is special, because of what that man has done for our sport. But that Atco win was the best, because we came into that race with a long losing streak against him that day.”
This weekend, Veney is looking to win his first U.S. Nationals Wally. He’s gotten close before, but was never able to win the most famous drag race.
“I think about that race every day,” Veney said. “I live six miles from that track, and I drive past it all the time. I think to myself, ‘Maybe, someday, it will be my day.’ We got to the semi’s there two years ago, but ever to the finals. If I did win it, it would be the greatest thing that has happened in my life. I think about it all the time.”
His father Ken won the U.S. Nationals in 1981 in a Top Alcohol Funny Car, his only win of this prestigious event.
“As the years go by, there’s definitely more pressure to win it,” Veney acknowledged. “You only get so many chances to win it. I never really looked at it like that until you mentioned it. I’m just a driver. He (his father) built his own cars and engines. I’m never going to do anything compared to what he did. I have a hard time sleeping at night, before we run the U.S. Nationals, because my mind is running about what will happen when we do win.”
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