By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
Tony Bartone has had drag racing in his blood for a long time. As a young boy, he became interested in the sport that he competes in on a regular basis.
Bartone found his love for the sport through his brother, who are now the co-owners of a Top Alcohol Funny Car and a Nostalgia Top Fuel Dragster, which has gone undefeated during the NHRA Heritage Top Fuel Series this year. He says won the first round of racing, and the rest is history.
“I was always interested in cars, even as a young boy,” he said. “My brother and I have worked together for several years, and this is my first time back as a team owner. We’ve had a lot of success.”
He has many wins in his Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series career. However, he believes there is a difference in competition between the pros and the Sportsman level.
“I’ve been in a lot more Alcohol races than Nitro events,” Bartone described. “I’m going to make a statement here, and I’m going to take some backlash from it. I’ve had more competition in my Alcohol races than I did in my few years as a Nitro driver. There were some pros that gave it their all, like Force, but I can’t say that about everybody else.”
Bartone currently sits in the 23rd spot in the Top Alcohol Funny Car points standings, where he has 232 points in 6 events. He had a season-high 43 points at Atco Dragway in August, and has had back-to-back 42 point performances at the U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, Indiana and at the NHRA Fallnationals in Ennis, Texas this month.
“I love competition, and I was with other teams for the past dozen years,” Bartone mentioned. “This is my first shot back in my own Alcohol program. I enjoyed being with Rick Jackson, and we won some races, but I felt if Steve (Boggs, crew chief) and I had more control over the program, we could have done better. We couldn’t run the way we wanted. In this new program, we have built this program over the past year. It’s going to take some time to get everything where we want it to be.”
As a Top Alcohol Funny Car competitor, he is one of only a few drivers that can honestly say they’ve split round wins with Frank Manzo. The 17-time champion retired following the 2013 season, and now oversees the Al-Anabi Racing Pro Mod team and helps around the shop for the team’s Top Fuel teams.
“He was the best of the best,” Bartone acknowledged. “We’ve raced each other around 50 times, and he’s the ultimate racer. He was the one-man band, who loves our sport and loves what he’s doing today.”
Bartone has also raced a Fuel Funny Car in his career for Jim Dunn Racing. He also raced Jerry Tolliver’s WWE team car in 1999.
As a Fuel Funny Car driver, he had a 39-90 career round win-loss record. He won the NHRA Shucks Auto Supply Nationals in Kent, Washington on July 20th, 2008, and had his lone runner-up at Las Vegas 1 in 2005.
He also had two No. 1 qualifiers and the lowest E.T. at one race.
“Each car is driven differently,” Bartone stated. “The Alcohol cars are the toughest cars to drive, while the Nitro cars are a lot easier. I had a lot of fun racing against those pros, especially John Force. I raced against him a number of times, but I only beat him once – we got lucky. He’s a fierce competitor, and a great influence for our sport. I’ve raced against the two greatest drag racers ever in Force and Manzo.”
He said that he received some phone calls to move back up. However, he is not willing to put in the time commitment with his other business ventures.
“In order for me to go back, I can’t work non stop as I have other things I must take care of,” he mentioned. “The average driver puts in 6 days a week, either racing or doing sponsor commitments. For me, it would have to be the right deal, as I have to get back from the track to do other things. When I’m in New York, I wake up at 3:30 am and I go to work at 4 am. I get a good start to the day, as I work hard to play out here on the track.”
When he races his Top Alcohol Funny Car, the Bartone Brothers are the main sponsor on his car. Many of the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series cars do not have main sponsors on their cars, and the teams and drivers have to pay their expenses out of their own pockets.
“We do have some decent sponsors,” he said. “My brother and I make enough money to do this as a hobby. The money comes out of our own pocket, and we have a number of businesses – we on a construction business, we have real estate in numerous states and in Italy. We also had a marina business, and other small businesses.”
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