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Larry Ott’s WNY Auto Racing: Jablonski toasts his winning dragster

On Friday evening Jon Jablonski sat at a local wedding Friday with a glass in one hand and his cell phone in the other. While the glass was being raised to toast the bride and groom, the cell phone was being used to communicate with drag racing teammate Jason Vitez who was busy substitute driving for Jablonski a few miles away at Lancaster National Speedway and Dragway.

Vitez was in communication with Jablonski trying to solve mechanical demons that plagued Jablonski during the weekly IHRA Lancaster. Vitez was driving Jablonski’s machine at the Joe’s Transmission TNT Super Series eliminations that were part of the annual Nitro Night of Fire. Despite the mechanical setbacks Vitez overcame the adversity to defeat Dave Surmatchewski in the TNT final. Jablonski arrived in time to witness it, too.

“It broke a rocker arm and a rocket stud and the car kept going slower and slower,” said Vitez of the mechanical woes that surfaced during Friday’s time trials. “We pulled the car apart and found the problem and put it back together and it was still going slower every round but this trusty car got us to the winner’s circle.

“The bolt that holds the rocker arm in for some reason the end of it was stripped and it just kept losing up the rocker arm. Basically the car was running on seven cylinders the whole night. I haven’t been in this car in over four years so it was a good night for us.”

As a bonus the Vitez/Jablonski moved from eighth up to fourth in TNT points and gained on the leaders. The first four, Paul Young, Chris Van Baalen, Harry Phelps and Sam LoVetro Jr. all lost in the first round Friday.

Also helping the points cause for Vitez/Jablonski was the no-show of fifth place driver Gary Saska. Ted Barnes, who was sixth, lost in the second round. Mark Herbold, who was seventh, also lost in the first round.

“Jason and I have been best friends for well over 20 years now and he’s the guy who built this car and if there’s anybody who I would want behind the wheel besides myself it absolutely would be him,” Jablonski said. “I have all the trust and faith in the world in him.

Another highlight at Lancaster on Friday was Todd Paton defeating Bobby Lagana Jr., in both Top Fuel Dragster runs. Paton defeated Lagana Jr., with a winning pass of 3.72 seconds at 166 mph in the first race to Lagana Jr’s 3.60 at 177. In the second run Paton ran a 3.73 at 196 to Lagana Jr.’s 3.80 at 148.

“I came here in the past to watch some races but I never actually raced here until tonight,” Paton said. “I started my career running in Alcohol Funny Car where I got two IHRA championships then switched a few years ago to Top Fuel Dragster. Bobby called me a few months ago and told me he needed someone to race in this annual deal at Lancaster so we hooked up and I enjoyed it here tonight.”

“You know I’m going to say this right now,” Lagana Jr. said. “I’m making a personal guarantee that next year I break the track record here. We learned some stuff. The shutdown area here is better but there’s one little bump in the left lane and that’s the lane I always run in. They said they’re going to fix it for next year. I hit it rear hard on the first run and I had to shut it off early in the second run because I didn’t want to wreck the car. Next year I’m going 3.40. I’m super proud of Todd. I’ll gladly race him here next year.”

The existing Lancaster Top Fuel Dragster record on the one-eighth mile strip is 3.46 at 215 set several years ago by Shirley Muldowney.

Many fans at Lancaster Friday were talking about the success of local drag racer Bill Leber Jr., who won his class eliminations at the recent NHRA Summit Nationals earlier this month in Norwalk Ohio.

In other drag racing Friday, Mike Nearhoof defeated his brother Dick Nearhoof in the Bikes/Sleds final. Wayne Cleveland bested Mike Sobczynski in Top ET. Reid Ricketson beat Ann Marie Nugent in Mod ET and D.J. Raiser got the better of John Cira Jr., in Street.

Pit stops

• Tommy Catalano won both Twin 25-lap NASCAR Pro Modified races Saturday at Holland Motorsports Complex.

• Pete Bicknell won his first Ransomville Speedway 358 Modified event of the season Friday.

• Lancaster had a good field of 15 Late Models Saturday in a race won by Bobby Weber. Kirk Totten is the unofficial winner of Lancaster’s Sportsman race Saturday but the win is pending further tech review with a decision expected Monday. If Totten is disqualified Jake Lyon will inherit the official victory.

• Max Blair claimed his second Little Valley Speedway Super Late Model race of 2015 Friday.