While fans will focus on the speed and fury of Dom Lagana's Top Fuel dragster screaming down the drag strip at Lancaster Speedway Friday night, Lagana explains that is just part of what the extravaganza of Top Fuel Dragster match racing is all about. He says that being an ambassador for the sport is really at the core of the event.
Lagana, 32, of Scarsdale, will match race his "Nitro Ninja" Top Fuel Dragster against Canadian Todd Paton Friday at Lancaster.
"The first goal of a match race is to put on a great show for the fans," Lagana said. "That's what I'm there to do and try to make it down the track. I'll do nice burnouts. But it's not just about the runs. It's also about the whole pit presentation and welcoming the people in the pits as they check the car out."
Lagana also knows that Lancaster is the only place to see Top Fuel cars run annually in this area as the closest NHRA national event to Western New York is at least four hours away.
"It's nice to go to Lancaster," Lagana said. "We always see the same people up there. It's familiar faces because we've been going there for so long. It's part of our reason and love for match racing. It spreads the word of drag racing and maybe get some newer fans that will say, "Man, I really enjoyed that show at Lancaster." When people say, "What are these cars," next year you can drive four hours to Norwalk, Ohio, and watch 16 dragsters and 16 Funny Cars race in an actual NHRA national event. Our hope lies in match racing.
"It's amazing how many new fans that we bring to the NHRA national events just because we match raced at these small local tracks that nobody would believe that a nitro car would be at. So when they see it they want to know what it is and it's good for the sport just because we match raced somewhere. They see the cars and they love it. Being a match racer is being a good ambassador for the sport."
Lagana comes from a family steeped in Top Fuel tradition. His father, the late Bobby Lagana Sr., and his older brother Bobby Lagana Jr., also have driven and crewed on nitro fueled drag racing machines. It's not hard to figure out where the youngest Lagana got his exposure to drag racing.
"Our dad gave us whatever option we wanted but how much cooler can it get than going with your dad and racing a nitro Funny Car or Top Fuel Dragster on the weekends," Dom said. "For me it was a no-brainer. I got my NHRA license in 2009. I actually made my first license qualifying run in 2004 but it cost so much and back then we didn't race as much. I stretched it out over five years to get my license which is actually better because you get more time to kind of take it all in. I never drag raced anything else. The first run I ever made down a race track was in a Top Fuel car.
"My brother match raced in the past years at Lancaster," Dom said. "I watched him at Lancaster. We're match racers at heart. The first time I drove at Lancaster it was intimidating. People always ask what the track's like. Being a smaller facility, the fans are so close. It's not meant to really hold two Top Fuel cars but we always get it done safely. That's the main goal, put on a good show and be safe.
"It helped learning about Lancaster from my brother as far as knowing what to do and what not to do there."
Paton currently holds both the Lancaster one-eighth mile Top Fuel elapsed time record posting a run of 3.306 seconds and the fastest Lancaster speed pass record of any type of drag racing vehicle at 233 mph, both set in 2016.
In addition to his own driving, Dom also crews for Top Fuel racer Billy Torrence at NHRA national events.
Along with the Lagana-Paton Top Fuel match racing, Lancaster will also host a complete weekly drag racing points event Friday for its local classes.