Putting together a winning streak in the ultra competitive Top Alcohol Funny Car category requires a fast hot rod, the ability to adapt to different conditions, mistake-free performance from the entire team, a little bit of luck, and a whole lot of Know How. John Lombardo Jr. and the NAPA Filters/Lucas Oil Chevrolet Camaro team have had all of those during three consecutive victories that have Lombardo atop the NHRA Lucas Oil championship standings for the first time this season.
Coming off wins at the Lucas Oil Series West Region event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (April 7-9) and the Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties (May 19-21), Lombardo was eager to return to Route 66 Raceway near Chicago for Lucas Oil Series North Central Region competition on June 2-4. The facility with stadium seating had been host to career highlights such as winning the prestigious JEGS Allstars special even during consecutive seasons in 2014 and 2015.
“This was a ‘hang in there and try to put some points on the board’ kind of weekend,” said Lombardo. “We rolled into Chi-Town planning to stay in the racing rhythm while working on our approach to the upcoming JEGS Allstars race, clearly one of our high profile dates.
“The weather looked to be ugly. Thankfully, it changed courses and missed us, but the track eluded us well into the outing. We were essentially 0-for-3 in qualifying and staged for first round with Andy Bohl, who made all three. At that point, it’s safe to say things were going nowhere near according to plan.”
The event started slowly as the team struggled to apply the horsepower of the national speed record holding entry to the concrete racing surface without breaking traction, but crew chief Rick Jackson and tuner Les Davenport put their heads together to battle from the No. 7 starting position. Their resolve paid off when they finally churned a 5.569, 269.03 to defeat Bohl in the first round.
“Rick and Les called it well, getting us down through a tricky track in E1 with a 5.56 that kept us alive,” said Lombardo. “Scott McVey did the same, making the next round just as interesting.”
Lombardo coaxed the car through tire shake by slapping the pedal in the semifinals on a 5.765, 267.37 to defeat McVey. In the final, he ran 5.590 seconds at 268.06 mph to earn the coveted Wally trophy against opponent Chris Foster, who coasted to a 9.882, 89.16.
The victory gives Lombardo a perfect 2-0 record in Lucas Oil Regional Series competition this season, which is particularly encouraging with regional events in Denver (June 16-17) and Tulsa, Okla. (June 23-25) coming up on his schedule before returning to Route 66 Raceway for the Route 66 NHRA Nationals featuring the JEGS Allstars special event on July 6-9.
“We lined up for the final with multi-time regional champ Chris Foster, and we both had one thing in common – trying to find what the track wanted,” said Lombardo. “Thankfully, our 5.59 was smooth, in the groove, and enough to put 85 points on the board. Through reflecting on decisions and driving near the end of each season, I have learned that these points-yielding weekends are critical.”
Jackson Lombardo Racing is sponsored by NAPA Filters, NAPA Auto Parts, Lucas Oil, Centre Pointe Collision, Hoosier Tire, NAPA Batteries, NAPA Belts and Hoses, Carlyle Tools, NAPA Power Supreme, Mahle/Clevite, NGK Spark Plugs, CP-Carrillo, JHE Inc. and Jackson’s Auto Supply.