Across two big days and nights at Sydney Dragway, the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship delivered a stream of impressive performances for race fans both on-track at Sydney Dragway and enthusiastically watching on from all around the country and overseas thanks to the event’s live streams on 7Plus, Facebook, and NHRA.TV.
The national championship for Australia’s best sportsman racers was on-track as part of the NDRC’s Sydney Nationals, which also hosted racing from Nitro Funny Cars, Pro Alcohol, Pro Stock and FuelTech Pro Mod – for more on their racing, please click here.
Spirits were high at Sydney Dragway for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship competitors. A number of improvements, including new competitor communication channels, were introduced and well received by the racer group.
When all was said and done, taking wins and prestigious Gold NDRC Christmas Tree trophies were George Terkalas (Junior Dragster), Nathan McKenna (Super Street), David Gruber (Super Sedan), Jess Turner (Modified), Steve Horvat (Top Sportsman), Mitchell Oxley (Super Comp), Joe Catanzariti (Super Gas) and Toby Austin (Supercharged Outlaws).
Also celebrating in the winners’ circle were those collecting Sliver NDRC Christmas Trees, the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship event runners-up: Jake McNamara (Junior Dragster), Tex Griffiths (Super Street), Leo Georgis (Super Sedan), Peter Brown (Modified), Paul Partridge (Top Sportsman), Peter Pisalidis (Super Comp), Anthony Panetta (Super Gas) and Britney Olive (Supercharged Outlaws).
Carpinato, Pisalidis and Austin also claimed Top Qualifier honours for their respective brackets alongside Karl Schulz (Junior Dragster), Craig Warren (Super Street), Michael Milasiewicz (Super Sedan), Steve Fowler (Top Sportsman) and John Somoracz (Super Gas).
In Top Sportsman, Horvat was another with multiple trophies to carry, and was particularly emotional to take the win and be awarded not only a gold NDRC Christmas Tree – his first – but also the Frank Palumbo Memorial Trophy, presented by Frank’s son and Top Doorslammer racer, Ronnie Palumbo.
Frank passed away on the 2nd of November in 2018 following a battle with brain cancer. That year, the East Coast Nationals were renamed in his honour. Now, the Frank Palumbo Memorial Trophy, presented by SterUclean Group, Morizzi Civil, and Solar Shine Australia, not only appropriately remembers a drag racing great, but also offers $5000 in additional prize money for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship Series bracket, as well as impressive custom-made trophies.
“It is great to claim this trophy. This is one of the best events you can go to, and I got it. I am very grateful,” Horvat said.
“I am lost for words about it all a bit. I can definitely say this will stay with me in my heart forever.
“In that final run, going in it didn’t matter who would win – obviously you wanted to try and win it, but the best thing was being in it, and winning was a bonus.”
Horvat’s win over Partridge in the final followed victories from George Matta (round one), top qualifier Steve Fowler (round two) and Daniel Morris (semi), while Partridge had booked his place in the final showdown for the Frank Palumbo Memorial Trophy with earlier wins from Tony Whyatt (round one) and Greg Fowler (round two), which earned him a bye run in the semi-final.
In Junior Dragster, George Terkalas took the win over Jake McNamara in the final. The Wetherill Park (NSW) racer found himself in the final race of the evening for his hotly contested bracket thanks to wins over Kade Fowler (round one), Harri Raikko (round two) and Georgia Liefting (semi). McNamara meanwhile had successfully taken on Geoffrey McNiff (round one) before a round two bye and a semi-final win from Zayne Condello – who had earlier dispatched top qualifier Karl Schulz in the second round.
In Super Sedan, David Gruber took the win in his Holden LJ Torana over Leo Georgis, who on Friday had been an early leader in the qualifying standings for the bracket before being bettered in Sunday’s second qualifier by Michael Milasiewicz. Gruber started off his day with a round one win over Harry Plessas, before going on to successfully face off against Sean Maher in round two ahead of a bye in his semi-final. Georgis meanwhile was matched up with Nathan Watt in the opening round of eliminations and went on to defeat Lou Palumbo (round two) and Michael Little (semi) on his way to the final stand against the ACT’s Gruber.
In Super Gas, Joe Catanzariti of Mt Annan in New South Wales emerged victorious in his Pontiac Firebird from a final showdown against Anthony Panetta. Earlier in the day, he had taken on top qualifier Joe Somoracz in the first round before benefiting from a bye in the semi-finals. Panetta meanwhile ensured he booked himself a ticket to the final with wins over Ronnie Palumbo (round one) and Vince Panetta in a semi-final family showdown.
In Super Comp, top qualifier Peter Pisalidis went all the way to the final but was unable to take the win from Mitch Oxley and his dragster. Oxley, from Stanbridge in New South Wales, had earned his place in the final by defeating Darrin Gay (round one) and John Kuiper (semi), while Pisalidis had a bye run for his opening round thanks to his top qualifier status before successfully going up against Raffaele Perri in the semis.
In Supercharged Outlaws, it all came down to Toby Austin and Britney Olive, with the Wallsend NSW racer and his Chevrolet Camaro ultimately walking away with the win and the Gold NDRC Christmas Tree. Austin had previously faced off against Tim Gruber in round one ahead of a semi-final bye, while Olive had taken wins from David McGaw (round one) and Jeremy Boskovich (semis).
In the Modified ranks, Jess Turner was turning plenty of heads with her wheelstanding Spitzer dragster across the weekend, on her way to winning her bracket over Peter Brown. Turner, who hails from Epping in Victoria, started out her day with a round one victory from Craig Davies, before going on to tackle Daniel Carranza (round two) and top qualifier Lou Carpinato (semi) on her way to the final. Brown meanwhile had ensured his place in the fight for a Tree with success over Daniel Moore (round one), Rocco Romano (round two) and Adriana Cartledge (semi).
In Super Steet, Nathan McKenna was the one to lift the gold tree at the end of Sunday evening following a finals victory in his Chevy Nova from Tex Griffiths. The Werrington Downs (NSW) racer came to the final match-up courtesy of earlier wins over Adam Bowers (round one) and Mark Roberts (round two) before a semi-final bye, while Griffiths had earlier taken on Mark Hopkins (round one), Troy Hutton (round two) – who had earlier eliminated top qualifier Craig Warren from the proceedings in round one – and Mark Rossow (semis).