Newcomer Cagnazzi making waves in Pro Stock Truck
By Rob Geiger, NHRA.com
It's tough to get noticed when you're a newcomer in the ever-expanding Pro Stock Truck category but a soft-spoken 43-year-old from New York City named Victor Cagnazzi has already made his presence felt in just his first two races.
By qualifying for the national events in Gainesville, Fla., and Houston, Cagnazzi surprised plenty of competitors in the class, but no one's more amazed at his early success than Cagnazzi himself.
"We are shocked to be running so well," said Cagnazzi, who nailed down the No. 5 spot in Gainesville. "After a massive testing schedule that basically ran from January 1 to the start of the Gainesville race we felt like we were totally prepared to race. But after what happened to us a week before Gainesville, I'm surprised we matched up like we did and ended up fifth on the ladder.
"We had made probably 55-60 runs and had a real good, consistent 7.49-second truck. Most of the testing we had done was at Gainesville so we figured that was an okay number to be running. Then one week before the event Randy Daniels shows up, rolls his truck out of the trailer, and runs a 7.39. I said, 'We're in trouble.' "
A last-minute trip to Bradenton, Fla., for some chassis adjustments paid some dividends and Cagnazzi was able to post a 7.475 at 179.88 mph before the event was delayed by rain. He's scheduled to run Dodge pro Todd Patterson when the engines fire again in central Florida April 21. Patterson yields lane choice due to his slightly slower 7.495 at 178.78 mph.
Cagnazzi, who makes his living designing and implementing computer infrastructure systems for brokerage firms (basically, if you've bought stock online, there's a good chance your order went through software Cagnazzi designed), came back to Earth a bit in Houston. He qualified 15th with a 7.50 at 178 and was mowed over in Round 1 by Daniels, who gave up a .048-second holeshot but won easily, 7.40 to 7.54.
"We're still on a giant learning curve," said Cagnazzi, the 1998 Entrepreneur of the Year in New York City. "I know how to run in Florida during the winter. When we start running in different conditions, like altitude tracks or when the temperatures go up, we'll be searching for answers. With no data and no experience I'll be happy just to qualify at the majority of the races and win a round or two.
"We don't have a sponsor yet and even though I've committed to running all of the races I'm not expecting a top 10 finish. Our only goal is to learn something at every race. If we can do that and lay the foundation for next year, I'll be happy."
He bought legendary Pro Stock driver Bob Glidden's old Pinto and was all set to begin his NHRA career during a Division 1 race at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, N.J. But the Super Comp-class car was constructed from old tubing, not chromoly, and it wouldn't pass tech.
Within a year, the Glidden car was gone and Cagnazzi was behind the wheel of a G/Altered Comp Eliminator Camaro.
"It was a good car and we always qualified well wherever we went," Cagnazzi said. "We just didn't have the horses to run with the better cars."
That Camaro met its demise the next year in Rockingham, N.C., when the wishbone pin broke as Cagnazzi went through the lights at 155 mph. "I turned it into dumpster food in a hurry," Cagnazzi said. "The car did its job. I only had two black eyes. But the car was done."
Cagnazzi's next assault on the racetrack came in 1996 when he purchased David Nickens' championship-winning 1992 Jerry Haas-built Cutlass. This time he ran in C/Altered and, once again, he had some success but no horsepower.
Enter one 'Grumpy' old man
"I guess Bill took a liking to us," Cagnazzi said. "He built us a B/Altered motor even though at that time he really wasn't taking on any work. I immediately liked the B/Altered class because I liked chasing instead of being chased.
"At that time Bill was developing a motor for someone for the Truck class, which wasn't even competing yet. He basically made us a 385 version of the same piece.
"At our first race, now remember I had never had any sort of horsepower before then, I was making like my second or third pass and I went .63 under the index. I had a lot of people angry with me. I was shocked. It was my first run with real horsepower. I ended up being the No. 1 qualifier but had a .497 red-light in Round 1. How embarrassing."
The car was plenty fast. Cagnazzi ended up in the top 10 of the points that year and was the quickest B/Altered machine at the U.S. Nationals. "I could have gone 7.15 any time," Cagnazzi said. "And the index back then was a 7.90, and then a 7.87 after I busted it."
Turning to Trucks
"He got me looking into Trucks," said Cagnazzi. "While they were working on my motor I lent my heads to Steve Johns and he went out and won a race and took the pole at a national event. I realized then that, with Grumpy, Steve, and Ken Johns' help, I could probably run Pro Stock Truck. So I bought one and here we are.
"I sure couldn't do any of this without my crew chief Rich Saulino and those three guys help. I can't say enough good things about all of them. I guess the best way to thank them is to go out and do well at the racetrack. That's what were trying to do."
The story is copyright 2001 National Hot Rod Association. It may not be reprinted or retransmitted in any form without the express written permission of NHRA.com.
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