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1997 Net Racer of the Year

The Staging Light would like to congratulate NHRA Federal-Mogul Dragster driver Bill Ancona on his outstanding accomplishments this season by selecting him as the 1997 Net Racer of the Year. The culmination of those accomplishments include Bill's 1997 NHRA Division 4 Federal-Mogul Championship, and the quickest and fastest blown alcohol dragster pass in history, a stunning 5.455 @ 256.84 mph, which earned him the #1 Qualifier position at the NHRA Revell Nationals at Dallas, Texas.

Bill Ancona
Record-setter & NHRA Div. 4 Champion

About the car:

1997 Sarmento
280" WB
457 CID Conway TFX with Brad-5 heads
PSI Super Charger
Crower clutch
Lenco 3 spd
Strange 9.5 inch, top loader, rear end with carbon brakes
Must weigh 2010 with driver after the run

About the crew:

Tom Conway, fuel system and team consultant
Jeff Knight, Crew Chief
Clay Julius, Assistant Crew Chief
Jim & Kim Eberhardt, Crew
Kathleen Ancona, Crew
Dwight Allen, Crew

Sponsored by:

Weld Racing Wheels
Phoenix Trailers
McClain's RVs
Motoel 6
Optima Batteries
PSI Super Chargers
Champion Spark Plugs
Painless Wiring
Mr Gasket Co.
Accel Plug Wires
Hedman Hedders
Jaz Products
Sunoco Fuels
Conway Automotive
Wendland Performance
Anthony Jones Engineering
Sarmento's Fabrication Inc.
Auto Meter


1997 Record

Div. 4 race @ Houston, TX
Qualified top half (I think 2-3) with 5.680 @ 245.90 (Career best ET)

Div. 4 race @ Dallas, TX
Qualified #6 with a 5:895 @ 242.71 (rain out after 2 rounds of qualifying) Postponed until June

Div. 4 race @ Baton Rouge, LA
Qualified #2 with a 5.876 @ 238.34

Mar 21-24 Slick 59 Nats @ Houston, TX

Div. 4 race @ Hallsville, TX
Qualified #2 with a 5.84 @ 226.72
New track record at 5.80 @ 233

Lone Star Nats @ Dallas, TX
Qualified I think #8 with a 5.71 @ 248.48 (career best MPH)

Div. 2 race @ Reynolds, GA
Qualified #2 with a 5.827 @ 219.19 (broke the engine at 800 ft)

Div. 4 race @ Dallas, TX (rain out event)
Winner: 5.670 @ 249.23 (career best ET & MPH)

Div. 4 race @ Memphis, TN
Qualified #2 at 5.654 @ 246.84 (career best ET)

Div. 5 race @ Scribner, NE
Qualified #1 with a track record 5.792 @ 243.90

US Nationals @ Indy
Qualified #15 with a 5.659 and a career best MPH 251.81

Div. 4 race @ Noble, OK
Qualified #5 with a 5.70 @ 245.43

Revell Nats @ Dallas, TX
Qualified #1 with the quickest & fastest pass in history 5.455 @ 256.84

Matco Tools Nats @ Houston, TX
Qualified #2 with a 5.553 @ 251.81 Runner-Up

Some moments from Bill's season...

"We got off to a slow start this year due to beginning the season with a whole new combination. We knew it had potential but we were not able to really unleash it due to various reasons most of which were not within the engine but rather the rest of the set up. The biggest problem was getting/keeping the balance just right. The car makes so much power we just couldn't seem to keep the front end on the ground without making the car shake violently. We worked that out slowly over the course of the year and as a result the car got faster and faster, smoother and smoother. During that time we were able to some decent performances that basically salvaged our year and netted us the Division 4 championship. At mid-year we went on a string that took us to three consecutive finals and two wins. The first win was at the rain delayed Texas Motorplex points race. As I mentioned before we struggled in the beginning of the year trying to harness the power and during qualifying for the event, we were fortunate enough to get in the show in the number 5 spot. Since the actual event was run several months later when we were beginning to get a handle on it, we ran much better than we qualified. We set low ET and top speed of every round (two time shots and three elim. rounds) and won the event. We ran all 5.60s and never had the pan off or the clutch out of the car during the event. A testament to the incredible preparation the team had put into the car.

"We had several events this year where we set personal career bests again showing that the team and the car got better as time went by. The win at the Motorplex was followed by a runner up finish at Memphis where we qualified number two by (I think) .001 and I red-lit in the final. I was given a reprieve as the blower belt broke at about 800 ft and I would have lost anyway. We followed that with the event that probably put an eventual lock on the title for us. Scribner Nebraska. We went a long ways to get much neeed points to win the division with Darrell Russell breathing down my neck. It was to be my last oportunity to claim an out of devision race due to my schedule so we new it was a must win situation for us. When we got there the competition was tough and the weather got bad. We (read me, not the team) got too aggressive and way overpowered the track for the first lap and got the car across the centerline and had to lift = not in. Second/third round of qualifying = rained out = not in. Oh my God! If they set the field and run the race, I'm out, have to count the race, and I'm in deep trouble points wise. As it turned out, they decided to run one lap of qualifying on Sunday morning because they felt it was unfair to even those in the show to not have an oportunity to at least make an attempt at both lane. This was our opportunity we needed. We took advantage of that with a one shot, low ET of the meet shot that stands today as the track record. I think it was 5.75 @ 248. We went on to win the event and basically put the title out of reach for anyone else as long as we attended the remaining events and qualified.

"With the division title well in hand we began to set our sights on winning at the National event level. We never really chased National points this year which probably was a mistake because for the first time in recent memory it didn't take nearly a perfect score to win the title (5 div and 5 nat wins). We had horrible outings at both the Dallas and Houston spring events but bounced back the the fall events at both track with number 1 and number 2 qualifying spots and a runner-up at Houston. Our #1 qualifyer at Dallas 5.45, 257 was the quickest/fastest pass in history and held up for low et and top speed of the event even though we went out in the first round. The .49 in the last round of qualifying set the stage for more to come.

"In the first round of qualifying, one week later at HRP we came right out of the trailer at 5.54, good for number one again. We let Zeal slip around us for the spot when we sat out the last round of qualifying and he ran a last ditch, not in the show to top of the show 5.43. As the script calls for, he and I met in the final where I left on him, but blew some oil out in front of my own right slick and went into incredibly violent tire shake immediately when I let the clutch out. Photos show me smoking the tires right off the starting line. What perople didn't kno w is that a pan stud, that is tapped into the crankcase had backed out and was spraying oil right in fron of the right slick right from the hit. According to Tom Conway, who was standing right behind the car where he could not see it till I left, there was a puddle that squished to about 1 foot in diameter as I drove through it, then all Hell broke loose. Not knowing what was going on and thinking I could drive through the shake (the recommended proceedure in eliminations) I tried to hustle it down the track. We are fortunate to still have a car as it got very loose the entire trip and I nearly lost it at the finish line. Fortunately, it was running in so much oil it never got up much speed (only about 220 something) and I was able to save it by lifting and yanking the steering wheel."

Copyright 1996-1999 Michael G. Beard

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