LAGANA HEADED BACK TO AUSTRALIA FOR RAI
With tuner Lee Beard to help him, part-time NHRA racer Dom Lagana will make an encore visit to Australia later this month for Rapisarda Autosport International.
Lagana will be a teammate to Damien Harris and Wayne Newby at the Santo’s Summer Thunder event January 21 at Sydney Dragway, then at the Jan. 28-29 ANDRA Nationals at Calder Park Raceway at Melbourne, Victoria.
Harris won last weekend’s New Year Thunder at Willowbank Raceway, near Brisbane, Queensland. Newby will be chasing back-to-back victories at his home track.
“I’m excited to be returning to Australia to race for Rapisarda Autosport International,” Lagana said. “To be invited back is an honor and privilege. One of my career highlights was running a personal best of 3.78 [seconds] elapsed time at 319 miles an hour in the Rapisarda fuel car during the 2014 Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis.
“I’ve always kept in touch with Santo, Santino, and Junior when they have raced on the NHRA tour over the last couple of years,” he said, referring to the team owner and his crew chief sons. “I got to hang out and spend some time with the team at the final round of the NHRA season last November.”
Beard, a world champion NHRA Top Fuel crew chief, also is no stranger to working with RAI. Beard guided his 13th different driver to a win when he tuned Larry Dixon to a Top Fuel victory this past June at the City of Ipswich Winternationals at Willowbank Raceway in Australia, the final stop on the inaugural Thunder 400 tour.
Beard said the dragster Lagana will be driving is the one Cory McClenathan piloted to win the 2015 Winternationals at Willowbank. Beard also tuned McClenathan to a win in Sydney in 2016 and then led Larry Dixon to the 2016 Winternationals victory at Willowbank. Dixon also set the Australian national elapsed time record with a 4.503-second run and the mph mark at 332 mph in the quarter-mile.
“I’ve been around Dom a little bit,” Beard said. “He’s an awesome young guy who is extremely knowledgeable about race cars. The Lagana family has a tremendous amount of history with their dad and the Twilight Zone Top Fuel car. I’m excited to be going to Australia and racing with an up and coming driver and we are certainly going there to win. I have a great relationship with the father, Santino (Rapisarda), and I take a lot of pride in working with the two boys and teaching them everything I can.”
Lagana said RAI will have its hands full, but it’s not the biggest task the team has taken on.
“Running three cars in Sydney will be a challenge, but RAI has the equipment, resources, and a talented bunch of crew guys to get the job done,” Lagana said. “The last time I raced there was when Santo ran four cars at Sydney in 2015. That was an amazing experience.”
Santino Rapisarda said, “Dom is like a brother to Santo Jr. and myself. He’s got a great work ethic and is really down to earth and very much a hands-on person. Dom and his older brother Bobby run their own team in America and bring to drag racing a very strong sense of family. And that is something that we can identify with. He’s been around drag racing all his life, and over the years we’ve been racing in America, he has really gone out of his way to help our team.”
Now he’ll see once again if he can help them on the racetrack.