Anthony Bertozzi won his first NHRA championship in Super Stock in 2002, and it took him nearly two decades to win another one. Bertozzi’s quest for a second title ended last season when he finished as the top points earner in Top Dragster presented by Vortech Superchargers. If he has his way, a third title won't take nearly as long.
“Championships are hard to win; it wasn’t easy in 2002, and it wasn’t easy last year,” said the personable Virginia native. “There are so many good drivers out there, and everything just needs to fall into place. I can’t say that I was the best driver in Top Dragster last year, I just happened to be the guy who finished with the most points, and they gave me the big No. 1 to put on the car.”
Bertozzi won’t go so far as to say there’s an asterisk next to his 2020 Top Dragster title, but he does acknowledge that the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic made it difficult, if not impossible, for some of his potential championship rivals to pursue the title. To that end, Bertozzi is eager to kick off the 2021 season, and he plans to do so at the season-opening Southeast Division NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at Orlando Speed World Dragstrip, Feb. 4-6. From there, he plans to attend the Division 2 event at South Georgia Motorsports Park and the “Baby Gators” in Gainesville, March 4-6.
“The good thing about having all those points meets in Florida early in the season is that you’ll know right away if it’s worth chasing the points,” Bertozzi said. “If I do well at those three divisional races, and then do something at the Gatornationals, then I’m in for the season, and I’ll hit as many races as I need to. If not, I’ll be able to pick and choose where I go. It’s a nice spot to be in.”
Smart money favors Bertozzi being in the thick of the championship battle in Top Dragster, and also in Super Stock, where he is coming off a seventh-place finish with his familiar Pontiac Grand Am. In addition to his two NHRA world championships, Bertozzi is a five-time Southeast Division champ. Smart money also favors a fast start for Bertozzi, who has enjoyed extraordinary success in the Sunshine State with 15 career Lucas Oil Series titles. Bertozzi has won the Orlando race five times and also has seven wins at the Baby Gators, including a Comp/Super Stock double in 2008. In addition, he’s tacked on three victories in early-season Division 2 races at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
“I like racing in Florida; heck, who doesn’t like being down there in the warm weather when the rest of the country is freezing cold?” said Bertozzi, who maintains a winter home near Ft. Lauderdale in addition to his home base in Ashland, Va. “I just like the fact that in about six weeks, you can race three division races and the Gatornationals without leaving the state. That’s a good deal.”
For more on the amazing career of two-time world champion Bertozzi, check out our feature in the upcoming issue of NHRA National Dragster.