STREET MACHINE had a chinwag with veteran NHRA tuner Lee Beard while he was in Sydney for the Nitro Thunder meeting on May 5-6. And when a man who’s won 55 national events in NHRA Top Fuel and Funny Car talks, you best believe that we listen.
Indianapolis-based Beard, who retired from full-time NHRA combat in 2013, was here acting as crew chief on the Top Fuel dragster piloted by fellow American Dom Lagana.
Part of a three-car Rapisarda International Autosport assault, Lee gave props to the team’s full-time crew chiefs Santo Rapisarda Jr and Santino Rapisarda.
“I admire the two boys for the skill level they have,” said Lee. “They are both very intelligent and do a great job for their young ages and experience level.”
The Nitro Thunder meeting delivered some of the fastest racing ever seen in Sydney on the newly resurfaced dragway. All of the Rapisarda cars were in with a shot on race day, their biggest threat looming in the form of expat Richie Crampton making a cameo appearance driving the Lamattina Racing Top Fueller tuned by Aaron Hambridge.
All four cars laid down 4.5-second passes throughout an action-packed day, with Crampton running quickest with a 4.538sec at 329mph.
In the end, Lee and the Dom Lagana car had to settle for third place after claiming victory in the B-final over the Damien Harris car tuned by Santo Rapisarda Jr.
“We took two wins on race day but ended in third place,” said Lee. “We gave it our best shot and ran in the 4.50s, but on the day we were just not quick enough. Going into the final round, everything I gave the car, the track ate up.”
In the main event, the Wayne Newby car tuned by Santino Rapisarda claimed its second straight 400 Thunder win by getting the better of Crampton, who saved his worst for last.
Santino Rapisarda and Newby are now on the cusp of their first Australian Top Fuel championship, needing only to show up and qualify at the upcoming 50th Winternationals at Willowbank to secure the 400 Thunder crown.
Watch the video to hear Lee Beard talk about racing Down Under, 1/4-mile vs. 1000-feet, and the technological advancements that have seen speeds continue to rise and records continue to fall.