While tuning for the diesel pickup truck team and working in the construction business, he became friends with Johnny K. Chris came on board with Pol Cal Racing during the early Bantam altered car's campaign and has been there ever since, continuing into the nostalgia funny car ranks as the team’s crew chief.
Crew chief duties you ask? For Chris, he works on the tune, interprets the data, manages the maintenance of the engine and chassis all while not loosing focus on making sure the car travels from point A to point B without complications, safely! He drives the hauler to and from each event to make certain that Johnny K is rested and ready to race.
Ronnie McBride applying the finishing touches on the Pol Cal Nostalgia Corvette before the next round
Another important member of the squad includes Ronnie McBride, car enthusiast, all around good guy and an extremely hard worker. Ronnie's tasks as car chief includes him taking care of mixing and filling the jugs of alcohol fuel, cleaning and waxing the body, polishing all of the chrome on the engine and chassis of the car including the big, fat Hoosier clad bead-lock wheels and helping to pack the chutes.
And now, introducing team member Frank Dragotta, Jr., whose interest in drag racing began at ten years old when he attended the Niagara Drag Strip for the Gold Cup Nationals.
Frank Dragotta Jr. videos the car's burn out while Chris McBride brings Johnny K into the water box
Frank manages the social media, posting commentary, photos and videos of the Pol Cal Racing team during events and post race. At the track, he is in charge of getting Johnny K lined up and into the right groove for launching the nostalgia Pol Cal Racing Corvette. Frank mentioned, "I call myself the Groove Finder. I look for the sweet spot everywhere we go and so far so good, that's kind of where I'm at."
Taking care of keeping the team in line is Johnny K's wife, Nancy Obenauer Kwasniewski. She makes sure that the team members have a full tummy with a nourishing breakfast, lunch or dinner that she prepares. Nancy's focus is to ensure that the team is relaxed before the competition rounds. It's a full time job keeping the guys in check and curbing their shenanigans. She also enjoys traveling with the team and loves her race car family. Nancy's most exciting expectation for the Pol Cal Racing team in 2017 would be seeing the funny car run a 200 mile per hour pass.
The man behind the "Mighty Mouse" power plant of the Nostalgia Pol Cal Racing Corvette is Joe Deney and his company Gor-Den Automotive/Gor-Den Racing Engines which is located in West Seneca, New York. He built Johnny K a 377 cubic inch, supercharged small block Chevy that runs on alcohol, that is easy to service and very low maintenance. Joe was quoted as saying, "The last time I touched it was 2014! Johnny told me that the guys with the hemis come into the pits and tear down, heads off, the rods and pistons out, the blowers getting serviced, while we sit down and eat hotdogs!" Now that's low maintenance!
John the fourth has plans to get some seat time in the Pol Cal Racing's Nostalgia Corvette in the future. It has been a topic of discussion around the race shop. Johnny says, "I'm not ready to turn over the keys quite yet, but I am interested in getting J4 some seat time, allowing him to stomp on the loud pedal very soon."
(L-R) Nancy with Johnny K and the team mascot Spank striking a pose for the paparazzi - The lastest member of the team and the youngest, Lacey Rose with her finger on the trigger checking out the pilots seat of the Pol Cal Corvette - After a great day of racing,
it's time to sit back and knock the frost off a cold one and enjoy the sunset with the Pol Cal team
The Pol Cal Racing family likes to start them out early, the newest member of the team being Lacey Rose, daughter of John IV and granddaughter to Johnny K and Nancy. She is a frequent visitor to the race shop and when she does visit, she commands very special treatment along with everyone's full attention. Her driver's training and seat time has already begun.
The Pol Cal Racing 2017 Team: (L to R) Jack Kwasniewski and wife Pat, engine builder Joe Deney, Frank Dragotta Jr.,
Chris McBride, Paula Smith, Johnny Kwasniewski and wife Nancy, John IV and in the stroller Lacey Rose Kwasniewski.
Indeed, it’s a family affair. A love of doing what you do together that involves family, friends, fans and sponsors that share one common interest, drag racing. At the end of the day, you smile and hug each other. You know that you’ve done your best to accomplish that goal and that you have each other's backs. It's a passionate fire that burns hot and deep within the families of the Kwasniewski, McBride and Dragotta that propels this sport of nostalgia drag racing forward, keeping it alive and moving it into the forefront. No wonder we call drag racing "America's fastest motorsports on asphalt" and to top it all off, we get to drag race in the greatest country in the world. God Bless the U.S.A.
NOSTALGIA DRAG WORLD - Words & photos by Rick Lee Waddell