Story By: ERNIE SAXTON / SAMMONS PRODUCTIONS – TRENTON, NJ – The hottest driver in Florida during Speedweeks right now, Woburn, Mass., Asphalt Modified driver Anthony Nocella, winner of two of the first three asphalt Modified features at New Smyrna (FL) Speedway this past week, has filed an entry for the third annual East Coast Dirt Nationals being run inside the CURE Insurance Arena in Trenton, NJ, on February 21–22.
Nocella’s entry is among nearly 100 wingless 600cc sprints on the indoor banked, clay oval.
The 27-year old New Englander was the man to beat at this year’s week-long World Series Of Auto Racing in Florida, winning the Monday opener, leading most of the Tuesday race before settling for third, then winning the John Blewett, III Memorial 76-lap race Wednesday in a thrilling photo finish.
“I’ve won some big races, but this is definitely big, coming down here for just the second year and winning. Beating the competition here is pretty neat, that’s for sure. Some of these guys I never beat before,” shared Nocella.
His win in the Blewett Memorial featured a side by side battle with Matt Hirschman that lasted several laps and ended in a finish that many felt was too close to call. Nocella got the nod from officials.
Though Nocella’s more recent racing endeavors have consisted of racing Modifieds on pavement, he has considerable background racing 600 Micro Sprints on dirt.
“I started in karts and went to Micro Sprints. I ran them for a while and won a couple of championships at Whip City Speedway before I went to NEMA Midgets. The last time I drove a Micro Sprint on dirt was probably ten years ago.
“Rich Crooker from New Hampshire owns the car. He called me up and asked if I would be interested. I said yes, got my guys together, and entered the race. The car hasn’t been run in a while but it’s a good piece. Not very old, not the very newest. If we all do our job and everything aligns, we can do well,” Nocella expressed.
Much like the competition in Florida, the field in Trenton will be a challenge for Nocella, consisting of Micro Sprint regulars and stars from a variety of forms of racing.
Whitey Kidd, III won the 2017 inaugural running of the East Coast Dirt Nationals for the Micro Sprint regulars, while Dirt Modified and Indoor Racing standout Erick Rudolph drove Tommy Fraschetta’s car to a win in the second running in December of 2018.
Teams will arrive in Trenton on Thursday for closed door practice on the track which again be built with rich tacky black dustless clay. On Friday, by the luck of a blind draw, the field will be split into 10 heat races. Those who start in the back will benefit by points given for each car passed.
The top 60 in heat race points are then divided into four A-Main qualifiers of which the top three transfer directly to Saturday’s 40 lap A-Main event paying $5,000 to the winner.
On Saturday all non-qualified drivers are split into qualifying races by their results on Friday. Each of these events, starting with twin letter F-Mains transfer four to the next main until two B-Mains are reached on the scheduled. In the final qualifiers, the top six transfer to the A-Main which will start 24 cars.