Anthony Mangiaracina may be a relative young gun in the sport of drag racing, but he’s already one of the top small tire drivers in all of no prep. At age 31, the Chicago-area driver has already won some of the biggest no prep events in the country. Nor is he new to the sport. Like many racers, Mangiaracina – referred to as Tony V at the track – grew up in drag racing.
“My dad’s been bracket racing for years, so as a kid, I always tagged along with the old man,” Mangiaracina says. “We would go across the country, and he’d chase all these bracket races, and I’d be the little gopher following around helping. I’ve been into drag racing my whole life, been at his shop working on cars since I was…I couldn’t tell you how old.”
While his father, Vince Mangiaracina, was a bracket racer, Tony V grew up dreaming of racing Pro Stock one day. Around the time he bought his car, however, he started following the local street racing scene, as well as a new event called King of the Streets (KOTS) – widely recognized as the birthplace of the no prep craze.
“KOTS was my first,” Mangiaracina remembers. “I had a couple races at my local track, Byron Dragway, and a couple little grudge races. But KOTS was my first big race and no prep experience.” Once a daily driver that had even participated in a wheelstand contest hanging the front tires on the bumper for 330′.
Hard to believe Mangiaracina has raced the same 2000 Chevy Camaro for a decade now, although it’s gone through some major changes. Originally a 400CI LS motor on nitrous, the landscape of small tire no prep racing forced him to upgrade to a Steve Morris big block Chevy with a ProCharger. The car also features a Proformance turbo 400 racing transmission, a Racecraft-built chassis, and tuning help from Andre Davis.
“I just couldn’t get past the semi’s,” recalls Mangiaracina. “No matter what race I went to, I would always get beat by a turbo car. I would get so frustrated. We put a bigger jet in the motor, and we ended up hurting one piston. We were actually at the race track when I found out that the motor was hurt, and I ended up looking at my old man and said, ‘I’m not fixing it.’ He said, ‘What do you mean?’ And I said, ‘I’m selling it all! I’m going big block ProCharger.’ That’s all it took for me.”
The switch has paid dividends since then, as Tony V has scored victories at Outlaw Armageddon, No Prep Kings (Memphis and Joliet), Anarchy, and KOTS.
“We’ve won KOTS two times in a row, and I think there’s only one guy to ever do that,” says Mangiaracina. “We won the last one at the Grove, and we won the first one at [U.S.] 41. Winning that twice in a row was a big deal. We won a lot of races last year; we went to six finals this year, and won three of them.”
With his success in no prep, Mangiaracina admits he has thought about putting radials on the car and trying some prepped events. However, it isn’t likely to happen any time soon. The Camaro is built specifically for no prep, and the team simply doesn’t have the funding for something like a Radial vs. the World program. And that’s just fine with Tony V, as he loves what no prep currently brings to the table.
“I think it’s just the excitement, the challenge. A lot of guys have struggled getting down a surface like that, and I’m always up for a challenge,” Mangiaracina says. “We struggled for a couple years to make it work, and we learned what to do and what not to do. And it’s cool having kids come up to you. The older generation, they’re used to the NHRA and all that other stuff, but it’s cool to have them come and ask questions. You can teach them the new technology – being a young guy, explaining to an older guy. I like the fans and the experience.”
Perhaps most important to Tony V is his continued racing relationship with his dad. The roles are reversed now, with Vincent traveling to races with his son instead of the other way around, but the family aspect is still the same as it’s always been.
“I won’t race the car without my dad yelling in my ear about something,” Mangiaracina says. “I keep him on my headset, my radio. I won’t show up to the track without him, my girlfriend, or my stepmom. It’s a great experience, having somebody there that you can trust, and that you’ve learned from. Watching (him) growing up my whole life, and then having him show up to the race track has just been something I’ve always wanted to do. Asking questions and learning, and doing it as a team, we learn something new every outing. We seem to have good success with it.”
In the racing world, family extends beyond just relatives. Over the years, Tony V and his crew have grown close to another well-known small tire racer in the Chicago area – Joey Rabiola, better known as Boost12. The group refers to themselves as the Boosted Misfits, and the relationship extends beyond the track.
“We pretty much call ourselves family,” says Mangiaracina. “That’s always good, to have somebody besides your group, another racer. We go out on the weekends, have dinner, and do things together as friends. If we need a hand, or they need a hand, we’re always there to help.”
Despite so much success at a young age, Tony V says his future goals are surprisingly simple and straightforward – keep succeeding.
“They say to get better, you gotta race the best. That’s what we’ve been doing, and we’ve had good success with it,” says Mangiaracina. “Taking out guys that I look up to in the racing community, like [Keith] Szabo and Boost12. Those are all guys that I saw racing, and to beat them, to be competitive with those guys, is a huge success in our camp.”