Western Conference Final calling 

Only three weeks remain until the inaugural Western Conference champions for the Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship will be crowned at Dragway at The Bend’s Riverbend Nationals on April 6 and 7. 

The Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship will be taking to the track alongside Top Fuel, Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock, as those brackets continue their NDRC championship chases at the Tailem Bend facility.  

Amongst a long list of Aeroflow National Sportsman Championship racers set to chase glory at this event is Tony Antonino, with the Tranmere (SA) racer in the box seat to fight for the Super Street title after a busy few weeks which included a trip to the Perth Motorplex for the Westernationals backed up the very next weekend by a runner-up spot at Mildura’s Ken Scroop Memorial in Victoria.  

Alongside Michael Jennings, Antonino is one of two racers to have reached the 300 points cap heading into the Western final, with the total gap between the pair ensuring a winner takes all scenario if these two end up facing off in the final race of the Riverbend Nationals.  

“I went to WA to compete in the Perth event for a few reasons, one being that racing at the Motorplex has been on the bucket list, and secondly I wanted to put myself in a better position for the finals and close up the bonus points between myself and Michael Jennings after having missed a couple of rounds in January,” Antonino explains.  

“After Perth, where we went over the cap, we headed to Mildura needing at least five bonus points to close the total gap between Michael and I so that if we are lucky enough to end up in the finals together at Dragway at The Bend, it will come down to the actual race result and not points, and I was able to achieve that with the runner-up result.  

“It was a bit of a last minute decision to go to Perth and unfortunately my crew couldn’t come with me, so thankfully my wife Grazia came to the drags for the first time and crewed for me. I would also like to thank Marty Mirco and his crew for all their help during that weekend. We raced to the third round there before a red light, but it got us over the cap. 

“We got back from Perth on the Thursday afternoon, did a reshuffle of the car, threw in some fresh clothes and food and then headed off Friday morning to Mildura. We knew it would be a tough turnaround, but it was manageable, and it all worked out.” 

Tony Antonino (Cackling Pipes)

Criss-crossing the country may have been a big ask, but it was one that has paid off for Antonino.  

“In Mildura it was trying conditions and very hot for everyone, but I think the event ran flawlessly for the conditions we were all dealt and one of the major factors in that was that the track crew were really on it and kept us moving through just in time so we weren’t sitting very long in the lanes which made a huge difference,” he said.  

“The racing was tough, but we managed to get through to the finals before unfortunately red lighting in the finals to hand the win to Andrew Francis.

“That gave us some more valuable points though, and really closed the gap up with Michael, so now we are all set for The Bend,” he said, while thanking his crew Bill Hondros and Rob and Frank Bergamin of Bergamin Brothers Racing, as well as Dave Thornton and the team at the Sunset Strip.  

With the Western Conference final now ahead, Antonino is hopeful of success in what is becoming an increasingly competitive racing bracket.  

“We are certainly looking forward to the Western Conference final at the Riverbend Nationals,” Antonino said.  

“The goal is definitely to take out the Western Conference. The competition is getting harder and tougher, and I think the track is one that is not easy to get your head around, but we will be doing all we can to take it out. 

“I am probably a little more green to the track than some others as I haven’t done much racing there, but hopefully with the qualifiers I will be able to get the car set up, and be able to read the track and put out some tough competition for the other guys. 

“I am really hoping that Michael and I can get through to the finals and it can come down to that final race, that would be really cool, and I think it would make for a fantastic final.

“If I was to take it out, I would be ecstatic. It has been 12 months of planning and travelling and attending all the events to get where we are, and this is why we do it.  

“This season so far I have won my first Christmas Tree trophy, have come runner-up a couple of times, and now we are in the hunt heading to the Western Conference final – I would be absolutely over the moon if we can get it done.”  

The Riverbend Nationals will feature Top Fuel, Top Doorslammer and Pro Stock as well as the Aeroflow National Sportsman Series across April 6 and 7 at Dragway at The Bend. For event info and tickets, go to ndrc.tv 

Tony Antonino (Cackling Pipes)

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