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IHRA Hall of Fame Inductee: Anthony Bertozzi

Thursday, 25 March 2021
Hall of Fame Hall of Fame

Anthony Bertozzi absolutely dominated Sportsman competition in the International Hot Rod Association winning a record 59 races in the 1990s and early 2000s.


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The Virginia racer captured 16 IHRA World Championships including seven in Super Stock, six in Modified, two in Top Dragster and one in Stock Eliminator. In five different seasons, Bertozzi won championships in two classes.

Now, he is honored as the first Sportsman inductee into the inaugural International Hot Rod Association Hall of Fame class.

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Bertozzi is also a two-time NHRA champion, most recently wrapping up the 2020 Top Dragster title. He occasionally gets back to his roots, like going back to his home track of Richmond Dragway to bracket race.

Known for his quick reaction times, it brings back memories of when he first started racing.

“When I started IHRA racing in the 80s, they didn’t have delay boxes,” he recalled. “Towards the end of the 80s, they got them so I put one in and was good with a delay box. But, I loved the bottom-bulb racing like I started.”

Asked about his favorite race car, it is the one which he drove to so many IHRA victories.

“It has to be the 1998 Pontiac Grand-Am,” Bertozzi said. “I bought it from Jeg as it was Jeg Coughlin’s personal car. I’ve had a bunch of race cars, but I wouldn’t sell that car for anything. I love my dragsters, but I love that car. It was such a good, consistent car.”

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From an early age, Bertozzi was taught the value of hard work.

The grandson of Italian immigrants, Bertozzi’s grandfather worked as a plasterer before starting his own business. Bertozzi’s father converted the business to more drywall, metal studs and acoustic ceilings. The business grew to over 350 employees and in the mid-80s, he also purchased Virginia Builders Supply.

Scaling back after his father’s death in 2003, Bertozzi remains successful with businesses in drywall installation and commercial real estate.

Bertozzi stumbled upon the sport of drag racing as a 15-year-old when his older brother took an El Camino to be worked on at Jerry Loan’s shop. Inside the shop, Bertozzi’s imagination ran wild. He saw race cars that Loan was building and the photos of hot rods he had already built. Questioning the racer nicknamed the “Big Chief,” the teenager got an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“He said, ‘I leave here every Saturday morning for Richmond Dragway. You’re welcome to go with me,’” Bertozzi recalled. “He added that people constantly told him they would go with him and every week he ended up going by himself. I said, ‘If I can go, I will be here next Saturday.’

“I had my mother drive me over there and drop me off. I rode with him to the drag strip and that’s when I fell in love with it.”

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A year later, Bertozzi bought a 1972 Chevy Nova without a motor and transmission. After getting it ready, he started racing the car, which doubled as his daily ride, in 1982.

“It was a kind of Pro Street car with wide street tires and two carburetors,” Bertozzi said. “On the weekends, I would put the slicks on it and take the mufflers off. I started doing really well and the first year won a track championship. Other times, it was a street car which I drove to school.”

After winning that Top ET title, he soon started racing at other local tracks, often doing a rotation of Sumerduck Dragway on Friday night, Richmond on Saturday and Maryland International Raceway on Sunday.

From there, Bertozzi started chasing big-money races like traveling 11 hours to US 131 Dragway in Martin, Michigan for $5,000 before racing on the IHRA national tour.

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Over his illustrious career, he’s had four perfect runs. He’s also got a Hall of Fame worth of memories like his first time competing at an IHRA national event.

“When I joined the IHRA, I saw the magazines, I saw they were having a national event in Darlington,” he said. “I decided I was going to run Quick Rod and I won the first race I ever went to. Then I started running Super Stock and Modified. I started doing the IHRA bottom-bulb racing and that’s when I quit big-money bracket racing.”                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                       

Last modified on Monday, 29 March 2021

 

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