The euphoria of a national event victory will inspire a racer to do the absurd, even crowd surf a golf cart.
Who could blame John DeFlorian?
DeFlorian scored his tenth round win out of 12 possible this season on Sunday, as he crossed the finish line first in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock final at the NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, NH.
In doing so, he became the only repeat winner for the NHRA’s Mountain Motor Pro Stock presentation this year.
“I don’t even have words to put it in that would be enough,” said DeFlorian, whose resume also includes a win at the inaugural NHRA exhibition at Indy in 2018. “This is an amazing experience, an unbelievable experience. All I’ve ever wanted to do my entire life was race and go drag racing. To have this opportunity to come out here and get to do this and to be able to say that we wound up winning two NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock events, I pinch myself. I tell them all the time, ‘If I’m dreaming, don’t wake me up.”
“This just is a dream come true. And I can’t even tell you a dream come true because that’s not truthful. I was never bold enough to dream this big. This is beyond dreams for me.”
If just winning an event would be too bold to dream, then there’s the reality, even though there’s no official NHRA Mountain Motor Pro Stock series championship, DeFlorian’s overwhelming success would have likely made him the inaugural champion.
“I kind of thought so, yeah,” DeFlorian admitted. “Had my wife keeping points, just kind of unofficially. She used to do points all the time because I was kind of like you know, if we could win this thing in a sense if there were a points thing, it’d just be kind of nice to say, ‘Hey, you know what? We actually won the championship.”
Unfortunately for wife Liann, she had to leave Epping early to catch a flight back home to St. Louis.
“Broke my heart,” DeFlorian said. “She wasn’t here to be able to celebrate with us and take a part of this. You know, we’ve got to do what we’ve got to do as far as our lives and our work and all that kind of stuff. So she was not able to be here.”
Adding to the frustration, LiAnn wasn’t able to watch via NHRA.tv.
“She couldn’t get on because my son Johnny and my daughter Ashley were both on, so she couldn’t get on,” DeFlorian said. “Needless to say, she wasn’t very happy about that.”
DeFlorian did have a strong supporting cast with him, his crew headed by one he calls his inspiration, Kevin “Lump” Self, along with crew members Jason Petzold and Jeff Graber.
“Kevin and Karen Bealco provided the means for us to do this,” DeFlorian said. “I had been on the sidelines for two years.”
The whole experience of racing the large displacement Pro Stocker with NHRA has been a combination of a dream come true and extreme intimidation. It hit DeFlorian head one last August in Indianapolis.
“It was one hundred percent overwhelmingly intimidating,” DeFlorian admitted. “I’ve gone to Indy since 1984 as a spectator, with never, ever, ever, ever anticipating being a participant. I was fine with that. Just to have the opportunity to go there and be able to race the biggest race there is, of the year, drag race of the year, and just be able to have my feet on the same ground as the Forces and you look at Torrences, all these guys that are there and I was just overwhelmed.”
So overwhelmed; in fact, DeFlorian froze at the moment he was ordered to fire and roll into the water box. His crew chief Brian “Lump” Self took control of the situation.
“He sticks his head in the car and excuse my language, but he puts his head in the car, and he said, he could see my eyeballs were huge, and he goes, ‘Breathe, f’er, breathe.”
“So it was absolutely what I needed at the time because I think I might have been hyperventilating. I was so overwhelmed, and it was such an overwhelming experience, I can’t even tell you how great it was.”
“I’m just looking out at the grandstands I’ve been sitting in since 1984 and looking at the big screen playing all these other guys going up and down the race track, and I’m looking at the Top Eliminator Club seats, and I’m like, ‘This is not real. This is not real. I can’t even believe this.”
DeFlorian said NHRA, and its fans have gone above and beyond to welcome the class into their series. It’s a welcome many never envisioned transpiring.
“NHRA pitted us right behind the main grandstands [in Charlotte], and the people were pouring out of the grandstands and coming right over through our pits, and they were like just overwhelmed,” DeFlorian explained. “They were like, ‘What are these things? What the heck kind of a motor is it?”
“We don’t rope off. I invited everybody into my pit area. They’re coming in going, ‘My God, look at the size of that motor.”
DeFlorian understands there’s a bright future on the horizon for this brand of Pro Stock racing. Rumors suggest as many stops as six on the tour next year with the 500-inch schedule expected to reduce from 18 to 16 in 2020.
“If we can have eight races, or even six races, next year, I’d be elated. I mean absolutely elated,” DeFlorian said. “It almost kills me, to be honest, that here we are at the beginning of July and I know that for this my season’s now over. That’s a hard thing to think about. But it’s also very promising knowing that I’ve had some great conversations with Ned [NHRA’s Walliser] that it looks like there’s a future here for us next year.”
The euphoria which inspired the golf cart crowd surf is a reminder of just how far he’s come in his career which includes multiple titles on the eighth-mile scene.
“I can’t believe that I’m able to be here,” DeFlorian said. “Little bitty ol’ me from frickin’ Fenton, Missouri, nobody, and I’m getting to be out here in the big show and the big stage. Very, very cool.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019