Just before the second round of qualifying at the Yellow Bullet Nationals in September at Cecil County Dragway in Maryland, Nick Agostino and Jerry Morgano made a friendly bet over who had the quickest small block-powered car at the event.
It was anybody’s guess who would win that bet as both drivers had plenty of power under their hoods, but moments into the run, Agostino’s 2000 Camaro made a move, flipped over and went into the wall.
“The car was on a great run, and it was probably going to be a 4.07 or 4.08, which would have put us in the fourth or fifth qualified spot out of 32 cars, but at the 2-second mark, the car went toward the center line,” said Agostino of Markham, Ontario. “I tried to hold it and not counter-steer, but the car wasn’t correcting. When I was off the throttle, the trans shifted in high gear, the converter locked and the back tires stopped, which shot the car around and air got under the back wing. That’s when I flipped over and went into the wall.”
Agostino, whose left-side shoulder was severely injured, spent the next eight hours in the hospital, but was quick to begin surveying the damage to his car as soon as he was able to.
“We saw that everything was damaged from the firewall forward, and there was not one body panel that we would be able to save,” said Agostino. “Also, because the car was skidding when it was on its roof, half of the main hoop was ground down, and we determined that it would cost us the same, if not more money, to rebuild the car than it would to get a new car.”
So, Agostino secured a 1969 Camaro from one of his crew members, Ricky Carlos, which was already in the process of being turned into an NMCA Mickey Thompson Radial Wars entry.
“It was originally built by Rick Jones of RJ Race Cars, but LJ Frame and Chassis re-did the firewall forward to get it exactly how we needed it to be, and we added more bars in the back,” said Agostino. “It’s chrome moly, and it’s certified to 6.0.”
The car, which is set up as a four-link and has a Strange 9.5 center section and housing, will feature factory steel rear quarter panels and rocker panels, and a carbon fiber roof and front by Joe Van Overbeek. The roof will have a vinyl cover, and 727 Body Shop, which has performed body work and applied paint on Agostino’s previous race cars, will do so on this car as well.
“The car will have a factory appearance, with no different sloping on the roof, but it will be low to the ground,” said Agostino. “We haven’t decided on the paint scheme yet, but it will either be silver with black stripes or red with silver stripes. We’re arguing about that now. I’m a red and silver guy, as you know, but the silver and black with the black vinyl roof would look good, too.”
Providing the muscle will be a 480ci small-block Chevy engine on a billet aluminum block with 4.600 bore space designed by Visner Engine Development. It has Wiseco pistons and GRP rods, and will be topped with heads and an intake also designed by Visner Engine Development.
“Factory bore space is 4.400, and I don’t know of any small-block Chevy guys who are using the 4.600 bore space that we’re using,” said Agostino. “I’ve been working with Visner Engine Development on some of the design, and we’re using cross-bolted Hemi mains and thick cylinder walls for more boost.”
While Agostino, who’s skilled at getting from the starting line to the finish line on either slicks or drag radials, knows that he’ll front the engine with twin turbos, he’s currently researching brands, and said he’ll likely go with Garrett.
An M&M Transmission-built three-speed lock-up transmission will handle things below, and tuners Patrick Barnhill and Jason Lee of PTP Racing will continue to help Agostino tie it all together with a Haltech engine management system. An NLR AMS-2000 boost controller will soon be added to the program.
While Agostino’s 2000 Camaro had a 101.5 inch wheelbase, his 1969 Camaro has a 109 inch wheelbase, and he’s confident that will allow him to place ballast where he wants it and make the car more stable on track.
“Other than the car being slammed to the ground and having 3,500 horsepower, it should look like a factory GM car,” said Agostino, who had run as quick as 3.92 at 197 mph with 58 pounds of boost and 204 mph with 67 pounds of boost in his 2,735-pound 2000 Camaro and has his sights set on running in the 3.70s at a race weight of 2,400 pounds in his 1969 Camaro.
Circled on his calendar is Mickey Thompson Radial Wars competition at all six NMCA events in 2018 beginning with the 16th Annual NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem, March 8-11 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, as well as Lights Out 9, Feb. 15-18 at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Cecil, Georgia, Outlaw Street Car Reunion IV presented by Southern Speed Promotions, March 23-26 at Memphis International Raceway and Summit Racing Equipment Shakedown at the Summit presented by Mickey Thompson, Sept. 13-16 at Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio, among others.
And by his side every step of the way, he said, will be his wife, Jackie Agostino, and his longtime crew members Ricky Carlos and Rafael Maio.
(Photos courtesy of Nick Agostino)