While the 2015 race season for NMCA Quick Lane at Downs Ford NA 10.5 driver Rick Riccardi began with a wreck at the NMCA race at Atlanta Dragway, it ended with a win in the NA 10.5 Shootout at the NMRA race at Beech Bend Raceway.
That fine feat left fans wanting more from the popular driver and his ’81 Capri — which was rebuilt after the wreck by Matt Wirt Racefab Engineering and features a small-block Ford built by Dave Jack and B&B Performance Machine — and they got it at the 15th Annual Quick Fuel Technology NMCA Bluegrass Nationals, May 12-15, 2016 at Beech Bend Raceway.
There, despite qualifying seventh with an 8.58 and 116 mph, Riccardi pushed his high-revving and hard-charging Capri to a personal best of 7.95 at 169 mph on his way to a runner-up finish against David Theisen and his ’69 Firebird after an 8.35 at 139 mph to 7.93 at 175 mph battle.
Making that even more remarkable is the fact that it was Riccardi’s first race of the 2016 season and he and his crew, including his crew chief Dennis Varga and his wife, Jenni Riccardi, were fighting valvetrain issues.
“In a pre-qualifying test hit on Friday afternoon, I cut it loose and knocked the tires off and the engine buzzed over 10,000 rpm really quick,” said Riccardi. “That’s when I shut it down, checked things out and noticed that we had valvetrain issues. With Dave Jack being sixteen hours away, I asked Gaby (Labiosa of EIC Motorsports) for some advice, and if he could lend a hand and check out the valvetrain issues, and after giving it a once-over, he said to run it.”
Also helping Riccardi during the weekend was Jamie Wagner of Holley Performance Products, who had built Riccardi’s data acquisition system when he worked for another employer years prior and was making sure all of the current wiring was in place. Riccardi’s friend Darren Breaud of B&B Race Cars offered a hand with anti-roll bar settings.
With all new Jesel valvetrain components in place, Riccardi is ready to roll into a test and tune session at Atco Dragway in Atco, New Jersey, May 31, 2016, and then the 15th Annual NMCA All-American Nationals, June 23-26, 2016 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana.
“We usually don’t like to test because of how much wear and tear it puts on the engine, and because of how we can never get the same kind of track prep as we get from TJ (Bailey),” said Riccardi. “But, we have to do what we have to do to be ready.”