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Hard Work Helped Joe Clemente Haul to Dart NA 10.5 Championship

Posted By: Mary Lendzion
Written by Mary Lendzion
Photos by NMCA Staff
Joe Clemente and his team share a passion for putting together the most competitive combination possible.
They work hard, and they apply what they learn along the way to their already powerful and proven program.
While they spend a lot of time and money to accomplish their goals, they focus on dreams rather than dollar signs, and in 2023, their dreams came true.
“I have the most amazing team,” said Clemente, who lives in Burlington, Township, New Jersey, and owns Dolce and Clemente’s Italian Gourmet Market in Robbinsville New Jersey. “We all believe that if I win, we all win, and if I lose, we all lose. There is no ego here. Just shared goals and hard work.”
That hard work involved making sure Clemente’s Mustang was ready to go rounds in early 2023. It was set up with a 412 cubic-inch small-block Chevrolet engine built of Gaby Labiosa of EIC Motorsports in Florida. It has a Wilson billet manifold, Profiler heads and two CFM carburetors, and Dale Cubic oversees the carburetor program. Clemente relies on a Liberty’s Gears five-speed transmission to put the power down.
Clemente and team set the season in motion at the Scoggin Dickey Parts Center NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines in March at Orlando Speed World Dragway in Florida, where he led qualifying with a 7.80. He won the first round with another 7.80 and the second round with a 7.70 before being forced to take his foot off the gas pedal to a runner-up finish against Robbie Blankentship in the final.

“Three years ago, we finished in third-place, and last year, we were winning the thing until the last race in Indiana, and I lost it to Leonard Long by less than one round of racing,” said Clemente. “It put pressure on us to really evaluate how we could make a championship happen in 2023.”
The following month, at the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport in April at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina, he led qualifying again, this time with a quicker 7.73, and won the first round with a 7.74. He won the second round with a 7.77 and then went to the NMCA Winner’s Circle with a 7.81 against Don Baskin.
Focused on another wicked weekend, Clemente and his team went into the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Muscle Car Drag Racing in May at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois. He led qualifying with a 7.72, won the first round with a 7.79 and the second round with 7.90. That sent him to the final round, where he earned another win, this time with a 7.88 against Ryan Bell. Showcasing strengths even more, he also won the Testo Super Bowl Shootout against Leonard Long, and set records in the category with a 7.723 and 177.32. Those records stand.
Clemente stayed strong at the TorqStorm NMRA/NMCA Power Festival presented by Paul’s High Performance in July at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan, where he qualified in the second spot with a 7.74, and won  the first round with 7.79. He pushed past the second round with a 7.82, and had a solo pass in the semifinal round. Amazingly, he arrived at the NMCA Winner’s Circle again, this time with a 7.79 against Rick Hornback.
The 2nd Annual Mickey Thompson NMCA All-American Nationals presented by Sick the Mag in August at Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio was the next event on the tour, and Clemente qualified in the fourth spot with a 7.81. He won the first round with a 7.89, and lost in the second round with a 7.97 to Rich Nye, who clocked a 7.90.

“We were doing really well all season until the race in Ohio, where I tapped the wall in Friday qualifying,” said Clemente, who was thankfully not injured. “It could have been a lot worse.”
With his eyes on the championship, Clemente dove into the last race of the year, the 22nd Annual NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance in September at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in Indiana. He led qualifying with a 7.78, and won the first round with a 7.87. He lost in the second round to Dwight Ausmus.
All of the labor and late nights paid off for Clemente and his team, as he captured the 2023 NMCA Dart NA 10.5 championship.
“Dart NA 10.5 is extremely competitive, and a lot of guys in the class have been at it for a long time,” said Clemente. “It makes me extremely happy to know that the hard work we put in as a team showed itself on the racetrack, and that our racing program helped us be a top player. It is extremely rewarding, and I have the best team. I want to thank my crew chief, Bruce Blair, and my son, Carmine Clemente and Edward “Cash” Damond. We all sat down over dinner at PRI in 2022 to talk about how we could come up on top in 2023, and we put more than 240 passes on the car in 2023 between testing and racing. Making a program better was a team effort, and without this team, we wouldn’t have been able to do this. I also want to thank C&F Race Cars and Extreme Fabrications. We are looking forward to the 2024 season. Nitro Fish and Maple Grove Raceway are coming on board to support us, and we will have a new wrap on the car.”
Clemente will be honored among his fellow champions at the Red Line Oil NMCA Muscle Car Nationals Awards, held during the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, Dec. 8, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center, and in the upcoming Champions Issue of Fastest Street Car.


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