During a driving career that lasted for 44 seasons, 17-time (1981, 1986,1997-2003 & 2006-2013) National Hot Rod Association Top Alcohol Funny Car Champion Frank Manzo (September 2, 1952) created a record of success in Drag Racing that is one of the most impressive in the history of motorsports.
A former resident of Morganville, New Jersey, who now lives in Mooresville, Indiana, Manzo currently works as a team administrator and engine tuner at Al-Anabi Racing’s shop in nearby Brownsburg.
Al-Anabi Racing is one of the NHRA’s top teams, but Manzo’s interest in Drag Racing came at a slightly lower level when as a 16-year-old high schoolkid in Matawa, New Jersey, he heard the stories that the local racers told at a neighborhood service station. And with those tales as motivation, he began going to the events at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey.
Manzo – who worked in his family’s construction business and has long been known by the nickname “Ace” – began racing for trophies and fun at Englishtown in 1970 with his Small-Block Chevy-powered B/Altered 1923 Ford Model T Roadster.
Then, after racing just locally for five years, he started to compete in NHRA National Events and scored his first victory in that level of completion on May 25, 1980, when he took Pro Comp honors with his supercharged Chrysler Hemi-powered maroon AA/Altered ’23 T-Roadster at Beech Bend International Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
The popular mustachioed driver – who got his work ethic from his father Dominick and was a “hands-on competitor” with regard to his racing career in every way –then moved up to Top Alcohol Funny Car when the NHRA created the class for 1981and upon his retirement his remarkable racing résumé showed the following:
Manzo was – and still is – the all-time leader in total NHRA victories with 223; a figure that includes 118 Divisional and 105 National wins.
His 105 National victories came in 265 events (12 in Pro Comp and 253 in TAFC) for a winning percentage of 40 percent. But when you analyze his 104 Top Alcohol Funny Car National victories you find that they came in 129 final rounds for a winning percentage when the chips were down of 81 percent.
In TAFC National competition, Manzo: was the No. 1 Qualifier 100 times; set the Low Elapsed Time 121 times; set the Top Speed 139 times; was the No. 1Qualifier, set the Low Elapsed Time and set the Top Speed 54 times; and, was the No. 1 Qualifier, set the Low Elapsed Time, set the Top Speed and won the race 50 times.
He also won 21 NHRA Northeast Division 1 Top Alcohol Funny Car Championships with his last coming in 2011 before a 2012 format change put the class in another sponsored competition.
Manzo – who was ranked No. 40 on the list of the NHRA’s Top-50 Drivers when the organization celebrated its 50th Anniversary (1951-2001) – held the NHRA’s Top Alcohol Funny Car Elapsed Time (5.411 seconds) and Speed (268.06 mph) Records at the time of his 2013 retirement and continued to do so until new marks were set in March 2015.
While his 42 consecutive final-round National victories (from the February 2006 Winter nationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, California, through the September 2013 Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina) is the all-time NHRA mark.
These overall NHRA records are certainly noteworthy, but so were Manzo’s efforts in two of Drag Racing’s most prominent events.
In July 2012, he won his 10th “JEG’S All Stars” Top Alcohol Funny Cartitle at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. This is a race-within-a-race program for the NHRA’s Sportsman Series competitors and he appeared in this event for a record 20th time.
Plus, over Labor Day Weekend 2013 at the NHRA’s 59th U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis he won Top Alcohol Funny Car for the 11thtime (1986, 1994, 1997, 2000-2002, 2005-2007, 2011 & 2013) which extended his record as the driver who has the most wins in any class at the sport’s biggest race.
Clearly, this is an exceptional record for a man who made well over 3,600runs in a Top Alcohol Funny Car. But there are several things beyond cold statistics that make Manzo’s accomplishments even more impressive.
In the first place, Drag Racing does not offer any competitor a “promoter’s option” or “past-champion’s provisional.” If a driver is not one of the 16 quickest in time trials, he or she does not advance to the event’s Final Eliminations from which the race winner is determined. So Manzo’s extraordinary performance over the years shows an amazing level of consistency.
Secondly, except for his last four seasons of competition (2010-2013) when he was racing the high-profile Chevrolet Monte Carlo of Al-Anabi Racing (which was owned by His Highness Sheikh Khalid Bin Hamad Al Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar), the majority of Manzo’s career as an NHRA competitor was financed by his own resources.
Manzo – who fitting won his last Top Alcohol Funny Car race at the NHRA Finals in Pomona on Nov. 10, 2013 – was also well-known for being a mentor to young racers; a position that he enhanced by his demeanor on and off the dragstrip.
Finally, the veteran racer was always ready to offer assistance to anyone who might need a part or help in making it to the next round of eliminations, even if that competitor was to line up next to him on the starting line when the action was scheduled to resume.