The U.S. Male scheme will see nitro again as the Worsham Racing Charger will be wrapped in the iconic colors to honor the passing of ‘Nitro Nick’ Boninfante Sr., who lost his battle with heart disease earlier this year. With his McLeod brand, Paul Lee will support the effort and return to the driver’s seat for the first time since Seattle.
“Having known the Boninfante family for nearly 35 years, it will be both an honor and a fun time driving the US Male in honor of Nick Boninfante Sr.,” said Lee. “Rob and Nicky Jr are like brothers to me. I started racing alcohol funny cars on Nick Sr’s Northeast Funny Car circuit that he ran in the 1980s. My first ever funny car I bought from Nick Sr to run in TAFC. The best part about this weekends tribute is all the former friends and team of the original US Male will be at Maple Grove hanging out and telling war stores. I’m certainly looking forward to this weekend!”
The red, white and blue U.S. Male scheme first hit the track in 1972 through match racing across the east coast before going nitro racing in the 1980’s. The colors ran until 1989 when Boninfante Sr. landed the Raybestos sponsorship. 1989 was a big season for ‘Nitro Nick’ as he won the IHRA Funny Car championship as a car owner and founded Boninfante Friction. Boninfante Friction is now run by Nick’s sons, Rob and Nicky, and has developed into one of leading suppliers for clutch products for the drag racing industry. Boninfante Friction will also support the tribute effort.
In 2008, brothers Rob and Nicky Boninfante built the new US Male nostalgia funny car with engine support from the Worsham family. Boninfante Sr. owned, tuned and drove the car with a crew of Pat Walsh, John Hums and Ken McGlade. Lee and Phil Burkhart also drove the car for the drag racing legend until they sold the car to Bruce Litton in 2013, who still runs the scheme. However, with the passing of Boninfante Sr. the colors have taken on even more importance.
“He was a big fan of the U.S. Male scheme and Elvis Presley. Presley had a song with the same title so it meant a lot,” said Nicky Boninfante, co-crew chief on Del Worsham’s championship-leading DHL Toyota Camry Funny Car. “It is my dad’s home track in Reading, and we get to keep dad’s memory going and get him one more race. It will be his favorite paint scheme he ever had with the red, white and blue with the eagle. We are going to have fun. I have to thank the sponsors who are behind this tribute effort: Red Line Oil, Boninfante Friction and McLeod.”
After qualifying on Saturday, many members of the racing community will come together to honor the memory of Boninfante Sr. The service will take place in the Kalitta Motorsports hospitality. Confirmed to speak about their memories of Boninfante Sr. are: Del Worsham, who before becoming a driver worked with the Boninfante family on the U.S. Male ride; Richard Hartman, former driver for Boninfante Sr. and current car chief for Tim Wilkerson; Mike Lewis, Senior Vice President for Don Schumacher Racing; and Jim Oberhofer, Vice President of Operations for Kalitta Motorsports.
“The Worsham family is thrilled to be able to run this scheme to such a valued member of the drag racing community,” said Del Worsham. “The Boninfante family are life-long friends and we are honored to be able to run this scheme as a tribute to Nitro Nick.”