I’m apologizing ahead of time because this post has nothing to do with animals, But, Dom Lagana is weighing so heavy on my heart that I want to write about him. Besides, I need everybody sending positive thoughts to Dom and his family.
Cheering for that Full Pull
My cameraman and I were in Florida during a NHRA pre-season test session. We were shooting interviews with racecar drivers to use on the television broadcast. They weren’t suppose to be in-depth interviews but soundbites for bumps to breaks or glitzy pieces promoting drag racing.
At the end of the last day, Dom Lagana walked onto our set wearing his Yankees hat and lots of scruff. I had interviewed more than thirty drivers during those two days in West Palm and just finished talking to a seasoned, media-savvy racer who dropped several usable soundbites. Like “I’m a machine at the tree” or “I didn’t get to be a world champion without battling the best.” I marked each of those quotes on my mental checklist because it was exactly what I needed. At the same time, I was disappointed because the champ hadn’t given me anything new.
I’d never talked to Dom before that day, and I don’t think he’d ever been interviewed. He sat on a stool under the hot lights and fidgeted in a starched team shirt that didn’t quite fit. I sat across from him, close to the camera so no one would see me. He’d taken off his cap when I asked, but he held it in his hand as though it was a lucky talisman. A thin sheen of sweat covered his brow. His hands were stained and callused, and I realized Dom didn’t only pilot racecars, he worked on them.
I knew I might not get an usable quote out of him, but I liked Dom. His answers were rough but they were genuine. Plus, he was from New Jersey, so there was a familiarity about him. I grew up in a small town in the Poconos, right across the river from Jersey. He had the same accent, the same mannerisms of so many guys I’d grown up around.
About halfway through the interview, I was considering letting Dom off the hook and cutting our chat short. But then, I asked him about his goals for the season. He paused. His eyes lit up, as though he just remembered why he was sitting on that stool in the first place. Dom Lagana was going to race a Top Fuel dragster in the NHRA drag racing series.
“My goals? I’m just happy to make a full pull,” he answered with such humble amazement that I knew I had my bite.
In that moment, Dom wasn’t a nervous rookie but a twenty-five-year-old guy realizing a dream and thankful for every second of it. That’s when I became a Dom Lagana fan.
It’s been ten years since that interview, and I haven’t stopped cheering for Dom. I cheer for him whether he’s wrenching on someone’s car or behind the wheel of a nitro-powered hotrod.
On Sunday night Dom got in a non-racing related car accident in Brownsburg, Indiana. He’s in the hospital fighting for his life. Ever since I heard the news, I’ve been thinking about that day I interviewed a humble boy from New Jersey who was chasing a dream.
I’ve never been cheering harder for Dom to make a full pull.