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8th Annual Fun Ford Weekend - An Event of Epping Proportions
The Epping Fun Ford Weekend was so cool we forgot to write about it. Oops.
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Yes we must admit, the 8th Annual Fun Ford Weekend at New England Dragway coverage got lost in the shuffle here at MM&FF Command Central. With another event coming just about every other week at the height of the season, you sometimes start planning your next trip (or even take the trip) without finishing the one you already have. But we're not trying to make excuses. We just plain flubbed up. And for that, we apologize to the racers and fans who have been looking for the coverage in our pages.
This author has covered the Epping, New Hampshire, event two years in a row and if one thing is apparent, New England is home to the early Fox-body Mustangs and Mercury Capris. They come out of the woodwork, forming a formidable True Street presence and filling up the bracket classes. However, technology and innovation proved to be the top draw as Chuck Samuel and Kevin Marsh stood the crowd on its feet with a record setting 6.48 at 220 mph.
Most Pro and Street Outlaw cars fight their way to the finish line, looking for every bit of traction and usually not finding a whole lot, but Samuel's pass was the straightest, most uneventful ever. And it was also the fastest. The track had just enough bite, the chassis just the right touch and the engine just the right tune.
That record remains today, although by the time you read this, we will have witnessed the 2003 season opener in Orlando, and possibly record-setting performances. With the Spring Break Shootout just around the corner as this is being written, we should probably put this event in the bag, so here it goes.
New England Dragway was packed with all kinds of muscle Mustangs and fast Fords. The spectators--the majority of whom were shirtless or scantily clad--turned out in droves too, with everyone excited to see the baddest Blue Ovals in the nation.
The $10,000 payday for Mod Motor reeled in all of the heavy hitters and regulars of the class. Robert Hindman, Steve Ferguson, Reggie Burnette, Tommy Hussey, Lupe Davila, David Smith, Aaron Archer and Cindy Albert were all vying for the big check. By the second round, half of the regulars had been eliminated, and then they were sawed in half again in round three, with Ferguson taking the win over Davila, Hindman defeating Smith, Burnette got the bye and Hussey smoked Shane Williams.
Round four action led off with Hussey taking the win from Ferguson on a holeshot, and Hindman putting number-one qualifier Reggie Burnette on the trailer. In the final, it was a battle between two silver Mustangs with Hussey's Kinston, North Carolina-based and Sanford Ford-backed Mustang running a 13.85 on a 13.85 index to take the cash from the eventual Mod Motor champion.
JDM Engineering Top Truck competition was fierce with some 18 competitors looking to take home a cool 500 bills. While not the prize that Mod Motor offers, if Top Truck keeps growing like it has been, larger purses won't be far away.
If you follow Top Truck at all, you've probably familiar with the little red Ranger of Randy Morrison. Randy took low-qualifier honors in New Hampshire with a 10.99 run, but it takes more than a fast truck to win an Open Comp-style race. Luckily for Morrison, he has the bracket skills to get it done, as he went four rounds to meet Kevin Todd in the final. If ever there were two opposites, these two vehicles were they. Morrison's aforementioned Red mini truck posted quick elapsed times, while Todd's 2001 F-150, big and brawny, traversed the quarter-mile in the mid-17-second range. But as we said, there's more to a bracket race than being fast. Todd cut the better light, but broke out running 17.71 on his 17.76 estimate, which gave Morrison the automatic win.
The Focus Frenzy class saw Tom Lesperance lead the pack with a blistering (for a Focus anyway) 13.96 run for low qualifier. He would go three rounds before falling to Carrolton, Georgia's Tim Thomas in the final.
Are you ready for some heads-up racing yet? New England seems to be down on its heads-up classes, possibly due to the long drive up north, but if Jeremy Martorella can make the trek from his home in Delray Beach, Florida, there's no reason why anyone else can't. Martorella was uncontested in Tremec's Street Warrior class and while he only needed to motor down the track for the victory (and the $500 prize money), he let the hammer fly with an 11.18 at 105 mph.
JBA Headers Street Bandit Competition had Rod Houck's bright orange coupe in the top spot with a 9.24 at 145 mph. Neither Matt Segal nor Nick Boudreau could contest the North Carolinian's '83 Stang, but Tim Forbes of Minesing, Ontario, Canada, stepped up to the plate with his yellow and red, Lentech-backed GT. Houck, whose car grazed the wall at the Bristol Fun Ford, had his BES-built 360-inch motor tuned and the body back in shape, albeit in a nice shade of primer. Forbes did his best, grabbing a .048-second holeshot, but Houck ran him down with a 9.47 to Forbes' 9.72 effort.
Ed Thomas of Townsend, Delaware, nabbed the number-one qualifier spot with a 9.14 e.t., and received the bye in round one of Vortech Street Renegade competition. The Iuka Ford notchback of Manny Geno put the screws to the Miller Lite-sposored '90 LX of Brian Mitchell, and got the bye in the second round to put him in the final with Ed Thomas. Ed's '88 hatchback made quick work of Michael Dezotell in the second round and was looking to do the same with Geno, but Manny's Bennett Racing-built, nitrous-injected small-block lit the scoreboards with a sizzling 8.86 at 156 mph. Thomas had cut the better light, but his 9.31 e.t. wasn't enough.
In ProCharger Street Outlaw, the stealth coupe of Brad Brand took low-elapsed time and number-one qualifier with a 7.53 run at 190.32 mph. That speed also gave him the top mph award. Looking at the Loganville, Georgia-based Mustang, one would never assume its true nature. Maybe a 9-second bracket car, but Brand's Precision turbocharged notchback is capable of far greater feats.
Also in the Street Outlaw hunt were Scott Pennington, Michael Calvert and his Mineral Grey GT, Manny Buginga and Massachusetts-native Travis Johnson. Chip Havemann whipped Karl Volk into submission in round one, and sent Slidell, Louisiana's Scotrod packing in round two. Brand smoked Buginga who slowed with problems in the first round, and then he sailed past Johnson's '85 coupe by nearly a full second. Brand versus Havemann in the final.
Chip had run into some mechanical problems after racing Pennington the round before. Unable to make a go of it, Havemann lined up and took a green light to get some points. Brand squeaked down the 1320 in 14.79 seconds at a miserly 52 mph for the win.
The Marsh Motorsports Pro entry, piloted by Chuck Samuel, set the Fun Ford Weekend record in qualifying with a stunning 6.48 at 220.30 mph. The Gullet Racing crew, headed by John Gullet and Brent Frazier, was on hand as was the DaSilva Racing operation. Round one of competition saw the red DaSilva rocket streak past an off-the-pace Gullet for the win. It was a triumphant victory for the Reider Racing crew, who had been chasing gremlins in its new ride for some time. It seemed as though they eradicated them with a 6.76 run, compared to Gullet's 7.24 pass.
Samuel had the bye in the first, which pitted him against DaSilva in the final. The crowd, ready and anticipating some quick times, were not disappointed. Samuel left first by a margin of .022 seconds, but is was DaSilva who reached the stripe first, running 6.71 to Samuel's 6.91. The cars ran 213 and 216 mph, respectively. With the Marsh Motorsports entry coming out swinging like it did, it looked as though the $7,500 was theirs for the taking, but the DaSilva team upset the balance, which would be a sign of things to come.
New England always has a strong bracket contingent on hand to keep the racing action on a high level between heads-up rounds. In Street Ford competition, Epping's own Bob Baker took the win on Sunday over Brad Chambers. Baker's '67 dark blue fastback Mustang uses a 289 with some headwork for power, and a C-4 transmission gets it down the track.
In Quick Ford, it was another vintage Mustang muscling to the winner's circle. Mark Winterbottom of Fairhaven, Massachusetts, piloted his '69 Mustang to the win on Sunday. The '69 Stang used its 428 Cobra Jet engine and Powerglide transmission to take out Bud Mullen's '34 coupe in the final round.
Having won four Fun Ford Weekends in a row, Fall River, Massachusetts's Ray Knight was ripe for another victory and got it in New Hampshire. Knight's '93 LX hatchback, sponsored by Humphrey's Building Supply, used its 347-stroker motor and Knight's driving skills to take the prize money.
Epping always draws in a ton of street-going Stangs from all over the northeast. This was rather evident in the Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords True Street class, which reeled in over 50 cars. The True Street cruise went well, although one competitor did have some problems upon returning to the racetrack. It turned out that Peter Craig of South Hampton, Massachusetts, had the fastest horse of the herd, as his coupe sped to a three-way average of 11.002 for top honors. Emerson Bratharta received runner up with an 11.21 average, and seven more cars followed in the 11-second category.
Peter Murphy was selected as the Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords Editor's Choice, and he also did well racing, taking the low 12-second win with a 12.06 average. Look for a full feature on Peter's clean blue hatchback in a future issue of MM&FF. Jack Pereira fought 15 cars for the 13-second award, averaging 13.022 over the three runs in his nitrous-injected, '95 Mustang Cobra, while Darren Franklin took the 14-second prize with a 14.024.
Rounding out the True Street awards was Robert Lescault of North Dartmouth, Massachusetts. Robert's '98 Cobra powerplant wasn't ready, so a trip to the local junkyard lightened his wallet of $200, but what he got in return was a '93 Mark VIII 4.6-liter engine. Despite being rated at 280 hp, the Snake could only muster a 14.94, a 14.58 and a 15.62, but it did give him the low 15-second average award.
Jim Reilly of Coventry, Rhode Island, was victorious in Sunday's True Street bracket race. Jim took the holeshot at the Tree and drove his '89 Mustang LX hatchback, which runs a stock 302 and T-5 transmission, to the winner's circle against Manchester, New Hampshire's Randy Smith and his '87 Mustang GT.
Despite the blistering hot weather, the 8th Annual Fun Ford Weekend in Epping, New Hampshire, went off without a hitch. We saw a couple of records set, raising the bar for the events (and racers) to come. If you like driving your Mustang fast, find your way to a Fun Ford event this year. Heck, you don't even have to enjoy driving fast, so long as you like Mustangs. There's never a shortage of them at a Fun Ford Weekend.