Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords
World Ford Challenge - Gateway International Raceway - Six Years of Insanity
It was the sixth year of World Ford Challenge and the action was awesome--as usual.
It has been six years since George Gonzales and his World Ford Challenge staff pulled off one of the wildest drag races in Mustang history at Bowling Green, Kentucky's Beech Bend Raceway. Each year hence, the World Ford Challenge has grown larger. Simply, it is a must for Ford racers and fans alike. The event moved to St. Louis' Gateway International Raceway a few years ago and the facility is the perfect host for an event of this magnitude.
Headlining WFC is without a doubt the $35,000 to win for the Pro Mod 5.0 class and $15,000 to win for Pro Street Outlaw. Of course, WFC is host to one of the largest Ford car shows and manufacturers midway, too.
Edelbrock Pro Mod 5.0
The baddest Mustangs on the planet compete in the Pro Mod 5.0 class, which features 6-second, 200 mph e.t.s. The WFC tries to embrace both the NMRA and FFW rules for each organization's Pro 5.0 class. This year the rules restricted the turbocharged entries to a 101mm turbo and the blower cars had to run a limited-size supercharger. Nitrous rules remained unchanged from last year for small-block combinations. New to the field was the inclusion of big-block Fords; nitrous cars can run up to 525 ci while naturally aspirated engines were allowed 800-plus inches. These are basically IHRA Pro Stock entries.
Nine cars showed up to battle it out for the 35 Gs and the action could best be described as fast. Topping the list of serious Mustangs was Chuck Samuel driving the Kevin Marsh-owned '01 Mustang. The Fast Times Motorworks engine under the hood is pumped up with a Precision 101mm turbo. His 6.62 stood as the number to beat in qualifying at a scorching 211.56 mph.
Sitting right behind Samuel was Tony Gillig driving ASSC Racing's Big Red III entry. The Racecraft, Inc.-built, ProCharger-powered Mustang blistered an impressive 6.65. Pete Berner had his IHRA Pro Stock Mustang third on the qualifying ladder with a 6.68. Defending WFC champion, Randy Eakins, ran 6.76, which landed him in the fourth-qualified position. A guest driver was behind the wheel of John Gullett's Mustang when the car owner was unable to attend WFC. (Gullett was competing in a $75,000-to-win fishing contest.) His name was Dan Parker and he ended up fifth on the ladder with a 6.81 as the team eased into the clutch tune-up.
Brit Floyd entered the 6-second zone with his Cajun Pro Car-backed Mustang, that ran with a 6.84. The remaining three racers were Doug Mangrum (6.87), Don Walsh Jr. (6.93), and Bill Rimmer (8.41), who was working the bugs out of his brand-new Pro 5.0 entry.
Parker showed consistency in the Gullett machine as he eliminated Floyd with a 6.85 to Floyd's tire shaking 7.31. Walsh was lined up with Berner and the outcome was a bit surprising. Walsh and his crew worked all night to get the ProCharger-pumped engine running correctly. When Walsh let go of the transbrake button the car shot out like a rocket ship and the extra power shook the tires. The driver pedaled the car and when Walsh stabbed the throttle again the Mustang went up on the wheelie bars and took off down track. It was a less than glamorous run, but the 7.98 was quick enough to beat Berner's trouble filled 8.47.
The next match was another trouble filled pair as Eakins and Mangrum both shook the tires hard. Eakins, the defending champ, would finish first with a 7.59 while Mangrum went home with a 7.63. Gillig eliminated Rimmer and Samuel took a solo hit and went 6.67.
Walsh was on his game for the second round of eliminations when his Skinny Kid Race Car-built Mustang unleashed an amazing 6.70 at 210.44 mph. It was quick enough to eliminate Eakins. Parker showed his driving skills when he knocked down the Tree against Samuel, which proved to be the deciding factor in their race. Parker won the round with a slower 6.74. Gillig had a bye run and pushed his blown Mustang to a 6.77. In the semifinals Walsh was lucky and had a bye run in which he simply drove his car down the racetrack, while on the other side of the ladder Parker and Gillig were paired up. Parker worked his way into the finals with an impressive 6.67 to eliminate Gillig's 6.75.
It would be an exciting final, Walsh, fresh off cover of Hot Rod magazine, entered the finals at WFC for the first time since WFC2. He was also the underdog in the match up, because Parker had just run a quicker e.t., and the Gullett Racing team was undefeated in the 2003 season. In typical Walsh fashion, he grabbed the holeshot with a .431 reaction time and Parker chased him with a .480 light. The flamed Walsh Mustang hooked hard and stayed out in front of Parker and ran right into the winner's circle! Walsh had run 6.65 at 210.60 while Parker limped his car to a 6.99 at 205.01 with a blown head gasket. The $35,000 check went home with Walsh who overcame an ignition problem and blown head gasket to beat the quickest Pro Mod 5.0 field in the history of WFC.
Vortech Pro Street Outlaw
The Pro Street Outlaw class basically loosens up the NMRA Super Street Outlaw rules by allowing bigger power adders, then putting the FFW Street Outlaw competitors on 28x10.5 slicks-just like the NMRA SSO cars. That creates a serious 7-second class on real 10.5-inch slicks and wall-to-wall action. Just think of applying 1,700-1,800 hp to a set of slicks that are run on street-type Mustangs. There were 19 of the top small-tire Mustang racers from across the country who came to St. Louis looking to go home with the glory, the e.t. record and $15,000.
This is a once a year opportunity where these racers get to run almost unlimited and see how quick they can push real 10.5-inch slicks. Last year Bob Glidden and Mike Smith ran identical 7.71 times to set the world record. However, the top five qualifiers this year ran under that mark, Dan Millen set the class standard with a 7.583 to qualify number one, but his record would fall by the end of the weekend. Following behind him were Tim Lynch (7.660/181.96 mph), Keith Szabo (7.685/178.64), Joel Greathouse (7.687/188.28 mph), and John Urist (7.693/180.40 mph). To give an idea on how tight this class was running the number 15 qualifier was in the field with a 7.99!
The narrow rear slicks are the perfect equalizers. If a racer adds too much power then they go up in smoke. Action on Sunday was interesting to say the least and the veterans in the class survived the first round. The second round of racing was filled with parts breakage and slipping and sliding performances. Urist ran 7.74 and beat Joe Morgan who had some trouble and ran 8.89. Travis Franklin had an easy round when Greathouse had trouble just before he rolled into the burnout box. Millen outran Calvert, 7.65 to Calvert's 8.12 at only 144.27 mph. Lynch reset the world record for real 10.5-inch slicks with a 7.580 and outran Gary Rohe who shut his car off early. Sazabo ran uncontested when his competitor, Don Shobe, crashed in the first round.
With each passing round the competition gets tougher and tougher. In the quarterfinals, the field saw one of the best Mustang races of all time. Urist took on Millen and after a 2-minute staging battle the racers got underway. Urist cut a .446 light while Millen was a bit slower with a .500--normally a pretty decent reaction time. Each Mustang remained side by side the entire length of the quarter-mile. But in the end Urist claimed the victory by a mere .00006 seconds. When you are travelling over 180 mph it calculates to less than a few inches at the finish line. Szabo slipped and slid his way past Franklin, 7.89 to a 7.92. Lynch took a solo hit and ran a 7.64.
In semifinal action, Szabo had a bye run and a guaranteed spot in one lane for the finals. He took it easy on the big-block/nitrous combination and simply drove down track. Urist and Lynch were battling it out to see who could make the finals with their turbo cars. Lynch unleashed a 7.589 to end Urist's day. In the finals it was all Lynch and his partner Steve Petty. The Shredder II Mustang ran like a bracket car and posted a 7.591 for the win.
Wild Street is a simple concept, take the MM&FF True Street class and run it on Saturday, then use the results as the ladder for a heads-up race on Sunday. This class is always one of WFC's largest fields and this year almost 50 entries were registered. After a brief 30-mile cruise the parade of fast Fords took part in the True Street ritual of making back-to-back-to-back runs. There was some impressive performances and it took mid 8-second runs to climb to the top of the list. Mike Keenon was the top dog on Saturday with his gorgeous turbocharged Saleen. He had Job Spetter, Jr. on the property ensuring his New Mexico-based Mustang was running properly.
Wild Street is tougher than most people think and when you have mid to high 8-second street cars anything can happen in eliminations. Most of the heavy hitters survived first round and the second round went relatively smooth except for number-one qualifier Keenon who popped off an inlet tube during his match up with John Mitchell. With Keenon out of the picture, it opened up the class for anyone to take the win. There were fast cars still in competition, like Mike Genovege, Bill Lovelace, Shane Fought and Brian Denton, to name a few. Lovelace and his ProCharger-powered Mustang ran low 9s throughout Sunday's eliminations and earned a spot in the finals. He was facing Denton and his nitrous-inhaling Mustang. The big-block powered car of Denton overcame a holeshot by Lovelace and went on for the Wild Street crownwith an 8.72 at 159.53 to Lovelace's 9.08 at 152.43 mph pass.
The Hot Street class has come into its own over the past few years. These Mustangs feature high-winding, naturally aspirated small-block engines that run in the mid- to low-9s. The Hot Street rules this year at WFC had a nice blend of FFW and NMRA structure. For this event, many NMRA regulars bolted on the bigger Dominator-size carburetor and added wheelie bars. Qualifying was tight as the top three racers were within hundredths of a second. Andy Law out of the CPL Performance camp ran 9.05 for the top spot and Charlie Booze (9.068) and Ken Compton (9.075) followed him.
Number-one qualifier Andy Law worked his way through the field with consistency, first round he ran 9.09. Then in the second round he got past Nick Bacalis with an even quicker 9.027. He would eliminate Compton in the third round with a 9.03 run and earn a spot in the finals. While Law worked his way past some touch competitors, Jeff Richey used a bit of luck to make it to the final round.
A string of 9.40 runs took out Buck Whooley in the first round then Leroy Payne in the second round. Richey had a bye run in the semifinals on his side of the ladder. The final round was about Law who had run a jaw dropping 8.99 to take home the win over Richey.
ATI ProCharger Renegade
What started out as a class for street cars has evolved into the tough Renegade class. These Mustangs are using components normally found on street cars like eight-rib pulley drive systems for the superchargers, stock suspension, C-4 transmissions, hydraulic roller cams, etc. But it did not stop a few competitors from entering the 8-second zone--in fact two racers ran in the 8s during qualifying and one more racer joined them during eliminations. Kurt Gallant has had a phenomenal year thus far and he continued with a number-one qualifying position with an 8.93. But he was in good company as Bart Toebner entered the show with an 8.94 effort in the UPR-backed '01 Mustang GT. Stepping into the third spot on the ladder was perennial Renegade-racer Bob Kurgan who had run 9.03 at 150.60 mph.
The first round was a barrage of low 9-second runs and there were a few upset runs with the biggest shocker being Lidio Iacobelli taking out the Swill Racing team with a 9.06 run from his new Renegade racer. The Swill team had been running 9-ohs all weekend long but slowed up to a 9.16 and lost. Gallant slipped by with an 8.99 in the first round then used an 8.93 to breeze past Dan Schonak who had run 9.16.
In the semifinals Gallant took out the always-tough Kurgan, 8.85 to an 8.98. Brian Mitchell stayed alive to make the finals and he did so by eliminating Prykucki (9.12 to 9.65), James Hensler (9.13 to 9.34) and Bart Toebner (9.00 to 9.11). Mitchell ran a 9.15 in the finals to take home the WFC Renegade title when Gallant had problems and shut his car off early.
Jesel Drag Radial
Going fast on drag radials has increased in popularity over the past few years and with its growth the WFC staff decided to add it to the program. Dwayne Gutridge had an awesome weekend with his black coupe. The New Jersey resident took the turbocharged car to the top of qualifying with an 8.55 at 164.89 mph. Gutridge worked his way through the field by first taking out Bob McDonald, 8.58 to a 9.12.
The next round was a bye for Gutridge and he made it into the finals. Sitting in the other lane was Jimmy Byrne and his nitrous-assisted notchback. Byrne qualified second with an 8.82, but he burnt a piston when he tried a third stage of nitrous. He replaced the piston Saturday night then proceeded to run an 8.98 in the first round to beat Jason Lee. Byrne's 9.00 run eliminated Ty Krean and he went to the finals.
It would be all Gutridge when his turbo car slowed a bit, but still ran 8.90 for the win over Byrne who had run 9.26.
The Real Street class features out-of-the-box performance, but despite the stock camshaft rules, unported heads and restricted blower/nitrous setup these cars run deep into the 10-second zone with Brian Meyer being the quickest with a 10.03 qualifying effort. But he was in good company as Bruce Hemminger ran 10.05. Hemminger exited competition when he smoked a piston. That paved the way for Meyer to work his way through the field and into the finals.
Meyer's first round victim was Mark Magnuson and a stout 10.03 took out the silver coupe. Next on the hit list was Robin Lawrence, the Paxton car then ran 10.05 which was faster than Lawrence's 10.79. With Hemminger out of competition Craig Baldwin worked his side of the ladder to see Meyer in the finals. Baldwin ran 10.34 and a 10.42 to earn his spot in the finals. However, he went red against Meyer and his 10.22 was for nothing. Meyer streaked to victory with a 10.17, his slowest pass of the weekend.
Tremec Transmissions Pure Street
Gear-bangin' action is what happens in Pure Street and the engines powering these Mustangs are no larger than 310 ci with .500 lift camshafts and street/strip style induction systems. Veteran racer, Ron Anderson, delivered his coupe to the top of the qualifying list with a 10.63. Putting the pressure on Anderson was a list of fast cars, Gene Hindman (10.69), Steve Ross (10.78) and Jon Carls (10.91) were within striking distance of Anderson after qualifying.
Although Anderson was favored to win the event, it was Dwayne Barbaree who unleashed a 10.70 to beat Anderson in the semifinals when he ran a slower 10.71. Number-two qualifier Hindman was deadly consistent and fast, first round he ran 10.65, then a 10.61 to eliminate Carls and finally a 10.57 on a bye run in the semifinals. Barbaree would take home the win in the finals when knocked down the Tree with a .491 light to Hindman's .485. That reaction time was enough to win when Barbaree ran a slower 10.59 to overtake Hindman who had run 10.56.
BFGoodrich Factory Stock
Restricted bolt on parts are what the Factory Stock racers are required to run and then apply the power to a set of drag radials. These competitors have pushed the times into the low 12s with these mildly modified cars. Jeff Schmell and his '03 Mustang Mach 1 was number-one qualifier and he ran 12.20s in the first two rounds of eliminations to make a run for the WFC title. Schmell faced Brian Marr in the finals and busted out a 12.24 to take the victory over Marr's 12.28 run.
Diablo Sport Cobra Challenge
The popularity of the '03 Cobras has been obvious since its Spring 2002 introduction. The ease of modifications and the result of those changes is amazing. This year the WFC staff held the Cobra Challenge to showcase these wild machines. The awesome weather conditions enabled some of the contestants to take a shot at the world record.
Nitrous Pete Misinsky of PJ's Performance held the record heading into the race and he ran 10.19 at 136. While Misinsky ran fast, it was Richard Lelsz who shattered the record with Ken and Jeannie Biscamp's '03 Cobra. Nitrous, a Kenne Bell supercharger and the usual array of bolt-on parts, Lelsz drove the zinc yellow car to an amazing 9.59 at 143.90 mph. Jim D'Amore had an impressive run of 10.77 as well.
On Sunday the 10-car field ran Open Comp-style eliminations. With that style of racing speed is not as important and the field saw the top qualifier exit in the first round. It came down to Tom Kreisler and Jay Graham in the finals and Kreisler won with a 12.05 on an 11.98 dial-in over Graham who ran 11.36 on his 10.98 dial-in.
Superchips Open Comp and Paxton Automotive Modular Street
These Open Comp-style classes feature a .500 Pro Tree and a one-tenth breakout rule. A racer's dial-in is dictated by their qualifying time and the one-tenth is automatically subtracted. Open Comp featured 63 racers while Modular Street had 27 racers qualify. Open Comp was tough and after five rounds of racing there were only two remaining racers, Robert Hindman in his '01 Mustang GT and Patrick Nothdurft of Florissant, Missouri. Hindman is no stranger to the final rounds after winning so many FFW and NMRA events. His experience carried him to the WFC title with a 12.26 on a 12.24 dial and an awesome .447 reaction. He beat Nothdurft who had run 10.62 on his 10.55 dial-in.
In Modular Street it came down to a pair of experienced racers, John Mihovetz and his Vortech-powered coupe against Lupe Davila and his '96 Mustang GT. It came down to DaVila's reaction time in the deciding factor. Mihovetz tried running down the mid-12-second car with a 9.21 run but DaVila's .443 reaction time made the difference. Davila had run 12.53 on his 12.49 dial in for the win.
Lightning Force Performance Street Lightning, PDQ Performance Warehouse Ford Diesel Challenge and Pro Lightning
Ford truck owners had three options to run their Lightning or diesel truck at this year's WFC event. All classes were run Open Comp style, Ligtnings in one category and diesel trucks were placed in the other.
Racing trucks has become quite popular as evidenced by the 37 entries in Street Lightning and 18 rigs in the Diesel Challenge. Dave Pickrel took the top honors in qualifying for Street Lightning with a 12.03 hit while Illinois' David Lott ran an amazing 13.22 with his Super Duty F-250 for the number-one position on the diesel ladder.
In Lightning action it came down to Bob Abramovich and number-two qualifier Frank Likert. The finals were over before they began as Abramovich went red with a .454 light on the .500 Pro Tree. Likert streaked to victory with a 12.59 on his 12.64 dial-in.
Heading to the winner's circle was Doug Krout of Corington, Tennessee, with his '99 F250, which ran a 16.14 on a 16.04 dial-in as he beat Paul Gamino who broke out with a 16.73 on his 16.82 dial-in.
Paul Duckett beat Johnny Lightning in the finals of Pro Lightning. Duckett ran an awesome 9.63 in his first-generation Lightning.