Rod Short
October 21, 2003

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Former IHRA Pro Stock champ Floyd Cheek was the number-one qualifier in Mr. Gasket Pro with a 6.68 at Richmond, but the celebration didn't last long. Tony Gillig pulled a mild upset on Sunday with a 6.68 of his own to send Cheek's 812-cid, mountain-motor Stang home in the first round of eliminations.
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John Mihovetz made history by becoming the first Mod motor-powered car to break into the 7-second zone at Richmond several years ago. Mihovetz ran Mr. Gasket Pro this time around with his '02 Accufab Cougar and made the field, but fell in the opening round of eliminations to Brit Floyd.
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One of the best races of the year took place when Bill Rimmer (near lane) squared off against Chuck Samuel on Sunday. Rimmer's ProCharger equipped Stang got the jump off the line with a .131 holeshot, but couldn't hold that lead as Samuel hammered his way to a 6.58 to 6.81 victory. Samuel's run showed the turbo cars are still quite potent despite Fun Ford's move to the smaller 101mm sized turbo in Mr. Gasket Pro.
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Tony Gillig added to his growing reputation as one of the best drivers ever to get behind the wheel of a Mr. Gasket Pro car with the best reaction time of any Pro driver in every round of eliminations. Gillig won his second consecutive race of the year to position himself as the biggest threat to the FFW crown.
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When Brit Floyd won the Mr. Gasket Pro championship in 2001, he did it by going rounds at every single event on the schedule. Floyd stumbled a bit early on in the season with a new car, but has found his groove with his second final round appearance in a row.
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Brad Brand has become the hero of street car racers everywhere with his '92 Street Outlaw car, which still has windshield wipers, working power windows, radio and even an antenna. Brand qualified his turbo coupe number one with an awesome 7.29, but fell in round two of ProCharger Street Outlaw eliminations.
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Jared Brunner (far lane) of Radford, Virginia, isn't a regular fixture in ProCharger Street Outlaw, but that didn't keep him from taking his best shot at point's leader Tim Lynch. Brunner put .046 of a second in the bag at the start, which forced Lynch to chase him down for the win. That 7.39 run at 192.82 mph turned out to be the quickest pass of eliminations.
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0311mm_19z 1934_Ford_Roadster Front_View_At_Track
J. Edward Smith of Mechanicsville, Virginia, was the winner in Fast Ford e.t. bracket action on Sunday with this sanitary looking '34 Ford-bodied roadster. Smith was the winner over Claiborne Rhodes.
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If you've ever followed the Fun Ford circuit, you know each season is split into two distinctly different halves. The first part of each season sees a lot of smiling new faces, parts and cars. The second half gets a bit more serious as the races for the season ending championships begin to heat up. Fun Ford's annual trek to Virginia Motorsports Park usually represents the turning point between these two segments. It was no different this year as Fun Ford Weekend enjoyed its best event ever on Virginia soil.

Mr. Gasket Pro
Nowhere was this change from what happened in the early part of the season any more evident than in Pro Eliminator. Defending champion and points leader John Gullett was nowhere to be found at this event, nor were Joe DaSilva, Doug Mangrum or Chuck Simons. The word was that some of these drivers were taking a step back from the rigors of following a 12-event series; they weren't coming back out until they were running better; the event was too far to come to; or they were just out of money. Whatever the case, their absence certainly didn't hurt the level of competition at Richmond. Former IHRA Pro Stock champ Floyd Cheek was there to check out the action with his 812-cid, mountain-motor Mustang. While Cheek was said to have felt a bit overmatched by the turbo and blower small-blocks, he did wind up as the number-one qualifier with a strong 6.68 down a hot and greasy racetrack during the last qualifying session on Saturday. Chuck Samuel was number two with a 6.75 with former FFW champ Brit Floyd following just behind the first round of eliminations, which featured some of the best racing seen all year. The first pairing saw Cheek put Tony Gillig in the bad lane and then get surprised with a 6.76/208.14 loss against Gillig's 6.68/209.88. Samuel then squared off against Bill Rimmer, who was making his first FFW appearance of the year in his ProCharger Mustang. Samuel, who was running the smaller 101mm turbo that was mandated by a mid-season rules change, surprised everyone with a stunning 6.58/215.75 that was more than enough to overcome Rimmer's holeshot and 6.81/203.86 run. Floyd then took advantage of John Mihovetz's great-looking, Mod-motored Cougar with a 6.84 to 8.00 victory.

With the hot temperatures and tricky track surface, Gillig knew that lane choice was going to be important if he was going to win this event. That's why he held nothing back when he uncorked a 6.77/198.96 on a bye run into the finals. The next match up between Samuel and Floyd saw a strange turn of events. Samuel used one of his best reaction times of the season to get a huge holeshot off the line against Floyd only to lose the race when his transmission broke when he shifted into third. Floyd was the winner a 6.93 at 204.73 mph.

The finals saw Gillig take his second series win in a row with an off-the-throttle 8.65 after Floyd broke at the starting line. While it may not have been pretty, it was certainly important as this catapulted Gillig into the role of a serious contender for the 2003 Fun Ford crown. How many races points leader John Gullett misses during the remainder of the season will go a long way in shaping the championship race over the remainder of the season.

ProCharger Street Outlaw
While Friday qualifying is usually an afterthought by the time eliminations roll around, top end fires that affected two different racers had an affect on the outcome of this event. The most serious hit affected Mike Calvert when his '01 Bullitt erupted in flames and tagged the wall. Calvert was a player in the season point's battle, but vowed to return to the tour as soon as possible. Dan Millen, Scott Morgan, Tim Lynch, Keith New and Brad Brand were all winners after the tire smoke had cleared from the first round of action. Morgan surprised Brand in the second round with a 7.64 to 7.69 victory while Millen drove around New's holeshot to advance to the semifinals with a 7.45 to 7.53 victory. Points leader Lynch advanced on a single and then took advantage of Morgan's woeful 1.004-second reaction time to make the finals. Millen ran hard on his single with a 7.43/189.87, but wasn't able to take lane choice away from Lynch's earlier 7.41. That might have proved to be the difference as both drivers left together in the finals and sped down the entire length of the course door to door. Lynch's 7.42/191.10 was enough to hold off Millen's 7.45/190.11 to give him his third victory of the year in five events.

Vortech Street Renegade
While he may not be as big a name as some of the sport's quicker and faster drivers, Chris Little is known as one of its toughest competitors no matter where he races. Chris proved that in Richmond when he entered his 406 nitrous-powered Stang in the Street Renegade field. Little, who is a former NMRA Drag Radial champ, qualified number one and had the field covered by several tenths all weekend. Keith Tison was his victim in the first round followed by series points leader D.J. Loiacano. In the finals Little met Zoop Zellonis, who probably has the best name of any racer in the entire Fun Ford series. Zellonis knocked off Tommy Sink in the opening round and got the benefit of a redlight from Brian Mitchell to make the finals. Zellonis ran a game 9.45/147.04 in the last round, which was his best run all day. It wasn't meant to be, however, as Little motored by with an 8.69 at 158.11 to take the money home.

Edelbrock Street Bandit
With defending champ Chuck Simons having graduated to Pro, Street Bandit has been an especially entertaining class this year as a number of drivers have been scrambling to fill that void. That, coupled with a lot of smack talk on the Internet, resulted in one of the better fields seen at Richmond in a while.

Kevin Toothman started things off with a win over Tony Hodge, which led to a showdown between the number two and three point cars in Matthew Jones and Andy Law. Ken Compton then outran Terry Cain, while former NMCA champ Charlie Booze knocked off Matt Wirt. The biggest surprise of the event came when James Black advanced over series-points leader Rod Houck, who had won three out of four races before this event. By the time the finals rolled around, Booze and Law were the last men standing. Booze won that race at the Tree with a .018 holeshot and crossed the line with a 9.12 to 9.18 win light over Law. While Law may not have won the race, his performance at Richmond pushed him into second place in the points with five more races to go.

Tremec Street Warrior
With a 43-point lead over John Scaro going into Richmond, two-time defending champ Jeremy Martorella was looking to put some distance between him and his challenger. Having a short field of cars, however, didn't allow him the chance to inflict too much damage, so he had to make each run count. Martorella did just that with a 10.45 to 11.17 win over Scaro in the first round of eliminations. In the finals, Martorella faced off against fellow Floridian Darrell Peterson. While there was just .001 of a second separating the two at the start, Martorella was able to pull out a 10.28 to 10.32 victory. That gave him four victories in five events and helped tighten his grip on the 2003 Street Warrior title.

BFGoodrich Drag Radial
Fun Ford's newest heads-up eliminator provided plenty of highlights during its first ever running at Richmond. Dwayne "Big Daddy" Gutridge lit up the scoreboards with an impressive 8.53 elapsed time in qualifying, but lost to Norris McKoy in a special race within a race sponsored by Innovative Turbo. McKoy picked up a cool $2 grand when Gutridge ran well off that pace in the last round of qualifying on Saturday. Big D got his revenge on Sunday, however, when he sent McKoy home in the semifinals. Gutridge then squared off in the finals against local racer Phil Clemmons, who was looking for another upset. Gutridge would have none of that, however, as he got the jump off the line and rolled to an 8.83 to 8.91 win on the hot, slippery track.

Modular Maddness
Steeda/SHM Mod Maddness has been the premier class for car count in Fun Ford for some years now and Richmond did nothing to lessen that tradition. The competition was hot and heavy as name drivers like Steve Ferguson, Dave King, John Edwards, Jim Gilbert and Gary Youngblood were all left on the outside looking in after round one. In the semifinals, Jim Breeze redlighted against Chuck Lawrence while defending national champ Robert Hindman got around a broken Lupe Davila. While the finalists left the starting line with identical .418 lights in the finals, it was Lawrence winning in an upset over Hindman, who broke out by .02 of a second.

JDM Engineering Tough Truck
With two chances to win an '04 Ford F-150, Tough Truck has seen some spirited competition all year between the drivers. Paul Gamino left Richmond in good shape to pick up the keys to one of those pickups when he took advantage of Micah Monteleone at the start line to win with a 14.11/96.31 on a 14.08 dial-in.

2003 Cobra Shootout
Fans got to view what may be an up and coming class in Fun Ford competition when JDM Engineering hosted a special 2003 Cobra shootout at Richmond. Six cars showed up at this event, which was won by Tommy Godfrey of Sutherland, Maryland, over Francisco Reyes. Godfrey gave Reyes a driving lesson at this event when he turned a .205 second holeshot into a 12.09/106.32 versus 11.92/116.65 event victory.

Focus Central Focus Frenzy
Focus Central Focus Frenzy class saw a hometown battle between Mark Adkins and Brandey Burg, who are both from Crown City, Ohio. Adkins got the crown at this event, however, when Burg redlighted away any chance of winning.

Superchips Street Stang
Due to a Fun Ford Weekend computer error, we were not able to deliver the results of this class for this event. The following is all the information FFW could provide: "In the Superchips Street Stang class our eliminations results page from the computer is missing and the only info we have is that Tony Whetstone's 4.6 GT beat Bob Cosby in a borrowed '00 Mustang GT, with a 13.28 at 102 vs. Bob's losing 13.51 at 102. In qualifying, the seven Mustangs were led off by Andy Vassilatos at 13.277 at 103.66. Andy was driving an '89 5.0 Mustang.

ON THE ROADS OF RICHMOND

True Streeters Rock to Their Own Brand of Music Around the Tri-Cities in central Virginia, it's not uncommon to see musclecars at every turn. They'll be a few Chevys and Mopars with an occasional Pontiac or two, not to mention some rice rockets, pickups, street rods and some classic cruisers. While all of that may be standard fare in and around Richmond, few are prepared at the sight of nearly a hundred Mustangs prowling through the streets with a Crown Vic police cruiser leading the parade. Not since the Union cavalry invaded Richmond and Petersburg have local folks seen so many ponies on the streets. That's half the fun, but the real action happens when these drivers let their horses loose on the racetrack.

While most events tally the three runs together at each event, computer glitches in the control tower resulted in times from just two of the three passes made. That didn't matter to Shelley Smith, however, as her two run average of 10.31 seconds was just enough to edge out Jimmy Black's 10.37 total. That win must have been sweet as Shelley finally captured it all after finishing seventh in 2001 with an 11.02 average and then as runner-up with a 10.45 time last year. The Amelia, Virginia, resident added her name to the list of past winners, which has included other notables such as Christina Eldert and Owen Spry.

Shelley wasn't the only one who finished the day with some smiles and a little bit of cash in their pockets. Bryan Lester was a threat to win it all before missing a shift, which left him with a 100 bucks as the leader of the 11-second category of cars. Darryl Buckner edged Dan Hoyler out as the low 12-second leader by just .08 of a second while Jeff Smith, Cliff Langley, Nick Pittman, Will Cordle, Michael Arngo and Carl Puffenbarger finished as leaders in their respective categories.

MM&FF took a moment to meet a handful of True Street racers as shown elsewhere on these pages. It was a good day for some and a better one for others, but all agreed the whole affair was definitely a sight to see.

 

FFW Richmond Top 25 True Street Results
1. Shelley P. Smith10.315
2. Jimmy Black10.372
3. S. Brien10.520
4. Brad Lamb10.848
5. Bryan Lester11.098
6. David Morrissette11.188
7. T. J. Corker11.582
8. Mike Ingram11.654
9. Stevie Vaughn11.815
10. Michael Lettshek11.913
11. Darryl Buckner12.046
12. Dan Hoyler12.054
13. Lee Miller12.193
14. Chris Burks12.247
15. Dwight Jones12.283
16. Hank Staudinger12.314
17. Danny Higgins12.319
18. Sheldon Gilliam, Sr.12.495
19. Rodney Cooke12.535
20. Tom Zinck12.662
21. Steve Bolt12.678
22. Jeff Edwards12.860
23. Tim Singleton12.872
24. Will Williams12.{{{929}}}
25. Sam Sclinder12.948