Just about every month we cover the happenings at Fun Ford Weekend events and its diverse schedule helps pump up our frequent-flier-mile accounts. But that all changed one weekend in May when the tour stopped at our home track, Englishtown's Raceway Park, nestled in central New Jersey. The track has long been regarded as the Mecca of Mustang drag racing and it was the first time Fun Ford Weekend visited the famous northeast facility. The weather was not typical for New Jersey as the temperatures climbed to unusually high levels. But the heat did not slow down the racers. Chuck Samuel, Kevin Marsh, and crewchief Joe Oplowski collected their big prize from the World Ford Challenge in St. Louis and headed east to New Jersey without going home first. Their '01 Mustang is on top of the game right now and they continued to impress the crowds with more mid 6-second performances in Mr. Gasket Pro. Joe DaSilva had to make a stop off in Canada to make changes to his Precision Gear-backed Mustang. They headed back into the U.S. after swapping transmissions at the DaSilva Racing shop.
Billy Glidden bolted the 33x10.5W tires back on and removed the weight on his Skinny Kid Race Car-built Mustang (those were two changes he had to make for WFC competition). In FFW ProCharger Street Outlaw trim, the car was back to running in the low 7s. He would be challenged at Englishtown by a turbo car and several supercharged entries.
Dwayne Gutridge made it 13 FFW wins in a row when he beat the BFGoodrich Drag Radial field with consistent low 8-second runs. ProCharger Street Renegade had a bit of drama when Chris Little encountered some problems in the finals and scuffed up his car. That overshadowed the fact that Ronnie Wilson won yet again in Renegade and continues to be undefeated.
Kenny Compton was another racer who has begun a winning streak. If you win one race that is awesome, two straight races and you are on top of your game. At the time of this article, it has been three victories in a row for Compton in Edelbrock Street Bandit. He has shown the field he is not messing around. The Probe Street Warrior class has become about two racers right now, Rich Groh and Darryl Peterson. Both competitors are pushing their Mustangs closer and closer to the 9s, which is unchartered territory in this category.
The entry level heads-up class Street Stang had three entries and noted stock Mustang racer Mike Washington brought out his street car, a lookalike '93 Cobra, that ran low 13s and took home the win. The winner of Steeda/Sean Hyland Motorsport Mod Motor took home a hefty $10,000 prize and he definitely earned it. Mark Young beat one of the best in the business, Robert Hindman, for the big bucks.
With Englishtown being 10 minutes from JDM Engineering, it was no surprise that the field was full of its customers. (JDM and Superchips were the primary sponsors of Fun Ford E-town.) The index format keeps the competition tough and scoring a victory was Chris Parisi, who competes with a new '04 F150. Consistency is the name of the game in this category. We witnessed the fastest run in Vortech Focus Frenzy history when Tom Lesperence Sr. ran 11.88 at 123 mph, but the run did not count as a qualifying pass.
Wheels-up launches are the norm for Probe Street Warrior competitor Rich Groh. This was Groh's second victory in Street Warrior competition this season. The engine builder from Illinois was on the brakes almost every run to try and keep out of the 9-second zone. Groh did not have a license or carry the NHRA stamp on his rollcage, but expect that to change for the next event. The white GT ran a best of 10.22 in eliminations at a speed of 124 mph.
BFGoodrich Drag Radial racer Jim Henke heats the street tires on Englishtown's renowned track. Henke put his '87 Mustang GT back into service after upgrading the car with a better engine and a Vortech XX-trim supercharger. His best time for the weekend was a 9.19 at 155.58 mph.
Make it event win number 13 for Dwayne Gutridge in BFGoodrich Drag Radial. Gutridge continued his winning streak practically in his backyard. The car is right at home on this track as it tears up the asphalt during many test and tune sessions throughout the year.
Chuck Samuel has been unstoppable this year with Kevin Marsh's '01 Mustang GT. The turbocharged Mustang collected its third FFW victory, as well as the win at WFC this season. At Englishtown, Samuel beat Ben Hopko in the first round and then took out Joe DaSilva in the finals. The W came by way of great driving as Samuel drilled the Tree and won on a holeshot, 6.63 to DaSilva's 6.61. Samuel got lucky in the first round when his car stalled on the starting line. Hance went red handing him the automatic victory.
Kenny Compton has gotten into a winning groove as of late with his Edelbrock Street Bandit coupe. Despite the outrageously hot weather conditions this naturally aspirated engine performed flawlessly. Compton ran his quickest time under the lights on the last round of qualifying. He ran 8.74. On Sunday he took out Adrian Duran in the first round, 8.82 to an 8.98. Then a bye run in the second round ensured him a spot in the finals. Compton rocked to the tune of 9.17, he was on a strong pass and dropped the chutes early as he did not want to show his hand. The speed on the run was a mere 136.90 mph. In the finals he ran 8.90 to beat Matt Jones who had run an 8.96.
Local racer David Hance had his new Pro car on the property, along with his Street Outlaw Mustang. According to the rules, a driver is allowed to compete in only one car, so Hance picked the fast one to have some fun in. With a 101mm turbo onboard the car hooked hard and ran in the 6.70s. However, Hance went red in the first round against Samuel.
Rookie-racer Cale Aronson went wheels up with his '03 Mustang GT in Street Bandit. A new clutch setup helped the team achieve its first 8-second run in Bandit competition. They did the deed in qualifying with an 8.98 at 150.21 mph.
Street Outlaw competitor Randy Leavy had his turbocharged Mustang in New Jersey and ran in the 7.40s, however, he lost to Jim Briante in the first round when Briante nailed the Tree and won on a holeshot.
Florida-racer Ronnie Wilson is on a tear this season with his nitrous-injected, '00 Mustang in the ProCharger Street Renegade ranks. He packs a big bottle of nitrous to feed the 438ci engine and the horsepower is in excess of 1,100. That translates to 8-second performances at speeds over 160 mph. Wilson ran 8.66 in the first round to beat Ed Feaster, then grabbed the win in round two over Tim Harrington with an 8.68 elapsed time. In the finals, Wilson ran 8.66 and won the race when his competitor, Chris Little, had problems and tagged the wall.
This year Dan Bills came out swinging with this '03 Mustang GT from his Finish Line Performance shop. The ProCharger Street Outlaw car has a turbocharged engine under the hood and has gone in the 7.30s. Bills got to the final round by beating Terry Strange in the opening round of competition. Then in the second round/semifinals, he outran Scott Morgan (who was driving the Hurricane Mustang). In the finals, Bills slowed up from his mid 7-second pace and ran a 7.65, but his opponent, Billy Glidden, got loose and was forced to lift. It was Bills' first Street Outlaw victory in FFW competition.
Big Bob McDonald of Jesel Valvetrain bolted on the larger ProCharger F2 blower for this event. The extra airflow helped him run 166-plus mph, but a little too much power sent the drag radials up in smoke. He lost a close race to eventual class runner-up Rob Curojo in the semifinals. Curojo ran 8.91, while McDonald ran 9.03.
Street Warrior came down to Rich Groh and Darryl Peterson (pictured), as they have faced each other several times all ready this year. At the E-town outing, Groh beat Peterson in the finals. Peterson turned in low e.t. of the weekend in S/W, the yellow Cobra ran 10.14 at 133.61 mph. It will be an interesting race to the 9s in S/W.
Mike Washington knows how to get photographers' attention--do a nice smoky burnout and then cock the car a bit so a good photo can be taken. Washington showed off his sponsors on the door with that technique. He also ran in the low 13s and won Street Stang.
This year Matt Jones is on his game with his Street Bandit ride. The car has been consistently in the 8s. The Kuntz and Company engine delivered him to another final round this season, this time out the Cobra ran as quick as 8.88 and went to finals where he met up with Ken Compton. The car slowed up to an 8.96 and lost to Compton who ran 8.90.
Just when you think you have seen it all with Glidden, he pulls out another surprise. His first qualifying run was in the 7.30s and then when no one expected to see a quick run amidst the hot and nasty 90-degree weather, Glidden unleashed a 7.15 at 193.71 mph. Needless to say he qualified number one. In the finals the car moved around on him just past the eighth-mile mark and he was forced to lift off the gas.
Chris Little has had some bad luck this year with his ProCharger Street Renegade racecar. Little's friends pitched in to help him swap out a broken Powerglide transmission as they thrashed to make the final round. With everyone working quickly they made the swap in only 45 minutes. In the finals the car got loose and ended up hitting the wall. The damage was cosmetic, but nonetheless still damage he had to fix.
Joe DaSilva returned to Englishtown after many years and he brought along his Precision Gear-backed Pro car. The twin-turbocharged powerplant under the hood helped him run 6.61 in the finals against Chuck Samuel. The race was decided at the Tree; DaSilva carded a .095 light while Samuel had a quicker .054 reaction time.
Over 150 Ford vechicles assembled in the show car area.
Here are just a few examples of some of the custom cars that were showed off to the crowd.
Here is the final round in Steeda/Sean Hyland Motorsport Mod Motor. These two competitors were racing for a $10,000 payday. In the far lane is Robert Hindman in the racey '98 Cobra. In the near lane is Mark Young who is racing the car that Hindman ran last year in Mod Motor competition. Young was the big winner at Englishtown as he ran a 12.02 on the 11.99 index. Hindman ran under his 11.30 index as his yellow car broke out with an 11.29. Young had an outstanding .005 reaction time, which helped him get to the finish line first.
The Vortech Focus Frenzy class saw an 11-second run, but it all came down to last year's number one and number two point earners. In the near lane is Brandey Burd with her '00 Focus and the far lane is defending champion, Owen Spry. Both racers broke out of their index and it was Burd who ran closest to her index and won the race.
This may be the only work that people see Samuel do throughout the weekend, fill up the fuel cell with race fuel. However, what you don't see is he and crewchief Joe Oplowski pouring over the massive amount of information collected by the two data logger systems. One is the RacePak that reads and records about 20 different sensors and the other is data from the Mustang's F.A.S.T. fuel injection system. The team makes clutch and engine adjustments based on the data.
The new F-150 trucks are awesome and it is easy to have fun with one in the JDM Engineering Tough Truck category. Chris Parisi of Florida won five rounds of racing to take home the victory with his 15-second beast.
Vinnie Telesco is quickly becoming one of the hottest racers in the Tough Truck category. The flawless Lightning was featured in MM&FF this past year and his abilities in the Open Comp format continue to impress everyone. At his home track, Telesco scored a runner-up finish in Tough Truck.