March 7, 2003

As the NMRA season gets kicked off this season we see a forecast of continued hard work, determination, and perseverance. Not to mention the smack talk and little jabs that will no doubt go down between racers. However, there are many unanswered questions going into the new season.

In Pro, will Billy make good on his boycott of the NMRA and stick with 10.5W Outlaw-style races with the black car? Derrick Smith is apparently headed for Outlaw-style races as well, and it appears that the engine building relationship with Billy Glidden is over. Will Donnie Walsh step to the forefront and dominate? What about Doug Mangrum? Could he once again take his car to the front of Pro 5.0? The rumor mill in Pro is that both John Gullet and the Kevin Marsh/Chuck Samuel camps have built import cars. Will they be heard from in Pro? Will WFC6 Pro 5.0 winner Randy Eakins prove that victory wasn't a fluke? A lot of people think Pro 5.0 is a dead class. Will that prove to be true? We hope not. We've heard about a few new Pro 5.0 cars being built, so we hope these new cars will breathe some fresh air into the class and bring us the side by side racing that will get the butts in the stands. Everyone will be a winner if that happens.

Outlaw is shaping to have interesting this year. Has Mike Murillo truly retired, or sold the legendary star car to focus on racing the former Kevin Marsh coupe? He's been hinting at retirement from racing for a couple years now, but we've continued to see his jovial self on race weekends. We're betting he'll be at the track one way or another. Let's say that Mike Murillo doesn't return in NMRA Outlaw, who will take over the crown of the fastest freak on 10.5 tires? Will Mike Smith prove the man to beat, or will John Urist get his program into high gear and make a run for the top spot vacated my Murillo? Other racers that factor into the mix are Jason Cohen, the Sorby brothers, Vic Williams, Gary Rohe, Chip Havemann, and many others. Will Jim Blair find the consistency to win like Murillo and Dan Millen did? Can the modular-powered mount of True Blue Performance's Randy Haywood put the pushrods out to pasture? Could a new car come in and be competitive enough to throw a wrench in everyone's hopes. Both Billy Laskowsky and Tim Lyons are going Outlaw racing this year. Can they dethrone the season Outlaw veterans? We promise the 10.5-tired freak show will be exactly that come Bradenton, and you won't want to miss a single burnout. The Drag Radial class just might be the most intriguing class going into the new season. When the rules came out at the end of last year a lot of people vowed to take their drag radials elsewhere. Will they hold to that threat? If they do, there will no doubt be a new crown awarded at the end of the season. Racers are funny with their threats, though. Some of them want to race so bad that they just might get in on the action anyway.

With the stick being outlawed and Mike Freedman building a new car for another series, it looks like it's anyone's game in Renegade. Can Bart Tobener return to his dominating ways and make a run for the championship, or will Mike Post step up and finally realize his goal of being top dog? Could Bob Kurgan regain his winning ways? Can the Swill Racing guys put down the beer long enough to make a run for the crown? They won't go down without a fight we guarantee it. Whoever shows up, Renegade is going to come down to the wire, and you can bet side-by-side racing will be the theme all year.

An NMRA newcomer came to Hot Street and took the class by storm in 2002 (Brian Booze driving the Joe Johnston coupe with Tommy Z doing the chassis tuning). With Laskowsky out of the way could it be a foregone conclusion that this superteam will take it to the house again. Not if Brian's brother Charlie has anything to say about it. That's right, Charlie Booze Jr. is building a Hot Street similar in combination to Brian's mount. If no one else steps up it could be the Booze brothers Hot Street show all year. Let's not forget about JR Heuring or Kenny Compton, either. Could the orange coupe of Scott Budisalich come in and crush all comers? Where are Sam Lamanna and Jim Wohlford to really make things interesting?

Toward the end of last year, everyone in 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords Real Street thought they could run 9s. Off-season rules changes could make that feat even harder, or easier depending on who you ask. By the sounds of it, several Real Street racers will either not be at Bradenton or be racing with last year's combination for the first race. However, we're sure it'll be full class even if a few racers aren't able to make it. Real Street finished off the year in amazing fashion with Brian Meyer dusting off his former Renegade car in Real Street trim and busting off 10.teens running out of gear at Bowling Green. Will the addition of Robin Lawrence and Justin Burcham make Real Street the class to watch for 2003? Will Brian Meyer come in with his sorted out chassis, shift into 2nd gear with the front tires in the air, and dominate. Will the independent racers have a chance against those wrenched and tuned on by horsepower-building shops such as Anderson Ford Motorsport, Unlimited Performance, and the like?

With major sponsorship from Latemodel Restoration Supply, will Justin Burcham continue his winning ways in Real Street, or will his former Factory Stock whipping boy Robin Lawrence have the last laugh on the whole class? Will Jeremy Martorella's switch to a Nitrous Pro-Flow nitrous system put him out front to stay? The UPR-backed car was one of the faster cars last year, and that was with a Paxton Novi 2000 supercharger. Surely the UPR camp must have something up its sleeve to make the switch to nitrous. It'll be a classic nitrous vs. blower shootout in 2003. We can't wait to check out the Real Street action.

In Pure Street, Gene Hindman and John McGowan fought a bitter battle to the end in 2002. Will anyone step up their program and end the Gene and John show? Darin Hendricks really started to come around at the end of last season and Dwayne Barbaree has always been fast so Pure Street will also be one of those classes that go down to the wire.

With Justin and Robin stepping up in class, it's anyone's guess as to who will charge to the front in Factory Stock. Troy Carter figures to lead the list, but with Michael Washington driving the old Will Buckworth car with Justin Burcham's fingers all over it don't count the New York firefighter out of the mix as well. He won last year at Bradenton and we're sure he'll be looking to repeat that performance. Bob Cosby may not be able to be at every race with his Cobra, but look for his '88 coupe to be driven by Jason Steen. Both cars should be very competitive, but will it be enough to topple Troy Carter or Michael Washington? Only time will tell.

In Modular Muscle, Jim 'Gentle' Breese took over the crown that was taken from him by Robert Hindman. Can he repeat in 2003? Lupa Davila looms as a heavy favorite as well, but just like last year, Modular Muscle will be decided at Bowling Green in September. Former Fun Ford Street Stock champion will be running a Modular Muscle car for 2003, and the usual suspects like Gary Youngblood, Steve Ferguson, and Chuck Lawrence. These guys paired up with the Archer brothers could mean more nail-biters than the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

As with Modular Muscle, the Open Comp class plays host to a ton of racers winning and losing races by thousandths of a second. Look for the new car of Stacy Estel to really spice things up in the Open Comp pits, but we're sure guys like John Brady, Larry Geddes, Dave Lanman, and Ron Cates can stomach the hot sauce. Open Comp promises to be as entertaining this year as it was in 2002. In Truck and Lightning, last year it was a battle between the Rangers and the Lightnings. No, we're not talking hockey, Truck and Lightning races would surely melt the ice. If Peter Rogowski can continue last year's consistency he will be tough to beat, but we're sure Terry 'Beefcake' Reeves, Mark Morales, Randy Morrison, Johnny Lightning, and many others will be there to give him a fight.

No matter the results, the 2003 NMRA season promises to be more exciting than 2002 because of all the off-season happenings with rules changes and several racers stepping up in class. 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords will be at every race, and we'll bring you all the good stuff (along with the bad) from every race. Stay tuned!