November 24, 2004

Whew! The '04 Ford racing season has come to an end, and we're all leftto endure a long winter with thoughts of burnouts, the smell ofhigh-octane fuel, and the visions of heads-up dragstrip battles dancingin our little heads. It has been one of the most memorable Ford racingseasons ever ,with intense competition between teams in all classesthat, more and more, are bordering on professional efforts. And, eventhough some of the action was interrupted by rain, we still enjoyed someof the fastest 5.0 and modular Mustangs ever to have been assembled.With more than eight months of competition, we took on the not-so-simpletask of boiling down the season to the top 10 stories of 2004. So,without further delay, here are the stories you'll want to remember whenyou look back on the '04 season.

Undefeated Booze

Charlie Booze began his racing season like most serious Mustang racers,at the opening event of the NMRA event--at Bradenton Motorsports Park--inearly March. After finishing third in points in 2003, Charlie hadsomething to prove. Teamed with Matt Wirt and his brother Brian, himselfa former world champion in Hot Street, Charlie went on a run the likesof which we have never seen before. Mike Washington made it to the finalround of competition in 2003 without a loss, but Charlie sealed the dealwith a perfect, undefeated championship in this hotly contested,all-motor-monster class. Running a Kuntz 434ci small-block--again, withno nitrous or blower--Charlie was quickly in the high-eight-second zone,establishing the world record. His wild, 300-foot-long wheelstands andunbeatable driving abilities will long be entrenched in our neuralsynapses as the first undefeated season in NMRA history.

Samuel Dominates

As most pundits are calling for the death of Pro 5.0 as we know it,Kevin Marsh and his driver/partner Chuck Samuel dedicated their time,money, and effort toward one of the most memorable Pro 5.0 campaigns inrecent history. Competing almost exclusively at FFW, Kevin and Chuckwent on a tear. Their wild, turbocharged small-block combination went asfast as 6.42-second e.t. at more than 220 mph to establish the FFW WorldRecord as well as wrap up the FFW Pro 5.0 World Championship. Besidesthat, Kevin represented the Ford camp at that Florida street-car race,where Chuck won the coveted Pro Street class in a field of more than 50cars with consistent 6.60s. But, perhaps the sweetest win for this teamcame at the incomparable World Ford Challenge 7 event, where Chuckavenged the demons of holeshots gone by with a dominating victory over afield of 16 Pro 5.0 cars. At WFC7, Chuck and Kevin qualified number one,set the world record, and went on to win--just like their entire seasonin 2004.

Matherly's Modular

The fact that Tim Matherly got into our own NMRA 5.0 Mustang & SuperFord magazine Real Street class and won the championship isn't that biga story. What really got our goosebumps popping is that he did it with amodular Two-Valve car. Tim is an old-school 5.0 Mustang drag racingwarrior who has never lost grasp of the cutting edge with these cars.After looking at the '04 NMRA rule book, he felt he could put together amid-nine-second class dominator--and that's just what he did. His hot,blue '02 GT came equipped with a ProCharger supercharger, and Tim's ownsharp tuning went half the season before someone could beat him. But bythen he had already won enough races to put himself in the top spot ofthe points race with a modular Mustang--the first heads-up NMRA worldchampionship for Ford's modular engine combination!

Radial Reigns

As if the world of Mustang drag racing couldn't get any wilder, enterthe volcanic NMRA Drag Radial class. Oh, we've seen this coming for thepast two years, but for 2004, fans were fighting for guardrail space justo watch 3,000-plus-pound street Mustangs run low-eights with limitedpower-adder combinations on DOT-legal tires--simply amazing! Toss in thedrama of Phil Clemmons' dominating year despite incredible door-to-dooraction, and it left the crowd breathless while wanting more. There is abrotherhood in the class that transcends the competition, as most racersare craving the rush of drag radial competition while still realizinghow dangerous this class is.

Blair's Bad

The flagship class at the NMRA is Super Street Outlaw, a bare-knucklebar fight on 28x10.5-inch slicks at 190 mph. To simply compete in SSOyou need a big budget and even bigger balls, and to win in SSO, well,you need a combination of good people, good preparation, and good luck.For 2004, no one scared SSO racers like Jim Blair from Ft. Lauderdale,Florida, in his original '95 Cobra R. Coupled with Jason Gatlin of ATFand Ronnie Crawford's small-block Ford mastery, Jim ran 7.50s at morethan 190 mph on diminutive 28x10.5-inch slicks. His NMRA SSOchampionship was topped off with a final-round appearance at WFC7 (infull NMRA legal trim) against racers with clutchless Pro Stocktransmissions, four-link suspensions, and bigger tires--equipment notallowed in SSO. Jim's '95 R will likely be sold to noted SSO superstarMichael Young by the time you read this, and Jim will be well on his wayto racing 10.5W-tire classes in NMRA's new Pro Outlaw class. We can'twait to see what he does next!

Millen Repeats

The World Ford Challenge has a small-tired class with no power limitscalled Pro Street Outlaw. Traditionally, this class garners some of thebest in small-tired, Mustang drag racing, including Billy and BobGlidden, John Urist, Carlo Catalanotto, Job Spetter Jr., Gary Rohe, andanyone else crazy enough to run sub-7.50s at more than 190 mph. AlanDudley/Anthony Turner, Jason Cohen, Chris Derrick, Mike Murillo, DanMillen, and Tim Lynch had each won this class once before 2004. WhileDan "The Desert Eagle" Millen had won the event once, in 2004 the talkturned to Billy Glidden's appearance as well as all the other zanystreet racing teams that come to the WFC. In the end, Dan bested JimBlair in one of the most thrilling small-tire duels we've ever seen.

Modular Stock

Bob Cosby was the first racer to win in competition with a modularMustang competing in the NMRA's entry-level Factory Stock class. For anencore, he took on the challenge of winning a national title. After aconvincing run in 2004, he shares the title with Tim Matherly as thefirst racers to win a championship with a modular Mustang. But, itwasn't just Bob's '99 Cobra that threatened this class--Shawn Johnson's'99 Cobra set the record and forced pushrod racers back to the drawingboard. Modular Mustang fans are now rooting for Two-Valve combinations(such as those run by Ken Bjonnes and Rey Rivera) to put new facts toFactory Stock racing.

Mitchell Rules

Somewhere between the multiple $100,000 entries of Pro 5.0 and thebasic-bolt-on packages of Factory Stock lies a power-adder class calledEFI Renegade. It's for Mustang racers who want to run low-nines orhigh-eights on budgets smaller than those found in Drag Radial on up.And, because Renegade has been around since 1998, it has quite afollowing amongst the street-going set. For 2004, Brian Mitchell hadsome stiff competition from the old guard (Bob Kurgan, Mike Post, KurtGallant, Swill Racing, Donna Sydor) and a whole new flock of nastystreet racers (Bob Cook, Zoop Zellonis, Larry Prykucki, and so on). Inthe end, Brian not only won an NMRA world championship, but he also hitthe gold by winning the WFC Renegade class.

Nitrous Returns

Let's face it, every serious car guy tries nitrous on his ride at leastonce in his life. Some of them never let go of that magical bottle ofpower that makes piston-driven engines act like they want to eatthemselves internally. The NMRA's nitrous contingent has long beenblessed with outstanding performances, whether you're talking about VicWilliams in Pro 5.0 or Chris Tuten and Bruce Hemminger in Real Street.But, for 2004, the NMRA had a coming-out party for the race teams totinga jug in SSO. Led by Kentucky Sam Vincent, Gary Rohe, Brian McGee, andDon Burton, the blower and turbo guys in SSO suddenly had their handsfull of 7.70-second nitrous cars. At Michigan, the NMRA had anall-nitrous final (won by Brian), and that was something that neverhappened in the history of the class. For 2004, nitrous was hot!

'05 Anticipation

As we close the books on another great year of heads-up Mustang dragracing, there are already promises of great things to come for 2005.Chief amongst these is the release of Ford's new '05 Mustang GT. Thiscar is taking the hobby by storm with teams from all different classesgetting involved with the Ford Racing body-in-white program to buildrace-only '05 Mustangs. From stockers to 200-mph Pro 5.0 monsters, wecan't wait to see these things in competition. Another hot rumor that'smaking us long for the '05 racing season is the announcement of the NMRAthat a new class, featuring 10.5W-tired racers, will debut at a selectnumber of events in 2005. Watch the NMRA schedule closely as they mix7.00-second, 200-plus-mph street racers from all across the country attheir shows next year. See you at the races!