It's been a brutal winter between the end of the 2013 NMRA campaign and the start of the 2014 season. Snow, snow, and more snow has dominated the forecast for many an NMRA racer, and nothing cures the winter blues like good ol' Florida sunshine.
Though the Thursday before the event wasn't exactly Chamber of Commerce weather, the rest of the weekend gave racers exactly what they needed ... lots of sunshine combined with mild temperatures. What NMRA racers gave back to us in return was a race that let us know 2014 is going to be an awesome year for Mustang drag racing.
The big NMRA news was the addition of the new Coyote Modified class, which pits power-adder, Coyote-powered Mustangs against each other in a heads-up format. The class came out swinging with the Fox coupe of Frank Varela setting the pace right out of the gate with times in the 8.70s. We trust times will only get quicker from here.
The other big news was the re-emergence of Pure Street. This naturally aspirated class took a brief hiatus, and was folded into the NMCA (the NMRA's sister sanctioning body) Mean Street class. That too brought out some familiar faces back to the NMRA fold where they belong. Even in its short time over in the NMCA ranks, Mean Street was basically an all-Mustang class. It was natural to bring it back over to the NMRA side of the fence.
Besides those two new wrinkles, the 2014 NMRA season is going to be fast, competitive, and one of the most memorable in the history of Mustang drag racing if Bradenton is any sign of things to come. Of course, Bowling Green will be here before we know it, so let's relish in the Bradenton action for now.
Though it wasn’t blazing hot for the Bradenton opener, these young entrepenuers were definitely onto something. They had lemonade, snow cones, popcorn, duct-tape wallets, scented candles, and more. Your author was hoping they’d have Mountain Dew, but our boy Brian McFarland out of the Jacob Lamb camp came through for us in a pinch. Next year they’ll have Mountain Dew, and we’ll be a regular customer.
We’re here to tell the world about a guy we only know as Burnout Box. We can only imagine he’s related to Motley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee, and he must play in a band at dive bars around the Bradenton, Florida, area. Burnout Box is pretty much our hero, and was the hardest working dude at the track during the 2014 NMRA Spring Break Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park. He was busy keeping his burnout box clean of debris, busily sweeping it between each car, and was almost run over at one point by an anxious racer. Since the Sunday of the event was the warmest day, Burnout Box had to cool himself by using one of his tools of the trade, a water hose. Keep rockin’, Burnout Box!
An NMRA mainstay, John Urist’s consecutive championship streak was broken by Phil Hines. Therefore, Phil’s car wears the #1 this season. However, we know John isn’t going to back down, and if Bradenton was any indication, this battle is going down to the wire and might be decided at Beech Bend Raceway in October. John’s turbo-motivated, Nitto-sponsored Pony landed the first punch by winning Bradenton in spectacular fashion, running several 7.ohs at 200 mph, including a 7.10- at 202 mph in the final against Phil Hines, who ran a 7.15 at 194 mph. An NMRA mainstay, John Urist’s consecutive championship streak was broken by Phil Hines.
The 2013 NMRA season closed with us wondering whether anyone in the Renegade class would ever beat multi-time champion Brian Mitchell; at the 2014 opener, it appeared Bart Tobener would be the racer to do it. Bart ran in the 8.30s during qualifying, but at the last moment, Brian whipped out an 8.21 at 167 mph to secure the top qualifying spot. We knew right then Brian would probably leave Bradenton with the win. Brian’s been there and done that in Renegade; he has a handle on what’s going on with his program. When Bart was taken out by Charlie Cooper, it was Brian’s race to lose, and that just doesn’t happen. Brian’s 8.21 was the only time he really had to push his equipment. He had a relatively easy time of it in Sunday’s eliminations when other racers were having various issues putting down the power. One thing though, the Cobra Jets are really gaining steam in the class, so Johnny Lightning making it to the final is a sign of things to come. Whether anyone is able to beat Brian Mitchell is another
We all wish we could throw together a race car in a couple weeks, go out and thrash on the competition. Making it look easy was Frank Varelo and Hellion Power Systems B-team. Dwayne James and the crew put the car together after Hellion’s John Urist fabbed up a turbo kit using a Precision 67mm unit. The car was seemingly on a string, running 8.70s at will, to put a sizable gap on the rest of the competition. Richard Lelsz’s nitrous combination appeared to be Frank’s toughest competition, but Terry Reeves took him out on a holeshot win in the semi-final round. With a mis-matched converter in his car, though, Terry didn’t have much hope against Frank in the final. Making it look easy was Frank Varelo and Hellion Power Systems B-team.
We’re thankful for the return of Pure Street, which is now sandwiched between Coyote Modified and Coyote Stock. It was always one of our favorite classes with it’s high-winding small-blocks banging gears to the tune of bottom 10s. These days, technology has them in the 9s. Teddy Weaver knows how to win at Bradenton; he did it last year against Brandon Alsept at the NMCA opener. For the 2014 season, Teddy had Roush go through his combination, and the hard work paid off, helping Teddy to the low qualifier spot with a 9.67 at 138 mph. Of course, Sunday was a smidge warmer than Friday and Saturday, so he was unable to match those times, but a 9.75 enabled him to get the victory over Jimmy Wilson in the final.
Supposed ping pong master Shiftin’ Shane Stymiest had a stranglehold on Coyote Stock in 2013, and it looks like he just might keep it going. Shane has his car figured out thanks to help from Booze Brothers Racing and UPR Products, among others. He didn’t wait long to let the competition know there was no let-up. While Shane’s first qualifying pass was stout, his second qualifying lap showed perhaps a chink in the armor. However, in the final round of qualifying, Shane had another stout pass to take the top qualifying spot, with 10.43 at 126 mph, over a tenth ahead of number 2 qualifier Drew Lyons. Shane and Drew would be paired against each other for the final, but Shane was again on his game to take the win with a 10.49 at 124 mph to Drew’s 10.90 at 120 mph. Shane has his car figured out thanks to help from Booze Brothers Racing and UPR Products, among others.
Factory Stock The big news in Factory Stock for 2014 is the Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial is now legal for competition use. We saw a good bit of clutch smoke from racers in the class, which means they were learning what works best from a clutch standpoint with the new tires. While John Leslie was having mechanical issues, Matt Williams took advantage. Matt Williams made the switch to GT40-P heads atop his 310ci powerplant for 2014, and at Bradenton the switch helped him run a 10.85 at 123 mph to take the top qualifying spot. From there, Matt displayed his usual consistency with a 10.89 in Round 1, and a 10.87 in the final against Jay Dold. Matt did his work at the tree to take the win, although Jay actually ran quicker with a 10.86. However, thanks to a 0.442 light, Matt was able to stay out front for the win. The Factory Stock car count should pick up as the NMRA heads to northern points, where more of the class’ racers reside, but the win gives Matt a jump start in the points for 2014.
Anthony even hurt Fourth gear in his coupe, but he was able to get out front against Jeff and make it stick, taking the first two races and overall win. Stick Shootout The Tremec Stick Shootout pitted the two quickest stick-shift Mustangs against each other in a best-of-three duel for the official win. Last year’s winner Jeff Smith was back to defend his crown in his Terminator Cobra, but Lakeland, Florida’s Anthony Heard was able to get the win this year. Anthony runs a 363ci, naturally aspirated combination and dominates many local area stick classes. Anthony even hurt Fourth gear in his coupe, but he was able to get out front against Jeff and make it stick, taking the first two races and overall win. All was not lost for Jeff, though, who won the 11-second True Street average.
Modular Muscle It seems that in the Modular Muscle class, racers haven’t had a chance to practice in the off-season. Several of the class heavy-hitters redlit themselves out of competition. Justin Henson and his ’03 Mach 1 took advantage. He had a 12.21 dial-in at Bradenton, and although a couple of his reaction times weren’t stellar, he made up for it by running on his dial, taking the event win.
Super Stang Pitting ‘05-’14 Mustangs against each other in an index format, Super Stang racers are looking for quick reaction times and running as close to their dial as possible. Kent Nine is usually a favorite to win, and at Bradenton, he was this close. He made it to the final against Chad Wendel, but Chad had a slightly better reaction time and Kent wasn’t able to tighten the gap. It was so close at the top end, but Chad was victorious this time around.
Open Comp If anyone says it doesn’t take talent to race in a class like the NMRA’s Open Comp, you have our permission to give them a “C’mon son!” Past champion Wes Dalrymple is still bringin’ it with his big-block LX ‘vert and showing the young bucks how it’s done. At Bradenton, Wes was straight-up doin’ work, son! His worst light was a 0.549 reaction time in Round 1. In the final against Bill Jones, Wes whipped out a perfect 0.500 light to set himself up for the win.
Truck and Lightning
In the final against Bob Dill, both racers were off their game as far as reaction times, but Jimmy was closest to his dial-in, so he took the win to get a jump in the points. Truck and Lightning Jimmy Cantrell had a relatively easy time in eliminations at Bradenton. Once he got by his toughest test in Gerry Van Veen in Round 1, he had a bye in Round 2, and Steve Martin redlit against him in the semifinal round. In the final against Bob Dill, both racers were off their game as far as reaction times, but Jimmy was closest to his dial-in, so he took the win to get a jump in the points. 5.0
Brian Campbell, the last NMCA Mean Street champion, is without a ride in 2014, therefore he's back to crewchief duties for Terry “Beefcake” Reeves in Coyote Modified. The guys believe a mismatched torque converter held them back at Bradenton. Once they get the converter figured out, watch for much improved times for Beefcake.