Mike Galimi
January 16, 2015
Photos By: MMFF Staff

Every summer for the past nine years, a league rivalry gets settled on the quarter-mile at Route 66 Raceway (Joliet, Illinois).

The largest Street Legal Drag Racing sanctioning bodies, NMRA and NMCA, participate in what is called the Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing, and Nitto Tire sponsors it. The concept is a simple. Both “leagues” spend three days qualifying and eliminating each other in their respective sanctioned categories. Once winners are declared in each class, the NMRA/NMCA officials parade them back up in predetermined pairings. It is Team NMRA against Team NMCA, and the one with the most wins is declared the victor of the Super Bowl. The team members each receive a Nitto Tire Diamond Tree championship ring made of gold with diamonds, emeralds, and rubies in the form of drag racing’s famous Christmas tree.

The neat thing about the Route 66 Raceway stop is that fans get to see the entire NMRA lineup from the screaming ATF Street Outlaw racers to the very competitive index-fields of Detroit Locker Truck & Lightning, Flex-a-lite Open Comp, Roush Super Stang, and Exedy Clutches Modular Muscle. There is also a big Tremec True Street field, which includes the 30-mile cruise and three consecutive runs (or, in this case, a rain-shortened two-run competition).

You know things are serious when True Street competitors are packing parachutes between runs. Cal Hayward won Tremec True Street with a stellar 8.01 average, but he had run as quick as 7.86. He slowed on his next run to an 8.16, backing the average into the eight-second zone and narrowly missing history for the first seven-second average. Rain cut the True Street short, and competitors were ranked on a two-run average instead of the normal three runs.
MMR made the trip from California to Illinois and brought along their Pro Mod Mustang, featuring a 351XR Mod Motor. Driver Greg Seth-Hunter unleashed the fury with a new world record for a Modular-equipped drag car: 6.02 at 244 mph.

If hitting the dragstrip isn’t your thing, Ford and Mustang enthusiasts can walk over to the show grounds, where UPR Car Show officials give away over 50 awards throughout the weekend.

In ATF Street Outlaw, the class is combined with its NMCA counter of the same moniker. The NMRA managed to finish runner-up when Andy Manson pushed his ProCharger SN95 Mustang into the bottom sevens at around 200 mph. The Edelbrock Renegade crowd is where the competitors are restricted in displacement, camshaft sizing, cylinder heads, intakes, and power-adder dimensions. Once again the Bart Tobener’s freight train pushed through the field to take the victory in a commanding way. He ran consistent 7.90s at over 170 mph.

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The final heads-up power-adder category is DiabloSport Coyote Modified, in which racers are restricted to Coyote 5.0L engines, specific power-adder sizing, and air-to-air intercoolers. Taking the top honors was Terry “Beefcake” Reeves with his Vortech supercharged 2011 Mustang GT out of Finish Line Performance with an impressive 8.63 at 161 mph.

Teddy Weaver continued his undefeated streak by securing a win in the naturally aspirated class of ACT Pure Street. The Roush 311ci engine buzzed to nearly 9,000 rpm as Weaver navigated his way into the winner’s circle with 9.80s at 136 mph performances.

Charlie Cooper (far lane) had a wild ride in the opening round of eliminations when his hood blew off. Ever the competitor, he stayed wide open and took the round win with an 8.43 at 164 mph.
The high-flying ranks of ACT Pure Street have been flat-out dominated by Teddy Weaver this year. He runs 9.70s with a 311ci pushrod motor with Trick Flow heads and a 0.500-inch lift camshaft.
What were you driving when you were 17? Rodney Massengale, whose family owns RPM Transmissions, drives a supercharged 2014 Cobra Jet in DiabloSport Coyote Modified, knocking off 8.90 runs!

The sealed Ford Racing crate motor class, dubbed Strange Engineering Coyote Stock, was a dogfight as racers pushed their steeds into the mid-tens. Darrin Hendricks and Steve Moberly ended up taking the win with their 1993 SVT Cobra. It ran 10.50s at 127 mph with the Ford Racing Coyote 5.0L engine.

The final heads-up class is Nitto Tire Factory Stock, which has a close relationship Stock Eliminator except that the racers run heads-up. The competitors are also required to run DOT tires and street-type transmissions to go along with the “stock” engines. Matt Amrine would stand on top of the field with his Two-Valve–powered 1998 Mustang GT thanks to a performance of 10.80 at 124 mph.

The Index categories provided the same exciting racing as the heads-up portion of NMRA competition. In the S197-only category of Roush Super Stang, the RoushCharged 2008 Mustang GT of Larry Firestone beat Rockin Al Miller of BMR Suspension—Firestone dropped an 11.55 on an 11.44 dial-in to take the category win. The Exedy Clutch Modular Muscle eliminator pitted two veteran Mod Motor racers against each other. Donnie Bowles of Roush Racing came out on top over Florida’s Jason Henson. Bowles was nearly perfect. He ran 10.127 on a 10.12 index to secure the win over Henson, who posted a 12.24 against his 12.21 index.

Nina Gusler hit the strip with her ProCharger-powered 2013 F-150 pickup truck. The supercharged 5.0L engine pushes the big street machine to low 12-second times.
Bob Dill had JPC Racing convert his Gen II Lightning from a 5.4 Two-Valve motor to a turbocharged Coyote 5.0L powerplant. The truck scoots to low nine-second runs at speeds around 150 mph.
Nitto Tire racer John Urist (left) discusses the finer points about turbocharged Coyote 5.0L engines with UPR’s Mark Mainiero. Urist and teammate Frank Varela currently hold the records in their respective categories, ATF Street Outlaw and DiabloSport Coyote Modified.

Moving over to Detroit Locker Truck and Lightning, 19 trucks entered the competition but it came down to just one: Gerry Van Veen and his 11-second Ford Ranger, which ran 11.70s all day long.

The hotly contested Flex-a-lite Open Comp class brought together an eclectic mix of Fords, everything from late-model race cars to early-model street cars. In the end, Mike Olencheck squared off against Larry Geddes. Both racers would break through their index, with Olencheck and his 1982 Fairmont running closer to the number than Geddes. The 427ci small-block–powered machine won the race with a 10.19 on the 10.26, while Geddes dropped a 10.72 on a 10.81 index.

This year’s Team NMRA victory over Team NMCA put the count at seven wins for NMRA and just two for NMCA through the nine-year history. Will Team NMRA come out on top for the decade celebration of the Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing? Head to Route 66 Raceway next summer to find out.

Index racing isn’t as easy as it seems, and compounding it is running a stick-shift combination. That is the scenario that Chad Wendel faces with his Moser-sponsored Mustang. But he won the NMRA championship two years ago and is in contention this year for a second title.
Rob Abel started off strong in True Street with a 12.50 run but then smoked the tires and slowed to a 14.12, finishing the competition with a 13.31 average.
Aurora, Illinois’ Jason Epstein cracked off a 13.06 average by way of 13.14 and 12.97 performances. He took the win in the 13-second segment.
Randy Thomas normally runs in NMRA competition, but he elected to compete on the NMCA side of the True Street Challenge. Race officials split the two fields into their respective sanctioning bodies. Turns out Thomas made a good move. He was the Overall Runner-Up thanks to his 9.57 average from the 2010 Shelby GT500.

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