Paul Rosner
October 5, 2015
Photos By: Paul Rosner

The 12th Annual McLeod NMRA Ford Super Nationals rolled into Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, for the next chapter in the 2015 NMRA Championship race. Drag racing is a family sport to most, and no family name is more iconic in the sport than Bader. Bill Bader purchased a dormant Norwalk Dragway in 1974 and has since cultivated one of the most familiar racetracks in the country with the helping hands of his family and friends, along with a continued constant pursuit for customer service perfection.

Summit Motorsports Park is located just south of the white sandy beaches of the Lake Erie shores in Sandusky, Ohio, home of the g-force thrill-seeking rollercoaster park known as Cedar Point Amusement Park. Usually incumbent weather is a bad thing at the races; however, a shower ended Friday-night qualifying and so we got to visit the park for the first time in nearly 20 years of visiting the facility. The rain had chased the dayshift visitors away, leaving all of the rides nearly empty; it was an unexpected treat for the weekend.

Things didn’t start out well for Phil Hines. He hazed the tires in his only qualifying pass, landing him at the bottom of the ladder and first on the agenda for No. 1 qualifier Andy Manson and his 400-cube Anthony DiSomma–built 1996 Mustang, fresh off his win at MIR. The engines blared as the two F-1X-12 ProCharger–powered ponies stormed out of the gates, Hines taking a slight 0.038-to-0.060 advantage at the tree, then the two crossing the stripe at a nearly identical 4.595 to 4.600 e.t. in the first competition pass of the new eighth-mile format! Hines was a man on a mission, eventually cruising to an equally fast 4.615 in the final to John Urist’s tire melting 10.20, making Hines the first VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw eighth-mile Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle champ.

While the weekend was riddled with showers, the performance on the track never wavered, nor did the spirits of the competitors, which attests to the relentless efforts of the track manager, Kurt Johnson, and his awesome staff.

Lots of excitement was in the air as the points battles were beginning to develop. VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw has had three different winners in three events and has now opened the doors to the 275 warriors by adopting the new eighth-mile format. The Edelbrock Renegade class seems to be picking up new racers at every event as the field grows more competitive. The Strange Engineering Coyote Stock Class is aiming for 32-car fields in the near future, so let’s go racing!

ProCharger Coyote Modified points leader Haley James also came to Norwalk with a score to settle. The Hellion crew gave her the quickest ProCharger Coyote Modified car on the planet, but the talented rookie fell into a staging game against the much slower car of newcomer Ronnie Reynolds. After she put the Hellion Turbo Systems coupe on the top of the qualifying ladder with a stout 8.40, James got retribution in the second round as she blew by Ronnie Reynolds uncontested 8.44 to 9.38. Meanwhile, on the other side of the ladder, Johnny Lightning was equally showing some muscle beyond his 8.53 qualifying pass with wins over Cobra Jet racer Jon Kauder and an up-and-coming ProCharger-powered Joe Cram with 8.42 and 8.46 passes, respectively. That set up the rubber match between the JLP 3.6L Kenne Bell–boosted Cobra Jet and the Hellion Precision 67mm turbocharged 1993 coupe. Johnny Lightning took a tiny advantage 0.069 to 0.085 and was holding a fender ahead to the 800-foot mark when the car went to idle, then all he saw was James’ taillights and parachute as she cruised into the ProCharger Coyote Modified winner’s circle.

Alton Clements’ 355-cube, F-1C-10.5 ProCharger–topped 1989 Coupe had a stout side of ladder facing a growingly competitive Adam Arndt, who brought 7.84 and 7.78 respective round winning e.t.’s to the table. Clements showed reaction time prowess with a 0.037 to 0.156 light and some 7.84 to 7.88 muscle. The showdown between Frank Varela and Clements was contested at Joliet via a final round wash at Norwalk. Varela nailed the tree with a sick 0.035-to-0.105 advantage, but it was all Clements on the boards with a personal best 7.67 at 179.8 mph to 7.82 at 181.4 mph for the Edelbrock Renegade win, finally slaying the Hellion dragon.

The Jimmy Wilson and Teddy Weaver show on the ACT Advanced Clutch Technology Pure Street channel continued in Norwalk, topping the qualifying ladder 9.81 to 9.82. The two have been the frontrunners of the class all year; however, JPC racer Ron Cullember joined the Pure Street party at the last NMRA event in MIR at his hometown track. After realizing he could be a player, he made the required NHRA license passes just before the event, then dropped into the No. 3 qualifying spot with a 10.09 at 134.23 mph. Cullember knew he needed the holeshot but overstepped into the red, while putting a 10.01 on the boards to Wilson’s 9.80. After going more than a year without dropping a round of racing, Teddy Weaver has dropped the last two to Wilson, but with some of the closest racing we have ever seen. The two met again in the final, with Weaver getting the holeshot 0.081 to 0.136 and with both 311ci powerplants shifting and crossing the stripe at over nine-grand; 9.778 to 9.848 flashed on the boards, and Wilson steals another away from Weaver by 0.015 second!

The Strange Engineering Coyote Stock class, in which all competitors are required to utilize the same 5.0L Coyote “sealed” crate engine and factory tunes, commonly reflashed into PCMs in the staging lanes between rounds, has become one of the most contested classes in NMRA history books. There were 17 cars in the “all-run” field at Norwalk, with over half the field qualifying in the 10.50s and 10.60s. Former NMRA Factory Stock Champ and HP Tuners–sponsored Mike Washington smacked a 0.002-to-0.068 bulb on reigning champ Booze brothers racing Shane Stymiest, then outgunned him with a 10.67 to 10.77 to the stripe. That would set up a faceoff with MV Performance’s Joe Charles, who had been the fastest and most consistent throughout eliminations, never leaving the mid-10.50s. Washington backed it down to a safer 0.066 light to move ahead of Charles’ sleepy 0.174, then solidified his bid for the final with a quicker 10.50 to 10.54, his best e.t. of the weekend. The two JPC team members took the final chapter from Norwalk to Joliet, where Washington continued his deadly assault on the tree, 0.031 to Marini’s 0.075. Both racers rowed through the G-Force T5 Transmissions gears to the strip, ending with the trip to the Aerospace Components winner’s circle going to Washington 10.459 to 10.510.

Longtime Modular Muscle competitor Derek Kernodle jumped into the Strange Engineering Coyote Stock class a couple years back; he said he has a lot to learn still before he is a threat to the top contenders. Here he shows ingenuity in cooling the engine between rounds, through and through!

The Manufacturers Midway plays host to all your favorite Mustang and Ford go-fast goodie suppliers, offering oodles of “show only” deals with lots of folks on-hand to handle your technical needs.

Many dragstrips are known for lots of great things. At Summit Motorsports Park, experiencing the “$1 for a pound of ice cream” can’t be missed.

Most of the Factory Stock competitors have swapped to the bulletproof 5.0L 4V Coyote powerplant, except for the BES Racing Engines 4.6L 2V rabbit of Matt Armine, who is not only undefeated in 2015 but also has overwhelmingly won the championship the last two years. This weekend his wife, Danielle, got to join in the fun, competing in the All-Female True Street in her 2003 Cobra daily driver. She ended up taking the 12-second trophy with a 12.16 average. Matt qualified No. 1 in his ACT Clutch–assisted 1998 Stang with a 10.89 to earn a first-round bye, then ousted Sondra Leslie for a rematch with Justin Fogelsonger’s Booze Brothers Racing 5.0L 4V Coyote coupe. It was one of the closest contests of the weekend, as they left nearly identically 0.089 to 0.087 before Matt pulled away 10.919 to 10.958. Jay Dold is the other black sheep in the field with his BES Racing Engines built 4.6L 4V–powered 2003 Mach I. He laid down an equally quick 10.922 in his semifinal bye to let Matt know that he had something for him. Unfortunately, Dold shook the tires hard right out of the gates, running 11.27 at 125 mph and giving Matt the American Racing Headers Factory Stock win with a soft 11.10 at only 111 mph.

The Leslie family has been a staple in American Racing Headers Factory Stock for more than 14 years. John Leslie Sr., his wife Barbara, son John Jr., and daughters Melissa and Sondra have made their NMRA travels chasing racing across the U.S. to their favorite vacation spots. Melissa is now married to Street Outlaw superstar John Urist, while both John Jr. (left) and Sondra (right) compete in Factory Stock. Sondra drives a 2006 Stang with an MPR Racing Engines–built 5.0L Coyote auto. John Jr.’s 1989 hatch with an MV Performance–built 5.0L Coyote stick finished as high as Second Place in 2013. John Sr. and Barbara contended that it’s not just about family but great people like Crew Chief John Meier—it’s about all the helpful friends and fellow racers!

Drag racing has become quite scientific. Here NMRA starter TJ “El Prepe” Bailey uses a Track Meter track surface analyzer to measure how much stick the racetrack has. You put your weight over a pad on the racing surface then use a torque wrench handle to record the torque it takes to break loose and spin. The numbers don’t mean much until you have complete racecar/tuning setup data attached to them; then they become invaluable. We’re sure the NMRA and Summit Motorsports Park had high target values, especially after rain delays and oil-downs. Be assured that on this weekend the track was at its best.

Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle is always an awesome parade of small-cubic-inch Ford Modular power, with Open Comp handicapped-style racing. Most of the competitors needed only 281 ci to dip into the 9s and 10s. Former and current Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle champ Susan McClenaghan was on a mission in her Liquid Propane–inhaling, Roush-charged Coyote, with 0.013, 0.031, and 0.045 consecutive winning bulbs on her way to the final-round matchup, which was postponed to the NMRA’s next stop in Joliet. Both drivers were rested up. They met early in qualifying for the final gunfight. Russ Gabbard laid down a great 0.032 light, running 11.598 on his now 11.50 dial. However, is was McClenaghan’s perfect 0.000 trigger finger and 9.568-on-9.49 dial that would prevail for the Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle title and the points lead.

Flex-a-lite Open Comp is a treat for the old-school veteran racers who don’t need no stinking fuel injection or tuning software. It’s all about having the carburetor jetted just right for the conditions and the timing set perfectly to hold the engine temperature for consistency! The class has lots of colorful characters piloting all different breeds, but all have one thing in common: They are true blue through and through. Competitors came from near and far to compete on the national stage in the all-run field, which was 37 cars deep. It would take six rounds of FE, 385, and Winsor madness! New Yorker Mike Buczynski had some good lights, but his Jon Kaase–topped 532ci ProFormance Specialties–built pony was great! The Quick Fuel Technology 1150 Dominator was dialed in as he made deadly consistent passes in eliminations: 9.336, 9.344, 9.340, and 9.339. Buczynski’s stake nearly ended when he met the other side of Team Blackson Arrow, Joe Hutchins in the semis. Hutchins’ purple 1985 Stang never ran more than 0.03 over his dial through four rounds, with a sick 0.025 average reaction. He took an early 0.027-to-0.055 advantage but broke out 10.569 on 10.57 to Buczynski’s 9.345 on 9.33. Mel White let the anxiety get the best of him in the final round, when weather had moved to Joliet. He red-bulbed, giving the Flex-a-lite Open Comp win and cash to Buczynski.

The Eaton Detroit Locker Truck & Lightning class continues its heavy hauler cult following as 18 members attended—Lightnings, Rangers, Rancheros, and even a 1948 big-block F-100 flatbed! Those in attendance witnessed a little bit of everything, from NA small-block Windsors and NOS big-blocks to supercharged and turbocharged Lightnings. Johnny Wiker, also known as Johnny Lightning, ran his 4.7L Kenne Bell–topped, 380-stroker modular Lightning to blow by Matt Harget’s 2001 Lightning, then got a freebee from a Ryan Jones red light and nearly missed his bye to the finals when James Steamer took a serious 0.014-to-0.116 advantage at the tree. Unfortunately, the steam engine shut down early, 11.92 on an 11.78, while Wiker was gaining steam 8.93 on an 8.90 at over 151 mph. The conditions at the Joliet continuance for the title were a little too good for both racers, as Wiker got out first, 0.054 to 0.072, and broke out less 8.75 on an 8.80 to Jim Roberts’ 12.43 on a 12.50. Johnny Lightning took the Eaton Detroit Locker Truck & Lightning wally and the points lead.

Even though the Roush Performance Super Stang class is basically a Pro Tree handicap bracket class, it is about as close as you can get to a street car class, as it is restricted to 2005 and newer Mustangs on D.O.T.s. All gear changes must be made by the driver; no trans brakes or two-steps allowed, just good ol’ footbrake racing! Marvin Knack and his Brenspeed-tuned 5.0L 2011 Mustang comes to make laps, and he can be seen in nearly every event, starting with True Street, where he frequents the 12-oh class winner’s circle on Saturday. Sunday it’s time for more laps in Roush Performance Super Stang class, as Knack ousted Brad Gusler’s 2015 SCT-wrapped, 11-second 2.3L EcoBoost, then Andy Rasford. Next lap he trailered the reigning champ Kent Nine’s Brenspeed-built 326-stroker drop top when Nine went under 10.788 on a 10.80, giving him a bye to the finals. Dwayne Hickman’s F-1A ProCharger–topped Coyote Aluminator crate engine was the fastest car in the class. He got a holeshot victory on Larry Firestone’s Roush-charged 3V 0.047, 10.217 on 10.17 to Firestone’s 0.091, 12.084 on 12.05. He sent Dennis Burndt’s stock-appearing 2006 Kona Blue Stang back to Grafton, Wisconsin, then came back around for a shot at the 2012 Boss 302 of Pete Espeut, a 27-year veteran shop owner who has picked out nearly 25 Mustangs off the showroom; this one still wears it’s build ticket. It was all eight-grand shifts for Espeut’s Boss, laying down a 0.106, 11.773 on 11.70 package, but Hickman ran him down with a tighter 0.050, 10.241 to 10.17 bundle. Hickman got to rest his big F-1A–powered pony as he watched both former Super Stang class champ Chad Wendle’s minus-0.030 and then Marvin Knack’s minus-0.006 red light starts, gifting him his first trip to the Roush Performance Super Stang class winner’s circle.

The diehards came out to brave the on-off rainy weekend to show off their exquisite Ford hot rods and muscle cars. They were treated to the usual UPR Products Car Show goodie bags, attendance awards, and many gorgeous trophy plaques. Special thanks went to the host car club, the North Coast Mustang Club of Ohio, for keeping it all organized and projecting the professional image that’s advocated for the NMRA.