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Wheels Fly High at the 10th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Streetcar Drag Racing
Quest for the Ring
The stadium-style seating of Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, is reminiscent of a football stadium. When you try to pack over 500 racecars, a couple hundred show cars, several rows of vendors, and an unimaginable amount of friends, family, and support vehicles on grounds in a four-day extravaganza, how could you refer to it as anything but the 10th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Streetcar Drag Racing?
The folks from Promedia Events and Publishing brought their best crew to team up with the Route 66 staff to celebrate a decade of the fastest streetcar racing in the country for their version of the Super Bowl. Contestants similarly wore helmets, but instead of body pads were wrapped in some of the fastest streetcars on the planet. Team NMRA fought against Team NMCA in a grand finale for the coveted Nitto Tire Diamond Tree Ring.
All of the NMRA class winners were paired with NMCA class winners for an extra bonus roll of cash and the chance to take home the Diamond Tree Ring, which was given to the team with the most wins. Heads-up class winners were dialed in with their quickest e.t.’s of the weekend in a no-breakout dash for the cash, while Open Comp and class racers kept their qualifying e.t. in a breakout-style race as they do in competition. With an even number of races it was only fitting to make the last pairing worth 2 points, just in case it came down to the final pair of contestants, as it has for the past two years. What’s more fitting than to pit Strange Engineering’s Coyote Stock 5.0L against Chevy Performance’s LS3 6.2L crate engines in an epic slugfest for the fastest streetcar supremacy?
Spectators were treated to an insurmountable amount of heads-up action as the NMRA also ran the rain-delayed Norwalk finals during the qualifying rounds, as the NMCA had two races to complete.
The Super Bowl is historically the most viewed TV event in the USA and is always a favorite for loyal and fair-weather sports fans alike. Following suit, the folks at Promedia felt it only fitting to offer their NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing superstar showdown to streetcar drag racing fans from around the globe via live web streaming on Bangshift.com, compliments of the horsepower wizards at Precision Turbo and Engine.
The VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw Class was nothing less than spectacular, with 27 entries on property prepared for battle in the winner-take-all, NMRA versus NMCA all run combo race. The Bruder Brothers’ Racing 1988 Mustang travels the country conquering the best X275 racers from coast to coast, complemented by 12 races undefeated in 2012. In 2015, one of the top events on their agenda was to try out the newly reformatted to eighth-mile NMRA/NMCA series. They qualified No. 4 with a 4.485, taking out Chip Pike in Round 1 and teammate John Ashnault in Round 2. Tuner Nick Bruder kept cool under pressure facing series legend John Urist in Round 3, and series point leader Phil Hines in the semis with identical 4.565 at over 162 mph passes as both Urist and Hines lost traction at the hit, surrendering advancement to the final round. This set up an NMRA versus NMCA showdown against West Coast NMCA Champ Eric Gustafson’s LSX-powered Mustang. The two exited the gates even, 0.036 to 0.033, but then Gustafson got loose in his own oil as Rich Bruder cruised to a 4.533 at 163.22 mph, earning him the VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw Class win. The Cinderella story continued for Bruder Racing as they doubled up winning the NMRA versus NMCA Super Bowl via a rematch with NMCA top contestant Gustafson, who failed to restart after his engine shut down just out of the water box, forfeiting the win.
The Bruder Brothers’ DiSomma Racing Engines–built powerplant is like machine shop jewelry. Gorgeous! A 9 1/2-inch deck Fontana Clevor aluminum engine block, topped with a set of billet VED cylinder heads and intakes, with boost from a 94mm Precision turbo. We can remember when CNC porting was the hot ticket, but these days, heads and intake are basically engineered from scratch and machined from a solid block of aluminum—a wide-open, no-holds-barred design!
Class point leader Phil Hines topped the VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw ladder with another stellar record under his belt, putting a 4.458 at 165.36 mph on the boards. After dodging a bullet in the quarters when Jared Johnston went minus 0.001 red on a very fast 4.561 pass, then they mistakenly unleashed a bit more ProCharger power than the track would hold against eventual winner Rich Bruder.
Any time you get VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw, Pro Mod, and Mickey Thompson Radial Wars in the staging lanes, you better be ready to lay down the sticky. The crew at Route 66 Raceway followed suit with the tanks full and the nozzles wide open!
Joe Johnston has a long history with the NMRA, winning the all motor Hot Street class in his once showroom-fresh daily driver. The car is now suited up for X275 battle with a nasty Bennett Racing Engines 400ci powerplant and a set of Bennett’s customizable billet canted valve heads with his son Jared behind the wheel. John Kolivas of KBX handles tuning the Precision 94mm turbocharged combo while an M&M Transmissions two-speed TH400 transfers the power to the 275 MT radials. Rumor has it there was a high K-dollar grudge race that went down in the third round of qualifying against Andy Manson, where Jared won the peddlefest and pocketed the extra loot.
The Edelbrock Renegade class continues to grow, with 14 heavy hitters in the field. The supercharger camps looked to have the upper hand in qualifying. Aaron Bates’ (near) Trick Flow High Ports–topped 360 hatch houses a ProCharger F1C-10.5 against five-time champ Brian Mitchell’s YSi-XL 353ci-powered 2003 Cobra. Mitchell fell off the pace on the big end 8.37 at 137 to Bates’ 7.805 at just over 178 mph, after taking a 0.034 to 0.084 advantage off the blocks in the semis.
The Alton Clements family had been chasing an Edelbrock Renegade win all season, and it appeared they were flexing some newfound muscle at the NMRA event in Norwalk. After gaining momentum at a handful of successful outings at local X275 events, they unloaded the 363ci ProCharger F1C-10.5–topped beast with a new confidence at Joliet. After putting the entire Renegade field behind with a 7.674 at 179.85 mph qualifying pass, Clements handed a previously unbeaten Hellion Turbo Systems Frank Varela his first loss of the season in the rain-delayed Norwalk final, which also doubled as the third qualifier for the Joliet ladder. Clements faced a struggling Adam Arndt in Round 1, who red-bulbed his chances away, giving the win and the bye to the semis. Clements made every round count running 7.689 against Arndt and a 7.695 bye run in preparation of a rematch with Varela, who had just trailered Charlie Cooper’s turbocharged red Cobra Jet with a 7.755 to 8.020. It had all the makings of an epic rematch battle as both racers left equally late. Varela’s car was lazy out of the gates running 8.173 with a stout 180 mph big end as the Clements’ freight train conquered Goliath for the second time this season, on the same weekend, with another stellar 7.672 at 179 run, advancing him to the finale. In an all ProCharger final, it was nothing but taillights of the blue coupe for Aaron Bates as Alton Clements outmuscled him 7.667 to 7.85 for a second trip to the Aerospace Components Winners Circle. The NMRA versus NMCA Super Bowl matched Clements’ ProCharged coupe against Steve Summers’ sleek turbocharged Pro Mod. Clements said he will never forget crossing the stripe at 7.68 at nearly 180 mph as Summers flew by 5.85 at 256 mph for the win!
Longtime NMRA ambassador Dyno Joe Cram (far lane) let the competition know that he and his Holbrock-built ProCharger F1A-91–boosted, Coyote-powered Saleen is a contender, putting an 8.37 at 164.89 mph on the boards, good for the third spot on the ladder. Dyno Joe beat David Witt’s supercharger red Cobra Jet in Round 1 then took an early lead with a 0.063 to 0.093 shot out of the box in the semis against the Hellion Precision 67mm turbocharged 1993 coupe. Haley James (near lane) kicked up the boost powering by Cram 8.32 to 8.46 in the semis then rolled into the ProCharger Coyote Modified final round to face No. 1 qualifier at 8.27 167.55 mph, Johnny Lightning. The JLP Performance hot shoe took the tree first 0.016 to 0.028 then fell off pace when the hose kinked on his blow-off valve, scrubbing 8 psi of boost as Haley took the win 8.399 to 8.469 and a shot at her first Super Bowl ring. The Hellion crew showed the typical prowess for perfection matching their round best 8.31 to beat Don Baskin’s Nostalgia Pro Street car and their contribution to Team NMRA’s Super Bowl win for the ring.
Drew Lyons has been on a roll this season in the Strange Engineering Coyote Stock class; he about put it on the bumper for the Bangshift.com cameras and another top qualifier at 10.394, earning him a first-round win in the stout 17-car field. Lyons proceeded to pummel the field with wins over Mike Stouffer 10.489 to 10.588, a minus 0.005 red-bulbing Steve Gifford 10.467 to 10.586, then Shane Stymiest 10.456 to 10.538 in the semis to set up the brawl for the belt against an equally quick Darren Hendricks. The two creeped into the beam, Lyons took the green first 0.060 to 0.072 then held a bumper as they crossed the stripe simultaneously 10.462 to 10.482. The Aerospace Components Winners Circle again becomes the Lyons’ den! Next on tap for Lyons would be the most significant, highly anticipated matchup in heads-up streetcar racing: the title bout between Ford Racing’s Coyote 5.0L and Chevy Performance’s LS3 6.2L crate engine. The final pairing would decide which team won the Nitto Diamond Tree Ring. The two creeped into the beams. Lyons’ Coyote-powered Fox coupe took a small advantage at the tree. Both rowed through the gears, the Mustang the only one with a clutch. Lyons took the victory 10.459 at 127.96 to the COPO’s 10.483 at 127.03, solidifying the 7-6 Team NMRA victory over Team NMCA!
Darren Hendricks’ Pro Tree Race Cars–prepped 1993 Cobra stormed to the No. 3 spot on the Strange Engineering Coyote Stock class ladder with a 10.421. He ransacked his side of the ladder with consecutive runs of 10.463, 10.464, 10.499, and 10.456 before losing in the final to Team NMRA hero Drew Lyons in one of the closest races of the weekend 10.482 to 10.462.
The Strange Engineering Coyote Stock class combatants all utilize the same Ford Racing “sealed” 5.0L Four-Valve Coyote powerplant and factory tune, making for some ultraclose racing as 16 cars qualified within tenths of one another and nine of those cars ran between 10.467 and 10.513. Shown here, MV Performance owner Tim Matherly (near) qualified No. 6 at 10.475 as Jacob Lamb grabs the No. 8 spot with his 10.486.
ACT (Advanced Clutch Technology) Pure Street has pretty much been a two-man brawl. Jimmy Wilson won the first two events, and Teddy Weaver took home the cash in the last two, making Joliet the tiebreaker. The two have traded the top spot on the ladder back and forth all season with Weaver landing on top at Joliet 9.462 and Weaver close in tow at 9.481. To say that Jimmy Wilson’s 1988 hatch (near) and Weaver’s 2001 Mystic Stang are equally matched would be an understatement—they ran identical 9.691 runs to advance to the final round. Both 311ci Windsor powerplants revved, Wilson took a miniscule 0.061 to 0.070 advantage then followed through with a 9.736 to 9.757, winning another trip to the Aerospace Components Winners Circle.
The UPR Products Car Show hosted an all brand mixture with the Blue Oval boys, predominantly Mustangs, and basically the rest of the manufacturers. It was an impressive showing with half of the stable populated by ponies.
The Chi-Town Mustang Club hosted the event, squeezing them in tight to make room for all and of course keeping the peace amongst the brand war trash talk. UPR Products made sure there were lots of goodie bags, attendance awards, and good-looking trophies for all First in Class contestants: Best Engine, Best Interior, Best Paint, and of course Best in Show.
In American Racing Headers Factory Stock, Texas racer James Meredith (near lane) started off the weekend gnawing at the heels of top qualifier Matt Amrine with a 10.848 to 10.788 qualifying pass. When the smoke cleared and the two lined up for the final round, it was a hungry Meredith who was smelling blood, inflicting a 0.059 to 0.166 holeshot wound then finishing him off with an 11.044 to 12.869 as Amrine broke the shifter handle.
Ford Senior Master Certified Technician Brad Phoenix, the pride of Don Hinds Ford Performance Team, had his best finish in NMRA’s Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle since first competing in 1999. His impressive supercharged 4.6L Two-Valve Mustang rolled through the field beating John Rusch in Round 1, beating Maryland event winner Rick Doern in the second round, and stealing one from reigning class champ and Norwalk winner Susan McClenaghan, who went minus 0.003 red. Unfortunately, Phoenix’s day was cut short by a win by former Modular Muscle champ Donnie Bowles in the final round.
Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle has been a Roush Racing shootout between teammates Donnie Bowles and Susan McClenaghan for the fourth year running. Bowles was hookin’ hard and clobbered the field with respective wins over Dean Snow’s nearly stock TFS cam’d red 2004 GT, Russ Gabbard’s black Vortech blown Two-Valve, and Jerry Fisher’s red drop top 2003 Cobra with consecutive 10.040, 10.006, and 10.061 e.t.’s on his 9.99 qualifying time. This set up a shootout with Brad Phoenix, who took out McClenaghan, giving him a shot at the point lead. Bowles took a 0.041 to 0.057 starting advantage then cruised to the Aerospace Components Winners Circle with a 10.10 as Phoenix couldn’t run his number 11.31 on 11.16, one of the advantages of having the quicker hot rod.
Blackson Arrow teammates destroyed the Flex-a-lite Open Comp field with identical 10.95 qualifying times in similarly appearing but very different Mustang coupes. Neither racer ever left with worse than a 0.046 light through five rounds of competition, each scoring better than 0.011 lights en route to the final. Steve Daniels (far lane) used an old-school horsepower 331ci carbureted engine to eliminate opponents with 11.024, 11.011, 10.988, and 11.063 runs. Mel White (near lane), hot off his Norwalk win and piloting reigning class champ Bill Jones’ 1991 coupe, trailered the competition, putting 10.982, 10.987, 10.997, and 11.014 passes on the boards. The Blackson Arrow coupes both killed the tree, White taking an insignificant 0.011 to 0.014 bulb advantage. The two crossed the stripe with e.t.’s blinking simultaneously 10.994 to 11.022 and White taking the Flex-a-lite Open Comp trophy and the big check.
Flex-a-lite Open Comp point’s leader Dennis Corn had a tremendous weekend, slaying the tree with 0.026, 0.027, 0.027, and 0.016 green-light starts that propelled him to the semis, where he met an equally hot Steve Daniels. Seeing Corn’s big 1988 T-Bird launch is nothing less than remarkable with its 427ci Roush small-block. Unfortunately, his e.t.’s slipped away, running 9.708, 9.736, 9.769, and 9.798 in the heat of the day on his 9.69 qualifier—that’s how tough this class is.
Pennsylvania resident Bob Dill’s gorgeous 2001 F-150 Lightning was one of the fastest on the property and it proved to be an advantage as he chased all red competitors back to the farm in the Detroit Locker Truck and Lightning category. First on the list was Amanda Saad’s red 347ci 1983 Ranger, then John Elliott’s 306 1994 red stepside Ranger and Jesse Kalvik’s hard-launching red 1999 Lightning, to earn a bye to the final round. Dill got an easy go at the final when his turbocharged freight train scared Kennady Jones into a breakout 11.79 on a 12.06 to his 10.01 on a 9.82. Guess seeing a wing and parachute on the back of a superquiet F-150 is a bit intimidating as the 1966 Barracuda representing the NMCA in the Super Bowl ran under his e.t., waiting for the big orange streak to go by at the lights, giving Bob Dill a pair of winners’ circle celebrations and another point for Team NMRA.
“Gorgeous” is an understatement looking under the hood of Bob Dill’s JPC-built 2001 F-150 Lightning. That’s right, an RGR-built Aluminator 5.0L Coyote topped with a Boss 302 intake and a 76mm Precision turbo—not what you were expecting, huh?
Kennady Jones has made the best of her grandpa Jim Roberts’ generosity piloting his SCT Flash–sponsored 2001 Lightning. Joe Holt’s stock-looking white 9-second Lightning was the first, then Keith Chobirko’s white little 302-powered Ranger, next the reigning Detroit Locker Truck and Lightning Champ Nina Gusler’s Race Star–sponsored F-150 and quickest-in-field legend Johnny Lighting’s eight-second monster to get to the final. Jones cut a great 0.015 light in the last dance but refused to lift, breaking out big 11.79 on her 12.06.
Engine builder John Mummery rattled some cages in Joliet with his 2.6L Kenne Bell blown Three-Valve Stang, rowing his way through a strong field of S197 and new S550 platform foot brake Mustangs. He eliminated Darrell Dye’s new Kona blue 2015, Miles Wagoner’s Roush, having benefitted from Brenspeed owner Brent White’s 2010 Stang leaving minus 0.021 early as well as Pete Espeut’s 2012 Boss 302, which left equally early with a minus 0.020 red. Mummery’s 0.000 perfect light would have been hard for Espeut; unfortunately, the engine overrevved across the beams, damaging the engine heading into the final round.
Consistent top-five contender Larry Firestone’s Brenspeed-tuned 2007 Mustang has been pulling double duty since he bought it new; the stock 4.6L Three-Valve powerplant is now topped with a 2.3L Roush supercharger, runs in the mid-11s, and is still driven to most of the events. Firestone kept his cool against a quicker Tom Osterkamp’s 2012 Mustang, then took out the 2014 Roush Super Stang champ Kent Nine’s 10-second rag top with a better 0.061, 11.591 on 11.50 to 0.041, 10.825 on 10.65 package. He made a good run after not noticing Texan Mike Levien’s stock Three-Valve 2005 GT had gone minus 0.005 red to give him a bye to the final, where he picked up an easy Roush Super Stang win over an injured John Mummery.
The HP Tuners True Street, presented by Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords, cruised around the Chicagoland Speedway outer road, snaking through the facility in an attempt to mimic a typical 30-mile stop-and-go cruise through town but devoid of the traffic, pot holes, and the crazy Saturday hustle and bustle of city traffic.
True Street competitors made the customary three back-to-back runs on Saturday for the first time. Historically, they have waited to cruise until Sunday.
Michigan native Kevin McCotter has had 19 years to perfect his Fox, collecting every True Street incremental award from from the 14s down to runner-up. He was the crowned the King of the Street at Joliet with a 9.877 average.
Matt Coldwell won the runner-up category with a 10.338 average and got the shot of a lifetime when the winner could not come back on Sunday to race for the ring. Tuner and former Renegade Champion Mike Post put a bit more power in her, running a 10.068 and taking the first win for Team NMRA in the Nitto Tire Diamond Tree Ring Super Bowl Shootout.
David Decker (near lane) from LaPorte, Indiana, made three back-to-back runs of 11.037, 11.471, and 10.804, which was good for the 11.00 trophy plaque and cash.
Fred Stickovich’s 2008 GT500 normally runs in the high 10s and low 11s, but he was fighting tuning issues. He still got his money back for the weekend, settling for the 12.00 class award, telling us he’ll be back when Lidio Lacobelli from Alternative Automotive gets her back up to speed.
Jason Epstein’s mildly modified 4.6L Two-Vlave has won the 13.00 class in Joliet quite a few times, and he added another with a 13.090 average. His 1998 GT is patiently waiting in the water box, while eventual runner-up Matt Caldwell shows him the track will be good to go.
Mike Baker’s all stock 1991 Mustang made the trip from Maryland. After winning there for the past two years, he doubled down, capturing the 14.00 class in Joliet.