Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsEvents
Full disclosure: True Street racer Mike Jovanis takes on a 1,000-mile torture test
True Street vs. Drag Week
What is a street car? If you ask ten different people, then odds are that you’ll get ten different answers. It is a moving target that means something different to everyone but there are several local and national drag racing events to help weed out the posers from the legit street cars. Two of the more prominent challenges that push man and machine are NMRA/NMCA True Street and Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week, presented by Gear Vendors.
One is over twenty years old while the other eclipsed the eleven-year mark and both have become the standard by which most street cars are measured. True Street is the older category and while it is completed in one day, contestants perform a 30-mile cruise that is followed by three consecutive passes down the track to establish an average elapsed time. Part of the challenge is that racers cannot pop the hood during the cool down period between the cruise and the on-track competition, nor can they add more fuel. Regular readers of Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords are probably familiar with True Street as it is run at all NMRA events.
Drag Week has fewer restrictions on maintenance but requires racers to only use what they can carry in the car or in a small trailer towed by the car in competition. The major hitch on Drag Week is the 250 miles-per-day cruise to the next track, so by the end of the week, all competitors cover roughly 1,000 miles. A minimum of one pass down the track, per day is required in order to create a five-day average. There are many different categories that make up Drag Week from daily drivers to Pro Mods with license plates.
The competition is both unique and extraordinary, proving that finishers have the right to label their cars as legit street rides. But the question that begs to be asked, could a True Street racer survive Drag Week? To answer that question we followed seven-time True Street winner Mike Jovanis on his mission to conquer the five-day challenge.
As a seven-time overall title winner, the Mustang is more than proven as a True Street commodity. It is not only durable, but fast as well; Jovanis has finished runner-up, twice, in the Spring Break Shootout, which is essentially a heads-up competition for the top 16 True Street cars during NMRA’s season kickoff event at Bradenton Motorsports Park. One week—five days of drag racing and 1,000 miles on the road would prove that a True Street Mustang is indeed the ultimate street car.
The combination is simple, a DiSomma Racing 347ci small-block Ford is the basis of which Jovanis built his street car’s foundation. Having owned the car for 17 years and seriously racing it in True Street for the past six years, Jovanis has overbuilt it for the trio of passes in True Street. If you ask any of the heavy-hitters in True Street, the only way to survive is to overbuild the stressed parts like the transmission, fuel system, and cooling system for a step or two above your power level. In Jovanis’ case, a best run of 8.05 at 175 mph requires a serious commitment to quality and durability. His best average in True Street competition has been an 8.21, which is impressive considering the turbocharged engine makes 1,400 horsepower.
Jovanis was confident in his car’s ability to survive 1,000 miles and make a minimum of one pass per day. The engine is not a thinly veiled race piece, but a legit street engine that has been fine-tuned over the years to achieve its low 8-second status. And with the cooling system up to snuff along with a bulletproof driveline, the pre-race focus was on getting a small utility trailer to carry tools, spare parts, and fuel jugs of VP Racing Fuels C16. Jovanis turned to Frank Sopanaro for a trailer that he has used for several years on Drag Week.
The list of tools needed was the usual assortment of wrenches, sockets (metric and standard), and two boxes of odds and ends. A bag full of spare wire, connectors, and fuses was also loaded up along with a jack and four jack-stands. As for spare parts, a complete gasket set was set inside the storage box. Additionally, he tossed in a Meziere replacement water pump motor, spare Weldon D2035-A fuel pump, a box full of fuel filters (10- and 40-micron), and some extra valvetrain parts should the need arise to replace a broken lifter or pushrod. Jovanis also made sure to have enough oil and a filter for a mid-week oil change as part of routine maintenance. A trailer hitch was made to bolt into the same location as the parachute, requiring the two to be swapped before/after the racing festivities.
The goal is always One and Done when it comes to the drag side of Drag Week and for Jovanis, anything that was remotely close to his best of 8.05 was considered a success and a chance to move on. After hitting the road, Hot Rod Magazine officials prescribe a road course that turns a simple straight run from track-to-track into a seven-or-so hour tour that’s stretched to roughly 250 miles. It is the road tour that actually becomes the biggest challenge as it tests not just your equipment, but also the fortitude of the driver and co-pilot.
With minimizing wear and tear on the dragstrip as the goal, a first-day run of 8.325 at 168.43 mph at National Trails Raceway was enough to hit the road. Between the heat and iffy track conditions, Jovanis considered it a success and got hustled to the next stop. The first road tour was a zig-zag route through the back country roads of Ohio as it took competitors from National Trail Raceway in Hebron up to Summit Motorsprots Park in Norwalk.
Day two would bring an 8.194 at 171.12 mph, solidifying his top three position in the Super Street Small Block Power Adder category, and a 260-mile road trip dragged Jovanis, your author, and a trailer full of parts and tools over to Michigan for Day Three. Hump Day was spent at US 131 Motorsports Park as Jovanis needed to make four runs in order to be satisfied with his elapsed time of the day. A faulty 02 sensor (or user-generated tune error) was the culprit and with a spare one installed and original tune-up in the Haltech Elite 2500, Jovanis collected a slip that read 8.101 at 172.74 mph and moved on to Day Four, which was located at Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis. Cool weather and stellar track conditions made for a cherished One and Done scenario, running 8.123 at 173.07 mph.
Leaving Indy meant Jovanis embarked on the final leg of the 1,000-mile road journey and it had become a routine drive. Confidence was high as the Mustang performed flawlessly. In fact, the only hiccup was a bad 02 sensor or tune-up at Michigan as the 1,400hp Mustang exhibited exceptional road manners. Bumps were bouncy but not terrible and the single four-inch muffler was hardly quiet, but considering the power and performance those are mere compromises for the price of glory.
The final day brought the Drag Week group back to National Trail Raceway, where it all started, and Jovanis loaded up a safe tune-up to go A-to-B and lockdown a top three finish. Right off the street he rolled out to an 8.157 at 173.18 mph and secured the second position in his category. The final average for the week was an impressive 8.18 and the turbocharged Mustang set the top speed of the class at a 171.708 mph average.
Seven True Street titles coupled with a runner-up finish in class on Drag Week shows that if you are prepared to go fast in True Street then you are up to the challenge of Drag Week.
To see the complete day-to-day coverage, be sure to check out the links below.