Evan J. Smith
March 15, 2017

Now in its 23rd year, the Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout is well known as one of the must-see events on the Mustang racing schedule. Every year, thousands of Mustangs and Fords converge on Bradenton Motorsports Park for a taste of warm Florida sun and high-horsepower antics.

For 2017, enthusiasts from all over North America arrived for a 1,320-foot showdown between the hottest Fords in the land. And in addition to the exciting heads-up championship classes, the Spring Break Shootout was packed with the top True Street racers who were ready for an all-out battle. The SBSO also featured specialty classes such as the Ford Performance Cobra Jet Showdown presented by Watson Racing, VMP Performance Terminator/GT500 Shootout, the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout, Hellion Turbo Coyote Shootout, UPR Products Modular Xtreme, Livernois Motorsports EcoBoost Battle, ididit Outlaw True Street, and there was a massive car show, swap meet and giant manufacturers midway to keep everyone entertained.

In the months leading up to the SBSO the Internet was on fire with predictions about who would take home the 6-foot True Street trophy and the big check at the season-opening Spring Break Shootout. But by March 2nd it was time to put up or shut up, as 127 Ford and Mercury owners filled the True Street pits. And many put up, as we saw a 7-second average and multiple 8- and 9-second averages.

But True Street is not all about caged race cars. True Street was designed to have multiple winners with varying levels of performance, so any guy or gal with a 10-, 11-, 12-, 13-, 14- or 15-second Ford could be a winner.

Ultimately, though, the fast racers wanted to qualify for the special SBSO class. The SBSO is only held at the Florida NMRA event and it’s made up of the top 16 True Street competitors who earn the right to race on Sunday in a heads-up showdown for street-car supremacy. And for the SBSO, hoods can be opened, there’s no street cruise, and all the stops are generally pulled out.

Cal Hayward swept the weekend, winning MM&FF True Street presented by JLT Performance and the Spring Break Shootout. A 427 Windsor with TFS R heads, twin 83mm turbos from Bullseye, powers his 1991 Ford Mustang GT and it’s backed with a Rossler 400 that’s converted to a two-speed.
Grant Guise (near lane) got past Deneen Segura in round one of the SBSO.

And when the guns started blazing, fans were treated to wheels-up, boost-rippin’ and nitrous-gulping action. When the dust settled, Cal Hayward took the crown and 6-foot True Street trophy, along with the coveted SBSO title. Hayward swept the weekend, blasting to an opening TS run of 7.61, then he pedaled his way to a slower 8.691. Somehow Hayward regrouped on the tricky track and blistered an unbelievable 7.52 to secure his 7-second average and the TS win.

The closest competitor was Jeff Bloem who averaged 8.32 and he was followed by New Jersey’s Mike Jovanis at 8.33. Jovanis produced a strong 8.01 on his second lap, which was his quickest ever in TS competition.

“The only words I can say is that it was bitter sweet,” said Cal Hayward, after winning True Street and the MM&FF Spring Break Shootout presented by JLT Performance. “I knew I had a good shot to win in Joliet last year when the car got run into and wrecked in the [staging] lanes. This was the first time out since then, and I was a little scared since it was the first time down the track. I live in Michigan, so there’s been no chance to test. Tim Lyons (Lyons Custom Motorsports) went over a few things in the suspension, which we simplified when Watson Racing redid the back of the car. It was fresh and we dropped like 45 pounds in the back.

“I tested Wednesday [prior to the SBSO] and we worked our way down track making adjustments to the Menscer shocks. I started with the 315s and once we dialed a 1.18 60-foot time, then I tried the 275s. We were just trying make some adjustments to get down the track, but we really needed to make a suspension adjustment. It blew the tires off after producing a 1.16 short-time, so I went back to the 315s for True Street and the SBSO.”

Former SBSO winner Adam Kuffel qualified 5th for the SBSO and lasted two rounds with his nitrous-injected 1985 GT. Kuffel ran a best of 8.43 at 162 mph and he drove the car to the track and back from his home in Orlando.
Cal Hayward of Michigan was flanked by Steve Wolcott and Kim Kussy. He proudly wore the TS crown in the Aerospace Components winner’s circle.

Hayward covered the field the first pass in True Street, pedaling his 1991 Mustang GT to the aforementioned 7.61. “I wasn’t expecting the power-wheelie so I had to pedal it on that pass,” he stated. “On the second run I tried to anticipate the wheelie and when I lifted it unloaded and spun, so I went an 8.60 sliding all over the place.”

Needing a solid run to win, Hayward let his Bullseye twin-turbos eat and despite a nice wheelie past the 60-foot clocks, and a masterful pedal job, he went a 1.20 60-foot, 4.96 at 152.43 mph in the eighth-mile and powered to a 7.528 at 192.30 mph! And with that he became the quickest and fastest True Street driver in the history of the class. He also sealed the TS win with a 7.94 average. “The amazing thing was the 1.209 60-foot, which is hard to do considering the condition of the track,” he stated.

Hayward kept his momentum going the following day, going four rounds to capture the SBSO title. He defeated Jason Wagner in the First round running 8.00, then Adam Ruffel’s nitrous GT in the Second with a 7.71 to Ruffel’s 8.43. In the semi-finals Hayward took down long-time SBSO competitor Tony Whetstone (7.87 to 8.88). On the opposite side of the ladder, Jeff Bloem was cleaning house with his single-turbo 1988 LX. Bloem got past Roger Feldner, Randy Thomas, and then Larry Albright in the semis.

SBSO runner-up Jeff Bloem put on a great show with his 7-second LX.

Having run 7.90s in the opening frame, Bloem was set to give Hayward a serious challenge. The pair of turbo Foxes got it on with side-by-side burnouts, then they staged carefully, building precious boost. Each driver bumped in and on green it was Bloem with a massive holeshot (0.098 to 0.257). Normally, you can’t give up 0.159 on the line, but Hayward was not giving up. Bloem was on a killer pass, but the black and pink GT was on the move. Hayward poured the coals to his 427 and slowly closed the gap. At the stripe it was Hayward, stunning the crowd with a mind-bending 7.32 at 191.20 mph. Bloem turned in a stellar performance, running his quickest e.t. of the meet at 7.87 at 169 mph, but he couldn’t hold off the five-time True Street winner. This was the first-ever side-by-side 7-second final in SBSO history.

“It felt good to win the shootout,” said Hayward. “The last time I was in Florida with the car was in 2013 and we had an exhaust break and bend into the driveshaft sensor and that took out the ECU and killed the weekend. So winning the SBSO is a little like getting redemption. It’s amazing, we haven’t made more power in three years, it’s all working on the chassis and getting the weight down,” he added. “When I had the first 7-second average in Bowling Green it was 3,550 pounds, and now it’s 3,280 with me in it.

“My ultimate goal is 6.99 at 200 mph, I don’t know how doable it is for True Street, but it’s probably possible under the right conditions. I’m going to work on gears and converter in the two-speed Rossler 400 in order to try and get there.”

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