As was typical of most every race these two attended last year, Bob Kurgan and Chip Havemann mowed down the competition on Sunday and clashed in the finals at the Ford Motorsport Nationals. Though Bob had just stepped up his combination and Chip was nursing a weak head gasket, Chip again took the prize with a 9.78/137 to Bobs 9.86/139. Chip did most of his damage at the tree, cutting a .466 light to Bobs groggy .491.
A two-time champion in the Fun Ford Weekend Street Renegade series, Chip Havemann is more than a racer. Though he runs out of the Texas Jam stable, he actually supports his racing habit working in the legal profession. An attorney in San Antonio, Texas, Chip handles mostly workers compensation claims. According to Chip, this is seen as a low-profit endeavor due to the legal structure in Texas, but his firm has chosen to specialize in this arena. I hate the perception that lawyers are ambulance chasers. People ask me thatabout the ambulance chasing. I dont need to, because weve got a good reputation, we help a lot of people, he says. Its very gratifying knowing overall what I do is helping a lot of people.
Bobs off-the-track persona is in the electronics field. He used to work with high-end car audio, but his constant racing trips began to grate on the boss. As such, Bob used his computer acumen to land a programming job at Experian. Up to this race, Bob had been chasing Chip all year, but as the year wore on, Bobs Paxton machine has ascended. His is the quickest car in Renegade, thus the one to chase this season.
Saturday morning Chip had already run a time trial run of 10.18 at 128 before Bob made it to the track. Bob and friend Brian Kittelson got lost en route to Maple Grove Raceway, so Bob was stressing as he arrived at 11:15 a.m. The duo then ran time trials together, with Bob lighting up the boards to the tune of 9.78 at 139.59, while Chip struggled to a bucking and popping 10.45 at 109.40. Chip had toasted a head gasket, and Bob was running lean according to the Interacq data-logging system which records from his Programmable Management System. Bob and Chip both use the PMS, but only Bob takes advantage of its optional data-logging capabilities.
Around noon, Chip is contemplating whether or not to change head gaskets or to try and tough it out. His cohort Mike Murillo suggests now is the time to change them, as Chip surely has time to make the repairs in time to qualify. About 1:30 p.m., the Texas Jam crew performs a leak-down test which leads Chip, with Bobs assistance, to pull the driver-side head. Upon further review its fine, so they pull the passenger-side head.
Chip has definitely blown a gasketthe passenger-side head gasket. Much like his stablemate, Mike Murillo, Chip comes across like the racetrack clown, but when it comes down to winning, hes deadly serious. Even with the pressure of getting the car back together and the added stress of having a car-magazine hacks camera in his face all day, Chip seemed to enjoy the rigors of the race day. This healthy attitude would serve any aspiring racer wellafter all, this kind of racing is for fun.
While Chip is cleaning the block surface, Bob makes another qualifying pass, then he and pal Brian Kittleson four-wheel it over to watch Wild Street qualifying. Upon returning at 3:30 p.m., Bob gives Chip a hard time about his block-prep methods. So, frustrated with Chips efforts, Bob steps in to do it right. Of course, Chip always wants to make the best of a bad situation, so he, Jess Harper (middle) from Texas Jam, and his dad Gerald (left) enjoy ice cream cones while Bob makes things right. Now thats a true friend.
After Bob cleaned things up the right way, the two reinstalled the cylinder heads while trading barbs. Bob calls Chip a caveman because of his crude block prep. Chip, tongue firmly in cheek, retorts not to mess with him because he was the first Renegade racer in the 9s. Bob bites back saying he was the first Renegade running more than 140 mph. Chip retorts that the mph record is no milestone, then the friendly jabs stop as the two realize Im writing everything down. At 4:15 p.m. Chip isnt ready for second-round qualifying, and Bobs already a shoe-in, so the duo walks over to the fence to watch qualifying. At this race there are no real competitive threats, but thats sure to change this year.
In order to catch Chip, Bob switched from the Vortech S-Trim to the Paxton Novi 2000 just before the Mo Nats. While Chip was buttoning up his engine, Bob discussed the state of his combination with Paxtons main man David Adams. Bob has since made the Novi the quickest blower in Renegade racing, though the D-1 ProCharger and now-legal T-Trim and YS-Trim Vortechs should present a formidable challenge this season.
At 5:00 p.m. Chip takes a break from underhood repairs to sign autographs for two young race fans, Nick Housely (in the white hat) and Bret Massolia. While being a two-time champ and part of the Texas Jam juggernaut certainly aids Chips popularity, this certainly could be a sign of things to come. By 6:30 p.m. the announcer had called Renegade to make ready for third-round qualifying. Chip and his dad were still buttoning things up and Chip was finally showing some stress. However, a well-timed track oil-down gave the crew time to get the car back together and chase down a misaligned rocker arm. By 7:00 p.m. Chips in the lane. He and Bob qualify one and two with respective 9.89/109 and 9.79/139 passes. Unfortunately for Bob, all his assistance allowed Chip to win in the aforementioned finals.
Initially, it's really easy for 5.0 Mustang fans to get excited about Renegade racing. Call it whatever you want-Street Renegade (FFW), EFI Renegade (NMRA) or Hot Street (WFC)- the bottom line is this venue is single-power-adder, limited-displacement racing that most of us on the street can identify with. Hell, there are so many single-power-adder, 302-based Mustangs running around the street it's enough to make a Chevy guy run and hide.
However, it's not just the concept that these guys are racing cars a lot like yours that makes the class so interesting. These Mustangs are certainly built of stronger stuff than the average street car, but the more important consideration is the level of performance the top Renegade racers are pushing. During its developmental years the class has largely been dominated by two-time champ Chip Havemann, who also was the first to break the 9-second barrier in competition.
That's the hook after all. Nine-second street cars. Of course, for a while Chip had the only 9-second car in town, but that didn't last long as Bob Kurgan and Charles Callaway turned the wick up and gave Chip a challenge. While next year is certain to offer even more competitive fields which someday should approach the size and quality of those in Outlaw, we decided to jump into Renegade before the explosion, just to see what a day at the races was like.
As luck would have it, Renegade top-dogs Bob and Chip are actually friends. This is certainly unique in the ego-driven world of competitive motorsports, but it also allowed us into the upper Renegade echelon, so you can see what it will be like to compete against these guys in the coming years. As such, we wandered into their pit at the National Mustang Racers Association's Ford Motorsport Nationals held last June 18-20 for what turned out to be a fairy-tale day for Chip, who couldn't have done it without Bob's help.