Mark Houlahan
Tech Editor, Mustang Monthly
July 1, 2002
Contributers: Steve Turner, Mike Johnson Photos By: Steve Turner, Mike Johnson

Horse Sense: Every year, racers seem to squeeze more power and better performances out of their combinations. In Pro 5.0, Billy Glidden ran a 6.81 versus last year's record of 6.84. In Hot Street, Billy Laskowsky ran a 9.26 right off the trailer, and last year's e.t. record was 9.28. Perhaps most shocking was the 10.37 Gabe Large ripped off in Real Street. Last year's e.t. record was 10.47!

It was a tough decision, but the NMRA chose to carry on with the show March 8-10 despite the fatal crash of Pro 5.0 racer Steve Grebeck at the Fun Ford Weekend opener held at Orlando Speed World. Despite the events being less than a week apart and being held in the same state, the NMRA decided it was best not to delay its season opener in Bradenton. As it turned out, the decision seemed to be the right thing to do. Though the Pro 5.0 field was smaller than it would have been, the event gave those close to Steve a chance to begin the healing process with a brief memorial. It was highlighted by a speech by Harry Hruska of Precision Turbo, and a blast of Kid Rock's "Forever"-the song's video features a brief shot of Steve's race car-over the PA before the Pro 5.0 elimina-tions began.

After a weeklong thrash that almost resulted in a collapse of the 5.0&SF staff, we were able to convert our Real Street project car from a painted shell into a semblance of the car it will become. Though most people enjoyed chiding us for the ride height or asking how we'd get the coolant hoses hooked up, the House of Kolors paint job sprayed by Kevin Butler of Auto Specialty Paint & Body in Longwood, Florida, was the big hit. We also displayed our familiar 3g GT alongside our subscription tent.

The mood in the pits was respectful rather than somber, and once the racing began, it was back to business. Likewise, the crowds responded to the bright Florida sunshine and joined a horde of racers to pack the newly refreshed Bradenton Motorsports Park for what turned out to be a competitive and safe race. With any luck, the remainder of Ford races this season will be this competitive and safe. For the details, check the caps and snaps..

Randy Haywood of modular specialists True Blue Performance brought out his new Outlaw car at Bradenton. Though he was making only licensing passes in the car, it turned mid-eights with stock heads and only 20 pounds of boost. Once he ports the heads on the 5.4 and cranks up the boost, this beauty's gonna fly.

Real Street
As impressive as our little class was last season, we didn't expect the boys to come flying out of the gate like they did. Let's be serious, the top seven racers qualified in the 10s, and mid-10-second timeslips were nearly as common as stock camshafts in the class. We expect the top guys will be in the 9s shortly, which is an astounding feat given the limited modifications available to the class. Despite the performances of these cars, it's still an affordable, approachable class, so see what these guys are doing and give it a shot.

After fighting EFI tuning and broken trannies last season, Brandon Switzer switched back to a familiar single carburetor atop his 400-inch Windsor. Though he qualified his '01 GT only in the number-five slot with a 7.13, it turned out luck was on his side. He ran a 7.13 versus Jim Summers, whose car broke. Then he ran a 7.39 versus Derrick Smith, whose car broke. See a trend here? Then he had a bye run in round three. When Billy Glidden couldn't make the call for the finals, Brandon won the race with a bye. It was the first win for the gorgeous purple machine.

As usual, it looked as if Billy Glidden had this race wrapped up from the first burnout. He's finally switched to two carburetors and a sheetmetal intake from his old standby single carb and cast-aluminum intake, and the performance showed. He qualified in the number-one slot with a 6.82. Then he proceeded to lay down string-straight 6.81, 6.86, and 7.07 e.t.'s in eliminations. Though he defeated Victor Sierra, took a bye, and bested Don Walsh Jr., it was a broken rocker arm that prevented last year's champ from chal-lenging Brandon Switzer's winning pass.

In deference to Don Walsh Jr. attending his friend Steve Grebeck's funeral, the NMRA allowed Don to make a qualifying pass on Sunday morning. With that pass, Don landed his newly Zoomie exhaust-equipped car in the number-four spot with a 7.10 at 187 mph. Don bested Brit Floyd and Chuck Samuel, who both had mechanical problems, before meeting Billy in round three. With Don's penchant for quick-at-the-Tree driving, this ProCharged automatic car could be a force as the season wears on.

Don't feel bad if you don't recognize this car. It seems ducks can change colors to adapt to their surroundings. This season Chris Derrick is still flying the turbocharged, 359-inch Windsor in Outlaw competition, but he shed the black paint and silver rip for a tradi-tional all-over red. Despite the new look, Chris turned in a familiar performance, qualifying in the number-two slot with an 8.06. He laid down a string of low 8s in eliminations before smoking his turbo. Thanks to a loaner turbo from John Urist, Chris was able to defeat Outlaw mainstay Mike Murillo, who was fighting a busted tranny.

You better ask Mike Murillo to return those retirement gifts, because he's back in Super Street Outlaw and at the top of the qualifying sheet with a 7.97. Same song, new season. Riding his turbo-boosted 358 through the rounds, Mike was able to deftly land in the finals, but these cars are running on the edge, and equipment failure finally caught up with him in the finals.

No, Kevin Marsh didn't switch to a carburetor/nitrous combination on his new IHRA-spec 2000 GT. From what we can tell after shoving a digital camera under the scoop, it simply hides the traditional throttle body and tubing from the air-to-water intercooler that we see on all the turbo Pro cars. Though driver Chuck Samuel laid down a 6.97 in qualifying and a 6.95 in eliminations, an ailing 21.33 wasn't enough against Don Walsh Jr. in round two. With what Chuck was able to do in last year's outdated car, we can't wait to see what he can do with this modern chassis.

As did the Kevin Marsh/Chuck Samuel team, John Gullett's crew replaced last year's overpowered chassis with a modern tube-chassis racer in the form of an '01 GT. John's racer sports a turbocharged, 400-inch Windsor built by his crew chief, Brent Frazier. The combination of engine and chassis performed well at the prior race, but at Bradenton a broken throttle-body bolt gave the crew fits, and John went out in round one thanks to an off-pace 13.89 pass.

With Dan Millen running off to try Super Street-style racing on for size in a new car, there's an opening slot on the four horsemen's roster. Though Vic Williams was laying down some impressive times with his nitrous big-block car, we think San Antonio lawyer Chip Havemann might just make a case to join as the season roars on. Debuting his former Renegade racer in Outlaw, Chip qualified fifth with an 8.18, and he went rounds running consistent low 8s in a straight line. If Chip can step it up, he might just be the missing link.

We're supposed to remain neutral, but we were kinda pullin' for John Urist. He had a rough season last year, and early on he looked to have turned things around at Bradenton. First off, John's car was running on a string, qualifying fourth with an 8.16. In eliminations, he found his groove by nailing down a 7.94 in round one, a low 8 in round two, and so on. Eventually the performance took a toll, and John's oil-pressure gauge wasn't delivering good news. However, he did jump in and help Chris Derrick and Mike Murillo make repairs before their clash in the final. Now that's being a good sport.

Another race season, another new car for Derrick Smith. We suppose we'll have to do a feature on this one quickly before he builds another one. However, he might want to hang onto this baby for a little while. He qualified in the second slot with a 6.94, then he blasted off a 6.89 versus John Gullet in round one. The scary thing is Derrick's 400-inch '02 packs a similar combination to the one found in his engine builder's car. The difference is, his builder, Billy Glidden, uses two carbs and Derrick runs only one. Unfortunately, Derrick hurt the motor in round two, so he'll be sending it back to Whiteland, Indiana, for repairs.

Last year, Chris Beningo's '85 GT was piloted by engine specialist Ed Curtis. This season Ed is still tweaking the combinations, but former Factory Stock shoe Gabe Large has taken over the reins, and he's driving the car like it's not his (wait a minute, it's not his car!). Seriously, the driver isn't the only X factor here. Ed has finally built the engine he wanted to run last year. Dubbed Damien, for its evil disposition, this engine probably hasn't been run to its limit yet. This is a scary concept considering Gabe qualified in the top spot with a 10.42, then blasted off a 10.37 at 128 in round three. Gabe went on to win a ProCharger-versus-Paxton clash in the finals, as Fred Felt ran an off-pace 13.44.

Making power isn't a problem for Real Street regular Jason Hoots. Last season he made 500 at the rear wheels, so there's no telling what the dyno said this year. What was speaking volumes was his top-end charge. Hootie laid down a 10.54/129.36-mph pass in qualifying and kept improving in eliminations, culminating in a 131.83-mph pass in the first round. He kept cranking out the mid-10s, but his 10.58 was no match for Gabe Large's stellar 10.37 in round three. If Jason can get some twist out of his chassis and put more of that power to the track, he could challenge Gabe.

Really stepping up his program since last year's World Finals in Bowling Green was Fred Felt. The first to run a Paxton Novi 2000 in Real Street, Fred was finally starting to make the most of it at Bradenton. He qualified fourth with a 10.65 at 127, then he just went rounds. He beat John O'Brien, Jim Smoke, and Paul Wiley before being dwarfed by Gabe Large in the finals.

Another stalwart Real Street racer, Paul Wiley, trucked all the way from Michigan, and he stepped up his program this year, qualifying second with a 10.47/130-mph pass. Obviously, Paul's making some power too, but his work on the Tree cost him in the third round. Fred Felt got a big jump on Paul (0.451 versus 0.610), and even Paul's 10.47 wasn't enough to win the race. If Paul gets a practice Tree, the Real Street field better look out.

True to form, Joffre Lafontaine came out of the gate a bit off-pace at Bradenton, but last year he started slow and then won every race in sight to take home a championship. Sure, a 10.68 wasn't a bad quali-fying number, but it was only good enough for the fifth spot. Joffre started warming up in round one by taking out Johnny Thomas, but problems at the line in round two meant an early exit for last year's champ. We do know Joffre made more power this year, and his new car offers a more solid chassis than last year's. When he gets this baby dialed in, we might just see Gabe run it out the back door versus Joffre.

The Unlimited Performance boys have entered the Real Street foray as well. Though an '02 Mustang is slated to be the main mount, the boys had to install all the hardware into Jeremy Martorella's SN-95 Trophy Stock champ car to make the race. The power adder of choice is a Paxton Novi 2000 with an A4 block with a Scat crank, Probe rods, and CP pistons from Pro Power. Heads by Rick assembled the engine using Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, a Trick Flow Street intake, an Ed Curtis-verified cam, and a UPR chip and fuel system. The car also features a UPR Pro Series rear suspension and a McLeod clutch. At Bradenton, the car would mysteriously shut off, which helped to end Jeremy's day at the hands of Jason Hoots. As with every other car out of the UPR stables, you'll see this one being torn down in tech on a regular basis.

Chris Little made it a sweep for the Wilson Manifolds/Pro Flow Nitrous Systems folks by taking it to the house in Drag Radial. Though Chris' Kawasaki-green coupe doesn't launch hard, when he hits the button around the 60-foot mark the thing takes off like he's been rear-ended by the space shuttle. High eights are the norm for Chris, and Bradenton was more of the same, with the Maryland resident taking the win over Spence Hart in the finals.

Spence Hart didn't have the most productive start to the year, but he did make it to the finals in Drag Radial. If he pushed his Vortech-boosted hatch to the limit, it would lunch a belt every run. So he had to back out of it several times if he knew he had the win in the bag. However, this action didn't result in victory when he met Chris Little in the finals. For 2002, Spence has upgraded to a Vortech Igloo upper with a Trick Flow R lower intake on top of his existing combo consisting of Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, an Anderson Ford Motorsport BS6 cam, and a Dynamic Powerglide with a TCT converter. Total Engine Airflow redid his heads and ported his intake as well.

Jimmy LaRocca brought Michael Freedman's Cobra to Bradenton to do battle in EFI Renegade. It looks as though the year the two spent becoming accustomed to the clutch has paid off. Jimmy tickled the low-9-second range all weekend with speeds of more than 150 mph. He had the Cobra on cruise control by posting a 9.13 in the first round, a 9.16 in the third round, a 9.06 in round four, and a 9.05 in the final to best Bob Kurgan.

For 2002, Bob Kurgan updated his '86 GT with a new red paint job topped off with ghost flames. He also brought along improved performance from last year with a best time of 9.29 at 146 mph to take out Tim Lyons in the third round. With a bye into the final, he had the unenviable task of taking on the LaRocca/Freedman freight train. Though Bob had the slightly quicker reaction time of the two, he would be unable to stop Jimmy LaRocca in his tracks.

Dwayne Barbaree qualified his Pure Street ride in the number-one spot with a positively blistering 10.91 at just a tick more than 122 mph, giving him the nod for top speed and low e.t. for the class. Not one to settle for the top qualifying spot, in the first round of eliminations he made his bye run count with a stellar 10.85 at 123! In the second round, Dwayne squeaked by Mark Whitney to battle against Gene Hindman and his sweet '88 hatch for third-round win rights. After putting Gene back on his trailer, Dwayne took the Pure Street win from Jarrod Richards when he lit the red bulb in the finals.

Billy Laskowsky had planned to have a new car ready by Bradenton. However, rather than work 24 hours a day and come to Bradenton with no time on a new car, he chose to stick with the old standby '85 GT, albeit with updated paint since its introduction to the Bowling Green guardrail at last year's finals. Even with the old car, he continued to enjoy his past success by qualifying number one with a 9.31 at 145 mph. With Duane Busch in the other lane for the finals, Billy got out first with a 0.505 light to a 0.551 reaction time for Duane. However, it was a race to the finish, with Billy taking the win with a 9.32 at 145 mph to a 9.35 at 140 mph for Duane.

Duane Busch was one of three Hot Street competitors to dig into the 9.30 range all weekend. The other two were Billy Laskowsky and Kurt Neighbor. Not surprisingly, these three would be the last men standing in Hot Street. Leading up to the finals, Billy had a bye run, which meant Duane had to battle Kurt in order to get a shot at the defending champion. In their match-up, Duane did get a slight holeshot, but Kurt put on a show by carrying the wheels way past the 60-foot mark, which did nothing but hamper Kurt's time. With Kurt up in the air, Duane capitalized and went on to victory with a 9.35 to Kurt's 9.51.

Jarrod Richards, the number-four qualifier in Pure Street, ran a string of consistent 11.21s at 120 mph through the first, second, and third rounds of eliminations, taking out Moby Smith, Bruce Bell, and John McGowan along the way. While Moby and Bruce struggled to catch up with Jarrod, John was right next to him all the way down the well-prepared Bradenton track. It was Jarrod's awesome 0.432 light to John's 0.510 that won the race. In the final round, though, Jarrod's luck at the Tree ran out when he left too early, cutting a 0.378, which gave the win to Dwayne Barbaree.

New York firefighter Michael "Bubble Boy" Washington placed fourth in qualifying for the NMRA's Factory Stock class behind well-known Factory Stock racers Justin Burcham, Uncle Robin "Boy Wonder" Lawrence, and Ian Mullane. That didn't dissuade Michael, though, as he tore through four rounds of eliminations in his quest for Factory Stock honors. His string of low 12s all day felled Brad Carroll, Jamie Robinson, and Tim Duncan in rounds one, two, and three, respectively. In the fourth round, Michael was able to take a rest with a bye run, and then took an easy win with another bye run when both Troy Carter and Ian Mullane were DQ'd after round four-Troy for having loose ballast weight in his Mustang and Ian for driving past the scales thinking Troy was good to go.

Robert Hindman came to Bradenton loaded for bear with his new '01 silver GT. The body-in-white GT looked ready to rock, and rock it certainly did. Running consistent 11.70s all weekend, Robert easily kept the new car running against its dial-in within a few hundredths. Battling through a massive field of 35 cars, Robert took the Modular Muscle victory when Richard Lelsz redlighted against him in the final.



Onland, Illinois' Troy Carter was but one spot behind class winner Michael Washington in qualifying and would run similar low 12s all weekend as well. What would have been a great Factory Stock final was marred when Troy was DQ'd at the scales for having loose ballast weight in his car. Eric Varney, Cal Hayward, Robin Lawrence, and Ian Mullane all fell to Troy's 306-powered '88 Mustang in first, second, third, and fourth rounds, respectively.

Many classes were packed to the gills at Bradenton, and the Truck class was no different. Twenty-five contestants joined the open-comp-style racing, with everything from 351-powered Rangers to modular and pushrod Lightnings to Powerstroke diesel pickups doing battle. In the end, Peter Rogowski gave Larry Gilstrap a solid bustin' at the Tree and never looked back. He got out of it at the top end, just so he didn't break out too badly.