Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
January 1, 2003
Contributers: Michael Johnson Photos By: Michael Johnson

Horse Sense: As we head toward the NMRA finals, the points chase is hot. It's worth noting NMRA heads-up racers receive a 100-point bonus for competing in five out of six of this year's events. Also, each racer's points are calculated using their five best points totals, so their worst race doesn't factor into the total. For more on the '02 NMRA World Championship Points System, check out www.nmraracing.com.

Last year's Hot Street champ Billy Laskowsky finally debuted his new steed at Atco. The beautiful New Edge racer showed well, qualifying in the third spot with a 9.33/145. However, Billy made an early exit in round one after being tree'd by Max Gross.

Anticipation ran high leading up to the second Northeast swing of the NMRA Ford Drag Racing series through Atco, New Jersey. Of course, racers always anticipate the next race, but the tradition of Saturday-night qualifying held the promise of record-setting performances. Racers were all revved up about seven-second nitrous Outlaws and nine-second Real Streeters before the race even started. As it turned out, there were some impressive performances on Saturday night, but not necessarily in the expected classes or from the aforementioned combinations.

As is typical these days, Super Street Outlaw stole the show. The only real surprise was that not one, but three nitrous Outlaw cars-those driven by Vic Williams, Gary Rohe, and Bryan Sorby-lit up the scoreboard with 7.9-second passes. Bryan firmly implanted himself in the Mustang record books by being the first nitrous small-block Outlaw in the 7s. Joining the nitrous boys in the 7.9s was the new dominant force in SSO, Mike Smith. But perhaps even more impressive than the 7.9 nitrous guys was Randy Haywood's turbocharged modular racer ripping off an 8.03 for the fifth spot. To say Outlaw was on fire is an understatement.

Though the cool night air was a boon to the Outlaw crowd, it didn't bring any Real Street guys into the 9s. However, the Factory Stock boys really liked the air. Justin "Hazards" Burcham blasted off an 11.70, while Uncle Robin Lawrence turned in an impressive 11.79 pass. Oddly, it seemed the naturally aspirated cars fared better in the cool air, as Gene Hindman also tore things up in Pure Street with a 10.75 pass that might have set the record in that class-until he ran two 10.72s in eliminations.

Another new race car at Atco was the long-rumored Renegade entry from Donna and Chris Sydor. With an eye-catching paint scheme and a fresh-off-LaRocca's-dyno tune, the car qualified 11th with a 9.48/143, but it exited the eliminations in round one thanks to Kurt Gallant's 9.27.

So, it was hot during the day, cool through the night, and one lane appeared stickier than the other, but that's racin'. Check the caps and snaps for all the details on the NMRA's trip to the veritable birthplace of 5.0 drag racing.

Real Street
Wherever there is racing that allows a diverse set of combinations, there's a bit of controversy between racers running those combinations. The blower guys are worried about the nitrous guys, and in this case, the blower guys are worried about the other blower guys. At Atco, each of the top four qualifiers ran different power adders. Of course, the nitrous and Paxton cars were a bit ahead of the pack at the top of the ladder, but when it came down to the end, it was the number-six qualifier versus the number-two qualifier, so it's still anyone's ballgame.

Oh, by the way, every Real Street racer we spoke with thinks he can run nines, so we just can't wait until Bowling Green to see all these guys run it out the back door in hopes of having the first nine-second Real Street racer. Hopefully, the vendors at Bowling Green will bring plenty of pistons and head gaskets.

Pro 5.0
We've never seen Billy Glidden quite so at ease as he was at Atco. After qualifying at the bottom of Pro 5.0 in the fifth spot, you'd think the man might have been a little stressed. But he watched the races like a relaxed spectator, knowing the problems he had in qualifying were behind him. When it came time to run he was all business, dispatching his protg Derrick Smith in round one with a blistering 6.88/202.33 pass in the heat. In round two, newcomer Jeff Allebach faltered, and Billy let off at the top end for the easy win.

Super Street Outlaw
When we asked Jim Briante what had gotten into his pal Bryan Sorby's now-7-second nitrous car, he simply replied, "the chassis." Apparently, the engine is running in the same trim as it did last season, but a trip to the chassis shop transformed what Jim said was one of the worst working cars last year into one of the best working cars this year. Well, whatever it is with this car, believe it. Team Sorby rocketed to the fourth spot on Outlaw's qualifying list with a 7.99/175. The team deftly worked the ladder in eliminations, taking out Terri Hicks, John Clement, and Carlo Catalanotto with low 8s before riding a bye into the finals against Mike Smith. There the Sorbys tree'd Mike and beat him to the stripe with an 8.09 to Mike's 8.15.

How 'bout that! It's too bad there's only one more race left, because 5.0&SF cover alum Randy Haywood just keeps stepping things up. His turbocharged modular beauty qualified in the fifth spot thanks to an 8.03/174 sprint. In eliminations Randy cruised till the third round where he clashed with eventual runner-up Mike Smith. Let's keep in mind this is simply a warmed-over Lincoln Navigator motor with good internals and a load of turbo boost. What will the modulars be able to do after a few more years of development?

Ty Krean of Tom's River, New Jersey, motivates his '86 Drag Radial coupe with a B&B Performance Machine-built 308, Dave Jack Cylinder Heads-ported Canfields, Jesel shaft-mount rockers, a Victor Jr. intake converted to EFI with a Precision Turbo elbow, a Precision Turbo T76, a Job Spetter-tuned ACCEL GEN VII, an F&B Powerglide, and an 8.8 rear stuffed with Strange 33-spline axles and 3.73 gears. Ty says his car "ran like a clock all weekend," and that he just had to keep her full of ice and the battery charged. He was having a good weekend until he ran up against Dwayne Gutridge, where he Tree'd Big Daddy-which doesn't happen often. However, Ty could do little to overcome Big Daddy's wicked 8.72 at 164 mph.

Anthony Curto paced the group of radial flyers at the end of qualifying with an 8.95 at 157 mph. In the first round, he hit 160 mph on a stellar 9.02 pass against Alex Vrettos' machine. He then had a bye run, where he took it easy before running up against Norris McKog. Both Anthony and Norris had sleepy reaction times in the mid-0.6 range, but Norris' 0.668 light with a 9.25 was just enough to better Anthony's 0.699 reaction time combined with a 9.23 pass. Anthony runs a 392 with a Nitrous Express fogger kit. Big Daddy Dwayne Gutridge (Anthony's go-to man) helped Anthony stuff the Downs Ford- sourced Ford Racing Performance Parts W351 block with a Scat crank, Manley rods, Ross pistons, and an Ultradyne cam. Atop the stroker are M2 CNC-machined Canfield heads, an Edelbrock Super Victor intake, and a Holley HP-series 850. A Dynamic Powerglide and TCT converter take power back to a built 8.8. Anthony thanks Janine (his wife), John Phillips from Nitrous Express, John Pasamoto, and Mike Dolci for keeping his hot rod running strong.

EFI Renegade
Though he qualified Mike Freedman's machine in the seventh spot with just a 9.36/143, Jimmy LaRocca has been on the brink of running 8s all season. His string of low-9-second runs has made this ProCharged '94 one of the players in this year's Renegade drama. After an easy win over Super Sid Wilcox, Jimmy had a tough stretch facing his customer Nick Trombetta, nitrous flyer Tim Lyons, and last year's champ Mike Post. Jimmy won the whole thing, although his third-round prizefight with Tim Lyons was as close as it could get from an e.t. perspective (9.17 versus 9.18). But Jimmy's work at the Tree (0.514 versus 0.530) won the race.

Mike Post was so close-to running an 8-second pass that is. Mike says he left his hot-weather program in the PMS, and the extra timing caused his engine to break up all the way down the track during his 9.04 number-one qualifying pass. By the way, Mike was back to running the Paxton Novi 2000 at this race. He says it's his personal favorite, but he's willing to try anything to go faster. At Atco, a slipping trans eventually caused him to hit the rev limiter and blow a head gasket versus Ed Thomas in the third. In the finals, Mike told Jimmy LaRocca he was just going to take the lights to collect the points. For fun, Mike Tree'd Jimmy with his wounded car, but he got out of it at the 330, handing Jimmy the win.

This is what everyone in Real Street feared. Jeremy Martorella finally got his now-UPR-owned machine's act together and went rounds. After qualifying in the second spot with a 10.27/131.87 flyer, Jeremy spent the rest of Saturday night changing out head gaskets, but he was ready for round one on Sunday. There he dusted pal Mike Wesley, who said a fresh valve job on his modular heads actually cost him a little power. Then Jeremy took out up-and-coming racer Curtis Menard and Jim Snoke before riding a fourth-round bye into the final against Fred Felt. Despite some slow Tree work, Jeremy avenged his Maple Grove loss against Fred with a 10.37/130.47 versus Fred's 10.56/129.

Though it might cost him a Saturday night in teardown sometime soon, Curtis Menard had his ProCharged '86 flying thanks to some assistance from Ed Curtis at Flowtech Induction. With a fresh valve job, Curtis' ride was runnin' with the big boys at the front of the pack. His 10.38/129 pass was good enough for the seventh qualified spot. In round one, Curtis proved he's a consistent performer thanks to a 10.38 against Jonathan Music, who's been busting trannies, driveshafts, and rearends like a Factory Stock regular. Back to Curtis-despite his upswing in performance, his weekend ended early in round two against eventual winner Jeremy Martorella.

Hot Street
The Hot Street class was so close after qualifying, the second-through-ninth qualifiers were in the 9.30s. However, only Duane Busch and Brian Booze would run in the 9.30s during Sunday's eliminations. Consequently, the two racers would meet in the final. Before getting to the final, Duane had to get past Michael Tymensky, Bangin' Bob Hanlon, and Kenny Compton. After qualifying in the sixth spot with a 9.35 at 145 mph, Duane ran a 9.39 against Michael, a 9.37 against Bob, and a 9.36 against Kenny. In the final, he once again ran in the 9.30s with a 9.34 at 145 mph to take out Brian Booze.

Brian Booze spoiled Billy Laskowsky's new-car party by qualifying in the top spot with a 9.23 at 149 mph. As was Duane Busch, Brian was on cruise control by running 9.30s all day Sunday. The stick car was giving everyone fits until Brian ran into engine problems in the final against Duane. It would've been an awesome race had Brian been able to stay in it because the two were even out of the gate with a 0.499 light for Duane and a 0.489 reaction time for Brian. With both racers in the 9.30s, it would've been interesting.

Pure Street
Has the action ever heated up in Pure Street! Last year's champ John McGowan and this year's upstart Gene Hindman have been trading wins like punches in a heavyweight fight. This time it was John who came out on top in the finals. To do so, he had to chase some gremlins out from under his hood. After qualifying in the second spot with a 10.84, John's performance slipped to the 10.90 range, but he was still able to take out Jack Fifer and Mark Whitney. By the third round he was back on track, besting Dwayne Barbaree with a 10.78. In the finals, it was quick work at the Tree that gave John the win in the closest race of the weekend.

It will likely come down to the Bowling Green race to decide the championship, but Gene Hindman isn't going to give in easily. After his oil pump failed during second-round qualifying, he borrowed parts and tools from nearly every racer in the Atco pits. Gene even had a few guys-including his brother Robert-bending wrenches all night to get the thing back on the track. From there, Gene set the PS e.t. record with a pair of 10.72s against Rich Groh and Mark Whitney. He then took a bye run into the finals before losing to John McGowan.

Factory Stock
Justin Burcham nearly didn't make it to Atco after the NMRA almost banned the use of "visible coatings" on engine components such as heads and intakes. Justin isn't the only one who has taken advantage of this technology, but it seemed most of the controversy was aimed in his direction. Thankfully, racers rallied to have the rule take effect after Atco, and the NMRA agreed to do so. This allowed Justin to take up where he left off by once again dominating Factory Stock. He also raised the eyebrows of none other than Billy Glidden. It seems Billy doesn't take kindly to Justin "flashing" fellow Factory Stock racer Robin Lawrence. "That's not cool," Billy said. Billy also asked if he needed to kick out Justin's taillights right before the final. Justin passed on the favor. He didn't even flash the hazards in the final-but he hit the brake lights at about 1,000 feet. Take it easy on the old guy, Justin!

The hype during Factory Stock qualifying focused on top dogs Justin "Hazards" Burcham and Uncle Robin Lawrence lining up side by side in round two. Viagra-sponsored Robin launched a little too hard and spun out of the hole, giving Justin a head start he didn't really need. Two thirds of the way down the track, Justin had the hazards on again, and Robin was ticked. He said it was "a ricer move to go with Justin's ricer taillights," and used it for inspiration in the final round where he laid down an 11.79 ripper good for the second spot. Robin cruised through eliminations before putting up an off-pace effort in the finals against Justin.