Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
February 1, 2003
Contributers: Michael Johnson Photos By: Mark Houlahan, Michael Johnson, Chuck James
You say it's your first race with a new combination? And it's been since last season that your car went down the track? You probably wouldn't expect too much just showing up in a new class at the World Finals, right? Well, Brian Meyer didn't think he'd have such a breakout performance in Real Street. After ripping off a 10.16 in time trials, Brian put himself at the top of the qualifying sheet with the shot heard 'round the R/S world-a 10.14/129 blast. This car reportedly makes only midpack power, so the chassis is really dialed in. Think of this as a preview of what's to come next season in R/S.

Horse Sense:
For those intrigued by the burndown in the Pure Street final, the NMRA rule book states: "Control of the starting line is the sole discretion of the track starter. The NMRA recommends the use of courtesy staging in all heads-up classes. The Auto Start System will be activated and utilized in all heads-up classes. It will be each driver's responsibility to see that they properly stage within the parameters of the Auto Start System with their last staging movement being a forward motion."

After all the hype leading up to the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, it's difficult to believe the season is already over. We'd been feverishly working to wrap up our Real Street project, but we didn't quite get all the way to the finish line. The racers, however, are obviously far more dedicated than we editorial types, as they all brought their A games to Bowling Green. They were dropping big numbers, and breakage seemed to be at a minimum, with the exception of the tranny carnage in Real Street.

While the likes of Billy Glidden and Justin Burcham had long since sown up both ends of the points' championships in the heads-up classes, there was much to be settled in the finals. Many of the points races were still in play, and fortunately several championships were decided where they should be-on the track. In addition, the NMRA awards banquet at PRI inspired racers to come out and protect their top-10 points or try to move into the top 5 for a better jacket.

Though he qualified in only the third spot with a respectable 9.05/154 pass on drag radials and went out in the first round at the hands of Spence Hart, Chris Little did well enough throughout the season to nail down the champion-ship in the hotly contested Drag Radial class. Look for Chris to refine his nitrous setup to give Big Daddy Dwayne Gutridge the business in 2003.

As a result of such pre-event hype, and despite the horrible tropical-storm weather leading up to Bowling Green, the finals attracted a record crowd, the likes of which reportedly exceeded the Saturday numbers of the first World Ford Challenge. The stands were packed, and 325 racers clogged the fields from Pro 5.0 to Open Comp. In short, it was one of the best races we've witnessed in a while, and we can't wait to catch up with all the guys at PRI to see what's up for next season. For a flashback on Bowling Green, check the captions.

Real Street
Well, well, well.... How about 25 Real Street racers at the finals? It wasn't quite the bulging 32-car field we'd dreamed of, but R/S is definitely one of the fastest-growing classes in NMRA history, and we're thrilled. However, the racers weren't all that thrilled, because although everyone gave us the nine-second smack talk at Atco, no one was walking the walk at Bowling Green. The closest one to cracking the elusive barrier was R/S newbie Brian Meyer in his converted Renegade ride. We're sure the off-season's gonna be full of jawing about the first guy in the staging lanes at Bradenton running the first nine, but until then, just check out what the top performers delivered at the Finals.

This photo of race essentials was taken in the pit of Factory Stock racer Justin Burcham, although also pitted in the area were Michael Washington, Rich Groh, and several others. The photo was shot just before Saturday night's National Internet Racing Association dyno challenge. As there was no one to be found, there's no telling whom this table of goodies belongs to. The items represent what most racers rely on to get them through a racing weekend. The cookies are good for in between burger cook-offs, while the sunblock keeps the burn away. We hear the beer helps ease the pain of swapping engine components all night long, although we do know some are better at holding it in than others-right, Rob?

Super Street Outlaw
Talk about being on a mission. After lurking in the shadows of his teammate Mike Smith all season, Jason Cohen burst to the front of the Super Street Outlaw pack with a 7.91 qualifying pass, but that was just the beginning. Jason took his ProCharged 388ci machine on a rip-snorting tear through the toughest class in NMRA racing. He ran in the 7s all weekend long, dipping into the 7.80s three times in eliminations. We haven't seen an SSO racer that consistent since Dan Millen left the class. Jason blasted past Jim Blair, Mike Murillo, and Mike Smith before clashing with media mogul John Urist in the finals, where Jason ran his quickest pass of the weekend-a 7.84/180 rocket ride.

Ever since he landed in the magazines despite an off-pace performance at WFC5, the self-proclaimed King of all Mustang Media has decided to sloganize his turbocharged '00 'Stang for every race. So, as he was essentially spending his honeymoon at Bowling Green, John went with the classic "Just Married." In honor of the marriage, fellow Outlaw racer Spurgeon Adkins decorated John's wheelie bars with aluminum cans so he could jangle his way to the staging lanes. Marriage must be a steadying force on the ebullient Urist, as he qualified fifth with an 8.02/177 and proceeded to take his re-Duffied chassis to the finals against Jason Cohen's irresistible force.

Pro 5.0
Unlike at the World Ford Challenge, there were no surprises lurking for Billy Glidden at the NMRA World Finals. He had long since wrapped up another championship, and it seemed a mere formality that he'd be taking another $5,000 check back to Whiteland, Indiana. But there were five other guys trying to take that check away from him. In round one, Billy exacted revenge on Randy Eakins for his WFC5 loss. Then he rode a bye run into the finals, where Derrick Smith's slightly quicker reaction time wasn't enough to end Billy's reign.

We're glad we didn't shoot Derrick Smith's new car, 'cause from the sound of it, this baby's gonna be for sale soon. Derrick said he was just about ready to hang up his Pro 5.0 hat and go 10.5-inch-tire racing. He might change his mind before next season, but if this was his last Pro 5.0 race, he acquitted himself well with a number-two qualifying performance thanks to a 6.97/197 blast. Then Derrick dusted off Jeff Allebach and Doug Mangrum on his way to another final-round clash with his engine builder. He put the spray on kill and blasted it against Billy, but an off-pace 7.07 just wasn't enough.

Drag Radial
Big Daddy Dwayne Gutridge was just a tick out of the first qualifying spot with an 8.79/163 hit. However, once eliminations were underway, his Innovative Turbochargers- powered freight train charged to the front by rolling it out and bringing in the power. Dwayne always looks as if he's on a Sunday drive until just past the 60-foot marker; then he takes off like the space shuttle. He had a relatively easy race at Bowling Green, especially since our boy Spence Hart was able to defeat Chris Little-even though Dwayne loves racing the Kawasaki green coupe. In the final, Jimmy Byrne looked to be Dwayne's toughest competition of the weekend, but Jimmy broke a tranny just after the start, which handed Dwayne the victory.

It has been a great season for first-year SSO racer Mike Smith. After crew-chiefing for pal Jason Cohen, Mike burst onto the scene with his Mike Duffy-built, ProCharger-blown Bullitt and put the class on notice. Apparently the class has learned from Mike's lessons, as he was able to muster only the number-three qualified spot with a 7.96/174 pass. He busted down Todd Fluman, Carlo Catalanotto, and James Bailey before running into his teammate Jason in round four. Jason cut the better light (0.496 versus 0.499) and ran the better e.t. (7.93 versus 8.10). We hope Jason didn't rub it in on the way home like we would have.

Former Real Street standout Jimmy Byrne stormed out of the gate in a Drag Radial coupe by running consistent low 9s. Even in NMRA form, the coupe could've been a bracket car. But that all changed when Jimmy busted out an 8.84 at 155 mph in the second round of eliminations against Peter Champani, much to the delight of the Testani brothers, who are mainstays in Jimmy's corner. Whatever mojo they had on the nitrous car definitely worked, until the final round where the tranny gave out, handing Big Daddy the victory. While the tranny had survived more than 90 passes before its demise, this time the carnage included a busted planetary and output shaft.

Super Street Outlaw
There's another Jason and another Smith in Outlaw for everyone to worry about-Jason Smith. He showed off his new black-and-red '90 coupe at Bowling Green and promptly qualified in the number-two spot behind Jason Cohen. From there, JS piloted his 364ci ride to wins over Chip "The Viper" Havemann and Kentucky Sam Vincent before falling victim to John "The Fireball" Urist's wedding machine in round three. Look for this Jason to be a player in 2003.

Sad but true, this might have been the last time fans saw Mike "Babymaker" Murillo behind the wheel of his familiar star car. Mike has already purchased Kevin Marsh's ex-Pro 5.0 for the 10.5W wars, and the star car is for sale. It'll be sad to see the Outlaw racer go, but at least he went out in a competitive fashion. Mike qualified his turbocharged machine in the eighth spot with an 8.14/177 run. Then he cut down the tree on Spurgeon Adkins and Bryan Sorby before falling to eventual winner Jason Cohen in the third round, where a good light wasn't enough.

EFI Renegade
Bowling Green was supposedly the last race for Michael Freedman's Cobra, driven in 2002 by Jimmy LaRocca. With a rumored outlawing of stick-shift transmissions in Renegade for 2003, we can see how that would be the case. But what a year it was for the duo. In eliminations, Jimmy went no slower than 9.20, which is really tough to beat even in Bowling Green's stout field of 26 cars. In the final, he was unchallenged due to Bart breaking a piston the previous round.

Bart Tobener figures in every race he enters with his Unlimited Performance '00 GT. Though 2002 was not as good to him as 2001, he still remains one to beat when the Christmas Tree drops. At Bowling Green, Bart qualified in the second spot and commenced to take out Kurt Gallant (with a 9.03 at 147 mph), BK Meyers, and Mike Post. It was the pass against Mike that did the piston damage, which enabled Jimmy LaRocca to go down the track unchallenged.

When he's not talking noise about us on stangcrazy.com or landing his '89 GT in the finals, Steve Torkelson keeps a low profile in the pits. His ride seems to blend in just enough to stay under our radar. On track, however, it's hard to ignore his performance. He's been in the mix all year, but he announced himself as a real threat at Bowling Green with a 10.29/132 qualifying performance-good enough for the third-qualified position. In eliminations, Steve took his sleeper on a trailering spree through the field, sending Michael Hughes, Todd Hollenbeck, and Jeremy Martorella home early before being outsprayed by Bruce Hemminger.

What a year for Fred Felt. After crashing his ride prior to Maple Grove, he put another car together and won the race. From there, his team's dedication and consistency carried him the rest of the season. As a result, Fred was able to capture the Real Street championship by bumping off his rival Gabe Large in the second round after qualifying 10th with a 10.48/130. Fred lasted until round four when he fell to eventual winner Bruce Hemminger. Congratulations, Fred! We appreciate you running in our little class. See ya at PRI.

Until Brian Meyer rolled onto the scene, Bruce Hemminger had the quickest Real Streeter in the land, but he'd yet to be able to go rounds and put her in the winner's circle. If there's ever a place to do it, the finals are it. Bruce backed up his rep by placing his striped-and-juiced '86 in the number-two spot thanks to a 10.22/132 flyer. It appears he finally has his drivetrain living behind all that Glidden Racing Engines power 'cause he put his ride in the 10.20s every time he needed to, including wins over Jay Mingolelli, Mike Dez, and Steve Torkelson.

Running quite possibly the most powerful car in Real Street has its drawbacks. Jeremy Martorella was snapping five-speeds like twigs, so he eventually had to granny-shift his way through eliminations. The car and driver were still good enough to qualify fourth with a 10.38/131 and take out Denver Bane, Brent Weston, and Chris Tuten before Steve Torkelson Tree'd Jeremy in round four to take the win. Word has it from the UPR crew this car may be for sale, so another racer may play big-power Darth Vader in R/S next season.

Hot Street
Former Nostalgia-Super-Stock-racer-turned-Hot-Street-maven Brian Booze had the best shot at the championship with a sizable points lead rolling into Bowling Green, but Kurt Neighbor was looking to make things interesting. Kurt qualified his Glidden Racing Engines-propelled '87 coupe into the top-qualified spot with a 9.30/145 ripper, and he then proceeded to pick his way through the ladder.

While Kenny is long gone from South Park, Who Killed Kenny Compton most definitely hasn't been replaced by Butters on the Hot Street scene. Kenny qualified in the sixth spot with a solid 9.38/ 143 pass. In eliminations, Kenny took his Livernois-powered '91 LX to battle with a consistent string of 4.70-4.80 lights and 9.40 performances en route to dispatching Cory Roth, John Kummer, Brian "The Bumper" Booze, and Shane Long. In the final, Kenny got the jump on Kurt Neighbor (0.437 to 0.450), but it wasn't enough to overcome Kurt's 9.32.

Pure Street
Talk about a rivalry-Gene Hindman and John McGowan went at it for all of 2002, swapping victories back and forth along the way. At Bowling Green, the story was the same. Gene took the top spot with a 10.79 at 124 mph with John following closely behind with a 10.83 at 125 mph. Gene made his way to the final at the expense of Mark Daniel and Ron Anderson, along with a bye run in between. In the final, it was a burndown for the ages, as Gene shut off his car while prestaged. Once John staged, Gene cranked it back up and went in. But the race was over before it started due to John redlighting, which handed the victory to Gene, who still ran it out the back door with a 10.83 at 123 mph.

Pure Street was one of those classes being decided at Bowling Green. John McGowan had a little tougher row to hoe to get to the finals at Beech Bend since he had tight races all the way to the final. He had to dispatch Jack Fifer, Mark Whitney, and a much improved Darin Hendricks' Cobra on his way to the finals. While John and Gene Hindman were in the lights, you could cut the tension in the air with a knife. John hit the trigger a little too quickly, handing Gene the victory.

Factory Stock
Even though Justin Burcham had an insurmountable points lead coming into Bowling Green, he wanted to do more. First, he wanted to win five races in a row, which he did. Second, he wanted to beat Robin Lawrence on the dyno, which he did. And third, he wanted to beat Robin on the track, which he did. Winning five races in a row put Justin in the NMRA record books, while beating Robin was just the icing on the cake.

Robin Lawrence tested the wheels off his Factory Stock car this year, and it showed as the year went on. He ran quicker every race in an attempt to close the gap between himself and Justin Burcham, and to keep from seeing hazard lights the last 100 feet down the track, although Justin eased up on that (he just started hitting the brakes instead). At Bowling Green, it was more of the same, but Factory Stock was definitely entertaining to watch for 2002. Someone will have to step up to keep the Factory Stock spark going because both Justin and Robin should be testing Real Street combinations by the time you read this.

Modular
Jim Breese is once again at the top of the NMRA Modular Muscle class. He won it all in 2000, only to have Robert Hindman take it away in 2001. At Bowling Green, Robert's car was not its consistent self, and Jim was able to take advantage by cutting excellent reaction times and running right on his dial to win the race and the points championship. Congratulations, Jim. You earned it.

'03 Cobra
If there's one person who can take an '03 Cobra to the next level, it's Paul Svinicki. At Bowling Green, Paul outfitted his '03 Cobra with a 9-inch rear, a Venom nitrous kit, and much more to blast past the 11-second zone with consistent 10.90s all weekend. For his efforts, Paul received an award for the fastest '03 Cobra in the '03 Cobra Shootout sponsored by DiabloSport and Amazon Racing.

Truck And Lightning
Keith Kohlman runs a 306 in his little '84 Ranger, which runs in the low 11s. He combined luck, quick reaction times, and running on his dial to win the Nitto Tires Truck and Lightning class. In the final, he beat Johnny Lightning by running an 11.25 on an 11.22 dial.

A blast from the Mustang past was at Bowling Green with Nitrous Pete Misinsky driving his '03 Cobra in the '03 Cobra Shootout. Nitrous Pete's Cobra features a Steeda after-cat and Tri-Ax shifter, a Bassani X-pipe, a modified Accufab throttle body, 3.73 gears, a custom PJ's Performance/DiabloSport chip, a custom intercooler, and a K&N filter within a PJ's fresh-air kit.

Open Comp
The Open Comp class had so many cars in attendance at Bowling Green that the first round of eliminations had to be run on Saturday night. When the tire smoke cleared from the 83 cars, Ron Cates of Woodstock, Georgia, took the victory. His consistent 0.5 lights kept him out in front of his competitors, and running close to his 11.14 dial kept him in the hunt all weekend. Ron beat Rob Marvin from Dickson, Tennessee, with an 11.16 on his 11.14 dial combined with a 0.535 light.