Mark Houlahan
Brand Manager, Mustang Monthly
July 1, 2004
Contributers: Steve Turner, Michael Johnson Photos By: Steve Turner, Michael Johnson

Horse Sense:
All the NMRA classes had rules revisions during the off-season, but our beloved Real Street class had numerous changes, which were used to great advantage by Tim Matherly of MV Performance. While pushrod nitrous cars received jet limitations, all the cars were allowed to run the G-Force/Pro Motion gearset in the Tremec T5, while modular cars were allowed ported heads and a 100-pound weight break. Tim used the heads, the weight, and the T5 to make his the first modular Real Street racer in the nines. Repeatedly standing your car up on the bumper usually hurts performance, but it sure looks good for the cameras. Here, Charlie Booze leaps Auto Meter's Ron Piasecki in a single bound. Charlie not only put on his usual show, but he also tore up the Hot Street class.

Speculation is omnipresent in the world of high performance. Who's going to win the next race, who's going to build the killer combo, and who's going to be the next big thing are all on the minds of serious bench racers. It makes those who wonder about J. Lo's next ex look like gossiping amateurs. Of course, bench racing is at a fever pitch during the off-season because-well-no one is racing! Still, there are enough Internet-verified test sessions, Outlaw Real Street races, and dyno-number leaks to arm even newbies with enough ammo to give Ed Curtis a run for his message-board money.

The nice thing about the beginning of the season is that the speculation can at least be based on what actually happened at the races. Much of the off-season prognostication was centered on the modular-engined Mustangs. We've already seen them run with success in Factory Stock (Bob Cosby) and Outlaw (Randy Haywood), and with frustration in Renegade, Hot Street, and Real Street, but many wondered if this was the year the pushrod stranglehold loosened on the ranks of Factory Stock, Pure Street, and Real Street.

Well, it looks as if the trail of Internet smoke led to a healthy fire, because Bob Cosby and Tim Matherly both proved purpose-built modular racers could compete and win in Factory Stock and Real Street. The question of Pure Street remains, but there's still plenty of season left. We'd love to see modulars com-petitive in every class, because it adds a new dimension to the racing. Sure, the power-adder wars are cool, but mix that with the engine wars and the inevitable racer ego wars, and racing becomes even more interesting. By the looks of the NMRA season opener in Bradenton, Florida, an interesting season is upon us.

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Hot Street
If there's one thing Charlie Booze Jr. didn't want to do at Bradenton, it was repeat last year's less-than-stellar season where he never even made eliminations. During the off-season, Charlie and his crew worked on the chassis, had Kuntz give the special touch to their 436, and then tested until they felt they were ready to make this season theirs. Their hard work paid off handsomely in the NMRA season opener for the Booze Brothers Racing team. In round one, Brad Brand (of FFW Outlaw fame) cut a better light than Brian, but Brian was able to drive around him early and stay ahead for the win running a 9.02 at 149. A second-round bye got Brian right into third-round eliminations against Hot Street stalwart Scott Budisalich. Though Scott tripped the reds with a 0.337 light, Brian, who had hooked too hard, went for the center stripe, and then was able to get back in the groove. He didn't know he had won until he picked up his timeslip and saw the FOUL under Scott's column. In the finals, it was Brian against Mike Curcio. Mike cut the better light, even though it was his first time ever in a Hot Street final round. But with Brian's car cooled and tightened up by his crew, he was able to hold off Mike with a 9.01 at 149 to Mike's 9.18 at 146. To cap the weekend, Brian set the new Hot Street e.t. record with a 9.002, backing it up with a 9.02 run.

EFI Renegade
Kurt Gallant rolled into Bradenton with his '87 black notch and went right to being the number-one qualifier with an 8.79 at 154 mph. Not only did he repeat last year's season opener qualifying spot, but he also made a repeat of last year's event by taking the win. Kurt's first- and third-round win against Kevin Morris and Zoop Zellonis both came from mechanical failures. Kevin had fuel- or nitrous-pressure problems, while Zoop's transbrake button failed, pushing him through the beams for a red light. The second round for Kurt was a bye run, but the fourth round had everyone on their feet as Kurt staged up next to Renegade regular Bob Kurgan. Bob had busted the door wide open in Thursday's testing with an 8.70, and when these two get together it's always a close race that everyone looks forward to. True to form, Kurt bested Bob by a mere 0.06 second, with an 8.78 to Bob's 8.84, putting Kurt into the finals against Larry Prykucki. Kurt cut a sweet 0.412 light (he says it's because he saw Larry leaving "way early") and crossed the stripe with another 8.78 at 153 mph to take the first Renegade win of the '04 NMRA season.

Hot Street racer Mike Curcio was fighting new-suspension-tuning blues all weekend. His traction problems aside, Mike was able to go rounds and runner-up in NMRA's season opener. His first round was essentially a bye when Luciano Vitelli had engine problems on the starting line. The second round saw Mike lined up with Hot Street regular Duane Busch. Duane killed the tires and got out of the gas, giving the win to Mike, who had picked up two-tenths to run a 9.23 at 145. For the third round, Mike had to battle Max Gross, whom Mike pits with. It was close, with less than 0.04 second putting the win in Mike's lane. Mike stepped it up in his first ever Hot Street finals, tweaking on the suspension a bit more to give him a 1.30 60-foot and his fastest run of the weekend with a 9.18 at 146. Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to derail the Charlie Booze Jr. freight train. Mike is still working out some new engine tuning on his 358 (which hasn't even seen a dyno yet). He tells us the combination is good for 9-ohs with more time in the car. Time, indeed, will tell.

Real Street
Talk about making a splash. Tim Matherly was often the subject of off-season predictions of success. So much so, you'd think the pressure might be too great. But that wasn't the case, as in his second-ever Real Street race, he became the first racer to put a modular R/S car in the 9-second zone. He also qualified in the number-three spot with a 9.91/137 pass and ended up winning the race. That's an impressive second race, modular or not. During the off-season, Tim added ported heads, utilized a Pro Motion-prepped T5 (his 9.80 passes were the quickest on one of these gearboxes), and swapped to the ProCharger P-1SC2 blower. In addition to the new parts, he put 53 passes on the car, all while perfecting his chassis setup and driving technique. Tim says credit goes to his partner Kainnon Vilminot on the chassis and its 1.34 60-foot times, but it was Tim's consistent driving and lumberjacking on the tree that really made the combo tough. Tim's an old-school 5.0 racer, so he knows how to get down the track. He easily made it past Justin Burcham and Paul Wiley before taking a bye into the finals. There, Tim tree'd a wounded Chris Tuten, taking his first R/S win with a 9.89/136 blast to Chris' 9.99/133.

Citing his '03 NMRA tour as a drag rehearsal, Phillip Clemmons has his routine down for 2004. Judging by his Bradenton performance, he may be on to something. After qualifying his ProCharger-motivated GT at the top of BFGoodrich Drag Radial with an 8.55 at 166 mph, it appears Phillip has been working on his reaction times as well. His slowest was a 0.463 light in the finals against Frank Provenza. Combine those reaction times with mid-8s every round, and few NMRA Drag Radial racers will be able to compete with that. One racer had to borrow an SN-95 convertible just to get points due to blowing up his junk the pre-vious weekend. With his Bradenton victory, Phillip served notice that he's ready to go from Rookie of the Year to BFGoodrich Drag Radial champion. He relies on a Fox Lake Power Products-built 349 utilizing Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, a Reichard Racing upper, a Trick Flow R-Series lower intake, a ProCharger F-1R supercharger, a Harland Sharp valvetrain, a Jesel beltdrive, and a Dynamic Racing Transmissions Powerglide tranny to get the job done.

The casual NMRA Drag Radial fan may think Frank "Chip" Provenza has come out of nowhere with his mid-eight-second performances. But he finished the '03 season with solid eights, so he's merely starting where he left off. Chip has run a Vortech X-Trim for a while, but the rest of his combo consists of a Ford Racing Performance Parts R-block, a Scat billet crank, Ross pistons, and GRP billet rods to end up at a 331ci displacement, which Chip says is the smallest in Drag Radial. He and his father Frank built the engine using Trick Flow Street Heats with a Total Engine Airflow CNC-port program, a Comp Cams grind, an Edelbrock Super Victor EFI Extrude Honed intake, a Wilson Manifolds elbow, a Reichard Racing intercooler, and a Frank Lupo's Dynamic Converters Powerglide. Fellow Drag Radial racer Shane Jennings helps him out at the track, and the boys had plenty to fix at Bradenton. Peter Champani's crew and a local Ford dealer helped fix a busted rearend. Chip lost an idler pulley during a Thursday night test-and-tune pass, but he stole a tensioner pulley out of a used kit to replace it. He says he was chasing his tail during qualifying, but he adjusted his launch rpm for Sunday, and that seemed to work. Chip lost a blower belt the first round, but he still ran an 8.56 at 154 mph to barely beat (yeah, right) Chris Little's borrowed racer. Chip bested Big Bob McDonald and Trace Meyer, but then "Phillip straight-up schooled me," he says. Knowing he wouldn't be able to catch Phillip Clemmons in the final, Chip clicked it off to save parts for the Reynolds, Georgia, race.

Starting out with a new car and a new combination usually takes some getting used to. For Larry Prykucki of Clinton Township, Michigan, it took about 9.32 seconds to get everything straightened out. Larry qualified his '92 notch in 12th place out of the field of 18 cars, twisting the tach on his 358 to the nether regions with a string of 9-ohs at 149 mph all weekend. Larry's combination of Canfield cylinder heads, a bunch of nitrous, and the magic wand of Ron Sharp from Advanced Airflow kept him in the battle, going rounds against such big dogs as Mike Post (who broke) and Dan Jaynes in the first and third round of eliminations. Larry then got a fourth-round bye, only to fall to fellow Team CBR mate Kurt Gallant in the finals by red lighting. Larry's been in Renegade racing for three years but has never made it past first-round eliminations. While final-round jitters made him a runner up this time, keep an eye out for Larry to make his move in Renegade this season.

With the new limitations on nitrous jets, Bruce Hemminger knew he'd have to find some naturally aspirated power in the off-season. So, he wrote the big checks, and Billy Glidden built him a new motor that was 0.4 second quicker in naturally aspirated form. Unfortunately, come Bradenton, Bruce had suspension troubles and couldn't get his striped flyer to hook like it should. Additionally, it took him some time to sneak up on the fuel tune-up for his combination. All this after he broke his tranny on a Thursday test pass. Bruce bounced back, however, and took the easy win over R/S newcomer Corey Mills in round one. Round two was a rematch of last year's championship-on-the-line final round, and Bruce was bound and determined to react. "I wasn't going to lose that race because I got Tree'd, which is what happened to me last year," Bruce says. Unfortunately, he was a little too ready and lit the red bulb against Chris Tuten. Still, the pass was a harbinger, with Bruce ripping off a 9.83 at 139 with only a 1.47 60-foot. If he gets this baby to hook, his car's gonna fly.

Car owner John O'Brien and his crew chief Jay Meagher (pronounce Marr) had a little bet about everyone having a price. The test case involved a Hooters waitress and barking like a dog. We're not sure we want to know the details, but we do know Jay won the bet, so he gets to drive the car now. He has to be happy about that, because his off-season valvespring and tuning improvements showed well in Bradenton, where Jay qualified the car in the seventh spot with a 10.23/131 pass. But it got better from there. Jay took out Mike Bell in round one with a 10.06/134, which was the car's best pass so far. Being on the 9-second doorstep, Jay felt good, even when he lost to Bruce Hemminger in round two, as he lost by only a little more than a tenth. With potential success in his sights, Jay has big plans for the car this season.

Pure Street
Gene Hindman had a frustrating '03 season. About ready to hang up his slicks, he decided to stay in the game, and he was rewarded at Bradenton with a hard-fought Pure Street victory. For most of the time in 2003, Gene had the fastest car in Pure Street, but fellow racers pushed the action at the Tree, stealing victories that were all but wrapped up. At Bradenton, Gene qualified his shine-runner in the top spot with a 10.592 at 125 mph, just a hair quicker than Rich Groh's 10.594. With just seven cars in the class, Gene had a first-round bye, then he exorcised the demons with a win over '03 nemesis Darin Hendricks. In the final, even though Rich left him at the tree, Gene was able to get the victory with a 10.53 at 126 mph to Rich's 10.58 at 127 mph. This match-up will be fun to watch throughout 2004.

Truck And Lightning
John Ashcroft of Tarpon Springs, Florida, pointed his white '01 Lightning down Bradenton's quarter-mile four times (twice with bye runs) to put himself into the finals of the NMRA's DynoMax Truck and Lightning class against Keith Kohlmann and his '84 Ranger. Keith's slow reaction time and slightly slower e.t. (10.66 on a 10.39 dial in to John's 13.24 on a 13.00 dial in) was the one-two combination that knocked him out and put John in the winner's circle at Bradenton.

In typical JPC Racing fashion, Michael Washington's Factory Stock car arrived at Bradenton as a roller. The car didn't even make a pass until the third round of qualifying, but it was a good one with an 11.79 at 114 mph. The new Factory Stock bullet wasn't ready in time, so the JPC crew had last year's engine freshened up, but even it wasn't quite ready when the car was loaded up in Billy Laskowsky's trailer at a rest area along I-95 in Maryland. With Bob Cosby's Cobra in the other lane in the final, Michael got the jump on Bob and had him even into Fourth gear. But once into Fourth, Bob's fender got closer and closer and out in front shortly before the finish line. Michael's 11.80 at 114 mph wasn't quite enough for Bob's 11.77 at 115 mph.

Open Comp
John Brady's familiar tri-color '79 Mustang notch from McMinnville, Tennessee, went through the rounds at the NMRA season opener. Going through the first two rounds of Open Comp paired up John with Mr. Open Comp Larry Geddes. When John and Larry staged, it could have been either racer taking the win. But with anticipation high, they both left early, causing a double red-light start. Larry almost had the race, but he broke out of his dial in to give John the win, allowing him to continue on into a fourth-round bye. For the fifth round, John cut a perfect light and was less than a tenth off his dial in to take the win away from Stephen Carroll, which put him into the finals against Chet Caminita. John cut another sweet 0.516 light and again ran within a hairbreadth of his dial in, while Chet had a 0.567 light and broke out, giving the Open Comp win to John.

Pure Street racer Rich Groh was the man to beat coming into Bradenton, but traction woes prevented him from getting the grip he enjoyed toward the end of 2003. Rich thought the damage was done at a race previous to the Bradenton opener, where he almost put it in the wall on a couple occasions. Bent or broken rear suspension components (or that license plate) appear to be the culprit. Closing out 2003, Rich was running 10.40s, and prior to Bradenton he said the car has 10.30s in it with the slight improvements he made during the winter. While his suspension woes kept that from happening, he still qualified right on Gene Hindman's tail with a 10.594 at 126 mph-and 10.50s was all the car had in it. Rich fell to Gene in the final with a losing 10.58 at 127 mph to Gene's 10.53 at 126 mph. Both Rich and Gene commented on the lack of cars in Pure Street, and they hope the fields become larger as the year progresses.

Modular Muscle
In only his second year of racing, NMRA Modular Muscle racer Joe Decaria was able to survive five rounds of racing to line up against Modular Muscle favorite Robert Hindman and take home the win. Qualifying in the seventh spot on a field of 36 cars, Joe-who's '01 Cobra sports a C4 transmission conversion and tuning help from MAK Performance-took out Modular Muscle racers Chris Colitas, Al Papitto, and Derek Downs before getting a fifth-round bye and his chance at Robert. In the finals, it was Joe's excellent work at the Tree, cutting a 0.434 light to Robert's 0.475 that got him the win, as both racers ran within a hundredth of their dial ins-a 10.61 on a 10.60 for Joe and a 10.96 on a 10.95 for Robert. Joe hurt his Dynamic converter, and it's now in the capable hands of Sean at Dynamic Converters so the car can be ready for Reynolds and for another go at Robert.

Factory Stock
Is it on like Donkey Kong in Factory Stock or what? In 2003, Michael Washington basically toyed with the rest of the class, but it's safe to say Bob Cosby is going to make it a little more difficult for the JPC Racing crew in 2004. Of course, this isn't the first time Bob has won with his '99 Cobra. He was the first modular racer to win a heads-up class (Factory Stock) at the '01 Reynolds, Georgia, race. After posting an 11.something time-slip on the Stang Crazy Web site (www.stangcrazy.com), we knew Bob had something up his sleeve-at least he better had. But he backed up the hype at Bradenton with his Al Papitto-built Four-Valve by qualifying in the top spot with an 11.77 at a whopping (by Factory Stock standards) 116 mph. With a D&D Performance T5 and an SCT (Superchips) tune-up, Steen Racing dropped in the powerplant and reinstalled Bob's stock suspension, JBA headers, and numerous little pieces. Good thing Bob doesn't have a cowl hood on his car, otherwise he wouldn't be able to see Ed Curtis lining him up in the groove. Actually, Bob didn't get a good hook until the final against Michael, but his performances were good enough to get him past Jamie Holten and Jeff Schmell for a shot at Michael. In the final, Michael got a slight jump, but Bob came around on the top end for the victory. From the starting line, it looked to be JPC all the way, but it was Bob at the stripe.