Dale Amy
April 1, 2005

A group of individuals with a common goal can often accomplish more than those individuals acting on their own. In the sport of drag racing, you can find teams from the NHRA Top Fuel class right on down to the weekend warriors, who depend on spouses to line them up in the burnout box. In the Mustang world, a team is mandatory if you want to be even remotely successful on any sort of national level.

With today's competitive heads-up Ford world and the increasingly complex technology that surrounds a top-effort Mustang, it's comforting to know that when you get done with a round, there's at least one friendly face waiting for you.

The team of East Coast Ford racers Phil Clemmons and Mauro Vitale was formed out of a common need for speed. Mauro had just invested in a new FAST system, and Phil was one of the best tuners around. Phil needed a class to race in, and Mauro was looking to run with the big dogs. That little exchange ended in Mauro going nuts with top-shelf gear for his SSO effort, while Phil reconfigured his car for NMRA Drag Radial competition. Today, both racers are entrenched in the world of heads-up Ford drag racing. Phil has captured the '04 Drag Radial title, and Mauro is running neck-and-neck with the best 10-inch-tired racers the country has to offer. Here's a closer look at the dream team, called "Pegasis Racing," that has the Ford world taking notice.

Phil ClemmonsLike his teammate, Mauro Vitale, 31-year-old Phil Clemmons of Virginia has been around the 5.0 Mustang scene for quite some time, but only recently has he stepped into the national spotlight.

In December 1991, Phil purchased an '88 hatch to use as a daily driver. "I didn't know how to work on it," he says. "I couldn't even change the crank pulley. Then, one day, I got beat on the street, and I decided that I wanted to go fast." Thus began Phil's quest for knowledge.

It has been a slippery slope for Phil since then. He began with a naturally aspirated combination featuring the stock short-block, a Cobra intake, and GT-40 heads that ran 12.9s. A nitrous kit was used extensively on the street with that setup, until the day the crank snapped. Rick Anderson hooked Phil up with his next engine combination-a Vortech S-Trim on top of a D.S.S. short-block. That was good for a 9.95 at 140 mph in 1995, while the car, with an AOD installed, still knocked down 18 mpg on pump gas! Phil's next combination arrived in 1997. It was a Ron Anderson 347 with Twisted Wedge heads and a ProCharger F-1R that was good for 8.72/164 in NMRA D/R trim and a best ever of 8.56 in local testing. That 347 would last from 1997 all the way through the '03 season, until a piston finally gave up.

That's when Ron Robart and his Fox Lake Power Products team of Ford engineers stepped in. Ron was looking to hook up with a hot power-adder racer, and Phil, coming off of his NMRA Rookie of the Year Award, was Ron's kind of racer. Ron screwed together the little mind-scrambler that is featured here, giving Phil the kind of power necessary to run consistent 8.30s in NMRA Drag Radial. That kind of performance has allowed Phil to dominate the D/R class in 2004. He lost only one race-Columbus, Ohio, to Davie Hopper on a holeshot.

"That loss to Dave is all my fault," Phil says. "I take full responsibility for that-I got beat on the Tree bad, and got too aggressive with the throttle, and blew the tires off twice! I thank Dave for my motivation for most of this year after the deal in Columbus. I vowed I wouldn't get beat on the Tree again!"

Along the way, the NMRA tech staff blessed Phil with another 200 pounds of base weight (up to 3,366 pounds, total)-a serious weight penalty or compliment, whichever way you want to look at it. On that topic, Phil says, "The weight made the car violent, but it may have helped me. I'm just now figuring out how to use it to my advantage. It took me a long time to deal with that."

As most 5.0 Mustang aficionados already know, it takes a real driver to navigate a 1,200-1,300hp car down the track with DOT-approved BFGoodrich drag radials out back. Without a doubt, Phil is the best in the game at making nice, straight passes down the center of the track. Here's what he told us about his driving style: "I just figured out how to leave [with the accelerator] on the floor, after two years of testing. We set the two-step where we think it should be, and we let her eat. But a lot of that [traction] is done in the tune. The launch will vary, but I shift at 7,800 rpm. It goes through the finish line at 8,200-8,500, depending on the traction and the weather conditions. I believe that part of my success is due to my attention to detail and the fact that I tune my own chassis, engine, and electronics. I tend to be very in-depth with everything I do. A large part of going rounds is knowing when to do what, such as step it up, down, or not touch it. It takes a lot of passes to become proficient at reading the track and making tuning calls. I am just now getting to the point that I feel somewhat comfortable choosing lanes and adjusting my tune-up for the track."

Purveyors of the art of Drag Radial racing would be wise to focus on this program as Phil has run a best e.t. of 8.27 seconds at more than 170 mph (1.39-second short time). For next year, the NMRA has opened up the rule book to coilover rear suspensions and mini-tub chassis. Phil is hesitant to make that move because his stuff works so well as it is. But he is talking about his "second car with the 25.5 SFI certification," so fans can look forward to that near the beginning of next season. He thinks his current car can run mid-to-high 8.20s with perfect conditions. "But I don't know if it will ever happen," Phil says. "The car is set up conservative right now because we have to be lazy so it can move. It'll take an ideal pass [to run 8.20s]."

As for the "Pegasis" name, Phil says it's just something he has always called his car. And it looks as if Mauro will be happy to fly under that name as well, as this team offers up some of the toughest competition you will find anywhere. Will they both capture national championships in 2005? We'll just have to wait and see.

Mauro VitaleDuring the last two seasons, Mauro has been a common fixture among the speed freaks inhabiting NMRA's brutally competitive Super Street Outlaw class. But, Mauro, a 29-year-old auto-body technician from Virginia, has been battling it out in 5.0 Mustangs since 1993 when he competed in an American Autosports (the parent company of today's Fun Ford Weekend) heads-up race at Piedmont Dragway in North Carolina. Running 6.90s in the eighth-mile, he captured his first heads-up, all-Ford win by defeating old-school veterans Tim Matherly, Ken Ingram, Kenny Masten, and Matt Wactor. His carbureted combination had ported stock heads and a ton of nitrous, but it was enough grunt to win in those days.

How times have changed. Today, the cylinder heads of Mauro's current combination probably cost more than the entire car did back in 1993! But that's what it takes to be a player in SSO, and Mauro was a player from the first NMRA race he entered.

The car shown here was first assembled by Mauro in 2002. He purchased the '91 hatch as a street car that had a nice cage and a good, stock-location suspension. Racing the car locally during his first year of competition, Mauro knew that to make it in the big-time, he'd eventually have to run in the NMRA. That day came in 2003, when he brought the car to the Bradenton, Florida, season opener and entered the car in SSO. Shockingly, the rookie driver went all the way to the finals in his first race. While he's made it back to the final round on a couple other occasions, he's never pulled out a win. That's not because he doesn't race-Mauro has the busted parts to prove he's trying-it's just that NMRA's SSO is a tough class, with as many as 35 cars competing in a single field!

When asked what was the hardest part about SSO, Mauro said, "It's a very competitive class. People are making so much power right now, the tires will just incinerate. It's a challenge. It's ultra competitive. Honestly, I'd tell someone that they were crazy [to run SSO]."

After a series of 7.70s in the '04 season, Mauro's trusty 360-inch small-block decided to quit during the Reynolds, Georgia, event. That motor was a 3.25-inch-bore monster that took the punishment of an F-series ProCharger for more than two seasons. After a few days of frantically trying to put together a new bullet before the Columbus, Ohio, show, Mauro hit paydirt when Fast Times Motorworks had just what he needed (on the shelf!), a leftover project from a Pro 5.0 customer. Fast Times' Mark Enwea came through with a 400-inch all-aluminum piece that also had Yates heads and a friendly 9.0:1 piston. Of course, during all of this frantic parts thrash, Phil was right there lending a hand to pull the old motor, install the new motor, and get the car tuned up for the next fight.

Popping an estimated 1,800 hp, Mauro's new powerplant suddenly put him right back in the thick of things in SSO. He managed his best time ever at the Joliet, Illinois, event with a 7.75 e.t. at 188 mph (1.29 short time)! And that, he claims, came with two cylinders leaking pressure.

As we go to press with this story, Mauro is once again trying to repair major engine damage that was sustained during the Martin, Michigan, NMRA show. There, he installed a Renegade motor from a customer's car and took the beams just to get the valuable round points for the national championship. With that kind of effort and dedication, you can bet that SSO racers are going to get a steady diet of whatever Mauro has on the menu.

5.0 TECH SPECS
PHIL CLEMMONS
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block Dart (8.2-in deck)
Displacement 347 ci
Cylinder Heads {{{Fox}}} Lake-ported Trick Flow Twisted Wedge
Camshaft Fox Lake custom
Intake Manifold Fox Lake-ported Trick Flow "R" lower w/Reichard Racing billet upper
Throttle Body 80mm Holley
Power Adder ProCharger F-1R
Exhaust Kooks 2-in headers into 3-in DynoMax Bullet mufflers
Fuel System Weldon 2035 fuel pump, Weldon regulator, 150-lb/hr {{{Ford}}} injectors
Transmission Performance Automatic powerglide w/a 5,500-stall TCT converter
Rearend 8.8-in w/Moser 33-spline spool and axles, 3.73 gears
ELECTRONICS
Engine Management FAST sequential fuel-injection tuned by Phil Clemmons
Ignition MSD Digital 7, MSD HVC coil, MSD mini Pro Billet distributor
Gauges Auto Meter
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member UPR
A-Arms UPR
Springs Stock
Struts Koni adjustable
Wheels Weld Drag Lite
Tires {{{M}}}/T
Brakes Aerospace
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Stock
Shocks Strange double adjustable
Control Arms UPR upper and lower w/UPR solid mount
Traction Devices UPR antiroll bar
Wheels Weld Draglite
Tires BFGoodrich 325/50 Drag Radial
Brakes Aerospace
Chassis Stiffening Pro Street Chassis subframe connectors and cage
5.0 TECH SPECS
Mauro Vitale
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAIN
Block FRPP aluminum(9.2-in deck)
Displacement 400 ci
Cylinder Heads FRPP Yates castings w/Fast Times port job
Camshaft Fast Times solid-roller
Intake Manifold Edelbrock casting for Yates head and 9.2-in-deck block
Throttle Body 90mm Accufab
Power Adder ProCharger F-3C at 28 psi
Exhaust Kooks 21¼8-in headers w/DynoMax 4-in Bullet mufflers
Fuel System Weldon 2345 pump and regulator, Wilson Manifolds rails,160-lb/hr injectors
Transmission ATF (Jason Gatlin) powerglide, TCT 10-in, 7,000-stall converter
Rearend Custom-fabricated Tony's High Performance 9-in {{{Ford}}}, Moser aluminum center, 40-spline, gun-drilled Moser axles, 3.89 gears
ELECTRONICS
Engine Management FAST tuned by Phil Clemmons
Ignition MSD Digital 7, MSD coil, Taylor wires, and NGK plugs
Gauges Auto Meter
SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
FRONT SUSPENSION
K-Member UPR
A-Arms UPR
Springs Eibach
Struts Koni
Wheels Weld Aluma-Stars
Tires M/T
Brakes Aerospace
REAR SUSPENSION
Springs Eibach
Shocks Koni
Traction Devices Ladder bar suspension
Wheels Weld Aluma-Stars
Tires M/T 28x10.5 slicks
Brakes Aerospace
Chassis Stiffening Full 16-point chrome-moly cage by Tony's High Performance