Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
February 11, 2006
As title sponsor of the Joliet race, Motive Gear found a great way to get exposure at Joliet by instituting a tradition of inflatable primates. This year the original Motive Gear monkey got a girlfriend. We suppose this explains the mini-monkey at the Motive Gear tent on the manufacturers' midway...

Horse Sense: The Outlaw 10.5 class was a huge hit at Joliet and, fortunately for Ford drag-racing fans everywhere, the NMRA and class sponsor Vortech Engineering worked out a deal to run the class at the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky. We're crossing our fingers for a whole-season run in 2006!

We've been excited about covering the event at Joliet, Illinois' Route 66 Raceway since we first saw drag-racing heaven at the World Ford Challenge in 1999. But it seems racers are just as excited about going to Joliet, as the pits at the mammoth facility seem to grow more crowded with race cars every year. The track is well maintained, the facilities are beautiful, and the times are usually impressive. That was certainly the case at Joliet this year, and the addition of the Outlaw 10.5 class added even more excitement-so much so we thought the NMRA's voice of Ford Drag Racing, Dr. Jamie Meyer, might just lose it if another Outlaw car came to the starting line-he can only sustain that excitement for so long. And then there were the ever-present Motive Gear monkeys (even a female monkey) presiding over the mayhem. Check out the photos and captions for a reminder of why you want to see the monkey business at Joliet next season!

The talk of the pits was Mark VanMeter's new 10.5W ride driven by Joel Greathouse. This is one of the most beautiful race cars in recent memory, and it claimed the top qualifying spot with an off-the-trailer 7.16/198 pass. Look for big things, including a full feature in 5.0&SF, from this car in the future.

We're usually so busy covering the race and tracking down feature cars that we don't have time to do the car show justice. As we took a sprint through the show field, we ran into several killer rides. One of our favorites was this '93 Cobra clone with 10th Anniversary Cobra wheels, a Vortech supercharger, and a Trick Flow Box intake. Nice ride.

Pro 5.0 - You have to wonder if it ever gets boring for Don Walsh Jr. after another number-one qualifier and another win. OK, never mind, winning all the time is what we all dream of-it just doesn't get old. Obviously, Don still has the motivation, as he put his ProCharged-Windsor-powered '03 Mustang into the finals against Michael Hauf. It was an easy path with a bye, and a Joe Morgan redlight in round two. In the finals, however, Michael put up a fight, but Don won the race on the tree (big surprise) and bested Michael's 6.81 with a 6.73.

Pro 5.0 - Packing twice the displacement and just as much determination, Michael Hauf wasn't going to let Don Walsh Jr. have an easy win in every round. He qualified right behind Don with a 6.79/205 blast, and put himself on the opposite side of the ladder. After a freebie in round one versus Tom Jacobs, Michael lined up against Toffie Haddad in round two. Toffie got the jump, but Michael had the power to chase him down and take the win. (Sadly, Toffie was killed in a car accident just a few weeks after this race. R.I.P., Toffie.) In the finals, Michael had the power to give Don a run, but Mr. 0.400 worked his magic yet again.

Outlaw 10.5W - It was nice to see Chris "Mud Duck" Derrick at the races again after his successful run in SSO. Chris was back in action driving a Fox GT for McCullough Racing in the hottest new class at the NMRA-Outlaw 10.5W. With all the excitement about this class and its high-profile racers, Chris snuck up on everyone, qualifying his dirty, old horse in the fifth spot with a 7.36 at 191.81. With Mike Duffy working his chassis magic, Chris' GT proved the tortoise still has the upper edge, as his car was never the quickest, but it ran 7.30s in every round, which was good enough to take out Dan Schoneck, Joe Bucaro, and Bryan Markienicz en route to a final round clash with Ed Rice. "If not for luck, we could not have won this weekend," Chris said. "In the process I got to beat a Mustang legend in the final round. I think there was a whole inch difference between us at the stripe. Man, that was one of the closest races I have ever been in." Chris beat Ed's 7.36 with a 7.31 in the final.

Outlaw 10.5W - While all the hoopla was at the top of the Outlaw 10.5 qualifying sheet, Ed Rice quietly put his '95 Mustang with a 400ci, Brodix-headed Windsor blown by a 101mm Precision turbo into the seventh spot with a 7.41 at 197.50. His e.t. was slightly off the pace, but the mph was right in the mix with the big dogs, which should have been a warning he was coming. And that he did. In the first round, Ed shocked the world (or at least Joel Greathouse did) when the number-one qualifier lit the red bulb and allowed Ed an easy win. Then he put two tenths on Greg Blevins Jr. and blew the head gaskets out of his car before riding a bye into the finals where he clashed with the Mud Duck. In the bye, Ed had no water in the engine, but his pal Sammy Vincent told him to put three gallons of water in the motor and give it hell-it would burn it. And that's just what Ed did. He left first, but Chris had the muscle to take the win down track. Ed says he's bringing decoys and a duck call to Bowling Green...

Super Street Outlaw - You might think all the excitement in that other Outlaw class might have overshadowed the thrills in the 10-inch Tire Freak Show. Not a chance. Eighteen SSO maniacs rolled into Route 66 Raceway for a true-10.5 rumble, and Don "Burndown" Burton parked his silver '80 Mustang in the seventh qualified spot (7.71/177.39). Of course, he isn't packing a wheezing 4.2 under the hood anymore-it's a 400-inch Windsor with a little bit of nitrous. In a class dominated by blowers and turbos, Don is a veritable Outlaw. Though he had close to a free ride into the finals with only Zach Posey putting up much of a fight in the third round, Don once again found himself clashing with Jarrett Halfacre's turbo ride in the finals. After previously faltering with noted lengthy starting-line duels, Don and Jarrett went right into the bulbs this time. Rip Van Burton got a late start, but he ran down Jarrett with a blistering 7.69 at 179.40 for the win.

Super Street Outlaw - The fates of Jarrett Halfacre and Don Burton seem intertwined this season, as the two will go down in history for squaring off in the longest starting-line duel in drag-racing history. At Joliet, Jarrett qualified right behind Don with a 7.81/182.06 blast, which ensured the rivals would be on opposite sides of the ladder. While Don had the luxury of running slower competitors and getting by, Jarrett defeated the SSO hall of famer on the way to the top, putting John Urist, Michael Young, and Manny Buginga on the trailer before the finals. The NMRA held SSO as the last race of the weekend, just in case there was another duel. Instead, there was only a great race, with Jarrett coming up a little short.

Drag Radial - It was a good weekend for Trace Meyer because his wife, Kristin, was able to make it out to the races. She's usually too busy caring for their two children, while Trace is out being a big kid. Just before Joliet, things weren't so great for him-he wasted a few bearings at a local race, so he pulled the motor and dropped it off at MCRP, where Mike Curcio put the bullet back together in two days. Trace dropped it back in with his big ProCharger and headed to Joliet, where he qualified slightly off the pace in the ninth spot with an 8.72/168 pass. In the first round, Trace had his hands full. His car had issues, and he was running Radial Rock Star Phillip Clemmons. "I got lucky in the first round-my buddy Phil had a red light," Trace said. "It sucked for him, and I hate to win like that." With help from Tim Webb and Greg Barnett, Trace fixed the issues before the next round. After dusting our boy Chris Tuten and Jim Johnson on the way to the finals, Trace lined up with Mauro Vitale's machine. Mauro got the jump, but Trace powered his way to the win (8.41 versus 8.55).

Drag Radial - While putting together a 25.2-chassis SSO car, Mauro had been working on Jeremy and Monte Mason's Drag Radial ride. Since his Outlaw is taking awhile to come together, Mauro convinced the Masons to let him do some testing at Maple Grove. When that testing proved fruitful, Mauro convinced the Masons to join up with him for the rest of the season. Before Joliet, Mauro upgraded the ride with a larger Reichard Racing air-to-water intercooler, which chills the boost pumped into the Victor-headed 347 from a Vortech X-Trim supercharger. Mauro put his ride in the sixth qualified spot, thanks to an 8.56 at 164.85 mph. Though he was getting quicker after every win in eliminations, Mauro peaked a little early in the second round, and Trace Meyer was on a mission for the win.

EFI Renegade - We walked up on eventual Joliet winner Brian Mitchell as he and future runner-up Bob Kurgan were trading a little prerace smack talk. Bob prophetically said, "You've never beaten me, I've only redlighted." He then offered to put a small wager on it, to which Brian responded that the purse and possible points were wager enough for him! Of course Brian didn't get the satisfaction of taking out Bob at the finish line, but winning at the starting line was enough to take that purse and points package. To get to that point, Brian had only one other real challenge from George Seeger in the finals, where he dropped a near perfect light and a quicker e.t. on him.

EFI Renegade - Bob Kurgan had all his drama leading up to Atco when D.S.S. turned around his motor in three days, and Rich Bogart whipped up a new set of rims to replace his bent wheels in four days. Leading up to Joliet, Bob just focused on hot-weather testing to nail his tune-up. The results spoke for themselves in qualifying when Bob snagged the number-two spot with an 8.75 at 157.14. "I knew I had the power and I was the quickest on race day," Bob said. After besting Zoop Zellonis and his pal Bart Tobener, Bob had a bye in the third round. In the semis, Bob bested former champ Kurt Gallant with quick work at the tree, despite the pair's e.t.'s being so close (8.828 versus 8.829). In the finals against Brian Mitchell, Bob was too quick, handing Brian the win with his redlight start.

Hot Street - Ever since Charlie Booze's streak was snapped in Martin, Hot Street has become open season. A host of competitors are in the mix. Running a small-by-Hot-Street-standards 359ci Windsor, Dan Paolini qualified his '93 LX in the third spot with a 9.13/147 pass. That meant sooner or later he was going to face Charlie. After an easy round one, Dan was slow on the tree but outmuscled Michael DeMayo for the win. The tree would play a role the rest of the way for Dan, as an out-of-character Charlie Booze lit the red bulb in the semis. Then again in the finals, Mike Abdalla left too early, handing Dan the easy win.

Hot Street - After an extensive off-season testing program, part of which led him to try a single-disc clutch from Advanced Clutches that actually worked to his liking, Mike Abdalla of Albuquerque, New Mexico, traveled all the way to Illinois to make his first final-round appearance in Hot Street. His path to that race was much more direct than the drive from New Mexico, as Andy Schmide redlighted in the second round, and Mike had a bye in the semis. Unfortunately for Mike, he went red in the finals, but was simply pleased to be there. "Tammy and I are just happy to see things coming together after all these years," Mike said online after the event.

Real Street - Defending Real Street champ Tim Matherly hasn't had an easy title defense this season. Besides the various weight deductions and additions, Tim hurt some parts this year. After qualifying right on Brian Meyer's heels with a 9.79 at 136.39, Tim took out Paul Wiley in round one and his teammate Jim Breese in round two. That's where his luck ran out, however. After losing a cam-retaining bolt and taking out his engine on that pass, another race was on. With help from friends and Craig Baldwin's crew, Tim was able to swap in his backup Two-Valve engine in 65 minutes, which was fast enough to make the call for the finals. After all that thrashing, Tim staged and dropped the hammer. The U-joint at the back of his T5 tranny exploded and caused serious damage to the gearbox, leaving Tim to enjoy watching Brian pedal his car down track.

Real Street - Owner of one of the prettiest race cars around, Jim Breese has been learning the ropes in our heads-up class after years of Open-Comp-style racing, but he's finally a 9-second player in Real Street. His first-round opponent, Michael Bell, is still working to get there, so that race ended as you might expect. Unfortunately, Jim probably had similar expectations when running his teammate Tim Matherly in the second round. Jim got out of the blocks first, but he could only put together a 10.04 on that pass, and you know that isn't enough to take out Tim, even if he did take out the top of his motor.

Real Street - Ever since team leader Leo Johnson put the screws on Brian Meyer to test more often, things seem to come easy for Brian. He qualifies in the top spot and has a great chance to win the race nearly every time he shows up. Things weren't much different at Route 66. Brian laid down the top qualifying time with a 9.75/139 rip-in the heat! Better yet, Brian's ride was super consistent, dispatching Craig Baldwin with a 9.74 in round one and Robin Lawrence with a 9.75 in round two. In the finals, Brian got lucky. He spun the tires out of the hole and had to get off the gas to restore traction. Fortunately for him, Tim Matherly was still sitting on the starting line.

Real Street - Route 66 Raceway is a special place for Uncle Robin Lawrence. Not only is the track in his home state, but it's also the site of his first 9-second pass in Real Street history. This year the race was even more special, as 100 or more of Robin's coworkers and clients came out to see his racing alter ego. During the week, Robin works for Degussa Corporation [www.protectosil.com], which produces and markets, among other things, Chem-Trete water repellents for concrete, masonry, and stone applications. The company rented a suite for the weekend and even made up T-shirts adorned with Robin's car. Things were going well for Robin at first, as he qualified third with a 9.84/137 pass and took out Richard Karr in round one. In round two, his pal Brian Meyer wasn't so accommodating, but at least he didn't redlight in front of the home crowd.

Pure Street - If we forget to put in our earplugs, there's a particularly loud car that reminds us to dig them out again. Teddy Weaver is doing his best to warn us with the Outlaw Flowmaster mufflers under his GT. Teddy put all that noise to good use with a 10.64 at 124.83 qualifying performance, which was good enough for the third spot. That number also put him on the good side of the ladder, as he easily covered his first two opponents, Denny Hioureas and David Hill. David Perkins put up a good fight in the third round, but Teddy took the win and rode a bye into the finals against Gene "The Machine" Hindman. You know what happened there.

Pure Street - Look up "winner" in the Ford racing dictionary, and you'll likely find a picture of Gene Hindman. But for all his success, he's had enough difficulty at Route 66 Raceway to say he's dealt with the Joliet Jinx. Well, pardon the pun, but Gene got that monkey off his back this year by qualifying number one (10.48/127) and winning the race. On top of that, he was super consistent on the way to the win, running in the 10.04s every round except the third, where he already had old nemesis Rich Groh covered, so he let off. In the finals Gene clashed with 5.0&SF feature car alum, Teddy Weaver, who got off the line first. Gene, however, had the power to run him down (10.45 versus 10.64).

Factory Stock - When he isn't busy slagging us on Internet message boards for saying things that are too complimentary in his feature story, Shawn Johnson is busy kicking some serious tail in Factory Stock. Don't worry, Shawn, we don't hold a grudge. Besides, anyone who jams Pantera's "Cowboys From Hell" from the stereo in his race car before a race is cool in our book (Dimebag R.I.P.). With Reynolds the only blemish on his '05 record, Shawn crashed this year's party like no guest since Michael Washington. At Joliet, Shawn qualified in the top spot (of course) with an 11.54/118.27 ripper that was well ahead of Jeff Schmell's 11.77/115.22 number-two effort. After putting nearly a full second on Denny Merrow and 0.32 on Troy Carter, Shawn ended up in the finals against number-two qualifier and fellow modular racer Jeff Schmell, who left both John Leslie Jr. and Carlos Sobrino in the 12-second zone on the way to the finals. There, Jeff's car wouldn't start and Shawn took an easy win.

Modular Muscle - It takes dedication to run a racing series, but when your home base is in Florida and the events are as far away as Joliet, Illinois, the dedication takes on a whole new meaning. Fortunately, that drive has proven fruitful for Rick Doern, who's pulled in a few wins this season. Typically quicker cars have a more difficult time being consistent in Open Comp-style racing, but Rick qualified his Four-Valve-powered '96 third with a 10.22 at 130.52. Then in the finals he raced number-two qualifier Roxanne Shepard, where he kept the e.t. closer to his dial-in.

Truck & Lightning - Maybe the NMRA should change this class to the Ranger and Lightning class, as Captain Keith Kohlmann and his 331-powered '84 Ranger always seem to be in the mix. Keith qualified seventh with a 10.51 at 122. In fact, the final was a Ranger versus F-100 affair, pitting Captain against Randy Henry's wild, 430ci '66 truck. The Captain had the far better reaction time and took the win.

Wild Street - How many more of these trophies can you fit in your house, Tim? Seriously, Tim Huspen has won a few Wild Street races with his ProCharged, carbureted, square-light coupe. At Route 66, he took the crown by a wide margin with an average e.t. of 9.01. His nearest competitor was Dan Shipley with a 9.84 average, which was still impressive for surviving a 30-mile cruise and three back-to-back passes.