Michael Johnson Associate Editor
September 29, 2006
Photos By: Paul Rosner
Every racer wants to go faster, whether it's in his/her class of choiceor stepping up to a faster one. In the recent past, Rich Groh has beenracing Pure Street, and he got his start in Factory Stock with the NMRA,having tremendous success along the way. But in 2006, he's stepped up tothe EFI Renegade class with a nitrous combination. Rich builds his ownengines through Rich Groh Racing Engines, which carries a "We build 'embig" tag line. For 2006, big is a 347 stroker using a Dart block, anEdelbrock Super Victor intake and 75mm throttle body, and Trick FlowTwisted Wedge heads, which are his babies. Rich has committed massiveresearch-and-development time to the combo, and he's gotten good testtime so far in the eighth. But there's nothing to report on quarter-miletimes because Northern tracks are still a little slick on the top ends.Rich uses an NOS Pro Fogger system on the car, a Dynamic C4, Pat'sConverters reworked TCI converters--depending on what day it is. Richsays the cam he's been using is from the Pure Street combination, but acustom cam should be in the car for Maple Grove. So far, he's run in the5.50s in the eighth, which converts to the 8.60 range in thequarter-mile. "Just gotta get all the buttons and switches workingtogether," Rich says.

Horse Sense: We know women often possessquicker reaction times when compared with their knuckle-dragging earthmates, and the Modular Muscle class at Reynolds proved it. With 24competitors, three of them from the fairer sex, Carole Parker was themost tardy of the women to get out of the gate during qualifying, andeven that was a stellar 0.510 light, which left her in the seventhqualified spot. Roxanne Shepard qualified in the top spot with a perfect0.500 light, and Cindy Blando was right on her heels with her own 0.501reaction time.

The first two events of the NMRA race season are within driving distancefrom our Tampa offices. The season opener at Bradenton Motorsports Parkis a mere 45 minutes away, while the second stop on the tour at SilverDollar Raceway in Reynolds, Georgia, isn't quite as close. But we madethe trip at the wheel our personal Mustang or some sort of projectvehicle. Unfortunately, late March is when all the snowbirds/bluehairs/Yankees head back up north. For that reason, a trip that shouldtake five-six hours turns into an all-day lesson in highway patience.

Adding to that, we were towing the Old World Industries' Project Fire &Ice to Reynolds to display in our subscription booth, and that didn'tstart out too well, either. Not even five minutes from the office, wehung a trailer wheel off the road and blew a tire. We went back to theshop to put on the spare, and we're back on the road in 15 minutes. Buthalfway up Interstate 75 we realized that, in our haste to get on theroad, the locking lug-nut key was rolling around in the parking lot backat the office. If we were to blow another tire we'd have been in serioustrouble. [A typical Johnson tale of travel.--Ed.]

Scheduled to stay with the JPC Racing crew in Fort Valley, Georgia, justminutes from Silver Dollar Raceway, we pull up only to find out ourreservations are like Technical Editor KJ Jones' hair stylingtips--nonexistent. Oh yeah, did we mention we had a flat on the trailer?So, for those scoring at home, it was 12 a.m., we had no accommodations,and all the hotels within a 25-mile radius were booked solid. We alsohad a flat tire on a trailer carrying a high-dollar project car. As ifmissing deadlines didn't have yours truly in Primedia's chopping-blockline [Steve, I wouldn't say I was missing them], this scenario didn'tlook good. The flat on the trailer was one of the front ones, however,and all would be well without a car on the trailer, so we unloaded itand went to the track the next morning. Thankfully, one of JPC's boyswho we'll call Gary the Cable Guy fixed the tire with it on the trailerand we made it all the way home.

Remember that locking lug-nut key? A fellow employee found it rollingaround in the parking lot. In the middle of all this, there was theaction-packed Denso Iridium Spark Plugs-presented 6th Annual BassaniXhaust NMRA Ford Nationals to cover, and it provided the much-neededtherapy. You should try it sometime--here's why.

Every racer wants to go faster, whether it's in his/her class of choiceor stepping up to a faster one. In the recent past, Rich Groh has beenracing Pure Street, and he got his start in Factory Stock with the NMRA,having tremendous success along the way. But in 2006, he's stepped up tothe EFI Renegade class with a nitrous combination. Rich builds his ownengines through Rich Groh Racing Engines, which carries a "We build 'embig" tag line. For 2006, big is a 347 stroker using a Dart block, anEdelbrock Super Victor intake and 75mm throttle body, and Trick FlowTwisted Wedge heads, which are his babies. Rich has committed massiveresearch-and-development time to the combo, and he's gotten good testtime so far in the eighth. But there's nothing to report on quarter-miletimes because Northern tracks are still a little slick on the top ends.Rich uses an NOS Pro Fogger system on the car, a Dynamic C4, Pat'sConverters reworked TCI converters--depending on what day it is. Richsays the cam he's been using is from the Pure Street combination, but acustom cam should be in the car for Maple Grove. So far, he's run in the5.50s in the eighth, which converts to the 8.60 range in thequarter-mile. "Just gotta get all the buttons and switches workingtogether," Rich says.

When you go up against the best in any sport, you have two choices ofwhat to do. You could curl up in a fetal position and call your mommy topick you up from school, or you can be like NMRA superstar Ed 'Fluffy'Imhoff and take the bull by the horns and fight your way through. Fluffyhad the unenviable task of facing defending Super Street Outlaw championManny Buginga in round two. Fluffy matched Manny right out of the gate,and even though Manny was in trouble, he was the defending champ and wasexpected to take the win. But Fluffy had just enough to take the roundwith a 7.94 at 177 mph to Manny's 7.95 at 190 mph. Unfortunately, thingsdidn't get any easier for Fluffy in the semis, as Kentucky Sam Vincentfed him a dose of racing reality to end the celebration.

Dan Millen has been tearing things up this past year in the NMCA, theNMRA's sister sanctioning body. But if there's a 10.5W race, you'll morethan likely see the Livernois Motorsports trailer pull in the gates. AtReynolds, Millen had a problem getting traction off the line on aconsistent basis. Whenever the car launched and got up on the wheeliebars, the suspension unloaded, instantly causing the tires to go up insmoke. The single-turbocharged car did get in a solid qualifying pass--a7.17--but in round one against Jim Monson, traction once again became aproblem, ending Dan's weekend prematurely.

Jamie Holten made all the changes to his car according to the '06 rules,but nothing to the engine. Jamie tested a few times before Reynolds, butnot nearly the amount of laps he's accustomed to running. But once atReynolds, his was the quickest pushrod car in Factory Stock even thoughhis 60-foot times were way off. During qualifying, Jamie blew everytooth off his 8.8's ring-and-pinion so he had to buy one from BrianMeyer, along with a differential. Jamie and his boys got it backtogether Sunday morning and won the first round with a 12.15, then hetook out Jonathan Paulk in round two on just seven cylinders because arocker came loose in the burnout box. In the semis against Schmell, hehad the worst 60-foot with a 1.89 short time, and he was unable to makeup the ground.

It was quite warm at Reynolds, so when our boys here offered up a coldMountain Dew, who were we to pass it up? They had boiled peanuts, chips,cold beverages, and shade. We'll see ya'll next year. Have the MountainDew on ice.

Pro 5.0

Aside from Carl Smart's and Joe Morgan's qualifying troubles, Pro 5.0had the potential to be a real crowd-pleaser. Michael Hauf qualifiednumber one with a 6.63 at 209 mph, while the number-eight qualifierAlbertus Kelkboom came in with a 6.78 at 208 mph. For those scoring athome, these numbers set up exactly what we want to see--tight,side-by-side racing. Hauf had no one to race against in round one thanksto a bye, but David Schorr's Escort came to play in round two. Knowingthe Hauf machine was running strong, however, David reacted a little tooearly with a 0.390 light, which was about 0.010 too quick. Up next cameMr. 0.400, Donnie Walsh, who lived up to the nickname by cutting aspectacular 0.416 light, but Michael wasn't far off with his own 0.427reaction time. Michael needed every bit of it to squeak past Don with a6.71 to Don's hair-slower 6.76. In the final against Tom Jacobs, Michaellet his guard down out of the gate, and he almost paid for it by handingTom the win, but he had just enough to pull out the victory.

While Michael Hauf was working his side of the Pro-5.0 ladder, TomJacobs had his nitrous-assisted '67 Mustang fastback going rounds aftera stellar 6.73/202-mph blast to land in the fourth qualifying spot.Compared with his sleeker Pro 5.0 brethren, Tom had a much harder timepushing his car through the wind, but that's where the nitrous comes in,and a big-block under the scoop certainly doesn't hurt. Tom had to getthrough two other nitrous cars of Carl Smart and Joe Morgan to earn aspot in the final, and even though Michael opened the door a tad with a0.521 reaction time, Tom was unable to capitalize with his own 0.461light, and Michael won the round and the race with a 6.72 to Tom's 6.78.If only Tom's '67 Mustang's front end weren't longer, right?

Outlaw 10.5W

The Reynolds race presented the first opportunity for the 10.5W-tireMustangs to come out and play in NMRA competition. If there's ever aquestion who the man is in 10.5W Mustang racing we'll go ahead and tellyou it's Tim Lynch. The Lynch Mob, with Steve Petty doing the tuning andengine work, has been nearly unbeatable in 10.5W racing up and down theEast Coast. These guys have been racing for years, and since Reynolds isbasically in their backyard, everyone knew they'd be tough to beat. Thetwin-turbocharged, 449ci small-block combo qualified in the top spotwith a 7.flat at 205 mph. Tim had a relatively easy first couple roundsthanks to a redlight start by Dwayne James, and then a second round bye.His toughest test would be in the semis against Chocolate Chip Havemann,but he moved on to face Lance Styck in the finals where he took thefirst 10.5W victory of the year.

Lance Styck has had some wild rides in his day, but Reynolds is one ofhis home tracks and he took advantage of the home-cooking afterqualifying ninth in the tightly contested Outlaw 10.5 class. Theturbocharged Styck, like Tim Lynch, is no stranger to 10.5W races sincethey're hugely popular in the South, and he showed that experienceduring eliminations by getting past David Hance and Jim Monson on hisway to the final, where Tim Lynch awaited. Unfortunately for Lance, Timremained in top form and Lance was unable to keep up.

Super Street Outlaw

Nitrous is king in the South. So far in 2006, Kentucky Sam Vincent hasbeen a crowd favorite at both Bradenton and Reynolds in Super StreetOutlaw. Strangely enough, he's won both events to give him a head starton points. With Matukas Motorsports Racecars on Sam's side, the NitrousExpress-guzzling small-block ride has been wickedly consistent, butduring eliminations at Reynolds he ran quicker each round after barelysurviving round one against A.J. Powell. He improved to run a 7.81against Crazy Phil Hines, then a 7.67 against Fluffy Imhoff. In thefinal against John Urist, Sam needed every bit of that 0.441 light tostay in front long enough to take home the victory.

John Urist sent the Reynolds crowd into a frenzy by qualifying with a196-mph trap speed in the right lane. When right-lane speeds werecompared with those from the left lane, however, it seemed the rightlane was seriously gracious. Furthermore, John's datalogger conflictedwith the 196-mph trap speed. Even so, John he flat out flyin' atReynolds in his ProCharger-equipped Super Street Outlaw ride. TheFireball qualified third with a 7.59 at 189 mph behind Zack Posey'sblistering 7.53/185-mph rip and Kentucky Sam Vincent's 7.55/183mphblast. In true Urist fashion, he chopped his way through eliminationspast Donnie "Burndown" Burton, Mike "Punk" Trimandilis, and theaforementioned Zack Posey with consistent 7.60s. Awaiting the Fireballin the final was Sam Vincent and even though John ran quicker (7.65 to7.67), Sam won the race with an ever-so-slight reaction-time advantage(0.441 to 0.463).

Drag Radial

In a heterosexual way (sure Johnson - Web Ed.), we love the Drag Radial class. The challenge ofthrowing down well over 1,000 hp to a pair of drag radials has usdrooling like an import driver at a discount parts store. One driver whohas been a quick Drag Radial study is Bob Kurgan, but he's been racingEFI Renegade-type classes since the early '70s (at least it seems thatlong), so it isn't like this stuff is new to him. Bob qualified in thefourth spot with an 8.32 at 165 mph, but he was only able to run in the8.40s during eliminations because of Sunday's warmer temps. He stillmade it past Tony Akins, defending Drag Radial champion Chris Tuten, andMauro Vitale to get a chance at Dave Hopper in the final where Daveredlighted, giving Bob his first Drag Radial victory. That didn't takelong.

With Mayor of Drag Radial Procopio Cusamano in his corner and a VortechX-Trim under the hood, Dave Hopper is becoming someone you must gothrough to win Drag Radial. At Reynolds, Dave and the Mayor were busychasing down a dreaded electrical gremlin during qualifying, which keptthe car from even doing a burnout. Thankfully, they discovered it was awiring problem just in time for Dave to go out and bust an 8.26 at 169mph, earning the top qualifying spot. Dave made it past Peter Champaniand then a squeaker against Chad Doyle, each round having a quickerreaction time. But in the final against Bob Kurgan, Dave's reaction timewas too quick, handing Bob the victory.

EFI Renegade

The EFI Renegade class is rough on transmissions. Case in point--Bob Cooksnapped an input shaft just before the Reynolds race, then hurt thetransmission again during qualifying. Good thing Harold from DynamicRacing Transmissions was at the race. He fixed up Bob's C4 so he couldcontinue on racing, and the hard work paid off. Bob qualified in thefourth spot with an 8.84 at 155 mph and snuck past Jay Mingolelli inround two via a holeshot. In the final against Brian Mitchell, he lostthe race at the finish line, but Brian came up 10 pounds light, whichhanded the win to Bob.

Brian Mitchell is threatening to be in the form that won him the EFIRenegade class championship in 2004. With a solid performance at theBradenton opener, he kept at it for Reynolds and qualified in the thirdspot with an 8.75 at 158 mph. He hurt an engine on Sunday and made a madscramble to replace the injured bullet in time to meet Bob for thefinal. He waited as long as he could, and Brian not only made the call,but he won the race. But he must've sweat off about 10 pounds during theengine swap because his car came up 10 pounds light upon post-raceinspection.

Hot Street

Charlie Booze Jr. was able to break the chains that bound him to theshop just long enough to make the trip to Reynolds. After doing theswitcheroo at Bradenton from the 399ci engine to a big-cube monsterbecause of breakage, Charlie and the crew had the engine back in the carfor Reynolds, and this time there were no issues. Charlie set a new HotStreet record with an 8.87 at 152 mph thanks to a backup 8.89 pass, andthe 8.87 also earned Charlie the number-one qualifier spot. But all thatdid was set the table for Charlie to work his usual magic througheliminations with consistent 8.90s, combined with lightning-quickreaction times.

Boy, was Hot Street tight at Reynolds. You had to go all the way down tothe 10th spot to get out of the 9.0s. Max Gross was smack-dab in themiddle in the fifth spot with a 9.02 at 146 mph. Making his way throughthe ultra-tough class, Max used stellar reaction times and 9.0s to earnthe right to face Charlie Booze Jr. in the final. But Mad Max will haveto wait until Maple Grove to get another shot at a Hot Street victory.

Real Street

With more dyno runs than maybe even Dyno King Robin Lawrence, BrianMeyer and crew have their Real Street coupe running 9s while others inthe class struggle to run low-10s. Racing out of the Anderson FordMotorsport camp, Brian qualified number one with a 9.93 at 135 mph. Butat the forefront of Brian's weekend was that his wallet was stolenduring Saturday's qualifying. The thief racked up $4,100 worth ofpurchases at Target, Wal-Mart, two grocery stores, and a gas station.The thief must've bought everyone at the station a tank of gas. Back tothe racing business at hand, Brian's 60-foot times were off duringFriday's testing and qualifying, but by Sunday the team was able to getthem back to normal. The Vortech S-Trim-motivated coupe ran the table onSunday for Brian's second victory of 2006.

Jim Breese, the second teamer from the MV Performance camp, wished hecould regain his '05 nickname "Captain 10.0." Those times would have himright in the thick of things. But with the rule changes, Jim is stuck inthe 10.20s most of the time with an occasional 10.teen thrown in themix. Even though he received a gift when Tim redlighted in the semis,Jim had nothing for Brian in the final.

Real Street (Continued)

Tim Matherly didn't have time to convert his car to EFI Renegade formover the off-season, and we're sure Tim wishes he could've made theswitch because 2006 hasn't been too much fun for the '04 Real Streetchampion. Low car counts in Real Street and the performance paritybetween combinations are at the heart off the matter, and burning up hisjunk at the first two races surely doesn't help. Tim qualified second atReynolds with a 10.05 at 131 mph, but said, "I was in a hurry," whenasked about his redlight against teammate Jim Breese in the semis.

Bruce Hemminger has been busy tuning on Justin Burcham's Real Street andputting his own signature on the car. What's held back the team ishaving the chance to tune on the car while not at an event, but with thecar at Justin's place in Maryland and Bruce in Illinois, that's beenhard to overcome. With the break between Reynolds and Maple Grove, Brucewill get the car and you can bet the team will be that much strongercome Maple Grove. Bruce's own car should be at Maple Grove with MarkMagnuson at the wheel, and we know how good that car runs.

At Bradenton, UPR's Jeremy Martorella drove Paul Alfeo's GT hatch. AtReynolds, Paul was at the helm of the nitrous-motivated Real Streeter.He qualified with an animated 10.43 at 130 mph, but had problems allweekend. First, the boys had to use borrowed heads and a swap-meetintake, and they couldn't get away from running a 10.43 every time(three runs). Jeremy and Paul had no luck changing anything. Nothingmade a difference until DiabloSport's Willie Figueroa tuned on the carafter Tim Matherly eliminated Paul in round one, and it picked up 50 hpand 90 lb-ft of torque. Look for 10.teens at Maple Grove with theimproved power and reduced rolling resistance thanks to lightweightStrange Engineering brakes.

Robin Lawrence thought he'd gotten through all his bad luck atBradenton, but he couldn't have been more wrong. It seemed every time weturned around, Robin was having problems, and we were right. He broke alifter, his transmission popped out of gear due to a misadjustedshifter, then he found another bad lifter. For his first-round match-upagainst Jim Breese, Robin pulled the car into the burnout box only tohear a clacking sound from under the hood. That noise turned out to be adropped valve seat, which ended his weekend for good. In all, Robin hadthe intake manifold off three times, the transmission out of the cartwice, he changed out the clutch, and don't forget about the shifterissues. Robin says he's making good power, but he's having difficultykeeping all the parts aligned.

Pure Street

Brad Meadows says he had a pretty smooth race at Reynolds, and heactually left the track early a couple of nights. "No torn-uptransmissions or anything like that," he says. Kuntz and Company came onduring the off-season to help with the power-production department,which paid off at Reynolds. Brad says he's off to the best start he'sever had. He says he usually starts off slow, then comes on at the end,but the opposite has proved true so far in 2006. In the final againstRyan Hecox, he showed his veteran racing skills by getting a goodreaction time and outrunning Ryan with a 10.35 to a 10.50.

When we were shocked to see a pushrod powerplant under the hood of RyanHecox's Cobra, his crewmember Wayne Thomas piped up, "Just add water--outpops a 5.0 liter." Specifically, a Rich Groh Racing-built 310ci made itsdebut under the hood of Ryan's Cobra at Bradenton in place of lastyear's Four-Valve Factory Stock combination, but at Reynolds the combostarted to come around. With a 129-mph trap speed, we knew the power wasthere, but with an RGR-built engine, it was a no-brainer since Richbuilds 'em big--sometimes a little too big. Ryan cashed in on themisfortunes of his fellow Pure Street racers until he met up with BradMeadows in the final where he spun big-time off the line, costing himprecious e.t. and his first NMRA victory.

Factory Stock

Although Shawn Johnson says he's still learning what he can and can't dowith the '06 rules package, what separates him from the rest of theFactory Stock crowd is the power of his Cobra and his suspension setup.The short time between the Bradenton and Reynolds races meant testingwas at a minimum because of time constraints and the desire to saveparts. Shawn's clutch sponsor, RPS, is working diligently to keep thepower going rearward, but at Reynolds he was still concerned aboutleaning on the car unless he had to, which wasn't until the final roundagainst Jeff Schmell. Just two races in, and Shawn still has the car tobeat in Factory Stock. But with rule changes opening up furthermodifications for the pushrod crowd, can he continue his reign? We'llknow after Maple Grove.

The lone Factory Stock racer within reach of Shawn Johnson is fellowFour-Valve racer Jeff Schmell and his '03 Mach 1. But he's played therole of bridesmaid at both events so far in 2006. For Jeff, Reynolds wasuneventful, which was a relief compared with swapping out severalclutches at Bradenton. Jeff still utilizes the engine-building talentsof Boss 330 Racing's Al Papitto to make the power, which he hopes to gethim in the winner's circle sooner than later. At Reynolds, Jeff didn'thave the chassis to keep up with Shawn in the final.

Modular Muscle

Perennial mod-motor favorite Robert Hindman pulled his old '87 GT out ofthe barn to do battle in Modular Muscle. With the new Indexed classqualifying arrangement going by reaction times instead of quarter-miletimes, qualifying gave racers more than just a chance to practice, andcutting a good light took on even greater importance. But it wasbusiness as usual for Gene, and the family drag-racing business is good,even if his brother Gene is taking 2006 off. Robert's 0.515 reactiontime put him in the 12th qualifying spot. He rose to the top duringeliminations thanks to unequalled reaction times and consistent passesright on his 11.02 dial-in. In the final, Robert was matched up againstCharlie McCulloch, but Robert got the better of Charlie this timearound.

Open Comp

OK, so it may not be a Mustang, but Milton Grow's '78 Fairmont is stilla Fox body, which is what that Fox Mustang in your garage is based on.Milton's Mustang brotha from anotha motha settled into the 12th spotjust like Modular Muscle winner Robert Hindman, and the result was thesame for Milton with an Open Comp victory. Even though some find humorat having a Ford Fairmont as a race car, Milton's Fox Ford is no joke--itruns mid-10s, and he has the driving skill to match. His worst reactionduring eliminations was a 0.552, and that was in the final against RandyConway. But Randy had a 0.600 light, and he was off his dial-in morethan Milton, which gave him the win.

Truck and Lightning

We figured there would be more Truck and Lightning competitors at SilverDollar Raceway, but with eight, Mike Motycka was the last truckerstanding. His 0.513 reaction time qualified him in the second spotbehind Johnny Lightning's 0.505 light, but Mike was the only racer toconsistently keep reaction times low while running on his dial. In theTruck and Lighting final with Mike going up against '05 champion"Captain" Keith Kohlmann, the defending champ redlighted, handing Mikethe win.