K.J. Jones
October 11, 2006
Leo Johnson jockeyed Raggdoll Racing's flagship coupe to the Hot Streettitle, setting off a celebration we're sure could be heard back in thepopular driver's hometown of St. Louis.

Horse Sense: "Night" racing(after 8 p.m.) at US 131 Motorsports Park goes down in near broaddaylight during the summer. Martin, Michigan, is roughly 70 miles awayfrom the imaginary line that separates the Eastern and Central TimeZones, and true nightfall doesn't set in until almost 10 p.m. Eternallight, indeed.

Racers, fans, and even a few dignitaries from Ford Motor Companyconverged on Martin, Michigan, to take another shot at getting the ToyoTires NMRA Ford Nationals completed at US 131 Motorsports Park.

A mixture of rain, wind, and snow put a premature kibosh on the secondrunning of the event in April 2005, and our Florida-bred editor, SteveTurner, scrambled back to warmer climates. Hopes were high that badweather would stay clear of the Martin area during the '06 edition ofthe NMRA 'Stangfest at the beautiful, small-scale motorplex.

Don Bowles introduced his new "Coal Digger" '06 'Stang at Martin. TheRoush Industries-backed GT is a 9-second player in Modular Muscle,thanks to its Ford GT powerplant and Jerico four-speed transmission andthe 67-year-old's driving skills. Don does kick the clutch pedal betweenshifts, which earned him low-qualifier honors in the always-tough class,with a 0.500 reaction time backed up by two other sub-0.520 lights,proving the double-zero was no fluke.

With clear skies, bright sunlight, and low-to-mid-80-degree temps, wehad no doubt the race would run in its entirety, and every competitorwas ready to prove that the NMRA's decision to reschedule the race tothe middle of the summer was a good one. The racing action was exciting,despite relatively small car counts in some of the premier heads-upcategories, with first-time (for 2006) finalists and first-timeNMRA-event winners in several classes.

Unlike last year, where racers such as Manny Buginga, Charlie Booze Jr.,and Gene Hindman were dominant points leaders in their respectiveclasses at mid-season, the same can't be said about competitors in anycategory at the '06 season's intermission point, which tells us thatthus far we have experienced some of the hottest, all-around 'Stangbangcompetition and personal-best performances we've seen in a long time.

The madness at Martin was great from start to finish and we're willingto bet the remaining four NMRA events will be even better, as racers andrace teams start making big moves toward earning championship jacketsand rings.