Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
January 25, 2007
Photos By: Dale Amy

Horse Sense: When a star goes supernova, it collapses under its own weight and leaves destruction in its wake. That was certainly a possibility when Promedia scheduled the first meeting of its two event series. Filling Route 66 Raceway with race cars was never a question, but pulling off the race was. Now the only question is, how big will this race be next year?

Dubbed the "Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing," the first meeting between the NMRA and NMCA shared much of the same hype generated by the biggest football game of the year. Fans of street-legal-style drag racing looked forward to this race since the day it was announced, but what no one foresaw was that the racing wasn't the only thing that was hot. The Chicago area was under a heat advisory and people were warned to stay indoors. Obviously, hanging out at the dragstrip wasn't a way to keep your cool.We survived-thanks to a Chill Factor neck wrap from our friends at Anderson Ford.

Despite the oppressive heat, the race cars from both series were out in force and the fans brave enough were in for a treat. For us, it was a pleasant surprise to see so many Mustangs competing in the NMRA's sister series, the NMCA. In fact, Mustangs won four of the NMCA classes, which meant they would face their fellow Mustangers when the two series clashed at the end of the event in a bracket-style format. It didn't sound exciting at first, but when Dr. Meyer had the stroke of brilliance to keep score between the two series, the drama went into overdrive. In the end, the NMRA bested the NMCA 6 to 5 in the intramural shootout, and the only NMCA Mustang to take a shootout match was Billy Glidden's black GT.

Imagine the fodder for smack talk leading up to next year! We can hardly wait.

In his element at Joliet, Billy Glidden reveled in the big stage and the hot, humid nitrous weather. He qualified in the top spot in the NMCA's venerable Super Street 10.5W class with a 7.04/195 that served notice to the rest of the field. Billy showed deadly consistency through eliminations, and in the finals he clashed with another model of consistency, Dan Millen. We're used to seeing both racers rocket down the track like their cars are on rails. Billy got out first, but Dan spun the tires a bit and even his turbo wouldn't help him track down Billy on the big end. Billy faced SSO superstar John "The Fireball" Urist in the NMRA versus NMCA shootout. Even though John cut a better light, Billy nailed the no-breakout bracket race with a 7.02 on a 7.04 dial-in.

NMCA's Xtreme Street class is sort of like NMRA Drag Radial on slicks and includes some pesky Chevy racers, too. The class is popular among Mustangers, and Cameron Coble put his '01 Mustang into the fifth qualified spot with an 8.44/166 ride-thanks to 524 ci of big-block power. His only true test in NMCA action came in the second round. His quicker reaction time allowed him to beat Chuck Barthome's 347-powered '93 Mustang, which ran a hair quicker but slept at the Tree. In the final, Cameron was the one who left late as Andy Mayes cut a great light, but his '70 Challenger didn't have the power to outrun Cameron. His win meant Cameron had to face Drag Radial winner John Kolivas, who defended the NMRA's honor with a superior light and an 8.28 on an 8.22 dial-in.

Sponsored by our sister magazine Car Craft, the NMCA Street Race class is a more radical version of our Real Street class-again, with a few Chevys in the mix. In fact, many Real Street racers have defected to the class or have swapped on larger power adders and run NMCA events when they are nearby. Tim Meagher's '90 Mustang was among five Mustangs in Street Race, and he qualified number two with a 9.34 at 147 mph and seemed to have an easy path to victory in the finals. Tim Hendricks' '95 Pontiac could only muster at 14.05, which wasn't even close. We couldn't seem to track down a Car Craft staffer in time to wager on the Real Street versus Street Race battle royale. Bruce Hemminger did us proud running a 10.06 on a 9.99 dial-in, but Tim's red light start killed the suspense.

It wouldn't be a Joliet event without the Motive Gear monkeys. The head-scratching ape was a new addition for this year's big race. Even he was trying to think of a way to stay cool.

After flying his P51 Mustang down from the big aircraft event in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, Jack Roush acted as the grand marshal for the Joliet event. Jack's family and friends are also campaigning six cars in various NMRA classes. He was inspired to get back into the quarter-mile game by his old drag-racing pal Don Bowls, who races a Ford GT-powered Stage 3 Mustang in Modular Muscle. The Roush fleet of racers is not only around to promote the burgeoning Roush Performance Parts brand, but also to help develop new gear, such as a possible Roush Mustang Drag Pack.

Mean Street is a more aggressive, flat-tappet-cam version of Pure Street. As in the Street Race class, half of the Mean Street racers were rockin' Mustangs. Jeff Swanson topped the Mean Street chart with his '88 Mustang's 10.36/129 pass. He didn't meet with a true challenge until the finals, where Gary Duncan ran a 10.48 to Jeff's 10.46, but Jeff's reaction time sealed the win. In the Pure Street versus Mean Street shootout, he faced Pure Street's most experienced racer, Ron Anderson. Ron cut down the Tree and ran closer to his dial-in, so the easy ride was over for Jeff.

Pro 5.0Engine maestro Tony Bischoff of BES Engines apparently came to prove a point that he can go fast with Fords, too. He rocketed his 646ci '02 Cougar to the number-one qualified spot with an impressive 6.59/212.66 blast in the searing heat. Not only did he set the Pro 5.0 e.t. and mph records with that pass, but he also landed on the easy side of the ladder where he cruised to a final-round tilt with Michael Hauf, who got the jump at the Tree but ran into problems down track. Tony cruised to the win with a 6.63/203 to Michael's off-pace 7.57/194 effort.

Pro 5.0NMRA stalwart Michael Hauf has become a final-round regular, and he seemed destined to meet Tony Bischoff in the finals, as he qualified hot on Tony's heels with a 6.60/202 number-two effort. Before Tony came on the scene, it seemed to be a two-horse race between Michael and defending champ Don Walsh Jr. They clashed in round two, where the unthinkable happened-Don redlighted! It would have been a heck of a race-6.76 versus 6.77-but it was over just as it started. While he picked up some points there, Michael limped into the finals with Tony where cutting a good light wasn't enough.

Super Street OutlawYou've seen the Nitto Tire ads, you have a no-skid dashpad, and you know the nickname, but John "Fireball" Urist cruised into the biggest race of the year with a brand-new, Burnie-themed wrap on his '00 Saleen you probably didn't recognize. The newlywed-if you've seen his bride, Amy, you know his luck extends well beyond the racetrack-obviously has his ride dialed in, as his crew drove in the rig and he jetted in like a rock star and put his ride in the number-one qualified spot with a 7.68/188 pass. After beating up on Don Shobe and Ed Imhoff in the first couple of rounds, John's first test came in the semis against Kentucky Sam Vincent. John was quicker at the Tree and through the traps-which put him in the finals against Billy Laskowski-where John showed no mercy. Unfortunately, his luck didn't extend to the NMRA versus NMCA shootout, where he fell to Billy Glidden.

Super Street OutlawNot to be outdone by John Urist, Billy Laskwoski showed up at Joliet with a new wrap on his '03 Cobra race car. The car looked good, but it wasn't running well, as Billy only qualified with an 8.69/158, putting him in the 14th spot. The McKeon Motorsports team fought through a leaky intercooler core, phantom low oil pressure, and shorted-out wiring from the leaky 'cooler. After fixing the problems and sneaking up on the tune, Billy faced Zack Posey. Crew Chief Mark McKeown turned up the wick and the team bested Zack's 8.25 with a 7.71. In the finals against John, the time for being conservative was over. Mark threw in the good tune. The pass looked good until the camshaft broke and beat up two rods, bent a valve, and ended Billy's weekend on a losing note.

Drag RadialPushrod SN-95s might be underdogs in stock form, but John Kolivas' '95 Cobra is anything but. Built by Southern Speed and tuned by Turbo People, this turbocharged wolf in sheep's clothing is starting to peak at just the right time in the season. After winning the season opener, he lost some momentum but began picking it back up with a win at Martin, so he was carrying some positive mojo into the big race. Qualifying in the number-two spot just behind record-holder Chad Doyle, John posted an 8.24/172. His first true challenge came in the semis against defending champ Chris Tuten, who put up a valiant effort. Mr. Holeshot, however, cut down the Tree and ran a quicker e.t., sending Chris back to the Carolinas. In the final, he faced off against former SSO racer Mauro Vitale. Again it was John's axemanship at the Tree that wrote a check his 8.23 e.t. could easily cash. He kept that going in the NMRA versus NMCA shootout, nailing down the win with an 8.28 on his 8.22 dial-in.

Drag RadialIf you think racing at a high level requires a huge team, Mauro Vitale is there to show you that you might not be trying hard enough. Mauro did a lot of the work on his gorgeous Drag Radial ride. He welded in the 'cage, tuned the engine, and even painted the thing. Sure, Mauro has DR wunderkind Phillip Clemmons on his side, but he's out there getting it done. A case in point was his number-three 8.26/170 qualifying pass just ticks behind Chad Doyle and John Kolivas. Like John, Mauro didn't meet with a challenge till his semifinal match-up with Dave Hopper. Mauro was quicker at the Tree and the stripe and headed for the finals against the Kolivas freight train where it was all over after the holeshot.

EFI RenegadeIt was probably a good thing for Aaron "The Shark" Stapleton that he just missed out on the Joliet crown, as the pushrod Renegade racers were ready to go deep-sea fishing. He has been on a tear with his modular-powered ride, and the Renegade guys are feeling the squeeze previously felt in Factory Stock and Real Street. Aaron jumped to the head of the class with an 8.56/160 blast that put him on the favorable side of the ladder. Zoop Zellonis gave him a run in round two, but it was Bob Cook's buzz-saw reaction time that put a brief end to the modular domination.

EFI RenegadeChalk one up for the underdog. Bob Cook is another racer on a budget, but he put his supercharged 309ci '88 GT in the fifth qualified spot with an 8.81/156 pass. From there, quick and consistent work on the Tree led Bob to the finals, where he clashed with fellow Sutton High Performance stablemate Aaron "The Shark" Stapleton. Bob cut down the Tree and used it to fend off the Shark long enough to take the win despite a slower e.t. "It was a long, hot weekend that thankfully turned out in my favor," Bob said on the NMRA forums. "I'm proof that it's not always the fastest car or the one with all the high-dollar parts that wins. I think there are many cars in our class that can win at any event. The car held up well with the exception of lifting a head against the NPS car in the Superbowl race. That beautiful Orange Camaro came past me like I was parked. I wish I had a video camera in the car. I was watching him catch up to me in my side mirror and knew he was going to blow by in a hurry."

Hot StreetIt's hard to mention the 10,000-rpm mayhem that is NMRA Hot Street without thinking of Charlie Booze Jr. The man to beat in this class, Charlie still held the e.t. record of 8.87 going into Joliet. He wasn't going that quick dancing on the surface of the sun in Joliet, but he still landed near the top of the qualifying sheet with a 9.01/150 rip good enough for the number-two spot behind Bob Hanlon, his eventual final-round foe. Charlie cruised through the first two rounds laying the lumber and showing competitors his taillights. Things heated up in the semis when the most loquacious man in NMRA awards ceremony history, Leo Johnson, stepped up with a 9.13 to Charlie's 9.10, but he was a bit too slow off the lights.

Hot StreetBack from NMRA exile, Bob Hanlon is building momentum again. After runner-upping to Leo Johnson in Martin, Michigan, Bob came into Joliet on a mission. He put his '83 GT, which he's owned since it was new, on the pole with a 9.01/150 just slivers ahead of Charlie Booze. After running past Randy Henry and Max Gross, Bob was loaded for bear in the finals. He actually ran quicker (9.04 versus 9.06) and faster (149.25 versus 148.94) than Charlie, but Charlie obviously had on his plaid lumberjack gear under his driving suit, as he made up the difference at the Tree.

Real StreetIf drag racing doesn't work out, Bruce Hemminger might have a future in politics. After campaigning for nitrous jet upgrades for the Real Street juice junkies, Bruce brought out Old Reliable to start kicking some serious butt. The timing couldn't be better-in the heat of the summer-for the nitrous crew to make hay, and he wasted no time picking up where he left off with his Martin dominance. Bruce's '86 GT was the only Real Streeter to dip into the nines on the blistering Joliet asphalt, though just barely. A 9.99/133 put him at the head of the class. Bruce laid the lumber on Robin Lawrence and outran Brian Meyer on the way to a final-round clash with his JPC stablemate Mark Magnuson. While Mark does have Justin's car on the right track, Bruce showed him how it was done from start to finish. Thankfully, Bruce continued his winning ways in the NMRA versus NMCA Superbowl bracket race, running a 10.06 on his 9.99 dial-in to take out Car Craft Street Race winner Tim Meagher.

Real StreetIt's nice to see both Justin Burcham's Real Street car and former Real Street racer Mark Magnuson back running in our favorite class. With the help of Bruce Hemminger and Justin, Mark has been chipping away at the e.t. on the other nitrous car in Real Street. He qualified only in the fifth spot with a 10.24/133 pass, which put him on Tim Matherly's side of the ladder. When Tim unexpectedly went out in the first round, it was clear sailing for Mark. In the finals, Bruce showed Mark how a nitrous car is supposed to roll with a blistering 10.03 to Mark's 10.28. Mark's Rip Van Nitrous impression at the Tree didn't help things either.

Pure StreetAs the owner of both ends of the record book (a 10.29 e.t. and a 130.06 mph) and the winner of Bradenton and Martin, Ron Anderson is obviously one of the big dogs in Pure Street. Despite the oppressive heat, Ron's qualifying performance was only a tenth off his own record, putting him atop the qualifying sheet with a 10.39/128 pass. Ron completely went through his engine looking for every last bit of performance, and the upgrades seemed to pay off in the oppressive Joliet heat. After a first-round bye, he locked his cruise control on 10.40s and mowed down Brandon Alsept, Victor Downs, and Bad Brad Meadows en route to his third win of the year.

Pure StreetBad Brad Meadows is locked in a see-saw Pure Street points battle with Ron Anderson. He came ready to play at Joliet, putting his flamed SN-95 in the second-qualified position with a 10.43/129.41. Like Ron, Brad is no stranger to success, with runner-ups in three of the previous four races and a win at Reynolds under his belt, and it looks as if these two will battle all the way to Bowling Green. It seemed many of the weekend's successful racers didn't field a challenge until the semifinals, and Brad was no different. There, he met Ryan Hecox poised at third place in the points and just hoping Ron or Brad would fall. Both racers cut good lights, but Brad was a bit quicker off the line and through the traps. It was the reverse in the finals, as he fell to Ron Anderson, but thanks to an overanxious red light start, the details didn't affect the outcome.

Factory StockWe have to respect a guy who pushes even harder when he's backed into a corner. After dominating Factory Stock last year, Shawn Johnson faced more challenges this year, thanks to rule changes designed to bring parity to the class. Shawn and his team merely stepped up to the challenge and have won every race this year except Martin. He set the e.t. record at the beginning of the season and was leading the points chase heading into Joliet. He qualified only in the number-four spot with an 11.82/114 pass, and he wouldn't need to run much quicker to win the event. After cruising through round one against fellow 5.0&SF feature alum Louis Sylvester, it was like old times when Shawn met number-one qualifier Michael Washington. Michael ran quicker, but Shawn left him at the Tree for the win. In the finals, another 11.80 was more than enough to take out Denny Merrow's faltering 12.57. Shawn also did the deed in his match-up with NMCA racer William Cochran's '66 Fairlane, but it wasn't too tough as William lit the red bulb.

Factory StockSo far this season, Denny Merrow had been in the mix but hadn't made a final round. At Joliet, he didn't charge out of the gate ready to dominate, but he put himself in a position to succeed with his 11.80/114 number-three qualifying pass, which put him on the side of the ladder with the other modular car driven by Jeff Schmell. While those two would meet in the semis with Denny pulling out the win, he impressed in the early rounds by running just well enough to win. Of course, that streak ended when he faced Shawn Johnson in the finals. Their reaction times were similar, but Denny ran into trouble and Shawn did what he usually does.

Open Competition
Talk about keeping it in the family-the Motycka family, that is. With brothers Mike and Robert leading the points chases in Truck & Lightning and Open Comp, respectively, it was no surprise to see those two make it all the way to the finals. While Robert upheld the family honor, besting Mr. Open Comp Larry Geddes with a 10.05 on a 10.01 dial-in, he also gained bragging rights over his brother. Mike's final-round performance looked good with a 12.33 on a 12.30 dial, but his groggy reaction time made Dave Cole's 11.24 on an 11.21 look even better for the win. It was the Tree that decided the Modular Muscle winner as well. Our boy Paul Svinicki came up with an uncharacteristic red light to make David Beyer's trip from Royal Palm Beach worth all those gas stops. Unfortunately, all the NMRA open-compers faltered in their NMCA matches, but there's always next year.