5.0 Mustang & Super FordsEvents
2006 NMRA Nationals - Picture Perfect
We Couldn't Ask For Better Weather At The NMRA's Stop In Atco, New Jersey
Horse Sense: Although BES Racing Engines may not be a household engine-builder name, several longtime racers have enjoyed the fruits of its labor. Just to name a few, racers who benefit from BES power include Filthy Phil Hines, AJ Powell, Matt and Andy Schmidt, Andy "The G-man" Law, and Rocky Mason. But with Tony Bischoff in the seat of his own Pro 5.0 mount, count on the BES name getting even more recognition within NMRA circles.
For the past couple of years, the NMRA's Atco Raceway stop in New Jersey meant losing a few pounds due to intense heat. Thankfully, after the heat at Reading, Pennsylvania's Maple Grove Raceway, Atco was a breath of fresh air with temperatures comfortably in the low 80s. Some people still didn't like the heat, but when you're used to 90-degree weather, low 80s are a nice change. For once at Atco, the weather was perfect, and many racers were rewarded with record times and personal bests. Find out who won and who didn't right here.
Add Ryan Hecox's Pure Street racer to the list of cars yours truly has worked on that have stayed together. We know it's a feat in and of itself, because the daily driver can barely live under those circumstances. But Ryan had a new Rich Groh Racing- designed Comp Cams grind to go in the car before Atco, and no one to help install it-his fellow JPC Racing stablemates had to take their weekly shower that night. This author had nothing to do, so we got started around 11 p.m. Thursday night at the Hecox household with Mountain Dew, bottled water, and pizza. Our heads hit the pillow at about 3 a.m., so to say we were sleep-deprived the next day would be an understatement. Luckily, there were a few Dews left, and we made full use of their caffeinated properties. With the hard work done, we asked Ryan how much the new cam would be worth. When his answer was 0.08, we about choked. But when you're battling for every hundredth, 0.08 is a nice gain for a Pure Street car. Even so, once at Atco, the newfound power took out the transmission, but that was fixed. In the first round of eliminations, the car stood them up, making Ryan pedal it just enough to let Amy Sherwin get past him.
At each event, we try to shoot feature cars that would otherwise be out of our reach, and we had them lined up at Atco. Unfortunately, we'll remember Tim Babit's photo shoot for some time, as will everyone involved. We shot Tim's Cobra in an elementary school parking lot located down the road from Atco Raceway, and everything was going accordingly until we did a few burnout pictures. That's when two police officers arrived, and one of them was not too happy. The police lieutenant that lives within sight of the school didn't take kindly to the black marks we were leaving and called it in. We can almost laugh about it now, but Tim received several tickets from the officers and had to enlist the services of a lawyer. The case is still under litigation as of this writing.
UPR Products' parts trailer had an extended stay in the northeast, as the Atco NMRA race was one of several stops on the northern tour. Mark Mainiero, Jeremy Martorella, and Big Phil stayed busy selling parts and giving expert advice. At any event, UPR's trailer will have Mustang keychains, upper and lower control arms sets, tubular K-members, and everything in between. Contributing to UPR's success at events such as the NMRA races is that it has a lot of small-ticket items on hand, enabling fans to get something without blowing a hole in their cash stash. At the same time, UPR has big-ticket items for those willing to come off the wallet.
The tallest brothers in the NMRA, Andy and Matt Schmidt, couldn't catch a break at Atco. In a tightly contested Hot Street class, Andy struggled and qualified Seventh out of nine cars. That qualifying spot put him up against Ben Mens for round one of eliminations. Andy was more than game for the match-up, getting a huge holeshot (0.459 to 0.538) in Hot Street terms. Thanks to BES Racing Engines power, the front end kept coming up higher and higher, to the point where Andy had to get out. Matt responded, "If we didn't have bad luck, we wouldn't have any luck at all."
Chip Provenza sold his former LX hatch in favor of this new Drag Radial rocket. The power combo is almost unchanged from his old ride, but with some twists he's learned during the last couple of years. Even so, the learning curve is proving to be somewhat stiff with the new car. Chip has done a lot of testing to dial it in, but he came to Atco to test on a race-prepped track to get an idea of how the car would react on a race weekend. He was able to get the car down to an 8.25 at 171 mph during test and tune, but come race day, the Vortech-huffed machine struggled for traction.
Tony Bischoff has turned Pro 5.0 on its wheeltubs with his Cougar, but that shouldn't surprise to any performance enthusiast. Tony Bischoff is the "B" in BES Racing Engines, so you know whatever he builds is going to be fast. He has had a huge following in NMCA racing classes with a variety of engines, but recently BES has made significant inroads into the NMRA, and Tony's Cougar is likely to garner even more business and attention from fans. He runs a 646 ci with Blu Thunder Thor heads, a BES sheetmetal intake, twin Pro-Systems Dominator carburetors, and a Speedtech nitrous system utilizing three stages of the good stuff. The Cougar uses a PTC Powerglide transmission with a Coan stall converter, while the engine's valvetrain consists of components from Manley, Comp Cams, Smith Brothers, and Jesel. Tony's Cougar is a former IHRA Pro Stock car, as are most of the Pro 5.0 cars these days, but it's a 2000 Haas chassis. At Atco, Tony followed up his wins at Michigan and Joliet with another victory over Bert Kelkboom's Escort in the final.
Bert Kelkboom and the Aruba crew always bring the islands to the track with their palm tree-lined pit area. At Atco, the Pro 5.0 class had to line up behind Bert when qualifying was finished, thanks to a stellar 6.57 at 213 mph, which is only slightly faster than our street car. Bert rode a first-round bye with Wild Bill Devine unable to make the call, and another bye run in the second round, but Bert ran a 6.75 that pass. Attrition dealt the Aruba team a big blow, however, when Bert was unable to muster a fight in the final against Tony.
Super Street Outlaw
John Urist doesn't usually make it to the Atco race, but this year the Urist camp had a sense of purpose, with eyes on an NMRA Super Street Outlaw championship. Sam Vincent started out the year very strong, but John is closing the gap due to strong qualifying efforts followed up with wins. He has been playing in the 7.50s for most of the year, but it was Billy Laskowsky qualifying number one with a 7.57 in the night air to John's 7.58. The Fireball had it on cruise control in eliminations with mid-7.50s each pass, and he was able to make it past Phil Hines in the final to make it four wins in a row.
Super Street Outlaw
Filthy Phil Hines is always working on his car, which means he's always filthy dirty, hence the nickname. But that's why the guy goes rounds, and it doesn't hurt that he has a lot of racing experience. Ever since he purchased the Super Street Outlaw car from Wren Vanderpool, Filthy Phil has steadily improved its performance to make it one of the more consistent SSO cars in NMRA competition. With a ProCharged BES powerplant in his ride, he is always in the mid- to high-7-second zone, and Atco was no different. Phil qualified with a 7.67 at 188 mph, but didn't have any real competition until the final round against John Urist. Phil beat Jeff Kornicki in round one, Billy Laskowsky was unable to make the call round two, and then Filthy Phil had a bye into the final, where he wasn't quite enough for the Fireball.
One of our favorite classes, Drag Radial was once again fun to watch. For one thing, Mauro Vitale came out and lit up the scoreboard and the crowd with a remarkable 8.13 at 170 mph. John Kolivas fell into the second spot with a distant 8.30, but he was able to run consistently quick each round of eliminations. John and crew were always checking track conditions and adjusting the tune-up accordingly. Job Spetter was once again in his corner making his usual magic on the computer, and John took care of the rest. He went rounds due to a bye run when Chris Tuten was unable to make the first round, and took wins over Alex Vrettos in the semis and Jason Lee in the final.
As is the case with every Drag Radial racer, Jason Lee strives to find the perfect amount of grip on every pass. Many times he gets it right, but several times this year, he's gotten it too right, putting the car on the bumper. Even when he gets it too right, Jason can always be counted on for quick times. At Atco, he qualified Third with an 8.36 at 168 mph, and took advantage of Chip Provenza's new-car traction woes in round one. On paper, it appeared Jason might be done in round two. Like Frank, number-one qualifier Mauro Vitale lost the grip long enough for Jason to get out on him, and Mauro couldn't reel him in. Meanwhile, Jason was running his consistent 8.30s with his ProCharger F-1R-motivated '86 GT, but he needed a quicker time to take out John Kolivas in the final.
With a late-season rule change aimed at leveling the EFI Renegade class between the modular and pushrod cars, the pushrodders looked to capitalize thanks to a few extra pounds added to the modulars. Although Zoop Zellonis qualified at the top, the usual suspects were lined up right on his heels; one of them being Brian Mitchell in the fourth spot. Brian had a tough row to hoe on the way to his first victory in 2006. The only break he got was Jason Geroulo not showing up in round one. After that gift, Brian had to beat upstart Aaron Stapleton and defending champion Scott Lovell, only to face Zoop as his reward. Though he gave up some at the start, Brian made up for it on the big end, posting an 8.67 to Zoop's 8.74.
We're still getting used to Zoop Zellonis' EFI Renegade wearing black paint, and the season is more than halfway finished. What we haven't had to get used to are the outstanding performances he has turned in this year, because that is nothing new. With both Advanced Airflow Engineering's Ron Sharp and Turbo People's Job Spetter on the case, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Zoop in the finals every weekend. Using a Dynamic Racing Transmissions C4 with a Pat's Performance Converters' stall converter, Zoop shifted his way past Bart Tobener and Bob Cook before a semifinal bye run, which set up a battle between Zoop and Brian Mitchell. The UPR Products-fortified suspension helped Zoop get out of the hole, but Brian reeled him shortly before the finish line for the victory.
We were confused when Hot Street pulled up to the lanes during qualifying. We saw Michael Demayo's Fox in action, and then his new SN-95 car in action. We found out former Open Comp racer Ben Mens was at the wheel of Michael's old Fox. Ben, a Roush engine builder, used to run an early '60s Falcon in Open Comp under his employer's umbrella. Since Michael has been a Roush customer for a while, it was natural for Ben to take the seat. At Atco he made the most of his chance. He qualified in the Third spot behind Bangin' Bob Hanlon and Charlie Booze Jr., but Ben went rounds by capitalizing on Andy Schmidt's bumper dragger in round one, and then beating Mike Abdalla to the stripe in round two. He rode a semifinal bye into the final against Bangin' Bob Hanlon where Bob did an impersonation of Andy Schmidt from round one, which gave Ben the win.
We used to get really excited when Bangin' Bob Hanlon came to the line because we knew a huge wheelie was headed our way. Combine a five-speed with to-the-moon rpm, and you can see why the car would carry the wheels halfway down the track. For most of the '06 season, Bob and his crew have been able to calm down the launches, and our camera hates every one. But calming down the wheelies has also helped him run consistently in the eights, which is what it takes to win Hot Street nowadays. Proving he had what it took to win, Bob took the top qualifying spot with a blistering 8.80 at 152 mph, but those pesky wheelstands came back to haunt him a couple of times during the weekend, and again in the final against Ben Mens, forcing Bob to pedal the car and hand the win to Ben.
Bruce Hemminger handed the reigns of the JPC Racing coupe to Mark Magnuson so he could bring out his old square-light whip. With revised nitrous jet rules, Bruce was more comfortable racing his own car. It also allowed Mark a chance to get back in on the Real Street fun. Even though Mark was unable to make the race with Justin Burcham's Real Street coupe, Bruce flew the JPC flag loud and proud at Atco. Bruce was in the nines all weekend, which was what it took to win the class. Of course, it was easier for Bruce with Brian Meyer out of the way, due to breakage in the semis. Thanks to his Second qualifying spot, Bruce didn't have an "easy" race on Sunday, but he did use consistent 9.90s to take round wins over Robin Lawrence, Tim Matherly, and Jim Breese in the final.
The pit of soft-spoken racer Jim Breese was downright somber at Atco, save for yours truly coming to steal a Mountain Dew from time to time. The concern for Jim at every race is to keep a clutch in the car and make sure the car launches hard with the limited torque the Two-Valve 4.6s produce. The limited torque and the clutch setup go hand in hand with the modular cars. If the clutch shows any sign of going south, it must be changed. At Atco, Jim qualified toward the bottom of Real Street, but he battled to make it to the final round against Bruce Hemminger. Unfortunately, Jim's 10.10 wasn't enough to take down Bruce.
It seems someone besides us has a penchant for drinking large doses of Mountain Dew, and that's Real Street racer Brian Meyer. That sounds only natural, since we also shift our Mustangs into Second gear while hanging the hoops at the track [Yeah, right!-Ed.]. Brian was still the one to beat by qualifying with a 9.89 to take the number one spot, but a wounded transmission in round two against Jim Breese led to a premature exit. Evidently, Brian didn't have his usual Mountain Dew dosage on Sunday because crewmember Brian Koestner says the damage might have been a result of "a lack of Mountain Dew in the body, causing varying reaction times between his right arm and left leg." We're sure that's it.
It wasn't the best weekend for the Two-Valve modulars of Jim Breese and MV Performance's Tim Matherly. First, they're outnumbered compared to the pushrod racers, and the pushrod combinations seem to have an ever-so-slight advantage thus far in 2006. Tim is usually high up in the qualifying order, but Atco found him in the Fourth spot. Even though he made it past Paul Alfeo in round one, Tim had transmission issues in the semis against Bruce Hemminger.
Like us, Uncle Robin Lawrence is not fond of New Jersey. He has never had good luck at Atco, and this year was no exception. Uncle Robin qualified between the modular cars of Tim Matherly and Jim Breese, and then he had Bruce Hemminger lined up the first round on Sunday. We're sure he didn't get out of the trailer much-besides being in his car-because shortly after losing to Bruce, we witnessed him beating feet to get back home.
Craig Baldwin gets out of the house and away from his Cobra street car every few events to mix things up in Real Street. He ran a friend's Drag Radial car at Joliet, but his Vortech-huffed Real Street coupe was solidly in the nines in qualifying. In a tough match-up between himself and friend Jim Breese, Craig was off pace just enough to allow Jim to beat him to the stripe.
It seems the carburetor is the way to win Pure Street nowadays with everyone making the switch from EFI. We don't know if this change is the reason for such close racing, but Pure Street is up for grabs this year. Bad Brad Meadows lived up to his nickname at Atco with a 10.29 at 130 mph qualifying shot to put him at the top of the class. He started eliminations by beating Jimmy Wilson in Gene Hindman's old ride; then Victor Downs in round two. He rode a bye into the final against Teddy Weaver, but Bad Brad had too much on this day.
Who bothers to break in a clutch these days? One NMRA racer who does is Pure Street racer Teddy Weaver, probably because he's changed more clutches and rebuilt enough transmissions to rival the efforts of some NHRA teams. That care proved beneficial because Teddy made it all the way to the final of Pure Street running 10.40s. The next step in Teddy's game is reaction times. He was Tree'd on his last three elimination races on Sunday, including the final against Brad Meadows. He was able to drive around his second and semifinal round competitors, but he was unable to do that in the final. Maybe the new car will react quicker, right Teddy?
Even with the Factory Stock changes for 2006, the Four-Valves have dominated the first few races, although at Atco all nine cars were in the 11s, which promised tight racing. It's been Jeffrey Schmell and Shawn Johnson leading up to Atco, and would be the same result again. This time, Jeffrey qualified First and ran the table to take the win, in part thanks to a red-light start from Steve Gifford. Jeffrey had the mid-11-second tune-up in the car, and no one could touch him, not even Shawn in the final.
Shawn Johnson hasn't enjoyed as much success in 2006 as in recent years. Rule changes and clutch issues have wreaked havoc on his '06 program, but he's still turned out a strong performance so far. Shawn barely made it out of the first round at Atco, but he went on to beat Eric Holliday and enjoyed a semifinal bye run into the finals against Jeffrey Schmell, but Shawn couldn't keep up this time.
Zak Harty is a steady performer at almost every NMRA event in Modular Muscle. He battled it out among 22 of his modular peers, but in the final round against Pete Espeut the two had almost identical reaction times. Pete was guilty of breaking out more than Zak, handing Zak the win.
Truck And Lightning
Captain Keith Kohlmann didn't have to travel far to take the win in Truck and Lightning. The Captain hails from Bradley Beach, New Jersey, and he definitely made the most of the home-track advantage. In the final against Johnny Lightning, Keith posted a stellar 0.520 light. Both men had their feet in the water pump, which explains why both broke out. The Captain boasted the smaller break-out margin, taking the win.
In a 43-car Open Comp field, it came down to a pair of Pennsylvanians for the top prize. Tom Demalto from Philadelphia lined up against Paul Mileski, and both men had 11-second indexes, but Paul ran too fast since he had the slower reaction time of the two racers. Score one for Tom.