Michael Johnson Associate Editor
March 9, 2007
Photos By: Paul Rosner
One of our favorite NMRA racers is Deer Park, New York's Sal Arena. He's dabbled in Hot Street and Drag Radial with a Fox Mustang, but now he's giving EFI Renegade a shot in this '94 Cobra. The enthusiastic one uses Windsor power on the juice under the hood. So far, Sal was stuck in the 8.90s. As you know, the top EFI Renegade racers are in the 8.50-8.60 range, so he has yet to do any real damage. He was able to make it past Brent Weston in round one, but Bob Cook ended Sal's weekend in round two.

Only three weeks prior to the NMRA's stop at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, Ohio, the NMRA Atco, New Jersey, race featured chamber of commerce weather. Atco was blessed with blue skies, mild temps, and refreshing sunshine. We had hoped for the same in Columbus, but Midwest weather can be unpredictable at best. We arrived in Columbus only to be greeted by sprinkles, with Thursday and Friday sessions being cancelled due to the weather. Saturday was more of the same until around noon. The sun finally made an appearance, and all was right for drag racing.

Squeezing in qualifying after noon meant many racers were at the track fairly late. The big news during qualifying was Amy Sherwin's wreck in the last round. Sherwin's Pure Street car snapped a crankshaft at the top end, sending fluid under the wheels and the car into the wall, while moving at around 120 mph. She was fine, but the car sustained major damage. For the rest of the story, see the captions.

Horse Sense: Jeg's High Performance, headquartered in Columbus, Ohio, was formed by Jeg Coughlin Sr. in 1960. What was once a small speed shop now encompasses a 250,000 square-foot high-performance warehouse. Jeg's boasts three Columbus-area retail stores, coming in handy for NMRA racers needing parts.

Donnie "Burndown" Burton debuted a Gene Fulton big-block on the spray in Bradenton, Florida with the slogan "Game On" written on the engine cover. That's some big talk, but he has backed it up on the track all year, so we can't argue. At Columbus, Super Street Outlaw qualifying was tighter than 5.0&SF's travel budget, and every hundredth counted. Billy Laskowsky cashed in a 7.52/187 mph hit in round one. Then in round two, John "Fireball" Urist went all in with a 7.51/181 mph pass. However, Donnie was straight-up money with a 7.50/187 mph shot to take the UPR Products top qualifier check. He must've been counting paystacks in round one, because his 0.826 reaction time allowed eventual winner AJ Powell get out front and win the round.

Both Bruce Hemminger and Mark Magnuson told us about Johnny Mize's Pure Street racer, a low-mile black-on-black Fox coupe. Once we were able to make our way to Johnny's pit, we were greeted by a pristine example of one of the most desirable Mustang body styles and colors wrapped up in one car. We think every late-model Mustang fan has wanted a black-on-black coupe at some point in his or her life, and Johnny is out racing its wheels off in NMRA action.

Michael Tymensky debuted the Modular Performance Pure Street entry at Columbus, but with zero testing, the team knew the weekend would be a struggle at best. Michael and his dad John have had this car for a few years now, running in a couple different classes, but they were ready to give Pure Street a try. Coming in to the event, the car was already plagued with an intermittent ignition problem. During one test and tune pass the issue disappeared, but the power chewed up a Third/Fourth gear selector plate. Bob Hanlon had a spare selector plate, and Precision Autosports' Jeff Wrightman helped swap it. A soft 11.44/121 mph qualifying pass left Michael in the 13th spot, but in round one against eventual runner-up Victor Downs, the ignition problem reoccurred at launch, bringing the car down hard. Michael stayed in it, again breaking the Third/Fourth gear selector plate in the process.

Michael Washington was having issues with his JPC-sponsored Factory Stock ride. At any time, the car would inexplicably be a second off. A few passes on DiabloSport's portable Dynojet confirmed the intermittent power loss, turning out to be a computer issue. Michael and the JPC crew got it figured out during eliminations on Sunday, and it didn't hurt that he had a few easy runs in the first couple rounds. However, fellow JPC Racing mate Eric Holliday showed Michael the door in the semis.

We don't remember anyone coming into a racing sanctioning body and dominating like Tony Bischoff has in Pro 5.0. Though he got a late start into the season, he has made up for lost time. The BES Racing chief had a few issues during qualifying, but with eliminations underway, Tony had his Cougar firmly in the 6.60s. If you follow NMRA, you know those numbers are hard to beat. In fact, his 646ci big-block on the spray wouldn't be beat at Columbus, taking out Pete Ricart, Bert Kelkboom, and Michael Hauf in the final to make it four Pro 5.0 wins in a row.

Michael Hauf had his fair share of troubles in 2005, but in 2006 the team has gone rounds. By Columbus, we believed it had wrestled away Donnie Walsh Jr.'s stranglehold on Pro 5.0. You wouldn't be able to tell that by Michael's qualifying effort, since he and Tony had issues getting down the track on Saturday. But also like Tony, the Hauf team got it together for eliminations. The second round match-up between Don and Michael could be the deciding round, and even though Don cemented his Mr. 0.400 reputation with a 0.405 light, Michael was able to slide by for the round win. In the final against Tony, Michael was away first, but he was the one unable to stay out front on that pass, handing Tony the event win.

If you're a fan of the underdog, you'll love the Super Street Outlaw results. AJ Powell, driving the former Jason Smith coupe, proved to be the giant killer in Columbus. Top qualifier Donnie "Burndown" Burton hit the snooze button one too many times, and was really late against AJ in round one. Burndown was unable to make up the gap. In round two, Filthy Phil Hines and the Little Dirties came calling, but AJ whipped out a 7.69 against Hines' slower 7.83. For the final round against John "Fireball" Urist, no one would've given AJ a chance, but it's a good thing they raced anyway. He left first, but by the narrowest of margins. John had bigger problems in the left lane because he lost grip shortly after launch; AJ sped away to his first NMRA victory. Photo by Paul Rosner

John "Fireball" Urist had Super Street Outlaw wrapped by Columbus, but that didn't mean he was racing for fun. His ProCharger-motivated ride came to bless those up close to the action with exhaust heat and more noise than a Judas Priest concert. John might've thought he had the top qualifying spot sewn up with a stellar 7.51, but Donnie "Burndown" Burton stole it with a 7.50. John wouldn't have the last laugh, but he got to laugh all the way to the finals-until his car didn't feel right coming out of the burnout box. The funny feeling was confirmed when John lost grip shortly after launch, preventing him from mounting a challenge to AJ Powell.

National Trail has always been one of those tracks promising fast times, especially in the Drag Radial category. The historically grippy surface allowed Drag Radial racers to turn up the wick and run amazing times, and Chad Doyle continued that trend by laying down an 8.17, followed by Bob Kurgan's 8.30 qualifying effort. Five drag-radial cars qualified in the 8.30s, meaning drivers and tuners alike would really have to be on their game. Chad had a first-round bye, and the equivalent of a bye in round two when Tony Akins redlit. He seemingly ran 8.20s at will, but his final round opponent John Kolivas had issues coming out of the burnout box, and was unable to make a race of it.

Though they lost the battle, John Kolivas won the Drag Radial war with his final-round appearance at Columbus. He garnered enough points to win the '06 Drag Radial championship. But when a fuel-rail bolt loosened coming out of the burnout box, rendering John's car dead as a door nail, it appeared the battle was more important than the war. The team was disappointed at not battling for the victory, but things could've been much worse had the underhood burst of flames gotten out of control. That shows the determination of the team, and the thought they could've won the race because they found the right combination to consistently run 8.20s, which is exactly what Chad had been running in eliminations as well.

EFI Renegade has been one of those classes up for grabs all year long. There hasn't been a clear-cut favorite at any of the 2006 races. But with tuning help from Turbo People's Job Spetter and a handle on the suspension, Zoop Zellonis' program has become more consistent down the stretch. Zoop made it to the final at Atco against Brian Mitchell, but Brian got him there. At Columbus, Zoop turned the tables on Brian when the pair again battled in the final. Zoop ran another 8.55 to best Brian's 8.63, taking his first victory of 2006.

Brian Mitchell didn't have the best qualifying effort at Columbus, but he kept making adjustments to get the car right. It's a good thing he was on his game in round one, because he was almost gone due to a stellar hit by Joel Howard. Brian pulled out a 0.411 reaction time, and he needed every bit of it because Joel was ready for battle. Joel's 0.480 light wasn't quite enough, and Brian was able to squeak by. In round two, he reacted even quicker with a 0.402 light combined with an 8.69 to get past George Seeger. In the semis, Tony Orts redlit, but Brian had a nice 0.425 light. In the final, Matt Wirt lined him up with Zoop Zellonis in the other lane, and Brian had a stellar 0.425 light. Zoop countered with his own 0.421 reaction time. Down track, Zoop ran an 8.55 to beat Brian's 8.63.

As usual, Hot Street was a close knit group at Columbus, but Charlie Booze Jr. once again rose to the top with an 8.87 rip. With eight cars in the field, Charlie would have to earn every round. He relied on his Kuntz and Co. powerplant because he was Tree'd in rounds one and two by Mad Max Gross and Leo "Blingmaster" Johnson. Blingmaster whipped out a 0.417 light against the defending Hot Street champion, but just like against Mad Max, Charlie was able to get Big Red out front by the stripe. Charlie didn't have to worry about outrunning Mike Demayo in the final, since he was the beneficiary of a redlight start by Mike. Charlie still ran it out to an 8.86 at 152 mph.

Mike Demayo's new SN-95 ride is already paying big dividends. Even though his old car won Atco with Ben Mens at the wheel, Mike's new car came into its own at Columbus by qualifying second with an 8.95 and 400ci of Roush power under the hood. Mike made it past Michael Abdalla and Andy Schmidt to meet up against Charlie Booze Jr. in the final. With Charlie's times averaging roughly a half-tenth quicker, Mike knew he had to get a good start. A heartbreaking 0.398 reaction time ended the race at the Tree, allowing Charlie to get the victory. Photo by Paul Rosner

Columbus was hard on parts in several classes, including Real Street. Bruce Hemminger qualified number one, but had issues and fell off to a 10.30 in round one for an early exit. Tim Matherly capitalized on the attrition, but didn't get out of Columbus without any issues. He ran in the 9.90s all weekend, which was enough to get him past Mark Magnuson in round one, Brian Meyer in round two, and take it easy in the semis with his competition bye run. Tim is just fortunate his damage didn't come out until the final when a head gasket blew against teammate Jim Breese. Jim left too early anyway, so good fortune was on Tim's side at Columbus.

Ever since his Modular Muscle days, Jim Breese has been known for his reaction times and consistency. In this age of Modular Muscle racers winning with automatics, Jim won a championship with a stick car. Ask any racer how hard it is to win an index-style class with a stick, and you'll discover the significance of that feat. At Columbus, Captain 10.0-Jim's racing alter ego-was back with a 10.09 in qualifying. In eliminations, it would be a 10.08 in rounds one, two, and the semis to beat Robin Lawrence. In the final, Jim stepped it up with a 10.04, but he also pushed the Tree and redlit, handing the win to Tim Matherly.

By Columbus, it was common knowledge that Robin Lawrence would be jumping ship to race in the NMRA's sister-sanctioning body the NMCA, at the wheel of a car not wearing a Blue Oval. But with only two NMRA races remaining, he wanted to finish strong. Columbus was a mixed-bag race for Robin. With the rainy weather and only two rounds of qualifying, he wasn't able to get too many much needed test passes in. That was unfortunate for him, because he was trying out a new crank trigger system. What's more, in the last round of qualifying, the timing lights malfunctioned, meaning Real Street had to run again-a good thing for Robin, right? Not exactly, he had a starter go out on the second-chance qualifying pass, so he got nothing from the previous pass. Even so, Robin was proud in being able to take out number one qualifier Bruce Hemminger when the number-one qualifier got loose. Following a bye run, Robin lined up against Jim Breese, who took a holeshot victory to end Robin's weekend.

Brian Meyer's Real Street car features all of the Anderson Ford Motorsport trickery we've come to respect. Because of that power, attrition plays a huge role in his program, along with the narrow margin of traction verses clutch. In Columbus, Brian was pulling his usual wheelies. As a matter of fact, this image is just after shifting into Second gear after the front end came down at the top of First gear. That tells us he was having traction issues, because Brian usually shifts into Second with the front tires in the air. We were only half right. Brian told us he had a couple engine bearings going south on him, dragging the power down. The loss in power caused the drop-off in performance not only off the line, but down track as well. The usual high 9s were replaced by low 10s at Columbus, and a second-round exit at the slicks of Tim Matherly.

Craig Baldwin is always fun to watch in Real Street, especially at Columbus. Last year, one side of his exhaust system came loose at the start of a qualifying pass. This time, it was a driveline failure in round two against Jim Breese. Although he was able to make a full pass with the loose exhaust system, the driveshaft failure stopped him in his tracks before he even left the gate.

With Bruce Hemminger driving his own car, Mark Magnuson moved into the seat of Justin Burcham's Real Street ride. With a nitrous combination still the power adder of choice, the team is sneaking up on the tune-up and getting the chassis sorted out. At Columbus, the event wasn't nice to the nitrous guys. Mark and number-one qualifier Bruce fell in round one. Photo by Paul Rosner

At Columbus, Pure Street should've been renamed Geezer Street with racing "veterans" Ron Anderson and Victor Downs battling it out for class supremacy in the final. Ron always runs well at Columbus, and he has had a good year leading up to this stop with a few wins and top qualifiers to his credit. At Columbus, he continued his dominance with a 10.35 qualifying hit to again put him in the top spot. He wouldn't leave the 10.30s in eliminations except for his semi-final, save-the-equipment pass into the finals where he would line up against Victor. Ron boasted the quicker reaction time of the two with a 0.478 light, but Victor wasn't far behind with his own 0.493 reaction time. But his 10.48 was no match for Ron's 10.32.

The other half of Geezer Street included Victor Downs, racing out of the MD Motorsports/Boss 330 Racing camp. Victor's performance has improved all year from 11.0s at the beginning of the year to mid-10s at Columbus. With a Four-Valve under the hood of his '98 Cobra, qualified in the fifth spot, but luck was on his side in eliminations. In round one, Michael Tymensky was still sorting out his program, allowing Victor to get to Larry Wier, but his car ran into problems and was unable to make the race. Then Victor taught a couple young whippersnappers a thing or two about the value of quicker reaction times. He Tree'd his next two opponents Darrin Carter and Ryan Hecox to get to the final, but in that race, Victor would be the pupil with Ron Anderson taking the victory.

Prior to the Columbus race, Eric Holliday's Factory Stock program really turned around. He told us of 11.50s in testing back home in Maryland, thanks to a Rich Groh Racing-built Two-Valve modular with Fox Lake Power Products-prepped heads, but we chalked those times up to the usual in-testing heroics that no one's able to back up at an event. Eric shut us up with an 11.59 to qualify number one. He has struggled with his Cobra's clutch setup and its electrical system, but at Columbus, "it was like a walk in the park." Before you pass off Eric as being cocky, he prefaced his comments by saying the only reason it seemed easy was because several top-tier Factory Stock racers broke on Sunday, making it easier for him to get the win.

Two modulars in the final of Real Street, and a pushrod car in the Factory Stock final-stop the presses! The NMRA updated the rules in Factory Stock with a camshaft revision for pushrod cars allowing more performance-oriented cams. Even so, the pushrod cars were stuck in the 11.80s at Columbus, including John Leslie Jr., but he made it the final, thanks to wins against Louis Sylvester, Steve Gifford, and a semi-final bye run. However, Leslie didn't have enough for Eric Holliday in the final.

Sean Hill is a Columbus local who came out to National Trail Raceway to race in Wild Street with his Fox hatch'. The Windsor-powered LX boasts a judicious amount of nitrous, and gear selection is via a C4, resulting in quarter-mile times in the 10.0 flat range. Sean won Wild Street due to a 10.32 average, but each pass was slower than the one prior. Sean says something is amiss with the nitrous system, so we hope to see single digit passes out of this car soon.

We don't think anyone's ever debated this in an open forum, but we wonder who is the winningest driver in Ford sportsman drag racing? We don't know who for sure, but one would have to think Robert Hindman would be close to the top. Combined with his heads-up wins back in the day and his index-format wins, Robert is one of the few racers to almost make a living off of sportsman drag racing. Against Pete Espeut in round two, Robert cut a perfect light and ran right on his 11.46 dial with an 11.467 pass. He continued that magic into the later rounds, and took the final round win against Don Bowles' '06 Roush.

Being the new owner of a '94 Cobra, we have to send a big shout out to Open Comp winner Randy Conway. The Rockwood, Michigan, resident took his own '94 Cobra to victory using deft reaction times with his spot-on index runs, if not for a couple that were a bit too quick. Fortunately for him, Randy's competitors made worse mistakes to keep him in. In the final, Mr. Open Comp Larry Geddes came calling, but the usually quick-reacting Larry pulled the trigger a hair too soon with a heartbreakingly close 0.497 light, handing Randy the win.

In Truck and Lightning, it seems a Ford Ranger is the way to go. Of the nine trucks in competition, three were Rangers. Guess which three trucks made it to the semi-finals? All three Rangers-driven by Scott Sexton, Dave Cole, and Captain Keith Kohlmann. The Captain sat at the top of the qualifying ladder with a 0.501 reaction time, combined with a 10.54 index. With a small-block on the spray, Keith squeezed his way past Robert Cosgrove and fellow Ranger driver Dave Cole before taking on Scott in the final. With Keith's 10.54 index compared to Scott 9.22, the Captain had the move, and he made the best of it with a 0.531 light. Scott's answer was a 0.560 reaction time, giving Keith the advantage right out of the gate. The Captain held on with a 10.56 to stay out in front of Scott for the win.