K.J. Jones
November 1, 2007
Photos By: Paul Rosner
The new Drag-Radial guy, Kevin Fiscus, instantly drew the attention of his competitors and the crowd when his New Edge posted an eye-popping 179.51 mph during round one of qualifying. Despite unsuccessful efforts to duplicate the speed and shatter the current class record, he used a win in round one, a major upset in the second stanza, and a primo ladder spot in the semis, earning membership in the always-growing "First-Time NMRA Finalist Club."

Horse Sense: What do you get when you gather seven of the nation's top Mustang-mag editors with seven other scribes and execs of other automotive rags, put them in randomly selected, FRPP-outfitted Ponies, faux Cobras, and pickups, and cut them loose against each other on the dragstrip? Editor Steve Turner got a firsthand opportunity to find out the answer. He shares his take on the experience with you in the "Ford Racing Invitational" sidebar included in our Milan report.

Getting back to business, both new and unfinished, was the number-one thing on racers' minds as they arrived en masse at Milan Dragway (a new Midwest venue on the NMRA tour) for the fourth running of the Toyo Tires NMRA Ford Nationals.

After 10 weeks off between events-for some reason it seemed much longer-it was time to settle scores that remained open after rain prevented completion of the Reynolds, Georgia, event in March.

Racers were paired during qualifying to run the remaining rounds of their respective Reynolds eliminators, and Milan proved to be the lucky spot for many, as several Georgia winners and runners-up found themselves in final rounds for the Toyo Tires NMRA Ford Nationals.

Milan also set the stage for the third event in NMRA's season-long series of shootout races. In the B&M/McLeod Pure Street Shootout, the top eight '06 Pure Street points earners competed in a race-within-a-race during qualifying, with an additional big-bucks payout going to the winner.

The early summer weather was hot, and the racing action even hotter. Keep reading for details and photos of how it all went down in Motown.

FYI
It was cool to see Amy Sherwin return to NMRA Pure Street competition at Milan with the debut of her new 25.2-certified '87 LX trunk-model 'Stang-a top-end accident at Columbus last year destroyed her '90 LX. Amy's race day ended in the first round when new-car bugs got the best of her coupe in a matchup with Scott Barker.

Editor Steve Turner represented 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords in the inaugural Ford Racing Media Invitational, an exciting sideshow held between rounds of NMRA qualifying. The event pitted lead scribes-or their appointed substitutes-of 14 print and online car mags against each other in a bracket-style competition behind the wheel of Ford Racing's hottest Mustangs, F-150 pickups, and Factory-Five roadsters to see who's best. Unfortunately, our chief became an instant spectator after his first-round red light put him out of the deal, but the perpetual smile on his face let us know he was having a great time.

Race fans, racers, and magazine editors were all taking bets on what the experimental V-8 under the hood of Don Bowles' Roush machine really is. With its massive girth, gargantuan cylinder heads featuring what appear to be spark-plug locations on their sides instead of the top, and an intake system that includes a unique arrangement of individual throttle bodies, our unanimous thought is that this engine-it's so bad, we can't bring ourselves to call it a motor, which is an incorrect term anyway-is really "boss." The folks at Roush and Ford Racing, and Don himself, are keeping its official identification close to the vest right now, but keep watch for more information on this mystery bullet in future issues of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords.

We've always been big on giving props where props are due. Dale Hemrick deserves major kudos for hauling his four-eyed Mercury Capri to Milan from Canoga Park, California, just a few hoods away from Tech Editor KJ Jones' stomping grounds in Reseda. Dale made the most of his vacation by visiting family in the Detroit area, qualifying 12th, and sending Mike Sodano home with a red light in round one of Open Comp.

Pro 5.0
Michael Hauf made up for his loss to Tony Bischoff in the Reynolds final by out-dueling Joe Morgan in the money round of the Milan event. With the win, Michael maintains a strong points lead going into the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl at Joliet as the team prepares to make a hard second-half charge for a back-to-back championship.

"We went through a lot this weekend, and I'm just happy we made it to the final," says Joe Morgan immediately after his runner-up finish in Pro 5.0. After spending the night between qualifying and eliminations repairing a cylinder-and watching John Urist create a new head stud for their nitrous-pumped big-block-the Motive Gear team had plenty to be proud of; its road to the final also included a dramatic win over Tony Bischoff's Cougar.

Outlaw 10.5
While Brian Carpenter drilled in the Tree with a 0.004 reaction in his semifinal pairing with a quicker, faster Keith Neal, he mustered up a wicked holeshot and managed to keep electrical gremlins in check long enough to capture his first NMRA 10.5 Outlaw title in a runaway victory over Greg Blevins Jr. in the final round. Brian thanks Luke Huber, Mike Daniels, and Dean Sibik for helping him nail down the win and post the class' quickest/fastest lap of the weekend (7.17/206) in the final.

Despite knocking off the Reynolds 10.5 Outlaw champ in the first round, Greg Blevins Jr. couldn't duplicate another big round win when he met Brian Carpenter in the final. "We borrowed a turbo from Manny Buginga on Friday after hurting ours, and that's what helped us get to the final," says Greg. "We had to gamble and turn it up in the final." The move proved to be in vain, as Greg's GT blew the tires away at the hit, leaving Brian an easy cruise down Broadway to the win light.

Super Street Outlaw
While racers' roads to victory often appear to be easy on the surface, there's usually a lot more to an NMRA win than what meets the eye. In Sam Vincent's case, his Milan triumph came without track-side assistance from his always-present crewchief, Steve Matukas, who wasn't able to attend. Sam's high-7.40 e.t.'s were phenomenal for the small-block/nitrous combination in his 'Stang, given the 90-degree weather and considering he had to hustle his engine block and a cylinder head to Tony Bischoff for repair-240 miles from his Kentucky home-one week before the Milan event.

Don "Burndown" Burton fell just short of earning the nickname Double-Down Don Burton at Milan. Extensive testing after WFCX and a fair amount of racer's luck helped him capture the Reynolds win during qualifying, enabling him to capitalize on a holeshot against John Urist in the semis on Sunday. The victory over John set the stage for a landmark battle of "Steve cars" (Steve Matukas also helps Don with chassis calls) in the Milan final, in which Sam Vincent emerged the victor.

EFI Renegade
First-time NMRA winner Joel Howard refuses to take credit for his win in Renegade. "The car and my crew (Chris, Angie, Tyler, Steve, Lisa, and Lance) did all the work this weekend," he says. "I certainly didn't do my job." In the first three rounds, Joel's super-sano '86 hatchback overcame poor starts and stormed from behind to take out Randy King, David Guy, and Bart Tobener. Joel's reactions improved after that, and he ran away from fellow nitrous competitor Brian Tuten's coupe in the semis, and then covered fellow first-time finalist Chris Beary's Cobra by a full second in the money round.

Renegade newcomer Chris Beary parlayed having more racer's luck than others, all the way to his first-ever final. Things were looking good for him in round one when he drove away from defending points champ Brian Mitchell's problem-plagued LX. In the second stanza, a catastrophic driveline failure ended Sal Arena's race day, and the final-and biggest-stroke of luck came in round three, when Tony Orts redlighted and guaranteed Chris' uncontested trip to the final.

Hot Street
Ben Mens showed the most Father's Day emotion after taking the top prize for Milan's Hot Street eliminator in a photo-finish final with Robbie Blankenship. After claiming class-champion honors in the Reynolds redux, Ben used a special Dad's Day card as his inspiration on Sunday and "never looked back," he says. "From number-one qualifier to double-event winner, [Ben also built the engine in runner-up Robbie's 'Stang] I couldn't ask for a better weekend." The victory puts him on top of the points heap in a category that's shaping up to be one of the NMRA's most competitive.

Robbie Blankenship, this year's Bradenton Hot Street champ, installed his new Ben Mens-built Roush 400 days prior to the event and tested it on Wednesday at Milan. "We worked on getting the chassis to handle the new power," says Robbie. That "new power" earned him a number-two spot on the ladder and carried him to round wins against David Murray, Justin Curry, and Mike Curcio. Robbie says lane choice ultimately played the biggest role in his loss to Ben Mens in the Milan final: "I Tree'd him, but he just got by me. The left lane was better, but with that kind of finish-where you have no idea who won or lost-it was definitely a great drag race."

Drag Radial
Chris "Two-Timer" Tuten was another double-event winner at Milan Dragway, capturing gold in the Reynolds final and blazing through a stacked ladder (that included pairings versus Bob Kurgan and Dave Hopper) in the Toyo Tires NMRA Ford Nationals. "The car won this one," says Chris, expressing a sentiment similar to that of Renegade winner Joel Howard. "It never spun the tires all weekend, and it made us enough money for an engine rebuild." The back-to-back victories bring BMF Racing's total to five wins thus far in 2007 (three in other sanctions) and push Chris ahead of Iceman John Kolivas in the Drag Radial points chase.

First race, first final. Class newcomer, Kevin Fiscus, took his "I'm here" message (a 179-mph qualifying speed) a step further in eliminations when he sent the usually automatic John Kolivas packing in round two. Traction issues prevailed in the final versus Chris Tuten, cutting short Kevin's hope of bagging his first victory in NMRA Drag Radial.

Real Street
Bruce Hemminger spent his weekend duking it out with Tim Matherly for Real Street supremacy. Bruce runnered-up to Tim in the Reynolds final and let him experience how Second Place feels in the final round of the Milan race. "We put down the quickest-ever Real Street 60-foot (1.29) in qualifying, but struggled throughout eliminations trying to get a handle on the track and the weather," Bruce says. "I called Billy Glidden just before the final, and he gave me the tuning advice I needed to pull off this win." Bruce's 9.92 e.t. leaves a lot on the table (Tim's blown Bullitt went 9.94), as the Internet debate over increasing jet sizes for Real Street nitrous 'Stangs continues.

The "welcome back" award goes to Scott "Swill" Lovell and Craig Baldwin. The two NMRA veterans teamed up and brought Craig's '88 coupe out of retirement to mix it up in Real Street. Transmission issues made their return less glorious than they hoped, as Scott was forced to take a seat in the stands courtesy of Don Bosley in round one.

Tim Matherly made a couple of changes to his clutch setup and almost left Michigan with two NMRA victories in one weekend. The Reynolds winner dispatched Don Bosley and Paul Alfeo in rounds two and three, and once again met Bruce Hemminger for all the marbles in the Milan final. "Once I got a pressure plate in the car that I liked, all we had to do was change plugs," says Tim. Despite the relatively smooth run through eliminations, he was unable to run down Bruce's holeshot lead in the final.

Shawn Johnson continues to struggle in his debut season in Real Street. A broken serpentine belt combined with a red-light start in the first round foiled the former Factory Stock dominator's effort to record his first round win in the class.

Bad Brad Meadows gave his dad a great Father's Day and left Milan with a nice chunk of change in his pocket. He collected Second Place pay for his Reynolds finish versus Jimmy Wilson, ran the table in the B&M/McLeod Pure Street Shootout for an additional eight hundie, and closed the weekend by beating Jimmy in the Milan final, earning Brad the winner's share of Pure Street's purse. He says the good fortune couldn't have happened without his consistent crew and a few speed secrets from Grandpa Ron Anderson, who was on hand and helped with the carb tuning on Brad's '95 Snake.

Pure Street
Jimmy Wilson continues to add Pure Street final-round appearances to his '07 racing resume. At Milan, he scored his first event win of the season in the Reynolds recap and continued his winning ways-round-win style-against Ron Cullember and Mike Tymensky in the first two segments of the Toyo Tires NMRA Ford Nationals. A bye in the semis earned Jimmy a trip to final number three for the year, where he lost a close (0.050 at the stripe) drag race with Brad Meadows.

Factory Stock
Rear suspension problems on Friday brought Brian Marr close to the point of packing up and going home. "Thanks to Jeff Schmell, Ian Mullane, and Paul Svinicki, who calmed me down and kept me going, I was able to make my first trip to the finals," Brian says. John Leslie Jr. and Dennis Morrow were first- and second-round victims. After making a solo pass in the semifinals, Brian put the lights out on Team JPC's two-race winning streak in the class by defeating Tommy Godfrey in the final.

JPC's second Factory Stock jockey cites "mental mistakes" as the primary reason for his two-race, runner-up performance at Milan Dragway. Tommy Godfrey gave teammate Jonathan Paulk his first win of 2007 when he lit the red bulb in their Reynolds final, then repeated the same tragedy in his Milan final conflict with Brian Marr. "It's my third time in the car and I haven't had any opportunity to test," Tommy says. "We'll have a new bullet ready for Joliet, and I'll definitely be better prepared for that race."

Modular Muscle
Tom Motyka worked his way through five rounds in a tough Modular Muscle field and emerged victorious despite breaking out in his final-round match-up with Chris Colitas. Chris also ran under his index (by a larger margin than Tom's breakout), giving Tom the first victory of the Motyka brothers' two-class triumph at Milan.

It was a random drawing, but Editor Turner got lucky by being the first in line. Out of the hat, he drew the lone '07 GT 500 coupe. As if it couldn't get better, the car was equipped with a Ford Racing Super Pack supercharger upgrade resulting in 600 flywheel horsepower. It also wore black wheels and an FRPP shifter. A 600hp stick car might not have been the best for a bracket race, but it was a fun ride while it lasted.

By: Steve Turner
Attending the Ford Racing Invitational held within the confines of the Milan, Michigan, NMRA race proved one of the strangest and most fun experiences I've had at an NMRA race. It was unusual: I'm used to covering the race, not participating in it. Fortunately, KJ Jones and Paul Rosner were already on board to cover Milan, so all I had to do was show up and have fun. Of course, I was nervous from the moment Ford Racing's Jesse Kershaw mentioned the event.

You see, the idea with the Ford Invitational was to get the media behind the wheel of some of Ford's cool rides further augmented by Ford Racing's cool parts. Knowing we media types are suckers for an automotive good time and we usually write about something when we have fun, Jesse had the idea to put a bunch of us in these cars and trucks. The twist was having us compete against one another.

I was nervous because my driving is about as erratic as my writing. I've never been big on the bracket thing, but I know it takes a consistent car, a consistent driver, and knowledge of how the weather and track conditions will affect the car's performance. Bracket racers craft combinations and technique based on a lot of testing. Making laps, recording the car's performance and weather conditions, many racers have a playbook for any condition. They know how the car will react. I've spent plenty of time in new Mustangs, but this would be my first time in the FRPP-supercharged GT 500.

The track opened on the afternoon of Friday, June 15. Laid out in a row was a collection of Ford Mustangs, Ford trucks, and Factory Five roadsters, all equipped with FRPP gear. It was quite a sight, as the cars wrapped all around the front of Ford Racing display. When I drew a GT 500 out of the box, the smile on my face must've been huge. I grabbed the keys and psyched myself up. The Ford Racing crew quickly adorned the cars with the drivers' names, so I couldn't really hide. As such, I decided to embrace the scene and outfit the car with 5.0&SF stickers and a license plate.

I knew had minimal chance of winning, so I concentrated on driving the car and letting the cards fall where they may. If nothing else, the Ford Invitational acted as our first drag test of the new FRPP Super Pack. As soon as we were cleared for test runs, I hopped in the GT 500 and put it in the staging lanes. How surreal it was to be right in the lanes with the real NMRA racers. As I approached the burnout box, I knew it would be a struggle to corral 600 hp on the stock radials, but I hammed up a big burnout for the cameras anyway.

Staging the car, I revved it barely above idle, slept at the Tree, and eased the car out. It spun on the 1-2 shift, but it kept moving forward as it clawed at the sticky track. I granny shifted into Second, but once the car settled down, I power-shifted into Third and, just before the finish line, Fourth. Each time I barely tickled the rev limiter before shifting. I was still learning the car, but it was ice cold. To say I was shocked by the result was an understatement-the GT 500 clicked off an 11.89 e.t. at 119.34 mph. I thought that was a great time for a 4,070-pound (with Editor) car on street radials.

I spent the rest of the testing time trying to reclaim or eclipse my former glory to no avail. Either I screwed up a shift, spun the tires, or the car got heat soaked from my hot-lapping it. I managed a 12.43/133.58 pass for my first qualifying pass Friday evening. My sorry 0.319 reaction time put me far down the qualifying sheet, but I had the pleasure of putting three-tenths on my old pal and eventual number-one qualifier, Mustang & Fords editor, Mark Houlahan. I improved to a 0.137 reaction time in the final round of qualifying to put me mid-pack and managed a 12.01/116.63 hit in the second round.

I was having fun, but the good times were about to end. My qualifying reaction time put me up against Car Craft publisher John Gallagher piloting one of the FRPP-supercharged pickups in round one. John was cutting good lights and running consistent. I knew I had to run a great race, but I got too anxious and lit the red bulb (-0.0972 versus John's 0.1000). To add insult to injury, I saw the red bulb out the corner of my eye and the distraction helped me miss second, resulting in a 13.26/113 losing effort.

Of course the real story was that FRPP's warranty-friendly Super Pack takes a stock GT 500 beyond 500 hp at the rear wheels and puts it solidly in the 11s with no other mods. I might not be a winner, but the FRPP blower certainly is.