KJ Jones Senior Technical Editor
January 1, 2008
Photos By: Paul Rosner, KJ Jones

Horse Sense: The battle for power-adder supremacy in our own Real Street class is proving to be one of the hottest head-to-head fights of any other NMRA heads-up category this season. In addition to their boost-versus-jets rivalry, Tim Matherly (supercharged) and Bruce Hemminger (nitrous) are in a seesaw battle for the Real Street points lead and, ultimately, the ring and jacket that an NMRA class title brings.

Many of you may be newcomers to the Mustang hobby or are simply too young to know much about Mustang drag racing's deep history. Younger 'Stangbangers-let's say those of you between the ages of 18 and 24-might feel that hard-core 'Stang racing at the track began with the creation of the National Mustang Racers Association and its inaugural event held in Maple Grove, Pennsylvania, in 1999. Those of you with a few more years under your belts may cite Fun Ford Weekend as being the founding sanction for organized, all-Ford drag racing, with Bradenton, Florida, being the host in the early '90s.

For us, the nostalgic thoughts were strong prior to arriving at this year's NMRA event-the 7th Annual Keystone Ford Nationals presented by Downs Ford Motorsport. The little-known fact about sanctioned Mustang drag racing is that its true point of origin is the Garden State of New Jersey. Atco Raceway (the fifth stop on the NMRA's 2007 tour) is actually one of the first venues to host events held by what may arguably be the first Mustang-racing sanctioning body ever: the now-defunct American Mustang Racing Association.

Although Atco's famous "teeth" (starting-line traction that was once notorious for annihilating Mustangs' rearends) weren't as sharp as we've seen in years past, and unfortunately there was no Friday-night qualifying session this year, it was cool to see there has been no major change in the track's mineshaft-like, sea-level air, as evidenced by Mike DeMayo's quick 8.77 in Hot Street and the 8.09 that John Kolivas posted as Drag Radial's low e.t. in qualifying. Atco's low altitude has always been held in the same high regard as its hook.

'Stang fans and the employees of NMRA's title sponsor, Keystone, enjoyed great Ford drag racing in every category. The action included Quick 8-style shootout events thrown by Nitto (Drag Radial, won by John Kolivas), Carnivore (EFI Renegade, won by Bart Tobener), and Edelbrock (Hot Street, won by Mike DeMayo), which were held during Saturday's qualifying sessions.

With two events remaining and the points gaps closer in several categories, we're fairly sure points leaders and championship contenders will be throwing out all the stops in Columbus and Bowling Green, racing with a vengeance to determine who will join the elite fraternity of NMRA class champions.

With spotty traction throughout the weekend, Atco Raceway didn't quite live up to its House of Hook reputation, but the track's near-perfect atmosphere produced some of the best August performances we've seen in a few years.

Before Tim Matherly and Bruce Hemminger met in the Real Street final at Atco, the two staged yet another classic 1,320-foot brawl in the Nitto Tire Real Street Shootout. Bruce got the edge on Tim in this contest (9.81/136 to 9.85/135), adding $2,000 to his win total for the weekend.

Since your California-based tech editor's trip to the East included a week of shop and manufacturer visits after the Atco race, this sporty '07 Mustang Shelby GT was a more appropriate mode of transportation than a basic rental car. The special edition 'Stang received plenty of attention from Mustang enthusiasts at the race and throughout the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas where KJ racked up miles.

Our friend Henry D., editor of Chevy High Performance, told us Brian Zaid's stealthy '89 Fox coupe is one sick piece; seeing it run in person confirmed his endorsement. The transplanted 'Stang (Brian is originally from San Diego, and his Pony still sports current Cali tags) is motivated by a 427-inch Windsor and a ProCharger F-2, coupled with a street-inspired Lentech AOD transmission. The unassuming 'Stang blitzed the clocks at Atco with consistent mid-9-second e.t.'s in True Street. Check out the heavy 17-inch wheels at all four corners, and the seats are covered in gray sheepskin. Sleeper!

Mike "Junior" DeMayo's Roush-powered '95 GT took full advantage of Atco's killer atmospheric conditions (unseasonably mild temperature and density altitude just a shade above sea level) and put down a record-setting 8.779 e.t. in qualifying. Mike also ran the table in the Edelbrock Hot Street Shootout, driving around Andy Schmidt in the final (8.78/154 to 8.83/154) of the race-within-a-race to capture the two extra Gs.

It was cool seeing drag-radial legend Dwayne "Big Daddy" Gutridge (with microphone) back on the NMRA scene after a long absence. Big Daddy was a guest analyst for PowerTV's coverage of the Atco event, interviewing racers and offering insight on the action that could only come from someone with his knowledge and experience in 'Stang racing.

We counted five fans (in addition to the radiator fan) blowing cool air on the Schmidt brothers' engine. If cooling like this is really needed between rounds, "Hot" Street is truly a more-than-fitting name for the class.