Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
February 17, 2008
Contributers: Paul Rosner Photos By: Paul Rosner

Horse Sense: One of the things NMRA racers like about the Columbus race is the close proximity of speed shops, including Jegs and Summit Racing. There are several Jegs stores in the Columbus area, and Summit Racing's Tallmadge, Ohio, location isn't that far, either. In the past, we've even loaned our driving "talents" (and our rental car) to pick up parts for Justin Burcham in Michigan.

As the '07 NMRA season wound down to a close, racers utilized every last ounce of usable horsepower to set the table at Columbus for a strong finish at Bowling Green, the last race of the year. For many, earning points was at the top of the list, so everything was going in the tune to keep performance up. Many racers planned to review their combinations before Bowling Green's finale, so most were willing to push them to the limit for an extra tenth or so. At Columbus, several heads-up classes were still up for grabs, and many won't be settled until the final round at Bowling Green.

Brian and Chris Tuten stayed busy at the Columbus race. EFI Renegade racer Brian obliterated a piston during his second-round bye run, but the guys had him back together in time for round three. Brian redlit, handing the round win to eventual class winner Brian Mitchell. In drag radial, Chris burned up his Powerglide transmission. "I'm mad," he says. It's a good thing he had a stock 'Glide in the trailer, but when he took out the burnt tranny, the crew discovered the torque converter was toast as well, which Chris didn't have. Good thing he and fellow Drag Radial racer John Kolivas are friends. John loaned Chris his spare converter so the South Carolina racer could stay in the game. They met in the semis with John taking round win.

We had our cameras ready, we were on the right side of the track, and we had even told turbocharged four-cylinder racer extraordinaire Jon Huber to get in the right lane so we could capture wheels-up action. Unfortunately, this was all Jon gave us. We can't be that mad at him, though. His '79 Turbo 4 wasn't ridin' on slicks at Columbus in True Street, but that didn't stop him from taking the top spot with a 9.90. After the Columbus NMRA race event, Jon and his dad Papa Jon Huber took the '79 on Hot Rod magazine's Drag Week for the second year in a row. The Hubers had issues all week, and on the final day blew a spark plug out of the cylinder head, leaving a dented hood and zero threads in the head. Cool stuff, for sure.

Leading up to the Columbus race, Bob Kurgan was involved in a racing accident during testing. It was thought his signature '86 GT was a total loss, but Humpty Dumpty was put back together again for more quarter-mile battles. "It was basically rebuilt from scratch," Bob says. Lonnie's Autobody outfitted the '86 GT with a new hatch, new doors, new fenders, a quarter-panel, the passenger-side rocker panel, and new front and rear bumper covers. "The body was pulled in about four spots to get the car to come back straight," Bob adds. With the new body panels in place, the car received its base color before heading over to Sticker Dude Designs to finish with a custom wrap. At Columbus, Bob replaced the driver-side A-arm and performed an in-the-pit alignment, but the car didn't work well for him the whole race. After Columbus, he returned to Byron Dragway, where he wrecked the car and ran a season best 8.14 at 171 mph-in the same lane. "If you can imagine, I ran a single," Bob says.

Modular Muscle racer Stacy Estel is usually a mild-mannered guy when we see him around the pits, but when he broke a couple lower control arm bolts in eliminations...well, we'll just say we felt sorry for the center console and his right hand. Stacy's car used to be owned by current Real Street racer Jim Breese, and it's the car Jim won Modular Muscle with in the early 2000s. Stacy was trying to move up in the points, but not making it past the first round nixed that goal.

In Super Street Outlaw, Perry Santini's insanely clean '86 GT runs a single turbocharged Four-Valve under the stock hood. Unfortunately, his GT almost became a guardrail ornament during qualifying after appearing to get way sideways at top end. Fortunatey, the car suffered only a mere scuff, allowing Perry to compete on Sunday. He has been sneaking up on the tune-up all year and has run low 8s in competition. At Columbus, he made it past the first round, but John Urist took him out in round two. Perry's GT launched hard, but John powered through with the round win.

Pro 5.0 - While many racers struggled in qualifying, Pro 5.0's Tony Bischoff had no such issues. His nitrous-fed big-block Cougar lit up the scoreboards with a 6.60 at 209 mph in round two of qualifying, standing up as the top qualifying time in Pro 5.0. With three cars in Pro 5.0 at Columbus, Tony had a bye run to the final, where he met the lone Mustang in Pro 5.0 of Michael Hauf. Though Michael was able to get a fingertip lead at the start, Tony stepped it up on the top end with a 6.63 at 213 mph to Michael's 6.69 at 209 mph.

Pro 5.0 - Michael Hauf and Tony Bischoff were battling for every point at Columbus, as they were separated by just a few points at the top of the class. When the sun set on the Columbus race, Michael lost some ground to Tony when the BES Racing Cougar won the event over Michael's 816ci big-block '04-bodied Mustang. Though Michael did everything he could to get the win, including a stellar reaction time, he couldn't stay out front to take the win and earn valuable points.

Super Street Outlaw - Score one for the Fox Bodies. Jarrett Halfacre's Fox GT Super Street Outlaw ride still wore the pancake'd passenger side as a result of a brush with the Route 66 Raceway wall. For his next trick at Columbus, he put the car in the sand trap at the top end of the track after his round-three qualifying effort with a 7.447 at 195 mph. That third round of qualifying was epic with Don "Burndown" Burton juicin' out a 7.47, and John "The Fireball" Urist following up Jarrett and Don with a 7.48. Jarrett ran his slowest pass, a 7.60 at 194 mph against Manny Buginga's 7.65 in round two. In the semis, it seemed the NMRA had the rules pretty much right with a turbo car (Jarrett), a nitrous car (Don), and a supercharged car (John) still in battle. Jarrett had the bye, and John was able to take out Don. We'd still be sitting there if Jarrett and Don were racing in the final, but instead Jarrett won the race with a 7.57 to John's 7.65.

Super Street Outlaw - We can remember the days when John "The Fireball" Urist packed a group of friends into an old Winnebago for a trip to Bradenton to race. Now a veteran of this game, he celebrated his 30th birthday the weekend of the Columbus NMRA race. John and crew members Nate Phillips and Mike Rousch had a relatively easy time compared to other races in 2007. During long breaks in the action, naps outside John's 18-wheeler were commonplace. The big topic, especially in Super Street Outlaw, was lane choice. For the final, Jarrett Halfacre had lane choice with his quicker run between himself and John. The Fireball did his best with a 0.447 reaction time, but Jarrett was right there with his own 0.452 light. At the stripe, John was a tick off with a 7.65 to Jarrett's 7.57.

Drag Radial - What a weekend for the drag radial guys. They could barely get down the track-even class stud John Kolivas had issues making a clean pass. Chris Tuten also had his own snags. With John and Chris having problems, NMRA Drag Radial upstart Kevin Fiscus firmly cemented his place in the upper echelon of the class, but not before having his own troubles even before making it to National Trail Raceway. After he went through the traps at 170 mph during his first-round qualifying hit, the chutes didn't open, causing Kevin to hammer a leg-full of brakes resulting in a lock-up and sending the car into a spin. "The car ended up facing the wrong direction, but it didn't hit anything," Kevin says. The only damage was flat-spotting the new tires. "It's a good thing Jeg's was open until 9 on Friday night, and just 30 minutes from the track so we were able to get a new set of tires," Kevin adds. With the new tires, he qualified number one with his second-round attempt only to go even quicker for round three to hold on to the top spot. During routine maintenance after qualifying, Kevin and the crew found metal shavings in the transmission oil pan so the tranny came out for a closer look to make sure it was good for Sunday's eliminations. During eliminations, the transmission and the rest of the car worked great, and Kevin won his first event in his rookie season.

Drag Radial - Listening to drag radial racers and peeking at the NMRA boards, you'd think those guys were dancing arm in arm down the street after the Columbus race. However, John Kolivas and Chris Tuten are in a dogfight for the championship. John and his crew struggled, as did the rest of the class, to make a clean pass. Good for John, Chris had his own struggles to deal with, but they had nothing to do with track conditions. Most drag radial racers were taking out power down low, then trying to find the sweet spot to bring it back in. It was strange not to see the customary 8.0s, but it was what it was. Perennial favorite John was stuck in the 8.30s, qualifying second to Kevin Fiscus. John was able to get out an 8.28 against Bob Kurgan and his rebuilt ride, but then he barely got past Chris thanks to a holeshot. In the final, John didn't get a good start, giving Kevin an advantage he wouldn't concede.

EFI Renegade - Brian Mitchell had a strange noise coming from his engine at Columbus, but it was thought to be from the accessory drive system. In his cool, calm, and collected demeanor, he dismissed the issue and declared the thing might scatter itself on the next pass. No such luck for the other EFI Renegade racers, because he figured out the problem before eliminations and continued his run for the championship. Against the other Brian in EFI Renegade, Brian Tuten, he could've been squeezed out of competition, but the other Brian redlighted, as did Bart Tobener in the semis, allowing him a trip to the final against George Seeger. George didn't get a good start against Brian in the final, handing him the victory.

EFI Renegade - Little Georgie Porgie Seeger (Thanks, Scott) ran really well at Columbus last year, but he hasn't been out as much to back up that performance this year. Like last year, he was again running really strong at Columbus. George was in the 8.60s during qualifying to land in the third spot, and he continued to run strong during eliminations. In the final against Brian Mitchell, the track wasn't picking up what he was putting down, allowing Brian to jump out front and stay there.

Hot Street - Thanks to the mild temperatures and a sticky track (at least for the slick-tired cars), Hot Street racers were flyin' at Columbus. Justin Curry was the quickest of the bunch with an 8.797 at 151 mph, but Team Powerhead teammates Ben Mens and Mike Demayo were right on his heels with identical 8.815 runs. Ben earned the number-two qualifying spot thanks to a smidge faster trap speed. However, Mike and his SN-95 ride hit paydirt with consistently quick reaction times combined with 8.80s in eliminations. In the final against Tim Eichorn, Mike slipped to an 8.915, but Tim had problems, handing Mike the win.

Hot Street - Tim Eichorn had extra pit help the weekend of Columbus in the form of Kentucky Sam Vincent, whose car was hurt and unable to compete in Super Street Outlaw. Tim qualified down in the eighth spot, but that's not very far from the top in Hot Street. Hot Street's top qualifier Justin Curry boasted an 8.797, but Tim's 8.92 wasn't anything a quick reaction time couldn't make up. That's exactly what enabled him to get to the finals: his quick reaction times. His first round competition Trace Meyer was a no-show so no worries there, but Tim used a 0.430 light to get past Robert Blankenship in round two, and then a 0.411 reaction time to get past David Murray in the semis. Kentucky Sam's luck must've spread to Tim's car in the final, allowing Mike Demayo to run away with the win.

Real Street - Tim Matherly had a few issues at Columbus. First of all, he thought his Two-Valve powerplant let go, but it was actually just a cam follower. Unfortunately, the engine was already out by the time he checked the little stuff. Then his car began going slightly left on launches instead of the usual straight-as-an-arrow take-offs. Tim was able to calm the car down enough to take the win over Bruce Hemminger in the final.

Real Street - In case anyone thought Bruce Hemminger had something hidden up his nitrous bottle, an NMRA tech went through his nitrous system after qualifying, and everything was found legal. Bruce loved how his car performed up to the 330-foot mark, but not so much after that. Even so, he qualified in the top spot with a 9.80 at 136 mph, with Tim Matherly and Michael Washington the only other Real Street racers sharing the 9-second zone. During Sunday's eliminations, Bruce ran solid 9.80-9.90 flats, but in the final against Tim, his 10.04 wasn't able to match Tim's 9.90.

Real Street - Pitted right next to fellow Real Street racers was Craig Baldwin's car, but our boy Craig was nowhere to be found. That's because the car is now owned by Brian McCormick. Brian has a PHD (Papa Has a Dealership) since his dad owns Bob McCormick Ford, and Brian owns a motorcycle dealership in Hughesville, Pennsylvania, called Ye Olde Cycle Barn. Before he started racing fast cars, Brian ran NHRA Super Stock and Super Comp classes. The cars he ran were automatics, so he was still getting used to the shifting in Real Street. He qualified with a stout 10.12 at 133 mph and made it to the semifinals where Tim Matherly welcomed him to the jungle with a 9.89 to Brian's 10.12.

Real Street - Jim Breese hurt the engine in his Real Street ride at Atco, and he just got it back right before the Columbus race. During routine maintenance after round one of qualifying, he found water in the oil. The engine came out to replace both head gaskets, but then he hurt the engine third round of qualifying so he had to take it out again and put in the spare. All that work made it possible to make eliminations, but then he smoked the clutch against Bruce Hemminger to end his weekend.

Pure Street - From what we hear (wink, wink), Grandpa Ron Anderson likes to run more gear than the usual pushrod-powered Pure Street racer. Supposedly, he likes to get out and going, and hope his competitor is unable to catch up. At Columbus, that theory worked, even with Ron himself working on the car, tuning the carburetor and changing plugs-stuff like that. Every other Pure Street racer knows when Grandpa's on the property, it's going to be a dogfight-er, shootout-we mean, it's going to be a tough race. However, with Grandpa down in seventh spot after qualifying in a tough Pure Street class at Columbus, it looked as though it was anyone's race. Looking like a baby Hot Street class, Pure Street racers we're separated by thousands of a second on the qualifying ladder. When the clutch smoke cleared, Grandpa's rockin' chair stood at the top with a victory over young whippersnapper Jimmy Wilson in the final.

Pure Street - As usual, Jimmy Wilson spent some quality time under his Pure Street car changing out clutches and transmissions. At Columbus, he swapped in a Hanlon Pro-Shifted T5 because he says it felt better than the one he had in it. With Pure Street points tighter than airport security, Jimmy was throwing everything he had at the car. Aside from the tranny swap, he added new lifters, but he says, "The car just doesn't want to do what it's supposed to." Jimmy planned to freshen the engine before the Bowling Green final because the car ran 10.20s back at the Reynolds race, but it's gotten slower so he thinks it might be getting tired. His '88 LX had enough to make it to the final against Grandpa Ron Anderson, but Pops reached into his bag of tricks for a 0.446 reaction time compared to Jimmy's 0.500 light. Grandpa's reaction time was just enough to keep him out front even though Jimmy ran a hair quicker with a 10.36 with a 6 compared to Grandpa's 10.36 with an 8.

Factory Stock - When Steve "The Farmer" Gifford ran an 11.32 at 118 mph in qualifying, a collective sigh from the rest of the Factory Stock class could be heard. Heads shook, chins hit the ground, and words unable to print were shouted about. Sure, our boy Eric Holliday ran 11.40s at Columbus in 2006, but 11.30s? We didn't think that was possible, but what we do know is that we weren't surprised to hear Steve spent some quality time with NMRA tech officials after that pass. His car was found clean, and he backed up the 11.32 with an 11.39 in eliminations on his way to winning the event over Jeffrey Schmell in the final.

Factory Stock - Jeffrey Schmell was the closest competitor to Steve Gifford at Columbus, but that was minimal consolation for the Mach 1 owner since the quickest he had run was an 11.49 during qualifying. Jeffrey was able to shoot down a couple of his pushrod-powered foes in Factory Stock in Louis Sylvester and John Leslie Jr., but Steve proved too tough in the final, even though he left the door open with a 0.600 reaction time. Jeffrey wasn't able to capitalize this time out.

Modular Muscle - When the Motycka brothers aren't riding around on their Bronco go-cart enjoying an adult beverage, they're racing, and doing it well. At Columbus, Tom Motycka won the Modular Muscle class, while brother Mike took care of the Truck and Lightning class. Both are brutal on the Tree, which helped them go rounds and win their individual classes.

Open Comp - Our boy Redline Randy Conway had an automatic in his '94 Cobra, which has really taken the car's consistency to a whole 'nother level. Randy had his dial-in at an 11.97, and he never wandered far from that number all weekend. Couple that fact with excellent reaction times, and you can call our fellow Cobra owner the winner at Columbus.