Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
September 1, 2008

Horse Sense:Located just outside the gates of Silver Dollar Raceway is a day spa. We only noticed it this year,so it must be new.Just think: If your significant other doesn't want to hang out at the track, drop her off for a day at the spa while you go enjoy some drag racing. There's also a strawberry farm across the street. You have to try their strawberry shakes. Yum!

Brian Carpenter has always had a fast car, even in his old 10.5 Outlaw GT. Whenever he's at an event, everyone knows they'll have to run their best to get past him. It has been no different in 2008. However, like every other racer at Reynolds, Brian had little opportunity to work on chassis setup or engine tuneup. Though he missed the top qualifying spot by a nose hair, he did boast the top mph with a 208-mph hit. Brian's Pro Line Racing Engines twin-turbocharged '03 Mustang ran 7.0s at Reynolds, but he encountered problems in the second round, handing the win to Tim Essick.

Reynolds, Georgia
Last time we checked, it's hard to drag race in the rain. As a matter of fact, it's impossible. Even though some racers claim their cars can hook on ice, we have yet to see a drag race held in the rain-with cars at least.

The rain was an impenetrable force at the NMRA race at Silver Dollar Raceway in Reynolds, Georgia, starting during Friday's first-round qualifying. It fell all day Saturday, which left racers and yours truly inside trying to find something to do while in the Warner Robins, Georgia, area. There isn't much unless you really like bowling, playing pool, or throwing darts. Most of the day revolved around keeping our bellies full of food.

We filled our day by eating lunch with the JPC Racing crew, then shared a beverage with the ProCharger crew, Dan Schoneck, and Pro Outlaw 10.5 racer Jerry Morgano. After that, we closed out the day at a local steakhouse with Johnny and Jean Cooper, past-feature-car owner Jerome Shumate, and future-feature-car owner Justin Lathem. You should be reading about Justin's self-built SN-95 GT soon. Oh yeah, we can't leave out Crazy Pat Stratton, who supposedly has a Mustang back home in Alabama. Maybe one day we'll get to see it in person.

One thing we finally did get to see in person was racing. On Sunday, the NMRA held a round of qualifying, then blitzed through eliminations to get the event finished in one day. It was quite a feat, but they pulled it off seamlessly.

When we saw these bees strangely attracted to the roof of this early Ford Victoria in the car show, we were reminded of the part in the movie Tommy Boy where characters Tommy (the late Chris Farley) and Richard (David Spade) got out of a ticket by jumping out of the their car proclaiming, "Bees, bees, bees in the car...bees everywhere." The difference between the movie and this Victoria is that there were actual bees present.



Don "Burndown" Burton has had a myriad of crewmembers, but former Pro 5.0 standout Tom Sanders has been in his corner so far at Bradenton and Reynolds. That's a lot of nitrous knowledge on one team, and the two use it on every pass. Don's Gene Fulton Racing Engines' big-block-powered '80 Mustang didn't do well on his one qualifying pass. As a matter of fact, Don found himself at the bottom of the qualifying list, so there was only one way to go-up through eliminations. Don and Tom had the car running 7.50s in eliminations until the final round when a 7.82 wasn't enough to overcome Jarrett Halfacre's 7.47

To hear EFI Renegade racer Brian Mitchell at a race, you'd wonder how his car makes it down the track. Something's always wrong with it, whether it be a warped crank pulley or a snapped widget holder. This reverse psychology is most likely used to loosen up his EFI Renegade competition, but at this point in the game, we don't think anyone is fooled by Brian's "aw, shucks" demeanor-especially when he runs an 8.60-something right after saying the thing was going to come apart any second. With his new car, Brian doesn't have many of those arguments to fall back on anymore, but we're sure he can come up with something. After running in the 8.40s at Bradenton, he was "only" able to run 8.60s at Reynolds. Final-round competitor Bob Cook was in the 8.50s, so Brian had to push the Tree. It pushed back with a red-light start.

Bob Kurgan left his car in Florida after the Bradenton race and flew back home to Illinois; he then flew back to Florida to haul the car to Georgia. The only thing Bob changed on it was the rear gear. "After sitting for two days while it rained, we ran a single round of qualifying and my car started idling funky," Bob says. We normally think funky is good, but not so much in this case. He checked the car's ignition and the fuel system, but he traced the problem to a faulty map sensor. Bob and his crew fixed the problem, and the car ran consistent during eliminations until the final round against John Kolivas. Bob was hoping the track would be there for him like it was in previous rounds, but he blew the tires off as John pulled away for the win.



The top six Hot Street racers were all in the 8.80s, which is what we've come to expect from the all-motor class. Mike Demayo stood at the top of the mountain after qualifying with an 8.80 at 150 mph. He utilizes a 360ci combination, the smallest in the class, but that obviously affords him a weight break over his larger-displacement running mates. Mike made a full pass on his first-round bye run to make sure everything was OK with the car since he was unable to make many passes otherwise during the weekend. He survived a squeaker against Charlie Booze in the semifinals, and then went uncontested in the final with Robbie Blankenship not making the call due to component failure.

Robbie Blankenship changed converters prior to arriving at Reynolds, but he changed it back to the previous converter when he discovered he wouldn't get any test passes. Robbie's Matuckas Motorsport Race Cars-built '04 Mustang still qualified with an 8.84, but everyone was in the thick of it in Hot Street. Luck went his way in the first couple of rounds, but he knew he needed to throw everything at it for the final against Mike Demayo. Robbie changed carburetors after the semifinals, switching to one that made more power on the dyno. However, that carburetor's throttle got stuck on the air pan in the burnout box, which kept Robbie from giving it a go. He is still getting acquainted with the new car. It kept getting quicker at Reynolds, so he believes it is on the right path.

Ryan Hecox not only busted a transmission during test and tune at Reynolds, but while being towed back to the pits, the transmission locked up, which took out the car's ring and pinion-giving credence to the phrase "when it rains, it pours." He was able to replace the transmission, but since he runs a 9-inch rear in his car, it proved more difficult to find a corresponding 4.88 gearset. Ryan did have an extra 4.88 at the hizzy, but Maryland is quite the jaunt from Reynolds, so Wheelchair Wayne went to the Hecox household to overnight the gears for Saturday delivery at Silver Dollar Raceway. Of course, Saturday was rained out, and the gears arrived at the track just before everyone went out for food. They were set up back at the hotel and installed Sunday morning. Ryan's car ran well during eliminations, but not well enough to beat Brandon Alsept to the line in the final.

We don't think Steve Gifford and John Leslie Jr. had it planned at Reynolds, but both racers had an interesting weekend. As part of the race-within-a-race format in the NMRA, it was Factory Stock's chance at extra cash to make up for increased fuel prices. The shootout gave qualifying a new meaning. Instead of running for position, Factory Stock racers wanted that money. Though Steve showed he had the power with 118- to 119-mph trap speeds, John took the shootout. However, Steve redeemed himself in eliminations, gaining a tenth over his qualifying times. That may not sound like much in the real world, but in drag racing, it's everything. In the Factory Stock final, Steve and John once again lined up against each other, but Steve saved his best run of the weekend for the final with an 11.46 to exact revenge from the shootout.

John Leslie Jr. has thrown a wrench into the otherwise happy-go-lucky Factory Stock class. The JPC Racing crew figured 2008 would be its year with Tommy Godfrey at the wheel of Michael Washington's whip once again in a battle with Steve Gifford. However, John, with Rich Groh Racing handling the engine-building duties, has stepped up in a big way. Speaking of the JPC crew, Justin Burcham wasn't too happy when John squeaked by Tommy in the shootout thanks to a holeshot, but what's worse is that John beat Tommy again in eliminations even though Tommy had a tenth on John thanks to his own holeshot. John was able to beat Steve in the Factory Stock Shootout to make the ride home more manageable, but unlike Tommy, Steve would turn the tables on John in the final to win the event.