KJ Jones
Brand Manager, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
November 1, 2008
Photos By: Dale Amy, Paul Rosner, KJ Jones, Courtesy Of Mike Grosso, Outlaw Photo
It was a banner weekend at Milan for Ford Racing Performance Parts' all-new 5.4 Aluminator engine. Not only did Turbo-assisted Aluminators carry John Kolivas (right) and Joey Bridge to the final round in Drag Radial, but on Saturday, the light-but-durable powerplant also took John's '95 Cobra into the 7-second zone.

Horse Sense: Several thousand Fordnatics were in attendance at Milan Dragway as special guests of the NMRA. The sanction held its first-annual Ford/Roush Employee Appreciation Day on Sunday (Father's Day), giving personnel from both companies and their guests free spectator admission (when they showed valid employee ID cards) to the high-speed, high-flying Aeromotive NMRA Ford Nationals.

One of the things that hypes us up when covering NMRA events is that every race usually has at least one totally fter the final rounds are run and champions crowned. Most of the shocking moments usually involve jaw-dropping low e.t.'s or high speeds that at one time were considered unachievable for 'Stangs competing in a particular class. Other times, it's giant wheelstands, major upsets, pitside thrashes, and more that leave us with not much else to say other than "Wow!" after we witness them.

Many events like this took place (on and off the dragstrip) at Milan Dragway when drag racers and folks who love all-Ford racing converged on the track located just outside the Motor City for the 5th Annual Aeromotive NMRA Ford Nationals.

Leading the rundown of hits made at Milan is no doubt the 7.99/178-mph blast that Drag Radial dominator John Kolivas laid down during the brief test session held on Saturday before qualifying-rain prevented many competitors from getting a chance to make shakedown passes during Friday's open-track period. Unfortunately, the landmark run isn't official since it didn't happen in qualifying or eliminations for the event. The mere fact that John's turbocharged, modular-powered Mustang covered the quarter so quickly on DOT-approved radial tires had everyone on the property hoping the feat could be repeated; then the $5,000 "First in the 7s" bonus from BFGoodrich could be awarded before the event was over.

Traction at Milan couldn't be disputed, as it took Renegade racer Larry Hourcle on this spectacular ride in a first-round duel with Chris Van Guilder.

There were several other notable occurrences at Milan, including Bruce Hemminger's triumphant return to our own Real Street rank-and-file, as well as the number of redlight losses in the two premiere heads-up categories (with a few in the first round and Dan Millen's -0.112 in the Pro Outlaw 10.5 final). There was also the debut of JDM Engineering's Super 'Stangs, an all-new class for S197 Mustangs, and Larry Russell Jr. winning with a V-6-powered '06 Pony. Our friend Mark Houlahan dissected, round-by-round, a field of nine fellow magazine and Web editors in the Ford Racing Invitational; see Editor Steve Turner's sidebar online for a synopsis on how he made out in this event. Finally, there were some first-time visits to the winners' circle for a few NMRA 'Stangbangers who have been trying for a long, long time.

Yes, all the Mustangs and hopped-up Fords definitely made sweet, high-speed music at Milan. Here's a look at some of the sights that went along with the sounds.

Editor Steve Turner and nine peers from other auto mags and Web sites squared off in the second annual Ford Racing Invitational, a bracket race for bragging rights and a cool champion's plaque that's held between Saturday's NMRA qualifying sessions. This year, Big Steve competed in a slick Type 65 coupe from Factory Five Racing. The car is seriously cool, quick, and totally street legal. Steve details how the Invitational played out for Team 5.0 in a sidebar that's included later in the article.

Steve Matusek and David Schorr made the trip to Milan from Kansas to wage war in a best-of-three match race that was held as a sideshow to Sunday's eliminations. When it was over, Steve's recently rebuilt Shelby 'Stang (the car suffered heavy damage in a top-end accident at WSC1) won the second and third rounds to claim the title.

This is Shawn Johnson's modular-powered Mustang, and yes, Shawn did compete in the Pure Street category at the Aeromotive NMRA Ford Nationals. Shawn's Paxton-blown Real Street engine suffered catastrophic damage just prior to the Milan race, so engine builders John and Michael Tymensky swapped Michael's naturally aspirated bullet between the fenders of Shawn's 'Stang and sent him off to mix it up with the Pure Street crowd-and not miss his home race. Ken Bjonnes spoiled Shawn's debut in the class, the fourth NMRA category in which Shawn has competed.

The airplane in the middle is a Mustang of another sort-a Mustang P-51D of World War II vintage, with AT-6s trailing smoke at each side. Jack Roush, NASCAR Sprint Cup owner and founder of the performance company that bears his name, owns and operates the P model, and saluted race fans to a couple of "fly-by" passes and a wicked barrel roll over the drag strip on Saturday afternoon.

The minute we saw this sinfully original 1984 Mustang GT, we hoped it would be properly recognized by car-show judges. The car is perfect, and stock as a rock. Judges were of the same opinion, and awarded Tom Price with the Roush Best of Show award (not to be confused with the overall Best of Show acknowledgement, which went to Tom Garney's '70 Mach 1) for his absolutely flawless original Fox. The Pony has 20,000 original miles and still rides on the TRX wheels and Michelin metric tires it received when it was made.

Conrad Scarry appears to be unstoppable as the season enters the halfway point. At Milan, Conrad and his Scarry Crew teammates sorted out transmission breakage, boost-controller issues, and tire bugs; then proceeded to bag win number three in Pro Outlaw 10.5 over hometown favorite Dan Millen. "I can't take any credit for this win," says Conrad. "My boys, my crew, three straight wins-it's just good."

"We've been working with a new combination and have been fighting distribution problems with cylinder No. 3 since WSC," says Dan Millen. The problems apparently reached critical levels in qualifying on Saturday, as Dan and his Livernois team were forced to burn the midnight oil Saturday night in order to be ready for race day. "For us to go out and run 6.93 in qualifying, we were happy. To come out the next day with a new and slightly different engine combination and a new clutch setup and run another 6.93 (in the first round), we were ecstatic! To get beat by Conrad again...that didn't make us happy. We didn't have anything for those guys in Florida, and I don't know if I would've beaten Conrad if I hadn't gone red in this race, but I think the track officials should've looked closer at rollout in both lanes once they saw that the red lights were happening so much."

PWhat a difference a year makes. John "Johnny Mac" McDonald celebrated his 1-year NMRA racing anniversary with his first final-round appearance and a runner-up finish. "This race one year ago was the first NMRA event we ever ran," says Johnny. "We just got the car fired on Wednesday and were behind the gun, but luckily we were able to get a test hit in before the rain came on Friday. Being the only Super Street Outlaw car to go down the track gave us an advantage because the 7.59 from that pass gave us something we could use to tune from. This was my day. I was due, and I couldn't be happier right now."

A.J. Powell celebrated a meaningful Father's Day (after enduring painful chemotherapy, his young daughter was declared cancer free in April) with his first win of the season in the 10-Inch-Tire Freak Show. "We had a low e.t. every round, the track was good, and the car ran like a bracket car through the whole event," A.J. says. "This is probably one of the best Father's Days that I'll ever have."

Joey Bridge overcame a toasted transmission on Friday (fixing the unit ran into Saturday morning, leaving Joey with only one qualifying pass) and wheeled his FRPP 5.4 Aluminator-powered New Edge into the Drag Radial final versus John Kolivas. "Things went well during qualifying, and we basically finessed the tuneup throughout the race and ran low 8.20s," says Joey. "You have to get up for John. We threw more power at the car and it hooked!" The win is Joey's first in NMRA competition. "We won the World Street Challenge which is good, but this is what it's all about."

Runner-up John Kolivas knows he had a lucky weekend, as a near-catostrophic engine problem (broken intake valve) almost ended his race during qualifying. "Fortunately, when it broke it stayed up high in the cylinder and only scuffed a piston," says John. "Brett from Aeromotive and [Renegade racer] Dave Guy used some makeshift parts they each had and worked until 1 a.m. on Sunday to get my stuff fixed-they actually fired the engine at 4 a.m. I would've been headed back home if it wasn't for those two guys, so they get all the credit for us racing at all, let alone making it to the final.

Joel Howard owns Renegade at the Aeromotive NMRA Ford Nationals. Steady high-8.50s and killer reaction times were the keys to his second-straight class title for the event (nine round-wins in two races at Milan without a bye). "We didn't have any issues this time out," says Joel. "I just want to thank all of my friends for helping me." For those of you who haven't seen this super-sano Fox in person, believe us when we tell you the car truly is one of the baddest four-eyed race cars we've ever seen.

Although Dave Guy was disappointed with his late reaction time in the final (0.1868), the Renegade runner-up was happy with the overall outcome of his first race with a completely new setup in his '96 Mustang. "I was lazy on the Tree against Joel, and that's gonna haunt me," says Dave. "That stings, but overall, the weekend was a huge success. It was our first race with a new 25.5-certified chassis. We had good results in testing, but everything changed when we got here and the 60-foot went away big-time. We kept making changes, and luckily we went in the right direction, which was cool. This was my eleventh race in Renegade and I've taken over the points lead. I can't complain one bit. It was a good weekend."

Robbie Blankenship's new, Ben Mens-built engine certainly proved itself at the Aeromotive NMRA Ford Nationals with a runner-up finish in the Edelbrock Hot Street Shootout on Saturday and the win in class eliminations a day later. "We were hard at it on the dyno Wednesday and Thursday," says Robbie. "We couldn't be happier about this win. I just wish that Ben could've been out here racing with us." Ben was unable to finish repairs on his own Hot Street LX and had to take on the role of spectator at his home track.

"There's always the next race," was the only sentiment Mike DeMayo could express when we caught up with him after the Hot Street final round. A transmission problem was the apparent cause of his -0.026 red light against Robbie Blankenship. "The transmission surged when I got on the transbrake," says Mike. "It did the same thing on Saturday against Charlie Booze." The final-round appearance was Team Powerhead's second this season in the NMRA.

Bruce Hemminger remembered to bring last season's consistency with him in his return to Real Street. He used steady low-9.70s to earn his spot in the final round and ruin Tim Matherly's day in the last stanza. "I'm racing against 9.50 cars here-I can do the math," says Bruce when asked whether his comeback is long- or short-term. "I came here just to show the NMRA that I could tell them exactly how fast my car will run under the current rules for nitrous-injected Real Street cars. I told them it would go low 0.70s consistently. Did I lie? Given good weather and the right track conditions, I know I can go high 0.60s, but that's it. So even though Joliet's my home track, I just might miss it. We'll have to see what happens."

With Bruce Hemminger's return to Real Street after a two-race absence, the final round at the Aeromotive NMRA Ford Nationals must have felt like old times for Tim Matherly. For the handful of readers who don't know their NMRA history, Tim and Bruce engaged in an exciting battle for the class championship, rules adjustments, and power-adder supremacy (nitrous versus supercharger) in 2007. This year, the competitive rivalry continues with Tim having to settle for runner-up to Bruce at Milan. It's the second time this has happened-Bruce beat Tim in the '07 final-and we're sure that doesn't sit too well with Tim.

Even though Kevin Scott's '86 LX doesn't post the 9-second e.t.'s that have become the norm for competitive Real Street 'Stangs, the four-eyed Fox sure does leave with attitude.

Dave Ginter owns the lone SN-95 that competed in Real Street at Milan. Despite having a 2-mph advantage over Brian McCormick (133.91 to 131.18), Dave's yellow '98 Snake could only muster a 10.18 e.t., which was no match for Brian's 9.94 in their first-round duel.

Although Ryan Hecok didn't do anything to his car other than routine maintenance during the long break between the Reynolds and Milan events, the driver and his '99 Cobra once again managed to reach the final, and once again their opponent was Brandon Alsept. Ryan avenged his runner-up finish at Reynolds with more than just the Aeromotive NMRA Ford Nationals Pure Street title. On Saturday, he also finished in front of Brandon's 'Stang in the B&M Pure Street Shootout; in doing so, Ryan pocketed another $800.

With arch-nemesis Brad Meadows nowhere in sight and only seven other Pure Street cars on the property, the early line had Brandon Alsept penciled in as the runaway winner at Milan. It appeared that Brandon was on his way to making the predictions come true during the first two rounds of eliminations with wins over Chris Klink and Rocky Mason, but Ryan Hecok stepped up with a wicked 0.048 holeshot in the final and put an end to Brandon's run.

Steve Gifford took time off from his farming duties and kept his Factory Stock points lead intact by nailing his third Factory Stock victory of 2008, with a holeshot win over John Leslie Jr. "This is our fifth-straight win since last season, so we're definitely on a roll," says Steve. "We fought it a little bit, but Ken (Bjonnes) just works it out on Sundays and we end up winning when we're not good."

It looks like John Leslie Jr. must wait at least one more race before he'll be able to experience the thrill of an NMRA Factory Stock victory this season. Despite qualifying first in the eight-'Stang field at Milan, John came up just a bit short in the final against Steve Gifford (their third meeting of 2008). "I had a better e.t., but he got me on the reaction a little bit," says John. "We're going to make a few changes between now and Joliet, so we should be rockin' and rollin' out there."

Donnie Bowles has finally joined his dad, Don Sr, in the Bowles family's personal "winners' circle." While the patriarch already has a few NMRA Open Comp victories on his resume, Donnie's Modular Muscle win over local favorite, Tom Motyca, was his first, and it happened in front of his family and extended family of Roush employees, who were on hand as part of NMRA's Ford/Roush employee day at Milan Dragway.

The huge Roush contingent was in a joyous frenzy by the time the Open Comp final ended, as Dale McClenaghan (Susan's husband/Jack's son-in-law) followed teammate Donnie Bowles' lead and scored his own first win in Open Comp, running dead-on his 8.96 index to defeat defending champ Randy Conway.

Anyone who remembers the original Dukes of Hazzard television show will recognize this rig. Mike Motyca's "Uncle Jessie" F-100 is a hard-hitting, big-block pickup that's no stranger to Truck and Lightning final rounds at NMRA events. Mike duked it out with Johnny Lightning at Milan, and thanks to a killer .017 reaction, lit the win light at the big end.

V-6 power reigned supreme over the Three-Valve Mustangs, in the first-ever running of the all-new, JDM Engineering Super 'Stang class; an Open-Comp-formatted eliminator for new or experienced racers running '05-'09 Mustangs. Larry Russell Jr took out notable hitters Jim D'Amore (first round) and a red lighting Paul Gamino in the final, becoming the first racer in NMRA history to win a series event with a 4.0-liter Pony.

The Ford Racing Invitation is designed to showcase FRPP gear for the interested media. As such, we media racers were randomly assigned a variety of so-equipped Mustangs and Factory Five rides.

As most of you know I'm not the most consistent driver (or writer for that matter) around, but I do OK on the drag strip. Mostly my opportunities at the strip revolve around trying desperately to squeeze the best time of out a press car before returning it to the manufacturer. I dig the drag strip, but I've always enjoyed the testing and tuning more than the concept of battling it out. I don't have the killer instinct that drives racers to thrash all night just to run one round. I admire them, I'm just drawn to write about them rather than emulate them.

So, while I'm not a card-carrying racer, I'm completely comfortable blasting a Mustang down the quarter. That's where the curveball came my way. When I arrived at the '08 iteration of the Ford Racing Invitational I quickly learned that the cars were pre-selected. As I walked down the row of Mustangs secretly pining for the '08 GT500KR, I became puzzled. I didn't see my name on any of the cars. Now after my redlight performance last year, I wouldn't be surprised to get banned from the event.

Suddenly as I rounded the corner and approached the Factory Five trailer, my bewildered was quickly replaced with glee, followed by nervous anticipation. I was chosen to drive likely the quickest, most striking cars in the bunch, Factory Five's Type 65 Coupe. Unfortunately I had to wait a full day to get any test passes in it, as our Friday session was rained out, and all that did was make me more nervous about pedaling this unfamiliar monster.

My selection was one of the coolest rides on the Milan property, Factory Five's Type 65 Coupe, which bears a striking resemblance to the '65 Daytona Coupe.

First thing Saturday morning it was time to finally get behind the wheel and see what she would do. Things started out so well. The big Toyo road race tires proved really grippy, and I actually didn't give the car enough rpm to get a good burnout. Even, still a 3,000-rpm clutch dump yielded a 1.96 short time and a 12.36/111 pass with a .068 reaction time. I felt pretty good about it, but this was just the test pass. I spent my two qualifiers trying to guess at the tree and score a good RT, as that's how we were qualifying. Lowest reaction time scored the top spot and a first-round bye.

After two redlight starts followed by blowing the tires off, I had to try and switch up into bracket-consistency mode. I thought could ease up on the tree and drive around my opponent Don Roy. Sadly I was not only slow off the jump, but I broke out in a major way after dialing in a 12.65 and instead running my best pass of the day, a 12.28 at 111.90. I took small solace in the fact that I didn't redlight again in competition, but I still wish they'd run this deal open-comp style.

Anyway, I hope to be back for another shot next year. After all, a day losing at the strip is still a nice change of pace from standing at the line snapping pictures, especially in a car that turned heads even among the horsepower-jaded NMRA racing crowd.

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