5.0 Mustang & Super FordsEvents
2008 NMRA Ford Nationals Joliet, Illinois - Winds Of Change
The NMCA Crew Turned The Tables On The NMRA Racers Outside The Windy City
Horse Sense NMRA staffer Greg "Donut" Acosta agreed to let the first racer who cut a perfect light in the Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing shave his head bald. The lucky shaver was none other than Super Street Outlaw racer John "Fireball" Urist. Thank goodness, too, because the Donut was rather hairy.
We've always been excited to attend the NMRA Ford Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, but the past couple years have been especially well worth the price of admission. Recently the event has been billed the Motive Gear Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing, presented by Nitto Tire. The event features both the NMRA and NMCA racers at one event, and the winners of respective categories from both sanctioning bodies must race each other for an even more distinctive victory. Plus, winners of the Super Bowl Shootout, as it is billed, receive Nitto championship rings, similar to the ones given to class champions at the end of the year. Last year, NMRA racers put it on the NMCA racers; this time around, the roles were reversed. The NMCA racers took the NMRA guys behind the woodshed for a good beating, but "Just wait till next year." We'll be there, will you?
The only man to pilot Editor Turner's Project Real Street down the track, Mark Anderson was at the wheel of dad Ron Anderson's usual Pure Street whip at Joliet. Thursday night when Ron saw Ryan Hecox's engine troubles, he offered the car to Ryan if his car wasn't repaired in time. That wasn't needed, and Mark qualified the coupe in the fourth spot with a 10.48. Mark made it past Shawn Johnson in Round 1, but eventual winner Brandon Alsept came calling in Round 2, and Mark was unable to make the connection to get the win.
We must thank NMRA sponsor Keystone Auto Parts for the good eats at Route 66 Raceway. It was rather hot outside, and the thought of gathering under its tent to enjoy a burger, a refreshing Mountain Dew, and some chocolate chip cookies was too much to overcome. Don't worry-we worked them off in the hot Joliet sun. We asked if the food tent could meet us at the remaining '08 NMRA events, but the roar of laughter told us the answer to that one.
Aeromotive's Steve Matusek built his new car just in time for the NMRA to drop the Pro 5.0 class in favor of a 10.5W class. He had few choices, so he turned to the NMCA's Pro Street class to race against all makes and models. With the Super Bowl format combining both the NMRA and NMCA sanctioning bodies, we were able to once again see Steve in action. In his first round of eliminations, Steve showed a little too much action by getting way out of shape. From the starting line, we saw both doors and some two-wheeling as well. Miraculously, Steve was able to keep the car off the wall and safely back on all fours. Where's Dr. Jamie Meyer and his patented phrase, "Could we get a fresh pair of underwear to the top end, please" when we need it. Steve sure needed it after that run.
Elsewhere in this issue you can see a little more of Jazmin Newton and her '03 Cobra. Not that you'll see her Cobra, but trust us, it's there. Jazmin showed up for a feature shoot on her 10th Anniversary Cobra and to serve as Bassani Babe for Bassani Xhaust. You can find out more info on Jazmin, our BOTM, in Finish Line. She also owns a Shelby GT500. Let's hope Jazmin's not a Mustang Melvin like Editor Turner.
As qualifying started and one of our favorite classes, Drag Radial, came to the lanes, one racer was conspicuous in his absence. We knew Chris Tuten was on the property, but maybe he decided to sit out the round-we didn't know. Imagine our surprise during Super Street Outlaw qualifying when we saw Chris' ride coming to the water box. What was going on? Did he forget to run with Drag Radial, so the NMRA gave him a pass with the Outlaw guys? Nope, Chris' car wore Mickey Thompson E/T Drags instead of his usual drag radials. And the car once again had a turbo under the hood. Chris lasted one round and he drew Kentucky Sam Vincent, so he knew he had to push the tree. He pushed it a little too hard with a heartbreaking 0.399 redlight. By the way, Chris ran a 7.64 on one of the few passes he's been able to make with the new setup, so we expect the Team Z Motorsports chassis to show big dividends the rest of the year. We think Chris may be going for his third championship in as many NMRA classes. It may not happen in '08, but watch out come '09.
Pro Outlaw 10.5
The long anticipated arrival of the Garrett Turbochargers 10.5W Mustang driven by Ron Lummus finally ended when the West Coast racers showed up at Joliet. The Ron and Garrett crew had trouble making a clean pass and looked to be on the fast track to an early exit. That was before Ron's second qualifying pass when he ran a 6.86 at 208 mph. The Garrett Mustang doesn't really scream race car from the exterior, but the car screamed down the track the rest of the weekend until a transmission line let go in the final, sending fluid under the rear tires and the car into a series of back-and-forth spins, reminiscent of Steve Matusek's wild ride. However, Ron was still able to get the win over Conrad Scarry. In the Super Bowl Shootout, Ron was unable to match Mark Micke's Pro Street Camaro.
Conrad Scarry and Scarry Crew's 10.5W Mustang has been hard to beat in 2008, and it looked to be more of the same at Joliet. The only other 10.5W racer in the 6s during qualifying, Conrad was the only racer in the 6s during eliminations, and that consistency is what has won races for the Scarry Crew. However, with Conrad under the weather for the finals against Ron Lummus, he was in no shape to pilot the car to a full pass, so he eased the car down the track to an 11.32 at 114 mph. Conrad's lazy pass was probably a blessing in disguise: it could've been ugly had Conrad been right next to Ron and the Garrett car's problems.
Super Street Outlaw
This year's Joliet race was a lot different than the '07 event for John Urist. Last year, John had all kind of problems. It was never a dull moment in the Hellion Power Systems pits. This year, the Fireball had a chance to chill out on occasion. Unlike last year, he didn't need a teammate to take one for the home team or extra time because of a transmission issue. John's new coupe ran flawlessly, and John even did his best work at the Tree with a perfect light in the semis. John qualified in the fourth spot with a 7.49 at 186 mph. Yes, you read that right; the fourth spot with a 7.49-crazy stuff, we know. However, making a case to be the NMRA's new Mr. 0.400, Johnny-boy systematically cut his way through eliminations with consistency both at the Tree and downtrack with 7.40-7.50s to win the event. John was one of very few NMRA racers able to also win the NMRA/NMCA Shootout over Corvette racer Anthony Nesbitt.
There was a Kentucky Sam Vincent sighting at Joliet, which was Sam's first NMRA race of 2008. Still running a small-block, Sam's coupe suffered catastrophic engine damage last year, but he redid the bottom end, returning with a 422ci combination and his usual top-end setup. Sam was either taking it easy or playing possum during qualifying, because he didn't show his hand until he christened Chris Tuten into Super Street Outlaw with a welcoming 7.51 at 185 mph. He then took out fellow nitrous-racer Don Burton with a 7.46; then Richard Lelsz with a 7.51. Ultimately, Kentucky Sam couldn't run the table and take out John Urist in the final.
With Chris Tuten moving up to Super Street Outlaw and John Kolivas roasting an engine at Joliet, the door was open for someone else to step to the forefront of the Drag Radial class. Tony Akins seized the day with his turbocharged '03 Cobra by running 8.20s every pass during eliminations. His reaction times were equally stellar; Joey Bridge was the only competitor to have a quicker reaction time, and that was in the final. Tony was able to make up the ever-so-slight deficit by the finish line, however. In the Super Bowl Shootout, Tony was one of the lone bright spots for the NMRA when he beat the NMCA's Extreme Street winner Tony Orts and his '68 Firebird.
Joey Bridge is the other modular Mustang in Drag Radial carrying a Ford Racing 5.4 Aluminator block, weighing in at 330ci. The Bridge crew was trying different torque converters to maximize the modular engine. So far the combo is good for 8.20s-8.30s, which took the team to the final against Tony Akins at Joliet. Even though Joey got a slight holeshot, he was unable to keep the nose of his New Edge GT out front long enough to take the win. If dragstrips were 1,310 feet long, Joey would've won.
During qualifying, we kept waiting for Brian Tuten to bust the juice, but he was testing and making sure the engine was all good. Brian and the BMF Racing crew finally opened the bottle in eliminations, subsequently running an 8.56 at 156 mph to get past George Seeger in Round 1. In Round 2, Brian Mitchell redlit against Brian, sending him to the next round against Jason Geroulo. Though Jason has been running good recently, Brian was able to get past Jason, but it wasn't easy. Jason treed Brian out of his racing suit, and barely made it to the final round against Bob Cook. There, both racers had equally bad reaction times, but Brian's nitrous combination didn't eat itself this time, earning the win with an 8.62 against Bob's faltering 8.86.
Bob Cook has been flying ever since he took the Sutton High Performance seat. "The Mongoose" is always in the thick of it in EFI Renegade, and Joliet was no different. Bob qualified in the top spot with an 8.62, and he even beat his own car with Scott Lovell at the wheel in the semifinal round. However, Bob couldn't get past the nitrous car of Brian Tuten in the final.
Charlie Booze usually runs both NMRA Hot Street and NMCA's Pro Stock. Both have similar rules for the Fords; as such, many of the NMCA Pro Stock competitors are also NMRA racers. Mike Demayo raced both classes at Joliet. It would be Charlie Booze pulling off the Hot Street win over Robbie Blankenship in the final. Charlie would also go on to defeat fellow Mustang racer Andy Schmidt in the Super Bowl Shootout.
We know a lot of racers test, but Robbie Blankenship is one of those NMRA racers always trying to get the most out of his Hot Street Mustang. Living in Hudson, Florida, he has plenty of opportunities to test torque converters, camshafts, carburetors, and chassis setups. That doesn't even count the dyno time he uses to fine tune his 400ci combo. At Joliet, Robbie ran strong in qualifying with an 8.83 at 153 mph to qualify second behind Charlie Booze. Robbie ran 8.87s in Rounds 1 and 2, but an 8.95 wasn't enough to overcome Charlie's 8.83 in the final.
Bruce Hemminger has always been one to throw a wrench into the Real Street class. He's been a staunch nitrous user from way back and its loudest proponent. Bruce has been tearing it up the last couple races, much to the chagrin of the other Real Street racers. Bruce was testing his car for most of the weekend, running mostly half-track and 1,000-foot passes. He was able to make a 9.63/140-mph pass to qualify number 1. He ran a shut-off 9.65/133-mph pass for his Round 1 bye to make sure the car was working properly, and then a 9.68 to dispatch Michael Bell in Round 2. After that, things started getting a little screwy. Bruce didn't make another full pass the rest of eliminations, but he won anyway. Tim Matherly redlit against Bruce in the semis, as did Jim Breese in the final, handing Bruce the win.
The modular Real Street cars received a little extra weight from the NMRA prior to the Joliet race. Jim Breese and Tim Matherly showed up anyway, but they each had a spare engine in the trailer, just in case. Both had to push their combos beyond the limit to keep up with their pushrod competition. Jim torched his engine during eliminations, leading to a mad thrash to drop in the spare bullet. However, Jim redlit in the final against Bruce to once again finish in the runnerup spot.
With the extra weight imposed on the modular cars, Tim Matherly changed to a 4.88 gear in an attempt to equalize the extra heft on his Two-Valve Real Street car. He qualified second behind Bruce Hemminger with a 9.70/140-mph pass, but he left a couple weeks early against Bruce in the semis. We don't know why, but Tim seems overly joyous after he's redlit at a race. We don't know if that's because he can finally relax or start chowing down on a pastry. Either way, we chastised him profusely for the error, so he should have his act together the rest of the year.
The pushrod cars received a slight weight break just before Joliet, and Brian McCormick appeared to use the most of that break to run a 9.70 in qualifying, even in the heat. Brian's Vortech-supercharged car has been running well, and he's really found a groove with the car. However, he redlit against Jim Breese in Round 2 with a 0.378 reaction time (0.400 is perfect, so Brian barely missed it). What's worse is that Jim had problems right from the start; Brian would've won handily if not for the redlight start.
"Joliet was a really good race for us and I couldn't be happier with the end result," Brandon Alsept said. "We had to work on the suspension to get the car to work on such a good track as Joliet." Brandon was able to get the car working fairly well and pull out a win over Ryan Hecox in the final. In the Super Bowl race against Don Baskin's Mean Street '67 Chevy II, Brandon broke a transmission, which cost him the Nitto championship ring. Brandon had nearly a 0.2 holeshot on Don and looked to be well on his way to victory, but as Brandon said, "hey that's racing."
Ryan Hecox's race weekend started out with a bang, but it wouldn't be classified as good. It was more like the clang of lifter parts rolling around in the Rich Groh Racing-built mill. With wife Shannon out chasing parts, Ryan and fellow JPC Racing stablemate Gary Windsor tore into the engine to get it back into racing shape. Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on who you ask, yours truly even got his JLT Performance T-shirt dirty by getting into the mix. All told, Ryan had to add new lifters, a new oil pump, and thoroughly clean the rest of the engine to rid it of lifter parts and pieces. All this happened on Thursday, leading a few passersby to question the sanity of doing so much work that early into the event. Ryan wanted to make sure the engine was good to go that night, and it was. We fired it up around midnight over Steak 'n' Shake burgers and fries. To make the work worth it, Ryan made it all the way to the final against Brandon Alsept, just to redlight. Oh well, at least the car made it that far after I worked on it.