Michael Johnson Associate Editor
January 1, 2009
Photos By: Paul Rosner, Michael "The Weatherman" Johnson

Horse Sense: In talking to recent Super Street Outlaw addition Chris Tuten, he shared with us the benefits of moving up to the 10-inch-tire Freak Show. Chris and the crew enjoy better parking, they can tow to the lanes and from return road, and "We're now one of the big dogs," he says. Chris, ever since you guys came to the Maple Grove race for your first NMRA event, you've always been one of the big dogs. No one told you?

After rain put a premature end to Atco, Columbus became a crucial stop on the NMRA tour, and racers who needed to catch up or gain points down the stretch had to put up or fall behind. For those racers way behind, Columbus presented a chance to get on the stage at PRI and sport some fine, new NMRA winter wear. For racers chasing a championship, Columbus was an opportunity to gain much-needed points and ensure that Nitto would have to start sizing up those Diamond Tree rings. As usual, the races proved a mix of familiar winners and surprise standouts, but the competition was rugged in every class. To see how the stage was set for Bowling Green, check out our caps and snaps.

Dan Paolini usually makes every Columbus race, and he always puts on a good show. This year was no different. During qualifying, the longtime racer put his '93 LX Hot Street racer on the bumper and rode it out well past the 60-foot mark. Shots like this are why we try to shoot every test-and-tune pass, every qualifying round, and every round of eliminations. Back to Dan: He qualified fifth with an 8.90 in his 359ci-powered machine, making his one of the smallest-displacing Hot Street entries. Dan lost in Round 2 to eventual-winner Robbie Blankenship.

Old race cars don't die. They just find other people to race them. The most recent example of this is Dan Rawls, owner of Cleveland Performance. Dan has long built the engines for EFI Renegade stalwart Brian Mitchell, but he's an accomplished racer in his own right. Dan is now behind the wheel of Brian Mitchell's Wizard I. Brian's currently racing Wizard II, his new EFI Renegade racer. Though Brian's new car still relies on boost, Dan's car relies on a healthy dose of nitrous from Steve Johnson's company, Induction Solutions. Dan qualified number one with an 8.57 at 159 mph, but he was unable to replicate that number on Sunday, falling to eventual EFI Renegade winner Bob Cook in the semis.

Pure Street racer Brandon Alsept has had his share of breakage problems in 2008, mostly revolving around transmission problems. A BES Racing Engines Four-Valve with an FR500 magnesium intake makes the tranny-breaking power, while Racecraft suspension components plant the rear. Brandon's car is actually a '98 GT that he bought new, but it's a lot different today. The most interesting part of Brandon's car is his shifter, a conglomeration consisting of a Pro-5.0 base, a Steeda Autosports Tri-Ax handle, and a Hurst pistol-grip knob. Brandon's GT is most often found at or near the top of the Pure Street qualifying ladder, and Columbus was no different with him shifting his way into the second spot. However, Brandon shifted into problems in the second round of eliminations against Mark Anderson, ending his weekend.

Justin Burcham has been busy racing his '05 Mustang GT into the 8s, but he was also at the wheel of this Factory Stock ride at Columbus. Michael Washington owns the car, but Michael, Justin, and Tommy Godfrey fund the Rich Groh Racing powerplant. The engine carries the "Frankenstein" moniker, but it wasn't in a hurry to come to life. After qualifying dead last with a 13.24 at 108 mph and breaking the transmission in the process, a frustrated Justin loaded the car on the trailer. It took the rest of the JPC Racing clan, including Rich Groh, to talk Justin into popping the hood. A weak spark seemed to be the culprit, but Justin was talked into unloading the car and finishing the race. Of course, the transmission had to be swapped out, and exiting after a first-round loss only added to the weekend's heartache. A Sunday afternoon 11.91/113-mph test pass shows promise. We'll see more of this car at future races.

Jim Coger's Real Street program is rapidly becoming faster and faster. Under the tutelage of Dez Racing's Mike Dezotell, Jim's car was competitive at Columbus. Jim qualified in the fourth spot with a 9.80 at 137 mph. The car was responsive off the line, launching wheels-up every pass. We caught this launch in Round 1 when Jim had to race Michael Washington, but shortly after clicking the shutter on this pass, Jim's coupe ran into mechanical problems, allowing Jim to get an early start on his Labor Day holiday.