Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
December 1, 2009
Photos By: Paul Rosner

As you can imagine, having a Ford event in the shadows of the motor-city means there's lots of potential automotive competition in the area. From cruise nights and open-track events to street action and NASCAR races, the gasoline-fueled distractions are myriad. As such, the NMRA wisely decided to truncate its event. The main reason for the short event was NASCAR had rolled into town on the same weekend, so the NMRA thought it best to give motorsports fans an opportunity to enjoy the NMRA race on Friday and Saturday, and the NASCAR race on Sunday.

It was a fine plan. However, to pull off an event in roughly a day and a half, we knew the Milan, Michigan, NMRA event was going to be tighter than a magazine budget. If a spec of rain would've rolled into town, the event would've been tighter than a Hot Street engine at the top end. Keeping things more interesting was the annual Ford Racing Invitational, a bracket race amongst members of the media. This event within an event not only allowed Editor Turner to showcase his lack of driving skills, but also put yet another run group in the mix of the tightly scheduled event. Almost everything went off like a hitch, and Editor Turner didn't even hit the wall-not that he apparently didn't try.

Along those lines all the media types also got a shot in the heralded Ford Racing Cobra Jet, which added yet more passes to the mix. All tried to hit second in the Ford Racing Cobra Jet, but few were able to execute a smooth pass. The event, despite the short window and extra events, went smooth as glass, which meant we got home a day early for a nice change of pace. Tune into the captions for the rest of the details and check out Editor Turner's sidebar for a full report on his harrowing Invitational experience.

Ford Racing Invitational
Over the past two years, the NMRA's stop near the Motor City has become a favorite event of mine for purely selfish reasons. That's because I've been fortunate enough to be invited to Ford Racing's annual media event. This is no standard ride-and-drive press event either-this one is pure insanity. The crew at Ford Racing rounds up as many of it's hot-rodded Mustangs as they can and turns the media loose in a bracket race.

They are certainly braver than we are, especially considering these street-tire rides are packing way more power than their stock brethren. Couple that with a bunch of drive-it-like-they-stole-it media members with various levels of driving ability, and it makes for an unpredictable and entertaining event for all. For me, it's fun to actually get to feel like I'm participating in an NMRA event without all the pressure or any conflicts of interest.

All that said, I usually don't do myself any image favors at the event. I'm an average drag racer at best. While I can occasionally pull a rabbit out of the hat and make one quick run, repeating that feat has never been my specialty. I've said before that this event has given me new reverence for the bracket and open-comp competitors that nail those numbers pass after pass.

Of course, it doesn't help that thus far I've been selected to drive some of the most powerful cars in the bunch. The first year I landed a TVS-blown GT500 pushing 600 hp. Last year I was in an unfamiliar Factory Five coupe with a stout 347. Both presented challenges, but were lots of fun.

If I'm going to lose a bracket race I'd much rather do it in a fast car so I can enjoy all the passes. So I wasn't too disappointed when I scored another TVS-blown GT500, the white-with-blue-stripes Poster Child seen doing burnouts in the FRPP catalog. It featured the blower, tuning, an FRPP handling suspension, and some Toyo tires born for drifting. Inside it had a 'cage and no radio, so it was a bit on the racy side, but still fully streetable.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Knowing the Poster Child would be a handful, I decided to attempt to take it easy on my first pass. So much for best laid plans. After a brisk burnout I staged, taking care not to redlight, and dumped the clutch at about 1,800 rpm. Nothing. The car didn't move an inch. I pushed in the clutch and tried to ease it out. Once it did move, the tires were spinning uncontrollably. I should have aborted the run right there, but I'd never had less traction. I thought for sure the car would eventually grab. It didn't. Instead it was moving toward the wall. Finally I snapped out of the tractionless trance, hit the brake, brought the car under control just inches from the wall, and put it down the track.

I was embarrassed, but I didn't crash. Determined to get back on the horse, I first checked the rear-tire pressure. Not that I could blame it all on the tire pressure, but there was a lot of air in the rear tires for the dragstrip. After adjusting them down to 20 psi, I went out for a second hit. I was rewarded with a 12.05 at 125-not the 11.69 I ran with the other TVS GT500, but still a nice pass. One, of course, that I could never duplicate. I managed some 12.50s and 12.30s during my practice runs, but I was chasing myself.

Once eliminations rolled around, I had one goal-not to redlight in the first round like I had the past two years. After a nice 12.16/126 practice hit, I was feeling good going into my first-round fight with Liz Miles of Popular Hot Rodding. It didn't start well. I spun and she beat me over the head with the Tree. I didn't, however, redlight. Goal achieved! It looked like I had lost the race, however. Once the car found traction, I hammered it hard to try and catch Liz. She thought she had the race in the bag, so she let off on the top end to avoid a breakout, which gave me the opportunity to drive around her for the win with a 12.75/122 to her 14.58/96.71.

Alas things didn't go as planned in the second round. I lit the red bulb again trying to get the jump on a slower but more consistent competitor, Sam Abuelsamid from Autoblog. It was silly, but the adrenaline was pumping. Still I had made 11 passes in a quick GT500, and I didn't have to worry about breaking it like I do with mine. It was a great time, but I think it's time to pass the baton and let one of our hardcore staffers give it a shot next year. It sure will be hard to pass up seat time in another FRPP ride, however. Well, I have time to change my mind before next year's Milan event ... -Steve Turner

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery