Steve Turner
Former Editor, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
June 23, 2011
Photos By: Michael Johnson

It's been just over a year since the '11 Mustangs hit dealerships, and in mere months this car has become the darling of the aftermarket. In scant weeks, the cars were modified to eclipse quarter-mile milestones that their predecessors took months or even years to conquer. It goes without saying that Ford hit this one out of the park, but the return of a 5.0 engine has us feeling more than a bit nostalgic.

That nostalgia isn't based on a wish to return to the good old days of pushrods, but to revisit the days of the 5.0 Shootout, an event put together by Super Ford, the magazine we joined with in the early 2000s. Back in the days of the first 5.0 revolution, pioneers from all over the country were modifying their Mustangs for quarter-mile supremacy, but there was no place for them to see how they stacked up against the other cars. There wasn't a racing series. There was no Internet. The magazine brought these cars together at one track to see how the cars compared.

Today, obviously, things are much different. The outlets for displaying the performance of the latest Mustang are myriad. Yet, it seems enthusiasts are still ahead of the curve. The cars are just starting to sneak into racing classes, but there are no dedicated places for them to square off. Racing to get videos and timeslips online is part of the game today, but nothing beats comparing the cars on the same day at the same track.

Naturally, we considered putting together our own 5.0 Shootout in the mold of those groundbreaking Super Ford events, which paved the way for many of the events that followed. However, we wanted to wait until the market matured, many of the power-adder options arrived, and tuning gained a foothold inside the Copperhead ECU.

While we waited, all those things happened, but something else changed. There was a groundswell on the Internet for a more inclusive event, one that didn't just include shop stars but allowed regular Joes to compete as well. As this what-if scenario built momentum online, we were contacted about our interest in covering the event. It was impossible not to appreciate the grassroots nature of the happening. While much Internet posting just expresses dissatisfaction without offering a solution, these enthusiasts took a do-it-yourself approach.

With nothing more than a good feeling, we agreed to attend the event put together by Adam Browne of Revolution Automotive. We had no idea how many cars would show up or how the race would come off, but we knew it was a great idea. Boy, are we glad we said yes. Twenty-four '11-'12 Mustangs showed up at Maryland International Raceway in Mechanicsville, Maryland. The weather was cool and the track was sticky thanks to tireless prep from MIR's head tractor drifter Jason Miller.

On that stage, the attendees put on quite a display of performance. Most staggering of all was that they did it with relatively few modifications. To find out about the state of the art in Coyote performance as of late March 2011, keep reading. If these cars are running this well after one year, imagine what the future holds...

Horse Sense: While this was a fully grassroots event put on by Adam Browne, he did get some sponsorship support from both JPC Racing (www.jpcracing.com) and UPR Products (www.uprproducts.com).

Power Adder Unlimited

Nelson Whitlock


Best Pass: 9.21/140
Race Weight: 3,600

The last time we saw Evolution Performance's Kona Blue '11 GT, it was breaking into the 8-second zone. The car has already seen a complete, um, evolution in its combination since it made its 10-second debut on these pages. At MIR, the Evo tester was sporting Kenne Bell's 3.6-liter Mammoth supercharger system atop a built engine and backed by a C4. Evo hotshoe Nelson Whitlock quickly topped the qualifying sheet with a 9.21 at 140.07 mph; then he waited to meet Sean Kelley in the finals. After a double redlight, it was a do-over, and Nelson took the crown with patience and a 9.48 at 145.59.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Kenne Bell 3.6LC supercharger, 24 pounds of boost
  • L&M Race Engines-built 5.0 w/Oliver billet rods and custom Diamond Pistons
  • Fore Precision Works F4 fuel-pressure regulator
  • Fore Precision Works fuel filter
  • Aeromotive Return fuel system
  • American Racing Headers 17/8-in long-tubes
  • Pro-Formance C4 transmission
  • Frank Lupo's Dynamic converter
  • Evolution Performance 4-in aluminum driveshaft

Electronics

  • N2MB Racing WOT box two-step
  • Custom-tuned by Jon Lund

Suspension And Chassis

  • Evolution Performance-fabricated Ford 9-in rear with built on antiroll bar
  • Evolution upper control arm and mount
  • Evolution billet lower control arms
  • Evolution adjustable race Panhard bar and brace
  • 15-inch Bogart racing wheels
  • Mickey Thompson ET drag slicks

Sean Kelley


Best Pass: 9.47/138
Race Weight: 3,975

Sean Kelley describes his ride as a "quiet little street car," and compared to the other heavy hitters in the Unlimited category, his stock-muffler car was pretty tame. That's saying something, as Sean's car sports both a Paxton supercharger and nitrous, but his daily driver also runs with a large number of stock parts. With that in mind, his number-two qualified blast of 9.51 at 146.23 was impressive. Sean squared off against Justin Burcham for a shot at Nelson Whitlock in the finals. Justin got the jump but ran into trouble, and Sean ran it out the back door to the tune of 9.47 at 138.26. The finals were full of drama as both cars lit the red bulb on the first attempt. On the second try, Sean knew he had to get the jump and left early again, handing Nelson the win.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • L&M 10:1 compression short-block
  • JPC/RGR-ported heads with stock cams
  • Paxton NOVI 2200, 8 psi
  • Induction Solutions direct-port nitrous setup (150 shot)
  • Stock fuel pump w/Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump
  • American Racing Headers 17/8-in long-tubes and midpipe
  • Worked stock converter
  • 3.55 gears

Electronics

  • Custom tune by Brent Hughes of DynoTuned Performance

Suspension And Chassis

  • Antiroll bar by Matt Wirt of Racefab Engineering
  • Race Star wheels
  • Mickey Thompson 28x10.5-in slicks

Justin Burcham


Best Pass: 9.68/142.64
Race Weight: 3,395

After years of watching Team JPC assemble a race car in the pits and make it into the lanes just in time, it was no surprise to see Justin Burcham with a just-in-time arrival for qualifying. After fighting off gremlins to the point of exasperation, Justin was inspired by his young son to keep up the fight. He made it on the dyno the morning of the event, and arrived in time to qualify with a 9.72 at 141.89. It looked as if it was anyone's race between Justin and Sean Kelley, but a missed shift ended Justin's run and sent Sean into the final round.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • JPC/RGR short-block
  • JPC/RGR CNC heads
  • Stock cams
  • JPC long-tube headers, X-style pipe
  • Bassani mufflers
  • Paxton Novi 2200 Supercharger
  • (six-rib,13 psi)
  • Paxton air-to-air intercooler
  • Tremec Magnum six-speed
  • McLeod RSX twin-disc clutch, aluminum flywheel
  • JPC one-piece aluminum driveshaft
  • Fore Precision Works triple-hat return-style fuel system
  • Ford Racing 60-lb/hr injectors
  • Powercell 12V lithium battery
  • Brisk Racing plugs
  • 9-in rear
  • 35-spline Strange axles
  • Strange spool
  • 4.30 gears

Electronics

  • Custom DiabloSport Trinity tune by JPC Racing

Suspension And Chassis

  • Metco lower control arms
  • Racecraft upper arm and mount
  • Eibach springs
  • Eibach adjustable shocks and struts
  • Strange Race brakes front and rear
  • Insane Fabrication 10-point cage
  • Bogarts Welded RT wheels
  • Mickey Thompson 28x11.5-in tires

Naturally Aspirated Unlimited

Adam Browne


Best Pass: 10.94/125.68
Race Weight: 3,375

In addition to planning the race and working on customer cars, Adam Browne stepped up his own combination with a healthy injection of Boss parts before the event. He had hoped to best his 10.99 low e.t., and did so with his 10.94 qualifier. That put him in the third qualified spot and lined him up against Nelson Whitlock in Round 1. Nelson's car leapt out but fell on its face, and Adam walked to an easy win with an 11.80. Unfortunately for Joe Marini, his car suffered a transmission failure and gave Adam the win. It made for an awkward awards presentation at the end of the day, but Adam certainly deserved an award for putting on a great event.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Boss 302 valves, valvesprings, exhaust cams, and balancer
  • Re-ground intake cams
  • Boss 302 intake manifold
  • Exhaust ports matched to headers by Revolution Automotive
  • JLT carbon fiber intake
  • JLT oil separator
  • McLeod RST clutch, aluminum flywheel
  • American Racing Headers 17/8-in long-tubes
  • X-style pipe
  • Resonators deleted
  • Flowmaster American Thunder axle-back
  • Revolution Automotive-built MT-82 trans (all gears REM-treated and reassembled)
  • Dynotech one-piece aluminum driveshaft
  • 3.73 gears w/extra clutches in factory Traction-Lok

Electronics

  • SCT tuning by Revolution Automotive

Suspension And Chassis

  • UPR control arms and adjustable Panhard bar
  • UPR lightweight radiator support
  • Maximum Motorsports NHRA-legal rollbar
  • ARP extended wheel studs
  • 17x4-in Weld Alumna Star fronts
  • 15x9.5-in Weld R/T rears
  • 28x10.5 Mickey Thompson ET Drags

Nelson Whitlock


Best Pass: 10.88/124
Race Weight: 3,275

You never quite know what to expect when the Evolution Performance crew hits the track. They aren't afraid to change up a combination on a moment's notice, and that was certainly the case for the shop's Factory Stock '11 Mustang, which we last saw in NMRA-legal form at Bradenton. For the shootout, the Evo crew decided to put the car on a diet and add some freer-flowing induction in the form of a Boss intake and a JLT cold-air intake. The resulting 10.88 would have put them atop a Factory Stock ladder, but it landed driver Nelson Whitlock in the Number 2 qualified spot. Though he looked to have at least a second on Adam Browne, an electronic gremlin showed up at the starting line, short-circuiting Nelson's run as it began.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Ford Racing 5.0 Coyote crate engine
  • Ford Racing Boss 302 intake manifold
  • Fore Precision Works F4 fuel-pressure regulator
  • Fore Precision Works fuel filter
  • JLT cold-air intake, oil separator
  • American Racing Headers 15/8-in long-tubes
  • Borla S-type Cat-Back exhaust system
  • Barton short-throw shifter
  • McLeod Racing clutch
  • Ford Racing 3.73 gears
  • Evolution Performance 3.5-in aluminum driveshaft

Electronics

  • Ford Racing Control Pack
  • Custom-tuned by Jon Lund

Suspension And Chassis

  • Evolution upper control arm and mount
  • Evolution billet lower control arms
  • Evolution adjustable race Panhard bar and brace
  • 15-inch Bogart racing wheels
  • Mickey Thompson ET drag slicks

Joe Marini


Best Pass: 10.87/128
Race Weight: 3,275

Known online for its 500-plus-rwhp dyno exploits, Joe Marini's GT proved just as impressive on the track. His ride looked like the car to beat after laying down the top qualifying pass with a 10.87. This set the stage for what should have been anyone's race in the finals versus Nelson Whitlock. Of course, that's why they run the races--they don't always work out the way the schedule says they should. For Joe, a busted transmission took his ride out of contention.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • FRPP Boss 302 intake manifold
  • JLT cold air intake
  • JPC long-tube headers
  • JPC off-road X-style pipe
  • JPC over-axle pipes
  • Bassani axle-back
  • JPC/RGR Stage 1 ported heads
  • JPC Stage 1 N/A cams
  • 4.88 gears
  • Strange axles, spool

Electronics

  • Custom DiabloSport Trinity tune by JPC Racing

Suspension And Chassis

  • Strange brakes, shocks, struts
  • Metco lower arms
  • JPC upper control arm
  • JPC custom driveshaft
  • Eibach drag-launch kit
  • JPC line-lock kit
  • Bogart 15x4-in front wheels
  • Bogart 15x10-in rear wheels
  • Mickey Thompson front tires and slicks
  • JPC eight-point chrome-moly rollcage
  • JPC front and rear lightweight bumper supports

Power Adder Street

Chris Cruz


Best Pass: 9.83/141.59
Race Weight: 3,810

It's cool to see some of these Internet superstars in the flesh, even for us, and Chris Cruz's white GT was the first automatic '11 to bust into the 9-second range online. Having seen it at Bradenton weeks earlier, we had no idea of its capabilities, but capable it was. Chris cracked off a 9.83 at 141, which was only good enough for the second qualified spot in what would be the day's most hotly contested category. That's because his Whipple/auto car was on a collision course with Rebecca Starkey's TVS/auto car. After knocking off Clinton Smith in the first round, Chris took a bye into the finals against Rebecca. It was anyone's race, but Chris got the jump and held her off all the way down the track for the win.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Ford Racing/Whipple 2.3-liter twin-screw supercharger w/12.5 psi
  • 123mm carbon-fiber cold air intake
  • L&M Dual 66mm throttle body
  • 75-pound flow-matched fuel injectors
  • Kenne Bell Boost-a-Pump
  • JLT oil separators
  • American Racing Headers 17/8-in long-tubes with 3-in collector
  • American Racing Headers off-road X-style pipe
  • Borla S-Type Cat-Back exhaust system
  • Circle D Specialties Pro Series billet torque converter
  • Ford Racing 3.73 gears

Electronics

  • Custom-tuned by Jon Lund

Suspension And Chassis

  • Evolution upper control arm and mount
  • Evolution billet lower control arms, adjustable Panhard bar, and brace
  • Ford Racing springs
  • Weld RTS wheels
  • Mickey Thompson ET Street tire

Rebecca Starkey


Best Pass: 9.79/140
Race Weight: 3,705

It was a last-minute decision for the VMP Tuning family to make the trek up from Florida, but obviously they made the right choice. Rebecca Starkey has really maximized the performance of her Roushcharged automatic GT. In Florida, she ran it right up to the brink with a 10.00 pass, but in the cool Maryland air, Rebecca's car was flat flying. On her first qualifying pass, the 9-second barrier was broken. She ran in the 9s on every run at MIR, and qualified in the top spot with a 9.80 that put her up against VMP customer Rod Heltzel in Round 2. Rod put up a valiant effort, but Rebecca prevailed with an amazing 9.79, setting up the race of the day with Chris Cruz. Rebecca ran quicker (9.84 versus 9.90), but Chris won the race at the Tree.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • 2.3-liter TVS Roushcharger w/VMP 69mm pulley
  • 71-lb/hr injectors
  • BBK long-tube headers
  • FRPP throttle body
  • PST carbon-fiber driveshaft

Electronics

  • Custom SCT tune by Justin Starkey of VMP Tuning

Suspension And Chassis

  • Afco double-adjustable shocks
  • J&M lower control arms w/relocation brackets
  • VMP custom antiroll bar
  • VMP custom rollbar
  • Weld RTS wheels
  • Hoosier tires

Rod Heltzel


Best Pass: 9.89/138
Race Weight: 3,805

You know you're hardcore when you drive 23 hours from Texas to attend a one-day race at MIR. Hardcore is an understatement for Rod Heltzel, who already has another '11 and a '12 Boss 302 on order. He says that he actually bought the car you see here after reading our stories on Rebecca Starkey's car breaking into the 10s. After that, Rod bought the car, ordered up similar gear--including the supercharger and tune from VMP--and set a goal of running 10.teens. After qualifying in the third spot with a 10.05, it was time for a new goal. Though he lost to Rebecca in the second round with a 10.07, he kept plugging away with test 'n' tune passes. Just as the track was about to shut down, Rod clicked off a 9.89! Talk about making it worth the trip.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • TVS 2.3-liter Roushcharger w/VMP 69mm pulley
  • 71-lb/hr injectors
  • H-pipe and mufflers
  • Aluminum driveshaft
  • 3.55 gears

Electronics

  • Tuned by Justin Starkey of VMP Tuning

Suspension And Chassis

  • Upper and lower control arms
  • Front sway bar removed
  • Weld RTS wheels
  • Eight-point mild-steel rollcage

Naturally Aspirated Street

Joe Jones


Best Pass: 11.19/122
Race Weight: 3,510

Having tirelessly tested numerous products on Woodbine Motorsports' in-house project car, Joe Jones obviously landed on a combination that works. He established himself as the heavy-hitter in NA Street with an 11.33 qualifying shot. This put Joe on easy street for eliminations, as he took out Marco Ponce Jr. and Calvin Atwell with relative ease before facing off with Texan Charles Mason in the finals. Joe had a rough time in the burnout box, and Charles got the jump at the Tree. However, Joe had the steam to reel him in before the stripe for the win (11.43 versus 11.70).

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Boss intake manifold
  • JLT cold air intake
  • Dynotech one-piece aluminum driveshaft
  • Dynatech long-tube headers with cat-less midpipe
  • Pypes Supersystem 3-in after-axle
  • Mcleod RST clutch
  • Stock 3.73 gears with TrueTrac differential

Electronics

  • Woodbine Motorsports SCT tuning, tuned by Joe Jones

Suspension And Chassis

  • Metco rear lower control arms with relocation brackets
  • BMR radiator support delete and swaybar delete
  • Racestar 17x4-in wheels (front)
  • M&H Racemaster skinnies
  • Racestar 15x10-in wheels (rear)
  • 28x12.50x15-in ET Streets

Charles Mason


Best Pass: 11.45/118
Race Weight: 3,535

Charles Mason of Horseplay Performance also made the journey from Texas. This '11 is one of five 'Stangs in Charles' corral, and it's already one of the quickest thanks to a few select bolt-ons. Despite its modest mods, Charles' '11 snagged the number-two qualified spot thanks to an impressive 11.57 pass. In eliminations, he took out Joseph Letournea, Shane Stymiest, and Pete Espeut en route to a clash with Joe Jones in the final round of the stacked NA Street class. Charles chopped down the Tree, but Joe powered past him for the win. Despite the runner-up finish, Charles said, "The trip was long, but I really enjoyed racing and meeting with all of the other shops."

Engine And Drivetrain

  • K&M panel filter
  • Custom mufflers
  • 3-in off-road X-shape crossover
  • CCI Driveline aluminum driveshaft
  • 4.10 gears

Electronics

  • Custom-tuned by Jon Lund

Suspension And Chassis

  • Bogart wheels
  • Hoosier Quick Time Pro 27x11.5x15 tires

Pete Espeut


Best Pass: 11.89/115
Race Weight: 3,835

Pete Espeut made the same promise many of us have made before--that he wouldn't touch his wife's new GT. It replaced her 678-rwhp GT500, but she actually encouraged him to mod the GT before the shootout. (That's a good woman!) Pete was actually still modding it at the track. When we snapped shots of his engine compartment it sported the seemingly ubiquitous Boss manifold, but in the thick of the race, Pete moved back to the stock intake manifold fed by the JLT. "We started with 372 rwhp, and with the mods we made 406 rwhp," Pete said. "At the track, we made a few passes with the Boss intake but the car felt lazy, so we put the stock intake back on and it picked up." It obviously worked, as he qualified tenth with a 12.26. However, by the time he fell to Charles Mason in the third round, the car ran an 11.89.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Boss 302 intake manifold (swapped back to stock during event)
  • JLT cold-air intake
  • 373 gears
  • Moser axles
  • Detroit True Trac

Electronics

  • Custom-tune by Dave Guy of DGR Performance

Suspension And Chassis

  • FRPP '95 Cobra R wheels
  • 295/45-17 Mickey Thompson drag radials

Fastest Stock Tire

Dave London


Best Pass: 11.94/114
Race Weight: 3,930

Another racer brave enough to run his wife's car at the shootout was Dave London. His gal, Billiejo Eppes, is obviously cool as ice. "...Got to love a girl that gives me her brand-new Mustang GT to race in a 5.0 shootout," Dave said. "It turned 1,000 miles going down the track!" Running with the Evolution Performance crew, Dave placed his wife's ride in the mix of the NA Street class, qualifying fourth with an 11.94 and making it to the second round before falling to Pete Espeut. At the end of the day, he swapped out the sticky rear tires for the stock Pirellis to sweep in and snatch the fastest-stock-tire crown from Jay Willey with a 12.18.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • JLT cold-air intake
  • Roush mufflers

Electronics

  • Custom-tune by Jon Lund

Suspension And Chassis

  • Stock

Jay Willey


Best Pass: 12.06/116
Race Weight: 3,670

While most of the competitors at MIR were rocking relatively new '11 Mustangs, Jay Willey rolled out his spanking new '12 GT for a little 1,320 fun. He had just purchased the car the Friday before the shootout Monday. Of course, he is a man after the editor's heart, as he used painter's tape to protect the finish of his new steed. Despite the tape and the stock Pirellis, Jay was in the thick of the NA Street category thanks to a 12.14 qualifier till a distraction ended his run in the first round. "It ran great all day," Jay explained. "I actually lost because my low fuel light came on. When I looked up, it was already over, but I didn't panic because that was my fastest time of the day." At day's end, it was time for the official stock-tire runs, and Jay put up the time to beat with a 12.22, but Dave London came in and sniped him right before the awards were handed out.

Engine And Drivetrain

  • JLT cold air intake
  • Lethal Performance 3-inch X-style pipe

Electronics

  • Custom SCT tune by Adam Browne at Revolution Automotive

Suspension And Chassis

  • Stock