Paul Rosner
March 13, 2012
Photos By: Steve Turner, Paul Rosner

Put up those snow shovels, ice scrapers, and rock salt. Stow away the ice skates, skis, and even snowmobiles! Get those car covers off and rolled up, and move the junk that's migrated around your steed over the winter month. Get her dusted off and put back together—because it's time! Quarter-mile, pavement-pounding, gear-slamming, tire-smoking fun is just around the corner, and it's scheduled to appear at a dragstrip near you!

The folks from Promedia have stepped up their automotive enthusiast curriculum with new budget-minded classes, new event venues, and even an entirely new racing series out West for all makes and models!

The popular NMRA Ford Nationals Series will host eight events and bring its Blue Oval spectacle to the Maryland International Raceway for the first time ever. Whether you're a fan or racer, you must come and behold the most magnificent array of Ford hot rods both old and new, on and off the track.

Competition will be intense, with the usual 200-mph behemoths, bumper-dragging gear-jammers, Coyote 5.0 crate-engine-powered ponies, and several index-style alternatives to bracket racing. Participants will face off against the hottest racers from around the country. If you can conquer all and capture a win in the NMRA, be assured that you have beaten the nation's best!

Aside from the racing, there's plenty to see at the track. The UPR Products All-Ford Auto Show & Shine commonly showcases over 300 of the most rare and gorgeous Mustangs and Fords in the country. The tire-melting maniacs in the burnout contest are always a crowd favorite, as are the 300-plus mph exhibition jet car runs!

It's a bargain-shoppers' paradise as each event assembles one of the largest manufacturers' midways, where hot show-only deals are common and tech support is plentiful, from manufacturers, shops, and racers alike. Oodles of swappers are also on the property. negotiating hot deals on an extensive array of used parts.

Gather your family and friends, and come experience the hottest spectacle in motorsports! To whet your appetite, here is an overview of some of the cars and stars of the biggest and most popular all-Ford drag racing festivals in the country.

Horse Sense: If you're out West, you might want to check out the NMRA's sister series, the NMCA West, which will field three California races and one in Arizona. Each race will feature an open-comp-style Mustang Maddness clase. For more info, hit www.nmcadigital.com.

Pro Outlaw 10.5

The world's quickest and fastest Mustang and Ford-bodied streetcars in the country will amaze you when they line up at the starting gate, focused on hooking over 2,300 hp on a set of 10.5Wx33-inch drag slicks. That ride will last just over 6 seconds en route to the stripe.

Pro Outlaw 10.5W cars retain the stock quarter-panels, pillar posts, door jams, roof, and floorpan to keep their stock appearance. All contestants even have working taillights. The class allows up to 865ci nitrous oxide injected powerplants, 650ci supercharged, and 550ci single 106mm or twin 88mm turbocharger combos. All combos have different weight breaks with smaller cube combos running a bit lighter across the scales.

It won't matter which combination your favorite racer is sporting, the competition will be fast and furious right to the finish line as the quickest and fastest street cars in the country square off.

2011 Class Quickest & Fastest

E.T.: Mike Murillo, 6.62 seconds

MPH: Mike Murillo, 217.45 mph

Watch List

• Last season, 12-time-champ Mike Murillo's sick big-block, twin-turbo '93 Fox coupe took runner-up in the second race and never looked back. They ran the table, winning the last three events, resetting the record in the last two.

• Tim Essick ended last season on a high note. He won Bradenton in his 430ci, twin-turbo '03 Cobra, meeting the Murillo freight train in a couple finals. He and his team have been making huge strides in the past few years, and they could surprise some folks in 2012.

• Hellion Power Systems businessman Dwayne James and crew are one of the most die-hard bunches you'll ever see. They have inched away at dialing-in their ProCharger-powered, 440 small-block '03 Mystic Cobra.

Super Street Outlaw

The wildest, most unpredictable "freaks" of Mustang heads-up racing community come to battle in the Super Street Outlaw class, where '64-and-newer Mustangs utilize OEM-body-shelled cars, requiring a stock unibody structure from firewall to taillights. This results in the ultimate display of chassis builders' handiwork with complete safety cages built into the structure of the body.

The blaring shriek of the 440ci supercharged combos top the engine decibel charts. In contrast, the nearly inaudible sounds of the turbocharged cars in the water box always ends with a tantalizing asthmatic wheezing as the excess boost is exhausted from the wastegate. Then there are the melodious tones of a high-winding 525ci big-block, followed by the tell-tale purge of a triple-stage nitrous-oxide system after they return to the staging beams.

Did we forget to mention the required miniscule 10.5x28.5-inch slick doesn't take to the 1,500-2,000 hp well, especially with e.t.'s nearing the 6-second zone at over 200 mph, which will continue to make this the 10-Inch-Tire Freak Show!

2011 Class Record

E.T.: John Urist, 7.02 seconds

MPH: John Urist, 208.71 mph

Watch List

• John Urist and the Hellion crew stumbled in the first few events last season. Then they went four for five in final round appearances and topped the qualifying ladder on multiple occasions en route to their sixth consecutive championship of seven. These guys continue to build on their legendary legacy, nearly achieving the first 6-second runs and topping 208 mph!

• Chris Tuten blazed out of the box last year, claiming the first 200-mph pass on a 10.5x28-inch tire. Did we fail to mention he still commonly races without wheelie bars?

• Phil Hines' copper colt was never the quickest, but consistency not only earned him a victory in the sickest class in the series, he also finished Third in the points last season. He will be a steady performer in the top half of the field.

Xtreme Drag Radial

Optimum performance numbers don't necessitate bolting on a set of drag slicks anymore. With a bit of tuning magic, a set of D.O.T.-legal Drag Radials can equate to nearly equal performance results, even with the highest horsepower applications. The D.O.T. insignia means they are legal in all 50 states for highway usage, therefore making the Drag Radial class the pinnacle in street-legal Mustang racing.

You'll see them creep out of the hole, but watch out—these guys have a tendency to put it on the bumper at about the 330-foot marker as the frightening amounts of power kicks in, making for some breathtaking side-by-side mid-7-second drag radial action.

After the boys from the NMRA decided to remove many of the class restrictions and move the class closer to the 275 radial racing that seems to be sweeping the nation, the class knocked off a half second and ended in the closest points battle in the NMRA's 12-year history!

2011 Class Record

E.T.: Sean Lyon, 7.47 seconds

MPH: Sean Lyon, 188.15 mph

Watch List

• There is no denying the dominance of Jason Lee's ProCharger-powered '86 'Stang, claiming the last two consecutive NMRA championships in dominating fashion, while also collecting the 2011 NMCA 275 Xtreme Drag Radial championship nearly uncontested.

• Sean Lyon's lemon-yellow, Panhandle Performance-turbocharged, 353-cube coupe made two finals last year, leaving with two wins. Sean did everything right at the season finally, qualifying number one, setting the record, and keeping nemesis Jason Lee out of the winners' circle.

• Newcomer Andy Manson nearly turned out to be a spoiler, collecting an even record and winning two of his four trips to the finals in Paul Curry's turbocharged 325-cube, Four-Valve-powered '96 Mustang.

Renegade

How much horsepower can you make in your '79-and-newer Mustang-bodied steed with a nitrous-oxide-injected or a non-intercooled supercharged small-block Ford breathing through a 75mm throttle body, 81mm mass air meter, and mufflers with a measly 0.550-inch-lift hydraulic camshaft? Hopefully, enough to run in the low-8-second range on a 10.5x 28.5-inch slick!

The class has historically been for cars with stock suspension and an EFI power-adder small-block with automatic transmission only. Now for the first time in class history, you may now run a clutchless manual transmission! In addition, carburetors are allowed but only with nitrous-oxide combos. This class has significant rule changes, so class performance should be wild and unpredictable as ever, and no wheelie bars!

This class should see a handful of new participants with the dissolution of both the Real Street and Pure Street classes. The names and faces will be familiar, but the performance will be considerable quicker—1.5 to 2 seconds, to be exact!

Make sure you have your spot in the stands when the Renegades arrive. Wheelie bars aren't allowed in the class, and at this power level, a 20-degree change in track temp can unexpectedly send an entire round of racers skyward and a dumpster full of bumper covers!

2011 Class Record

E.T: Brian Mitchell, 8.29 seconds

MPH: Brian Mitchell, 162.96 mph

Watch List

• Brian “Mr. Wizard” Mitchell and his 310-cube '04 Cobra continued his legacy with as many championship rings as he has fingers on one hand. Consistency serves as the main ingredient in his winning recipe; the competition better hope he doesn't want another!

• After taking home the championship in '10, the Alton Clements took a year off, then returned with a vengeance, taking a pair of photo shoots in the winners' circle in his four visits.

• Bob Cook's slick Fox GT is always a strong contender. He walked away with a win at the season finalé, one of only three events he participated in last year.

Hot Street

No power adders here, just old-school nuts-and-bolts horsepower from ported heads, big camshafts, monster exhausts, and stratospheric rpm! There is no sweeter melody than the sounds of a small-block Ford wound up near 10,000 rpm just before a gearshift! These are the small-block Pro Stocks of the NMRA, the heinous Hot Street hooligans.

Packing a single Dominator carburetor, a cylinder head choice from the permissible list, mufflers, and stock or ladder-bar suspension as the only guideline, this all-motor horsepower class that will have no problem breaking into the low 8-second zone on 28.6x10.6-inch slicks. Especially since, for the first time in class history, wheelie bars are permitted. However, they cannot extend past the bumper, so you will probably never see them. Expect to see lots of wheels-up, bumper-dragging action!

2011 Class Record

E.T.: Robbie Blankenship, 8.38 seconds

MPH: Robbie Blankenship, 158.87 mph

Watch List

• There's been a family feud brewing in the engine builders' class for the past several years—'08 champ Robby Blankenship's gorgeous blue '04 Cobra with a nasty 399-cube Roush engine and Kuntz & Company powerplants poster child Charlie Booze Jr., who has been winning championships in both the NMRA and NMCA for nearly 20 years. Robby went four for six in NMRA final rounds and three for five in NMCA competition, meeting Charlie on nine of those occasions! Similarly, Charlie went to every final in the NMRA, going three for seven and three for five in NMCA racing, where he captured the 2011 all-motor championship.

• Don't forget the old fox in the yellow Roush-powered '70 Maverick,Don Bowles.

Coyote Stock

Street-car racing has reached sick levels of performance and expense, so the NMRA and Ford Racing developed an affordable path called Coyote Stock.

The 412hp, 7,000-plus-rpm Coyote is one of the most potent powerplants to ever roll out of the Ford factory assembly line. It would be ludicrous not to introduce the powerplant to the popular heads-up racing division, especially in these times when speed freaks are searching for the most inexpensive way to feed their need for speed.

Ford Racing aficionados have stacked the deck by offering complete crate engine packages for right around the $7,000 mark, turnkey with wiring harness and computer included. Now any average Joe can order up a new Four-Valve Coyote crate engine from their favorite Ford Racing distributor, drop it in a mild streetcar or racecar chassis and go heads-up racing.

The class is open to '54-or-newer Fords with stock suspensions. It allows no modifications to the engine and no fancy magical tuning—Ford Racing computers only. This will be a driver and chassis-tuner class!

Watch List

• Joe Charles is planning a return to racing with a Coyote Stock entry running out of the MV Performance stable.

Factory Stock

How many of you weekend bracketeers and test-'n'-tuners are tired of handicap racing? If your '79-and-newer Fox-chassis car still has the reactively stock powerplant, then you could get started here in heads-up racing.

They call this an entry-level class for beginners. It's a bolt-on-only class for fuel-injected cars, but beware—this is one of the most popular and contested classes in the NMRA. These boys know all the go-fast secrets. If you think these changes could put your steed in the 11-flat range on 275 BFG Comp TA, G-force TA, or Nitto NT555R D.O.T.s, then this class could be your calling.

2011 Class Record

ET: Louis Sylvester, 10.88 seconds

MPH: Louis Sylvester, 122.67 mph

Watch List

• Bad-boy Carlos Sobrino surprised all, winning his first NMRA race in 2010 and then winning his first NMRA championship in 2011!

• Louis Sylvester's 309ci pony made a late-season charge last year, going to five finalés.

• John Leslie Jr. battled his dad, John Sr., in a friendly family feud for the fourth and fifth spots in the points respectively last season.

Modular Muscle

Bored of handicap starts? This class offers pro-Tree, handicap-style racing, which you must qualify for by your e.t. with a 0.10 breakout allowance on race day. It is center stage for showcasing the performance potential of the overhead-camshaft modular engines. Don't look for an easy go of it here—the fields are big and racing is intense.

The quickest qualifying e.t. permitted in this class is 8.60; the slowest is 15.70. No electronics allowed, all racing leaves on a handicap 0.500 pro Tree!

Watch List

• Reggie Burnette Jr. is always a threat to win. He visited four final rounds in 2011 to win the class championship in his wild green-and-red, graphics-laden '00 Mustang, his second in the last three years.

• Meanwhile, Randy Mounce spent lots of time on the road commuting from Woodstock, Ontario, planning his next trip to the winners' circle, where he trailered Reggie on both occasions for runner-up in the chase.

Open Comp

Open Comp is for all those racers who want to compete in a big-time series for their own Nitto Diamond Tree ring. All Ford-bodied and -powered race or street cars can compete in this all-run, 0.500 pro-Tree, qualifying-style version of heads-up known as Open Comp.

All competitors will automatically be dialed one tenth quicker than their quickest qualifying time. Only e.t.'s between 8.60 and 15.70 will be allowed to compete. Most competitors will be bracket racers looking for something a bit different—the fields will be full and racing intense. No electronics are allowed!

Watch List

• Drag racing has always been a family sport, and the Pickering family lives the dream. This year, their dream come true! Jon M. and his dad, Jon H., have been competing in the same class for several years, racers in the staging lanes and family to all in the pits. Jon M. Pickering's 557-cube '74 Mustang II visited a pair of finals to keep in the championship hunt, then nailed it down with a win at the season finale.

• Larry Geddes' Ford Racing crate-motor-powered, white hatch was close on Jon's tail for most of the season, earning three of three wins.

Truck & Lightning

The Truck and Lightning class is for all you truck racers looking to prove your truck is the toughest. You too could win your own Nitto Diamond Tree ring. Again, all Ford-bodied and powered trucks are allowed to compete in this all-run, 0.500 pro-Tree, qualifying-style version of heads-up known as an open-comp format. All competitors will automatically be dialed one tenth quicker than their quickest qualifying time. Only e.t.'s between 8.60 and 15.70 will be allowed to compete. No electronics allowed!

Watch List

• Steve Martin's banana-yellow '99 Lightning was no joke. He went to the finals in the first four events, landing in the winners' circle for a pair. He ran down competitors most of the season with mid-10-second e.t.'s, leaving the #1 on the window for his 2011 achievements!

Super 'Stang

The Super 'Stang class will showcase performance capabilities of all '05-and-newer (S197) Mustangs with 4.6, 5.0, or 5.4 modular and V-6 engines only, in 0.500 pro-Tree, dial-in–style racing. Power-adder steeds must weigh 3,400 pounds; naturally aspirated rides clock in at 3,200 pounds. All must run quicker than 14.50 and launch on a footbrake only!

Sit back and be amazed at the level of competition with no transbrakes, two steps, or electronics allowed!

Watch List

• BMR suspension wizard and president Allan Miller wowed the world with his Coyote-powered company test mule, winning an unprecedented three races, including the World Finals. He knocked off the king and repeat champ Chris Parisi, who got a win and a runner-up to finish Second in the points.

2012 Schedule

March 1-4, 2012

  • 18th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout, presented by Steeda
  • Bradenton Motorsports Park
  • Bradenton, Florida

April 12-15, 2012

  • 4th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals
  • Atlanta Dragway
  • Commerce, Georgia

May 4-6, 2012

  • 11th Annual NMRA Ford Nationals
  • Maryland Int'l Raceway
  • Mechanicsville, Maryland

June 15-16, 2012

  • 9th Annual NMRA Ford Nationals
  • Milan Dragway
  • Milan, Michigan

July 12-15, 2012

  • 7th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing, presented by Miller Welders
  • Route 66 Raceway
  • Joliet, Illinois

Aug. 31 - Sept 2, 2012

  • 34th Annual NMRA Ford Expo
  • National Trail Raceway
  • Columbus, Ohio

Oct. 4-7, 2012

  • 14th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA All-Ford World Finals, featuring 5.0 Mustang & Super Ford's King of the Street
  • Beech Bend Raceway
  • Bowling Green, Kentucky

November 9-11, 2012

  • 3rd Annual Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Lone Star Shootout
  • RP Raceway
  • Houston, Texas