Jerry Heasley
September 1, 2006
Vintage cars lined up on the grid for picture taking prior to their feature race Friday.

Scorching hot! You can say that of the cars and the sunshine at Tulsa, sight of one of the most awesome Mustang car shows, drag races and road races in the world. Thirty-two years ago, when Jim Wicks started this event, it was strictly the Mid-America Shelby Convention. Today, it's billed as the Mid-America Ford and Shelby Convention. The late models have arrived in Delta force, baby.

A big deal for late-model people is the arrival of the latest Shelby, the '07 GT500's, which Ford Racing displayed at Tulsa in both fastback and convertible. John Alguire, Ford's "Marketing Manager" for the latest Shelby, told us, "We started production last week. The cars will be in dealer showrooms by mid-July."

This was June 10th, and we were at the drag strip on the midway. Close by Ford Racing's big display, I could see Steeda, Shelby Automobiles, Dallas Mustang Parts, and Unique Performance, the outfit that builds Shelby continuation Mustangs. Scores of other vendors stretched out along the strip selling everything from headers to motors to jewelry such as watches.

By the time you read this, 2007 Shelby G.T.500s will be on the streets. Ford chose Mid-America as the first stop on their 16- city summer tour.

Alguire said, "We wanted to kick off our tour at Mid-America. Jim Wicks and his team do such a great job. This is the perfect place to start. We've got so many enthusiasts who are Shelby nuts."

Mid-America had actually kicked off on Wednesday, June 7th out at Hallett Motor Racing Circuit. That's the 1.8-mile, 10-turn road-racing course located 35 miles west of Tulsa in the rolling Osage Hills of North Eastern Oklahoma. It would be hard to imagine a greener place in the summer, or one with more trees.

Few events have both road racing and drag racing, plus a car show too (that being on the last day, Sunday). Mid-America is special for this reason. Tulsa is also centrally located, so thousands of people and about 1,200 cars (this year) showed up. Maybe that's whyn people like Lee Abrahamson, who owns a pair of vintage Shelby Mustangs plus a '99 Cobra convertible say it is "maybe the best Shelby event in the country."

We asked J. Bittle, of JBA Headers in San Diego, why he trailers his Mustang here from California. That's a haul of a half-continent. First, Bittle cut up with us, "Cause I have to go back and tell the Californians what a real Ford event is all about."

Maybe he wasn't kidding? Then, he leveled with us, "Thirty years I've been coming here. So I wouldn't miss it. It's worth the 3,000- mile drive just to get out on Hallett." This year, Bittle pounded his '68 Trans Am Mustang on the track, which he describes as "highly technical."

With over 80 feet of elevation changes, Hallett is more thrills than a roller coaster. At Mid-America, anybody can drive Hallett, from novices in Group 3 to experts in Group 1. Group 2 is for the in-betweener's.

In addition to the all-day road racing, spectators got a huge kick out of the two feature races on Friday, one for vintage cars and the other for late models. These drivers drove their valuable steeds on the edge. The meat wagon (ambulance) wasn't needed, but the drivers really got competitive, sliding and stirring up dust in some of the turns. Luckily, Hallett is not rimmed with concrete barriers. You go off course, most likely you slide on grass. The crowd loved the action and packed the stands around the track.

Saturday was drag race day. You could see just about anything Ford running the brackets at Tulsa Raceway Park. Late models proliferated. One of our feature cars, a '93 coupe fitted with an '01 Cobra motor, hit the track for the first time. Owner Jonathan McDonald predicted the high 12s. His first time out he posted a 12.76 @ 109.87 MPH.

The parking lot of the Southern Hills Marriott (host hotel) was filled to overflowing on Sunday morning. People could waft in and out of the hotel from time to time to get cool. If the thermometer didn't hit 100 degrees Fahrenheit, it still felt like 120 with the humidity. Once you're weathered a Tulsa event, you'll know what we mean.

Every June, along about the first weekend or so, Jim Wicks hosts the annual Tulsa Mid- American Ford and Shelby Performance Convention. This one is scorching hot for Mustang people as well as the weatherman.