Jamie Hiscoe
September 15, 2006
Photos By: Brent Delk
Here is Kirk Taylor's '00 automatic before his naturally aspirated 14.1-second pass. He won the N/A bracket class.

You've got a what under the hood?
That's right, a V-6. It's a common question after seeing a few of these cars run. And on one day in March, some of the fastest of the bunch gathered in Cecil, Georgia, to battle it out in the Southern V6 Ford Challenge.

In its fifth year, the V6 Ford Challenge expanded from one event to two for 2006 (there was even talk of holding a third). This year, the track of choice for the first was South Georgia Motorsports Park, where Richard Hall and his crew had the track well prepped in anticipation of the high-horse cars that would going down it on Sunday. The second event was scheduled to be part of the J&P Shootout Reunion on August 25-27 in Cayuga, Ontario, Canada, at Toronto Motorsports Park.

The event began on Saturday, with a day of dyno tuning thanks to Justin Starkey of VMPtuning.com, who trailered up his portable dyno from Debary, Florida, to tweak some cars in preparation for Sunday's event. Justin is an avid V-6er with a high-10-second, twin-turbo sleeper Mustang. Unfortunately, his automobile was not up to snuff for this year's event, so his fiance, Rebecca Shaw, showed up to race in her SCT-tuned '06 Mustang instead.

On Sunday, the mix of cars consisted mainly of Mustangs. Plenty of test and tune runs helped racers get a feel for the track and to base dial-in times for the afternoon's eliminations. There was one heads-up class and two bracket categories-one for the Power adder cars and one for those doing it on motor alone.

The battles were close all day. In the naturally-aspirated bracket class, Kirk Taylor of Morton Grove, Illinois, made it to the finals, as he has done in previous events, and this time he took home the victory over Tom Morrison of Charleston, South Carolina. Taylor ran a 14.21 on a 14.18 dial in, and Morrison ran a 15.32 on a 15.20 dial. Morrison had the edge on the reaction time with a 0.019 light, but Taylor's 0.060 was enough to give him a 0.045 margin of victory.

In the Power Adder class, a pair of Rangers owned by Gerry Van Veen from Stockbridge, Georgia, and Doug Studdard of Jasper, Alabama, were paired up in the first round of eliminations. They decided to run heads-up with identical dial ins. Studdard prevailed by a bumper's length (0.067 second), but Van Veen took advantage of the first-round buy-backs to get back into the competition.

Van Veen made it pay off as he got on his game and made it to the finals. And who would he meet? None other than Studdard for another showdown and this time some revenge. Once again, they chose identical dial-ins, so it would be another heads-up grudge match. This time the tables turned as Studdard broke when the light turned green and Van Veen cruised to victory lane without contest.

The main event was the heads-up battle, one that saw two of the top dogs of the V-6 world come together. Kyle Yentzer of Super Six Motorsports and Matthew Neuharth of Delk Performance were paired up for the coveted Heads-Up final.

Earlier in the day, Neuharth set a V-6 record with his custom single-turbo '95 Mustang when he ran a 10.17 at 136 mph. Not to be outdone, Yentzer set a new standard for a naturally-aspirated V-6 car with his 11.89 at 112 mph. Neuharth was plagued by a bad exhaust leak all day, and spun off the line in the finals, but that didn't matter. Yentzer redlit, handing Neuharth the automatic victory. (Neuharth dropped off to an 11.07 at 126, which would have been plenty good enough to down Yentzer, who slowed to a still-impressive 11.93 at 112.)

Since this race, Neuharth has since broken the 9-second barrier, with a 9.95 at 138 mph at the Atlanta Fun Ford Weekend in Commerce, Georgia, making his car the first into the 9-second zone with a production-based V-6 block.

All in all, it was a great day for the V-6 crowd. Not only did the top dogs set records, but many personal bests were also achieved, largely in part to the great track conditions and abnormally cool temps for southern Georgia.

A few extra awards were handed out, including Best Reaction Time, which went to Adam Finley of Travelers Rest, South Carolina, with an almost perfect 0.003, and the Long Distance Award, which went to Zeke Ogunkola of Union, New Jersey, who traveled just shy of 1,000 miles to compete. Best in Show went to David Bell of Bowling Green, Ohio, in his beautiful Steeda-style '00 Mustang.

Editor's note: Event organizers Gary Schmitt, Kirk Taylor, Matthew Neuharth, and Jamie Hiscoe want to extend thanks to South Georgia Motorsports Park and sponsors VMPtuning.com, Delk Performance, Super Six Motorsports, 905Customs.com, Redlined Performance Mustangs, Wiseco, UPS, and Arts Performance.