Michael Galimi
February 1, 2007
Bob Hanlon's old-school Mustang beat out Charlie Booze and laid claim to the Hot Street national record as he secured the top qualifying position by running an 8.80 at 152 mph.

Atco Raceway, located in southern New Jersey, was home to some historic clashes in the early days of the 5.0 Shootout scene. Back in the late '80s and through the '90s even a 10-second or 9-second Mustang was the big dog. Monster wheelstands were reserved for the NHRA Super Stock crowd-not Mustang racers. Times have changed, however, as the NMRA regulars showed up at Atco to put on a wild show. Not only did racers post performances in the mid 6-second zone in the DiabloSport Pro 5.0 cate-gory, but records fell by the handful in the other heads-up categories. That was in large part due to unusually cool August air and great traction.

Having to put on a sweatshirt in August was not normal for Jerseyans, but the fans and racers were willing to accept the trade-off for the performance-enhancing weather. NMRA's Saturday program starts late in the afternoon, and the final rounds of qualifying are held "under the lights." It adds drama, and it also presents the racers with an outstanding racing surface and cooler air. With the season points battles taking shape, many class leaders had their equipment set on "kill" to grab the few extra points for breaking an elapsed time record.

Team Aruba's entry, driven by Burt Kelkboom, dropped a 6.57 at 213 mph to grab the top qualifying position. The night air and Atco's legendary traction provided conditions for Kelkboom to unleash the quickest Pro 5.0 pass in the NMRA's seven-year history. The team made it to the finals on Sunday, but a broken throttle linkage prevented them from racing against Bischoff.

The battle for quick times was no more prevalent than in Pro 5.0 and Edelbrock Hot Street. In the Pro 5.0 class the top racers went blow for blow during the first rounds of qualifying by bettering each other as they ran down the track. The two drivers who separated them-selves from the six-car field in that last round of qualifying were Michael Hauf and Burt Kelkboom. Hauf was first to run in the final session, and he ran a demented 6.59 at 212 mph. It marked the first time a naturally aspirated car ran in the 6.50s in NMRA action.

While the team was high-fivin' and the crowd cheered, the newly constructed race car of Burt Kelkboom, which is sponsored by the island of Aruba, came to the starting line. At the flash of green, Kelkboom let out the clutch pedal and marched to a 6.57 at 213 mph-the quickest and fastest pass in the history of the NMRA's Pro 5.0 class. Just like that, the attention and celebration went to Team Aruba.

The drama was also running high in the Hot Street division where competitors run naturally aspirated small-block engines. It was a clash in style between Bangin' Bob Hanlon with a 359ci engine and G-Force five-speed clutchless transmission, and Charlie Booze Jr. who does battle in Hot Street with a large Windsor engine (backed by an auto tranny) that pumps up the P&G meter at 439 ci. The Kuntz and Company- built small-block sees 9,000-plus rpm, and due to its size the Booze freight train has a minimum weight in the 3,250-pound range. It's a radical difference in approach to H/S racing, but the close competition points to fairness between the two powerplants and drivetrain combinations.

Pennzoil's Joel Norton (left) presented Ray Jermyn (right) with the Pennzoil Platinum Prize. Thanks to Jermyn being a longtime user of Penzoil products, he was nominated and awarded the prize. Pennzoil will provide a lifetime supply of synthetic Pennzoil Platinum motor oil for Jermyn's '70 Mustang Mach 1.

Despite the disparity in weight, the two cars went toe-to-toe, and it looked like a championship heavyweight bout. By night's fall, the two racers had their engines tuned to perfection and the chassis ready to dig the 28x10.5-inch slicks into the Atco surface. As if it were scripted, Booze hung the wheels and rolled to an 8.82 at 152 mph, which is the quickest pass in class history. As soon as Booze cleared top end, Hanlon rolled his classic Mustang racer to the starting line and threw down an even quicker 8.80 at 152 mph. The old-school Mustang laid claim to the national record as he secured the top qualifying position.

The rest of the racing action was equally as close as the NMRA band of regulars invaded the track. It was no surprise that Toyo Tires Open Comp was enormous-New Jersey is birthplace to that type of racing. A total of 43 competitors made qualifying passes. The Modular Muscle eliminator also had a great showing with 23 cars-all without pushrods. The Detroit Locker Truck and Lightning class was also an Open Comp format eliminator. This year, the NMRA moved to a new qualifying system for those classes. Based on reaction time, it has been an effective technique to even out the field. Open Comp-style racing is not about being the quickest; now some of the slower cars have a chance to grab the bonus qualifying points for top qualifier. Eliminations were tough for these competitors because of the variance in weather between qualifying and elimination rounds. It threw a curveball even to the veteran racers.

Winner
The points battle in Truck and Lightning has never been tighter. Captain Keith Kohlmann (shown) is fighting to retain his truck title this year. He took the win at Atco, and with his recent performances, a repeat championship looks imminent.

Outstanding weather coupled with favorable track conditions provided record-setting accomplishments. There were performances quicker than the national record, but the racer is required to back up that performance within 1 percent in order to claim it at the conclusion of the race weekend. Some racers missed that margin by mere hundredths of a second. In all, five e.t.. and mph records fell-it would have been seven if some racers were able to back up their runs. It's amazing, but the south Jersey racetrack continues to be a prominent stop on the Ford drag racing scene, even after all these years.

Denso NMRA Drag Racing Series
Atco Raceway Event Winners
Presented by Downs Ford Motorsport

DiabloSport Pro 5.0 Tony Bischoff
MSD Ignition Super Street Outlaw John Urist
BF Goodrich Drag Radial John Kolivas
Edelbrock Hot Street Ben Mens
ProCharger EFI Renegade Brian Mitchell
Real Street Bruce Hemminger
Tremec Pure Street Brad Meadows
K&N Factory Stock Jeff Schmell
Toyo Tires Open Comp Tom Demalto
Detroit Locker Truck & Lightning Keith Kohlmann
Vortech Modular Muscle Zak Harty