Frank H. Cicerale
July 1, 2008
Photos By: Steve Baur
Defending Ultra Stang event winner Chris Matters made a return appearance behind the wheel of his '06 Saleen. Unfortunately, he exited the event in the second round.

We thought this day would never come. The scents of burnt racing gas and rubber wafted into our nostrils, signifying that after a long and arduous off-season, the '08 racing campaign was beginning in fine fashion at Orlando Speed World with the Fun Ford Weekend Spring Break Shootout. With lots of sunshine, warm temperatures, fast cars, awesome-looking show iron, and other sights galore, this year's edition of the season-opening event left no excuses for sitting at home in front of the television.

As per every year, the event kicked off with the infamous (and "unofficial") MM&FF Hooters party. Following a night of burnouts, beer, and wings, our staff kicked on over to the dragstrip to check out the lightning-fast heads-up cars, the ever-consistent index and bracket classes, and the coveted Spring Break Shootout class. When the race was over and the sun had set, many had come but few were left standing.

The abundance of Florida sunshine meant the car-show area was filled to capacity with award-quality vehicles. With gleaming paint, wheels, and rubber, everything from Mustangs and fast Fords from years gone by to brand-new Shelbys and Roush Mustangs could be seen waiting for the judges. While the show cars were shining, the race cars were flying.

The Pro final saw David Schorr gun down Todd Amandus via a 7.22 to 7.48 count. Schorr, whose Ford Escort packs an 818ci big-block Ford, qualified number one, though he never made a strong pass. "The car was spiking the tires after I pulled Second gear, pretty much all weekend," Schorr said. "Looking at the computer data after each run showed us the track was pretty loose most of the way. It was a handful, but we were able to get the job done and welcome UPR onboard this year with a win."

While Schorr mowed them down in Pro, the interesting story of the weekend came from the Keen brothers' camp, which saw not one, but two race cars. Jimmy Keen picked up Kevin Marsh and Chuck Samuel's old Pro car, making an attempt not only in that category, but with his Street Outlaw car as well. Unfortunately, Keen broke both the Pro car as well as the Outlaw car before the first round of competition. Keep an eye on the Outlaw car, though, as it sports a new 400ci bullet for this season.

The Street Outlaw class came down to Conrad Scarry and Tim Johnson. Scarry took the easy final-round single after Johnson broke the camshaft in his red turbocharged Mustang notchback. While Scarry scored the win with his small-block, twin-turbo combination, expect a change to be made in the powerplant department soon. "I'm getting a bit tired of breaking stuff all the time," Scarry said. While he was light on the details, we were able to gather that, while the twin turbos will remain, the small-block will make way for a big-block upwards of 600 ci.

Street Renegade saw a host of upsets as a loose track leveled the playing field between the fast cars and those with a tad less power. After defending Renegade champion Travis Franklin went out in Round 1, it was wide open, and former Pro 5.0 pilot Joe Morgan (behind the wheel of Jason Bryson's nitrous-gulping '03 Cobra) was the man left standing. Morgan's 441ci monster shot down John Worley in the final round with a 7.97. "We definitely weren't the fastest car in the field, but we were able to get down the track, and that's what counted," Morgan said after the race was over.

While Morgan came home with the win, another notable racer who showed up was former FFW champion Ronnie Wilson. Wilson, who made one appearance last year, gave it his best shot and qualified at the top half of the field, but found that after a couple of testing passes, the car had hurt some pistons. He jokingly said he poured in a can of Engine Restore before making his lone full-throttle pass of the weekend, an 8.13-second effort. Wilson did all he could, but he idled down the track in Round 1 knowing the engine was hurt.

Jim D'amore III made the haul from Freehold, New Jersey, to give it a go in Street Stang. With the class index lowered to 11.90 seconds for the '08 season, D'Amore threw a set of camshafts and a new converter into his naturally aspirated Saleen. He made it all the way to the semifinals, where he lost a close race to eventual runner-up Daniel Nestor.

Street Bandit saw the Fox-body hatchback of Kenny Gallman take down the turbocharged S197 Mustang of Joe Marini. Gallman, who was yanking gears in his small-block Stang, used a better reaction time and a 10.90 on the Street Bandit 10.60-second index to gun down former MM&FF shootout competitor Marini by a couple of car lengths at the stripe.

Ultra Stang showcased a winner that truly epitomizes the run-what-ya-brung nature of drag racing. Ron Martin drove his '06 Mustang 1,150 miles from Warren, Pennsylvania, changed the rear tires, and, utilizing an Explorer Express blower kit to increase the power of his six-pot, used a killer 0.009 reaction time to down Joe Cram in the money round.

A familiar face graced the Street Stang Winner's Circle as perennial late-round finisher Tom Conrad handled the challenge of Daniel Nestor in the money round. For Conrad, the result was similar to much of last year, when Nestor fouled out, handing him the win.

Mod Comp showcased Shane Williams and Matt Schleiv duking it out for the class win, with Williams using a sizeable holeshot to earn the victory.

Former MM&FFshootout competitor Joe Marini competed in Street Bandit with his turbocharged Legend Lime S197 Mustang. He made it all the way to the final round before losing to Kenny Gallman.

In Tough Truck, Paul Gamino, who took over driving duties in the category for James D'Amore, piloted the JDM Engineering-prepped '07 Saleen hauler to victory over a red-lighting Robert Chuhran.

As is the case every year with FFW's event at Orlando, the MM&FF-sponsored Spring Break Shootout class was contested. With a rules change made between last year's running and the '08 contest, the cars were required to run full tailpipes, among other things, making the category more of a street-legal, True Street-style class. In the end, eight guys tried their hands at taking home the class title, and when the smoke cleared, it was John Rollins piloting the '05 Saleen Mustang owned by Alex Rodriguez (not that A-Rod!) to victory. The win didn't come without its share of trials and tribulations, however. "Right before the event, the car actually tagged the wall in testing," Rollins said. "We had to get the car repaired and then realized that the transmission was busted. Thanks to Lentech and Mustang Specialties, we were able to get the trans in the Tuesday before the race, put it in the car, and make the event. The car was still blowing through the converter, but we were able to do what we needed to do to take home the win."

While Rollins had an easy go of it in the final when opponent Chris DeRojas didn't make the call, his toughest run of the event came in the semifinals against the Lightning of Don Justus. Justus, who ripped off a couple of low-10.30-second passes and recorded top speed of the event, gave it all he had, but Rollins' 10.27-second effort was enough to take the win against Justus' 10.47-second run.

With the first event in the books and the rust shaken off, it's off to Atlanta Dragway for Round 2.

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery

Photo Gallery

View Photo Gallery