Pete Epple Technical Editor
June 1, 2009
Photos By: John McCartney, Frank H. Cicerale, Jeff Wernes
The Real Street class was very popular at the 21st Annual Fords at E-Town. Forty cars hit the streets of Central New Jersey for a 30-mile cruise before returning to the track for three back-to-back quarter-mile passes to determine the winner.

With the close of the '08 drag racing season, Old Bridge Township Raceway Park near Englishtown, New Jersey, played host to three days of Blue Oval show and go. The 21st annual Fords at E-Town, presented by Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords magazine, was an action-packed weekend of bracket and index-style drag racing, plus a cool car show with all types of true blue muscle. The most beautiful show cars the Tri-State area had to offer were on hand, and the quickest street cars competed for street-legal dominance in the Real Street class.

The action started Friday night as Ford drivers from all over squared off in Fords versus The World. Fifty-four drivers competed under the lights, fighting to take home the title of top brand. Although not victorious, a strong showing was put forth by all the Ford racers. Twenty Blue Oval vehicles started the event, and Andre Brown of the Bronx stuck around the longest, driving his '88 Saleen into the fourth of six rounds. Brown lost, crossing the finish line ahead of his preset dial of 13.15 seconds with a 13.08-second pass. Even though Ford did not take home the bragging rights on this night, many drivers used it as an opportunity to get a few extra passes in preparation for the rest of the weekend.

The gates opened early on Saturday for the Real Street participants. A 30-mile cruise through Central Jersey on a cool November morning is a great way to start the day. The group headed out of Raceway Park around 8:30 a.m. and took in some of the autumn colors along the open road. Thirty miles later, the group arrived back at the gates and lined up for three back-to-back passes, which would determine the winners. Art Henninger stepped up to the plate and knocked one out of the park with a combined average of 9.70 seconds to clinch the top spot.

Gordon Pederson inches his '03 Mach 1 into the starting beams during the Fourth round of the Gear Jammer Bracket class on Sunday. This would not be Pederson's day as he broke the beams too early, turning on the red light and ending his afternoon.

Once the runs were finished in Real Street and the averages were calculated, it was time for the rest of the Saturday classes to take to the famed quarter-mile strip. The bracket brawlers were broken up into three classes: Ford and Lightning Trucks, Trophy Eliminator, and Mustang Bracket. Michael Swallick of Hopelawn, New Jersey, took home the gold in the Ford and Lightning Truck class, Adrian Gubbay of Hoboken took the top spot in Trophy Eliminator, and Timmy Watts piloted his '05 Mustang to an 11.68-second victory over Michael Stetson's 13.18-second effort in the Mustang Bracket class.

While racing was going on at the dragstrip, the car-show area was also full of action. Among the many show-stopping Fox-bodies, SN-95s and S197s were a few rides less seen. Barry Leonard came to show off his '08 Grabber Orange Shelby Super Snake, while George Wik gabbed a lot of attention with his pristine '00 Cobra R.

When the show started on Sunday, the fans were treated to another great day of racing. Eight classes full of racers made their way down the strip in Sunday eliminations. The Ford and Lightning Truck class came back for a second day of competition, along with the 10.00- and 11.50-second index classes. With the Gear Jammer Bracket, Open Comp, Trophy Eliminator, Heavy ET, and Super ET classes all running as well, there was definitely something for everyone.

Ray Martindell of Croydon, Pennsylvania, took the top spot in Ford and Lightning Truck with a 13.37-second pass on a 13.32-second dial-in, defeating Mike Mercer of Brick, New Jersey, and his '93 Lightning. The index classes made for a very exciting day of racing. Chris Longford of Bloomfield, New Jersey, was first out of the gate and held on to beat a faster, yet losing, John Poggio of Toms River, New Jersey, in the 11.50-index class. With only two cars in the 10.00-index class, John Giambertone laid down a perfect 10.00-second pass with a near-perfect 0.002-second reaction time. The Staten Island-native beat Jeffrey Pulaski of Berlin, Connecticut, to take top honors. Thirty-seven racers came out on Sunday to compete in the Gear Jammer Bracket eliminations. At the end of five rounds of battle, Kevin Bleakey of Fishkill, New York, was the victor, even though both drivers went faster than their respective dial-ins.

As the day went on the action only got better. The Open Comp class came down to the wire as Wayne Roatche of Quakertown, Pennsylvania, took out Robert Miller of Medford, New York, to take the win. The Trophy Eliminator class found Michael Spina of New City, New York, in the winner's circle after defeating Warren Gracula of Maspeth, New York, in a hard-fought battle. After six rounds in the Heavy ET class, Vance Owens of Georgetown, Delaware, took the win as Jeff Skertil of Willingboro, New Jersey, turned on the red light by leaving the starting line a bit too soon. The final in Super ET came down to a father-versus-son duel for the victory. Steve Everett Jr. launched his Ford-powered dragster to a perfect 0.000-second reaction time, but experience would pay off this time, as Steve Everett Sr. drove around his son to take the win.

The action on and off the track made for a great weekend. With 15 classes of racing and at least 40 car show classes, it's hard not to find something to love at Fords at E-Town.