Michael Galimi
September 1, 2009
Seasoned veteran Don Bowles (near lane) has raced in Mod Motor, Open Comp, and now is an accomplished Hot Street competitor. Bowles declared victory with an 8.66 over defending champ Robbie Blankenship (far lane). Robbie ran the first 8.50 in Hot Street with an 8.58 during the first round of eliminations but broke in the final.

The second stop on the NMRA-Keystone Ford Series was historic Atco Raceway, located in the southern part of New Jersey. Some longtime Mustang enthusiasts hold Atco in high regard as the scene of some of the fiercest battles in the early years of the 5.0L movement.

Fastforward to today, the track served as host to the 9th annual Nitto Tire NMRA Ford Nationals, presented by Downs Ford Racing. Ever-changing weather conditions greeted the racers, showgoers, and fans, ranging from 90 degrees and sunny on Saturday to overcast and in the 50s on Sunday.

The cool weather was complemented by a sticky track surface, which led to broken records and milestones. Of these, three performances stood out-Robbie Blankenship became the first to hit the 8.50s in Edelbrock Hot Street; Brian Mitchell entered the 8.30s in DiabloSport EFI-Renegade; and John Kokinda ran the fastest pass in NMRA True Street at 171 mph. These events are a testament to the racers' dedication to push their Mustangs to the edge and beyond.

The action wasn't only fast, but it was also tight as racers battled for points towards the Race for the Ring Championship, as well a cash purse and contingency. The True Street field saw 62 entries ranging from 8-second rides to a 10-second Ford GT supercar and near-stock Mustangs. John Ashnaufi took top honors with his turbocharged SN-95.

Ashnaufi was a pillar of consistency with a 9.21 average, which was accomplished after running 9.25, 9.18, and 9.20. A DiSomma Racing Engine 347ci bullet with TFS heads and a Precision 80mm turbo powers the sedate-looking ride. The car was always above 150 mph, which shows its potential for 8-second runs, but the DOT tires were tricky off the line. Ashnaufi left softly and then poured on the boost as the M/T tires dug into the track.

Dave Salardino took runner-up with his amazing coupe, nicknamed Sleeper. Jim Chahalis and crew pieced together a perfect LX, with a flat hood and a 347ci engine pumped up with a Vortech YSi-trim blower. It produces 810 rwhp through an AOD transmission. He finished with a 9.37 average.

Many other racers in this class had fun running amazingly quick times.

The NMRA is known for its heads-up racing, and the fields didn't disappoint in Jersey. ACT Factory Stock saw Tommy Godfrey continue to dominate with his JPC Racing entry. The copper coupe took down John Leslie Jr. in the finals, 11.21 to 11.32. Factory Stock is a unique class that is highly restrictive to keep down costs. The racers employ mostly out-of-the-box components and run mid-to-low 11s.

Stepping up to Eibach Springs Pure Street, the cars are a little faster thanks to a maximum of 310ci, ported aluminum heads, 0.500-inch hydraulic roller cams, 26x10.5-inch slicks, and many other parts and pieces. The cars run about a second quicker than Factory Stockers, and nice wheelies are the norm. Ryan Hecox and Steve Gifford went head-to-head, pushrod versus modular. in the big money round. Hecox was armed with a nasty Rich Groh Racing 310ci engine, while Gifford came to battle with a B.E.S. 281ci Four-Valve mill. Weight breaks keep the combinations tight, and Hecox won with a 10.12 at 132 mph to Gifford's 10.20 at 133 mph.

Dave Guy of SGS Auto annihilates a pair of BFG drag radials as he makes his debut in Drag Radial. The SN-95 is equipped with a Four-Valve modular engine and has gone 8.50s-the first time out-with a GT-47 88mm turbo.

Real Street is reserved for stock displacement engines featuring out-of-the-box aftermarket induction components, save for the stock camshaft. The racers also employ nitrous or superchargers under strict guidelines. Tim Matherly has been the racer to beat since the class' inception eight years ago. His MV Performance-built ride reset the national record with a 9.46 at 139 mph. Along the way, he took home the class victory over Dave Ginter, also running a MV Performance-prepared machine.