January 1, 2003

Justin became involved in Factory Stock because, "I just think it's neat to run a stock engine really fast." He has always run stock events at local tracks such as Capitol Raceway, Maryland International Raceway, and 75-80 Dragway. The list of Factory Stock-style victories is too long to mention here, but Justin entered the NMRA ranks at the cajoling of MIR's Jason Miller. After dominating "stock" classes at MIR for five consecutive years, from 1997 to 2001, Jason suggested Justin take his Factory Stock act on the road. It could be that MIR was a little tired of seeing Justin in the victory circle and wanted to see him enjoy the same success on a national level.

However, Justin's introduction to national-level racing didn't go as planned. He says he was the first NMRA racer to be protested from two different racers. Justin now knows he's going to be torn down at just about every event, which keeps everyone in check, but he says it gets old having to take his engine apart at every race. In 2001, he was torn down four times through seven events. At last year's Maple Grove race, the NMRA took not only Justin's cam, but also Robin Lawrence's and Rich Groh's. He thinks he's been torn down more than anyone in NMRA history-6 out of 11 races actually.

He's used to the attention. At this year's Columbus NMRA race, after setting the record with an 11.96 and winning the event, the car was gone over with a fine-tooth comb. He's never been found to be illegal, but his closest call came at this year's Maple Grove race, when one of his combustion chambers spec'd out at 58.1 cc. The legal limit in Factory Stock is 58. We saw the combustion chamber in question, and we can tell you it was clean as a whistle when Justin got done with it. He says his success comes from having his combo "sorted out pretty well."

So where did Justin learn how to sort out a combo? From Doug Ewart. Doug owned a machine shop and Justin met him through his Mustang buddies. As Justin had all his engine work done at Doug's shop, he grew tired of paying, so he went to work for Doug, sweeping floors and breaking down engine blocks. Doug taught him how air works and basically everything about engines. Justin believes that knowledge and experience give him the advantage he needs. He feels privileged to have learned so much from Doug. "Doug and I spent lots of long nights tuning on engines, assembling, and machining," Justin says. "It has really helped me out a lot."

That experience has also played a key role in getting Melanie's coupe in Factory Stock trim. "Over the winter of 2001," Melanie says, "Justin 'told' me I was going to race the 2002 season." She had never raced anything before, but she was willing to give it a shot. So Justin bought an ex-police car that as of January 2002 was bone stock. However, in less than a month it was transformed into a Factory Stock racer with new paint, engine, tranny, suspension, brakes, and so on.

The plan was for the car to be driven to events (though so far Justin has mostly trailered it) and driven daily. Melanie raced the car, equipped with Rich Groh's '01 Factory Stock champion transmission in the tunnel, for the first time on Feb-ruary 24. She had tested the coupe only a few times before she and Justin left for the NMRA Bradenton opener. So far, the performance of the car has not been up to Justin's standards, so he's trying a couple different ideas to get the e.t. down from its 12.34 at 110-mph best.

While trying to get Melanie's car in the hunt, Justin's also hard at work keeping his own car out front. He recently installed an Auto Meter data logger. As of this writing, he hadn't been able to test it, but he hopes it will give him a few tips on what areas to look at for even quicker times. He plans to try the data logger on Melanie's car to see why it's not running the way it should. He wants to see if the converter is the problem, and if so, he'll use the data logger to help him choose the right converter for the car.