Michael Johnson
Technical Editor
December 1, 2003
Photos By: Dale Amy

The NMRA is full of racers who have stepped up in class only to struggle because of the new learning curve. Billy Laskowsky, Rich Groh, and Justin Burcham are three such examples. All were at the top of their respective classes before moving up to the next level of competition, and each has struggled with new combinations and finding the limit of their components. We're sure these racers will return to their winning ways, but they've paid a heavy price in their search for power.

Scottsmoor, Florida's Jamie Holten showed us an easier way to successfully enter a new class. His answer was to buy a proven combination and be instantly competitive.

You may remember Jamie. In the late '90s he built a Street Stock Mustang coupe for Fun Ford competition to battle the likes of Cory Roth, Steve Ferguson, and Steve Barton. However, he wasn't able to make it to a Fun Ford event with the car, so he bracket-raced it close to home. The coupe was capable of 10.80s in naturally aspirated form.

Jamie's entry into the heads-up racing world finally came in 1999 when he ran an '86 GT in Fun Ford's Trophy Stock class. He had a successful year in 2000, winning four Fun Ford Trophy Stock events and finishing second in points.

In the December '99 issue of 5.0&SF ("Iron Head Horsepower," p. 99), we installed a pair of Central Coast-massaged GT-40P heads on Jamie's '86. The car was also featured in a dyno shootout in the same issue ("Insane Power," p. 31). Even so, Jamie struggled in 2001. He sold the coupe as a roller because he had his eye on a '95 Mustang. Unfortunately, that car had title issues so he passed on it.

When his wife, Trina, went back to school in 2002, Jamie began to rethink his options. With Trina driving the '86 ex-Trophy Stock car, Jamie bought the '89 hatch you see here just to have something to play with. "I had enough parts to put together a bracket car," he says, "but as anyone who has been successful in heads-up racing, it's hard to get out of your system."

To say the '89 was rough would be a huge understatement. Jamie had to enlist the help of several friends to get the car street-worthy. Andy Davis helped install floorpans and replace the front clip forward of the shock towers. Dan Moore of Moore's Performance helped install the A.R.T. rollbar (in trade for a C4 transmission). Dave Bergman had the daunting task of getting the car's body in shape. A bodyman on the side, Dave replaced the roof skin, repaired a crushed rocker panel, and smoothed out the automotive equivalent of Anna Nicole Smith's backside.

All this time, Jamie had thoughts of returning to heads-up racing for 2004 in either NMRA's Pure Street or Factory Stock, but those plans quickly changed when Robin Lawrence put his '02 Factory Stock combination up for sale. "I wasted no time borrowing the money from my mom to make the purchase," Jamie says. "I knew I could be com-petitive with it and with Robin's help." [If you want to know more about the engine combo, check out "Taking Stock," Sept. '02, p. 157, and "Tuning In," Oct. '02, p. 160-Ed.]

Jamie had to hustle to get the car ready to race in the NMRA Bradenton opener. "Two weeks before Bradenton, the car was basically a shell with half of everything done," he says. "On March 2 the car finally ran, but it was four dif-ferent colors." On March 3 the car went back to Dave Bergman's to get it all one color-primer gray, to be specific. At least with the car in primer, Jamie could get a paint waiver for Bradenton. He'd have the car painted before the NMRA's second stop at Reynolds, Georgia.

When it came time to race at Bradenton, Jamie discovered something binding up the car, keeping it from transferring the weight necessary to get a good launch. Even so,he ran an off-the-trailer 112 mph, which was top speed for the Factory Stock class at Bradenton. Jamie faced Michael Washington in the second round, but he was unable to extinguish the NYC firefighter and keep him from repeating as a Bradenton Factory Stock winner.

For the Reynolds race, Jamie swapped in a set of used adjustable shocks and struts, but the car still wasn't transferring the weight. Nevertheless, during the second round of qualifying, Jamie became the newest member of the Factory Stock 11-second club. "Justin Burcham was the first to congratulate me and give me an official Factory Stock 11-second sticker," he says. Jamie was not able to repeat those times until Robin and his crew helped him get ready for the finals against Michael. "We removed the extra weight, readjusted the shocks and struts, and installed fresh plugs," Jamie says. Michael tree'd him in the final, and although Jamie gained ground, he still came up about 6 inches short at the finish. He ran an 11.98 at 112 mph, but Michael's reaction time and 12.02 at a matching 112 mph was a little too much.

Jamie tried another set of shocks and struts at Columbus, and the car began to come around-almost into the Christmas Tree, that is. The problem was with the bumpsteer, so Jamie chained down the front end of the car. He ran an 11.91 with a 1.64 60-foot time, which is considered good in Factory Stock.

Jamie usually backs out of the gas at the top end if he doesn't have to run it out the back door, but in the semifinals at Columbus the car hooked fairly well (1.639 60-foot), so he stayed in it and ran his best time so far with an 11.84 at 116 mph. On Sunday, however, Michael had lane choice for the final round. He put Jamie in the left lane. As Jamie had chosen the right lane up to that point, he didn't get out of the hole as well and was unable to turn the tide in his favor.

Troubles continued at the NMRA's Texas event. Having just added Aerospace Components brakes on the front of his car, Jamie didn't quite have a feel for them. He used the Line-Loc to stage, but because of the new brakes, the brake pressure wasn't high enough and the car rolled through the lights. He has since added an Auto Meter brake pressure gauge to keep that from happening again. "The gauge makes it a lot easier to stage the car," Jamie says. Now he simply prestages the car, pumps up the brakes, sets the Line-Loc, hits the two-step, and bumps into the stage lights. "Then I'm ready to go," he says.

It turns out Jamie and his rival Michael have something in common. They both turned to proven combos for instant success. It's similar to the rivalry that Justin and Robin had in 2002, although both of them moved to Real Street for 2003. In a way, though, they're still battling each other-Jamie has Robin's old combination and Michael runs Justin's previous combination under the Justin's Performance Center banner. "We had both been anticipating a continuing rivalry between powerplants," Jamie says. "And we were both ready to get it on. After Bradenton, we knew it was going to be a long year." While as of press time Michael has had the upper hand, Jamie should reap big returns on his Factory Stock investment soon enough.

5.0 Tech specs
Engine AND Drivetrain
Block Stock bored 0.060
Rotating Assembly Scat crank and forged rods, CP pistons
Cubic Inches 310
Cylinder Heads '96 Explorer GT-40, ProPower valvesprings, Ford Racing Performance Parts 1.72 roller rockers
Intake Manifold Cobra
Throttle Body Holley 70mm
Mass Air C&L Performance 73mm
Cold Air Intake BBK
Exhaust Bassani 131/44-in short-tube headers, Bassani X-pipe, and DynoMax Bullet mufflers
Fuel Pump Holley 255-lph, Aeromotive fuel-pressure regulator
Transmission Tremec T5, Liberty gears and sliders, Clutch Masters disc, McLeod pressure plate, Fidanza flywheel, Hurst shifter
Rearend 8.8, Pro Motion spool,Motive Gear 4.30 gears, Moser 31-spline axles, FRPP aluminum driveshaft

ELECTRONICS
Engine Management A9L Computer, Anderson Ford Motorsport PMS
Ignition MSD Digital 7, MSD coil and plug wires, Motorcraft plugs
Gauges Auto Meter

SUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
Front Suspension
K-Member Stock
Caster/Camber UPR
Struts QA1 adjustable
Springs Four-cylinder
Brakes Aerospace
Wheels Bogart D-10
Tires Dunlop
Rear Suspension
Traction Device UPR upper and lowercontrol arms and antiroll bar
Shocks QA1 adjustable
Springs LTD wagon
Brakes Stock
Wheels Bogart D-10
Tires BFGoodrich Drag Radial
Chassis Stiffening Applied Racing
Technologies eight-point cage,
UPR subframe connectors