Michael Johnson Associate Editor
January 1, 2004
Photos By: Steve Turner
The car still wears its original paint, with graphics laid down by Joey Huston. Joe noticed Joey's painting prowess while at a car show in Branson, Missouri. Joe rolled his car out of the trailer and Joey went to work. For 2004, Joe may have the car reclearcoated, but the paint scheme will remain the same. The body of this coupe remains close to stock, save for a cowl hood and the requisite Weld Racing big 'n' littles with Mickey Thompson shoes out back.

Horse Sense: Brian Booze won the '02 Edelbrock Hot Street championship in Joe Johnston's coupe by just 70 points over defending champion Billy Laskowsky. For 2003, Billy moved up to Super Street Outlaw. Interestingly, this car may be following in Billy's footsteps.

We had planned to run a feature on this car more than a year ago when it was tearing up NMRA's Hot Street class and taking the championship over '01 champion Billy Laskowsky. However, car owner Joe Johnston, crew chief Tommy Zdancewitz of TRZ Motorsports, and championship driver Brian Booze are busy men, and we couldn't pin them down long enough to get any info out of them. So the photos just hung out until we were able to get the story back on schedule for this issue. Staying busy is a trait this trio holds on to. At the time of this writing, Joe was in Hawaii on business and to celebrate his 25th wedding anniversary, Brian had a new baby at home, and Tommy Z was at TRZ Motorsports suspending some of the fastest drag cars in the country.

So how did this trio get together? Well, Joe owned this car and was building it for Hot Street. He contacted Kuntz and Company for an engine combo for the '02 NMRA season. He also needed a driver for the Bradenton race as he didn't have time to test the car prior to the opener. Jim Kuntz recommended he contact Brian Booze, a perennial NMCA Pro Nostalgia champion in his own '62 Galaxie nicknamed "Pale Rider." Brian won back-to-back Pro Nostalgia champion-ships in 2000 and 2001.

Of course, with the financial backing and a proven driver, the only component left to make it a trio was a crew chief. That's where Tommy Z came in. Tommy had done most of the chassis work on the car, and he and Joe became good friends. Joe asked Tommy if he wanted to go racing with them and he agreed. Joe now had himself a well-qualified crew chief.

Initially, Joe figured Brian would campaign the car at Bradenton, and then he would take over the reins. Content with watching Brian drive the car, Joe found out that NMRA points go with the driver, not the car. He and Brian agreed that Brian should drive the car the entire season.

When we took these photos at the '02 NMRA World Finals at Bowling Green, Kentucky, the engine was a Kuntz and Company 400. For 2003, that combo received titanium rods and a few other performance tweaks. However, a mechanical problem set the team back until midyear, which meant they were out of the hunt for repeating as Hot Street champions. Not to worry, the car now boasts a Super Street Outlaw turbo/Powerglide combination between the rails for a possible run at Super Street Outlaw for 2004.

Helping Joe make that decision was the way the car performed with Brian behind the wheel. Brian qualified in the fourth spot at Bradenton, just a tenth off the time of top-qualifier Billy Laskowsky. He went a few rounds and posted 9.40s throughout the weekend. At the next event at Reynolds, Georgia, Brian qualified fifth and ended up in the finals where he was unable to stop Billy Laskowsky. Consistent 9.40s and the occasional 9.30 pass finally gave Brian his first NMRA victory at Columbus, beating Shane Long, Kurt Neighbor, and Ed "The Frog" Kowalczyk in the process.

Brian followed up that victory with another strong showing at Maple Grove, qualifying third and barely missing a final-round appearance at the hands of Scott Budisalich. At Atco, New Jersey, Brian was set to blow his fellow Hot Streeters off the map with a top-spot, 9.23/149-mph blast. However, instead of a second victory, the finals resulted in mechanical problems. At the NMRA finals at Bowling Green, Kentucky, Brian qualified second, but his weekend ended in the third round at the hands of Who Killed Kenny Compton.

But all was not lost, as Brian did in the NMRA what he had done in the NMCA-win a championship. That's right, in the trio's first full season they won a Hot Street championship by combining strong qualifying efforts, going rounds, and getting a victory and setting a record along the way.

We took it for granted that we would again see the three men at the front of the pack in 2003, but that didn't happen. During the winter of 2002, the car was taken apart and readied for a new engine combo. Tommy installed ladder bars on the car, but the trio was still putting the car together at the Bradenton opener. A mechanical problem threw the team for a loop until they discovered the fix after Columbus. By that time, a repeat was out of reach.

With low mileage on the car (mostly because it's been a quarter-mile at a time for most of the car's life), the interior of the car is like new. To get it into racing shape, the interior was treated to Kirkey racing seats, Auto Meter gauges, and a TRZ Motorsports 10-point rollcage.

Furthermore, Brian was having a good time at home with his new baby. This domestic bliss meant testing time would be shrunk to a minimum (not to mention that Joe lives in Kansas City, Tommy lives in Chicago, and Brian is in Pennsylvania-a logistics engineer would be needed to get these guys together for a testing session). Besides, Tommy had his own growing family and a busy shop to attend to back home.

Even so, Joe ran the car himself at a local race and had it flying. But at the next NMRA race at Joliet, clutch woes set the team back even further. The car was taken apart again, and a Super Street Outlaw turbo/Powerglide combo owned by Tommy was installed. "The combo makes wild, wild numbers," Joe says.

Tommy will campaign the car with this combo at the World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the last week of September, and he may run the car at the Real World Street Nationals in Orlando, Florida, in October. While both events will be over by the time this issue hits the stands, the real story is whether the car will be in Outlaw trim for 2004. "That is the direction we want to go," Joe says.

It looks as if another white Fox coupe might be set to overthrow the Outlaw ranks.

When we took these photos at the '02 NMRA World Finals at Bowling Green, Kentucky, the engine was a Kuntz and Company 400. For 2003, that combo received titanium rods and a few other performance tweaks. However, a mechanical problem set the team back until midyear, which meant they were out of the hunt for repeating as Hot Street champions. Not to worry, the car now boasts a Super Street Outlaw turbo/Powerglide combination between the rails for a possible run at Super Street Outlaw for 2004.

5.0 Tech Specs
ENGINE AND DRIVETRAINMendors, R&R crank trigger
BlockGauges
{{{Ford}}} Racing PerformanceAuto Meter
Parts 9.2-in-deck siamese- 
bore 351, Canton oil panSUSPENSION AND CHASSIS
Rotating AssemblyFront Suspension
Scat 3.750 billet steel crank,K-member
Crower rods, Venolia pistons,D&D Performance
Childs and Albert rings,Control Arms
Innovators West balancerD&D Performance
DisplacementCaster/Camber Plates
400ciHP Motorsport
Cylinder HeadsSprings
Edelbrock Victor, Kuntz and Co.-D&D Performance coilover
ported, Del West valves, T&DStruts
shaft roller rockers, Manley springsSanthuff
CamshaftWheels
Comp Cams, Crower lifters,Weld Alumastars
Comp Cams pushrodsTires
Intake ManifoldMickey Thompson Front Runners
Edelbrock Super Victor, KuntzBrakes
and Co.-portedStrange
CarburetorRear Suspension
Pro Systems, CSI carb spacerSprings
Power AdderHypercoil
Just cubesShocks
ExhaustStrange
TRZ stepped headers, StraightTraction Devices
Line Performance mufflersTRZ Pro ladder bars, TRZ
Fuel Systemantiroll bar
AeromotiveWheels
TransmissionWeld Racing Alumastars 15x12
G-Force, McLeod clutch, LongTires
shifterMickey Thompson 28x10.5
RearendET Drags
TRZ-built Fab9, Strange axlesBrakes
and spool, Motive Gear ring-Strange
and-pinionChassis Stiffening
 TRZ subframe connectors, TRZ
ELECTRONICS10-point rollcage
Ignition 
MSD 7AL 3, wired by Spaghetti