Michael Johnson
Associate Editor, 5.0 Mustangs & Super Fords
October 19, 2010
Photos By: Paul Rosner

We've heard the term "sports widow," meaning the husband dedicates so much time to a certain sport throughout the season that the wife feels abandoned. Though NMRA racer Dave Ginter would count himself a big sports fan, his wife, Kristy, would be considered a drag racing widow. The joke between Dave and Kristy is once the NMRA racing season starts in March, she jokingly says, "Ok, see ya in October." Luckily for Dave, their anniversary is in late October so it's the perfect to unwind and enjoy quality time with Kristy. Dave says October is "when my friends and family get to see me."

However, from March to October, Dave stays busy working on this '98 Cobra, which he races in NMRA Real Street competition. Dave bought the car as a roller. The previous owner wanted to build it into a full drag car, but he didn't have the heart to cut up the 26,000-mile gem. Dave did-so he bought it, stripped it, and cut it into a race car.

A week after purchasing the Cobra, it was stripped and on the way to Team Z Motorsports for a rollcage and suspension additions. Dave sent pictures of the car in its stripped condition to the previous owner. "He took it really well," Dave says. In Dave's defense, he wouldn't have cut the Cobra if it was totally original, so don't punch Dave in the teeth the next time you see him. The original engine was long gone, so originality was out the window. Still, the roller set Dave back $9,000, but once he stripped it and sold off the stock parts he didn't need, Dave was only into the car for about $4,000.

Playing around with rare cars is nothing new to Dave, as the car that basically caused all this was his '01 Saleen. Dave had a lot of fun going to the track with the Saleen, which boasted a Four-Valve conversion with a ProCharger hanging off the front. Because of the fun he had at the dragstrip, Dave wanted to take his fun nationwide. If it was fun at home, just think of the fun it would be traveling all over creation to race at different dragstrips in a national series.

Or so Dave thought. After looking at potential classes, he kept coming back to the NMRA's Real Street class since it was close to what he was already running with his Saleen. He ran a Modular engine with a ProCharger in the Saleen; the top man in the class, Tim Matherly ran the same basic combo, albeit in Two-Valve form.

When Dave set out to actually do the deal, he started doing his homework on who to work with to accomplish his racing goals. One of his first phone calls was to Team Z Motorsports in Flat Rock, Michigan. Team Z owner Dave Zimmerman is one of the go-to guys in the Mustang community for rollcage construction and suspension set up. "The first time I talked to Dave Z., it was apparent how knowledgeable he was. The fact that he was going to be at the races played a big part in why I chose Team Z," Dave says. With Dave Z. at the track, Dave can bounce different ideas off of him, and get his help during those times as well. You'll recognize a theme going here.

When it came time to get the car tuned, Dave's first choice was MV Performance. Obviously, MV's Tim Matherly enjoys tremendous success in Real Street with a ProCharger-boosted Modular combination. Dave knew in order to get to the top he had to rely on those already at the top. Once Team Z had done its job, Dave took the car to MV to have it tuned with an existing Two-Valve, ProCharger-boosted combination under the hood. However, that combination was down on power compared to Tim and Jim Breese's combination, which is also a MV-built combo. After hearing that news, Dave had MV build an engine for the car, and horsepower came up to level with Tim and Jim's cars. Once done, the combo pretty much followed the MV Performance blueprint for Real Street.

Dave made his debut at the NMRA Bradenton 2008 opener, and we were glad to see a fresh face in competition. He would go on to win the NMRA Rookie of the Year award, and finish seventh in points. In 2009, Dave made the step up to Trick Flow's new 4.6 heads and intake. At that time, Dave was in the middle of figuring out how to get the Cobra out of the hole in a consistent manner. The increased power steepened that learning curve. However, he improved his finish to the fourth spot in Real Street for 2009.

We asked Dave what he's learned since taking his racing on the road. Racing has been "a lot more work than I thought it was going to be," Dave said. "Constant maintenance, meticulous note-taking, and how much weather conditions impact how the car runs-those are things I never knew before I started racing at this level."

However, it's not all doom and gloom. "It's also been more fun than I thought it would be. I have a great crew, but the camaraderie has been unreal. Guys from all different classes have helped me with parts and advice. That has been really great," Dave adds. MV's own Bart Tobener, who races EFI Renegade, is a tremendous help as well when Tim's not around.

As a result, Dave loves racing at the national level. "You can't describe the feeling you get when pulling Second gear and all you see is sky," Dave says. "It's hard to describe that to someone who has never experienced it," he adds. Speaking of seeing sky, Dave says MV's Tim Matherly threw him in the deep end of the pool to see if he could swim. Right before a pass, Tim told him the car was probably going to spin. Instead, the car went straight up. Dave seems to think Tim knew the car would go up in the air, but Dave thinks Tim wanted to see what he was made of right off the bat. Tim was preparing Dave for what the car was going to be like on a consistent basis, but that consistency hasn't been easy to come by. With a stick car, it's tough to have consistent launches from track to track and with differing weather conditions.

Something else that's been even tougher for Dave is the time and dedication it takes to field a competitive car. He is constantly working on the car and always looking at ways to go faster. "If people think this car sits in a trailer between races, that's definitely not the case," he explains. Using the launch as an example, he doesn't want to make wholesale changes because then he doesn't know what helps or hurts. Therefore, he'll change something, and make a pass to see if it works.

Changing one item at a time takes a lot of testing to realize the fruits of that labor. Dave's lucky enough that his home track is 40 minutes from the house so he is able to test, but in Wisconsin it's impossible to test in the winter. "That's a frustrating part-when I hear other people's testing numbers and I'm in four feet of snow," Dave says.

However, if it didn't snow in Wisconsin, Dave wouldn't have an off-season, and that's when he likes to spend time with Kristy and their dogs, which I think is about all you can do in four feet of snow, anyway, unless he takes up snowmobile racing. Oh well, it's mid-October as you read this, so he now has time to think about testing for 2011. At least, he has some time after the anniversary date. Right, Dave?

5.0 Tech Specs
'98 Cobra

Engine And Drivetrain

  • Block '98 Cobra 4.6
  • Crankshaft Stock, Innovators West harmonic dampener
  • Rods ModMax Racing
  • Pistons Ross
  • Camshafts Bullet Racing Cams custom
  • Cylinder Heads Trick Flow Street Heat Two-Valve
  • Intake Manifold Trick Flow
  • Throttle Body Stock
  • Mass Air Pro-M
  • Power Adder ProCharger P-1SCII
  • Fuel System Weldon fuel pump and regulator, UPR Products fuel rails, and Precision Turbo 50-lb/hr injectors
  • Exhaust Ford Racing Performance Parts short-tube headers, Bassani Xhaust 2 1/2-inch X-shape crossover and mufflers
  • Transmission Hanlon Motorsports-prepped Tremec TKO w/QuickTime bellhousing, RAM clutch, Pro-5.0 shifter, and FRPP aluminum driveshaft
  • Rearend Stock 8.8 w/4.56 gears, Strange Engineering differential and 31-spline axles

Electronics

  • Engine Management Stock computer, MV Performance/DiabloSport tune
  • Ignition MSD Digital DIS-4
  • Gauges Auto Meter

Suspension And Chassis
Front Suspension

  • K-Member Anthony Jones Engineering tubular
  • Control Arms Anthony Jones Engineering tubular
  • Caster/Camber Maximum Motorsports
  • Struts QA-1
  • Springs QA-1 coilover
  • Brakes Strange Engineering
  • Wheels Weld Racing Alumastar
  • Tires Mickey Thompson E/T Front

Rear Suspension

  • Shocks Strange Engineering
  • Springs Stock
  • Control Arms Team Z Motorsports upper and lower control arms, and antiroll bar
  • Brakes Strange Engineering
  • Wheels Weld Racing Alumastar 15x10-in
  • Tires Mickey Thompson 26x10 E/T Drag slicks
  • Chassis Stiffening Team Z Motorsports rollcage