Tom Wilson
November 1, 2008
Photos By: E. John Thawley III

Horse Sense: If you want to learn more about American Iron racing, click here to see our analysis of the class, NASA Challenge, and American Horse Play.

This month, Mustang racing action centers on the National Auto Sport Association's National Championship event in Mid-Ohio. Drawing Mustang drivers-and a few brand-C pilots-from across the nation, NASA's Nationals determine the big cheese in the exciting American Iron and over-the-top American Iron Extreme racing, along with the entry-level Camaro-Mustang Challenge and many other NASA classes.

This year, the racing is coming to a fine point. With stabilized rules, the third-annual NASA National Championships, presented by Toyo Tires, comfortably settled at Mid-Ohio, and the major competitors experienced in handling these production-based race cars were expecting an exciting season finale. The depth of talent and hardware in American Iron has been growing, and the number of drivers who could win the American Iron crown is larger than ever.

This growth has even proven recession-proof, at least for now. While West Coast racers are understandably reviewing their plans to spend at least $2,000 towing a Mustang across two thirds of the U.S., just about everyone east of the Rockies is planning on hitting the National event, even if it means skipping a regional race or two. The Nationals are where it's at.

Those who are new to American Iron or AI Extreme are in for a treat. American Iron is populated by Mustangs, with the rules calling for a spec Toyo tire, 9.5:1 pounds per horsepower, and-new this year-18-inch wheels from the previous 17-inch standard. Any brake that will fit inside an 18-inch wheel may be used, along with extensive chassis and suspension modifications. Gutted of street equipment, fitted with the usual safety gear, and weighed with the driver, these cars can range from approximately 2,900 pounds and 305 hp to perhaps 3,500 pounds and 365 hp, so the racing is fast, close, and often a mix of handling and torquey power.

By reasonably limiting engine output, costs are somewhat contained, so American Iron is by far the most populous Mustang class and a great place for the dedicated amateur. On the other hand, American Iron Extreme does away with the power-to-weight requirement, resulting in truly hairy-chested beasts.

Naturally the racers gravitate to increased power. For a while, there was loose talk of 1,000hp Extreme cars, but they haven't come to pass because that sort of power is nearly impossible to hook to the track using the DOT-legal Hoosier spec tire. Also, there is a transmission price limit that keeps the mega-power stuff safely bottled up on notepads.

That's not to say there aren't some mind-warping power levels headed to Mid-Ohio. More than one racer mumbled about "over 800 hp," which is positively nuclear for a road racer, especially when not on slicks.

Likewise, some of the fastest AIX runners have gone lightweight, so a competitive Extreme machine is often hovering at the 2,700-pound minimum weight and packing in excess of 600 hp. This, we assure you, is more than just good fun: It's well into serious territory, where the dedicated power and speed monks live their religion. It is, however, capital sport to watch.

Below is a review of American Iron and Extreme hopefuls. Despite a lethargic economy and the high cost of travel, the racers are eager to match up again to see who brought the most to Mid-Ohio on September 11-14. If you can be there to cheer them on, we recommend it.