A group of individuals with a common goal can often accomplish more than those individuals acting on their own. In the sport of drag racing, you can find teams from the NHRA Top Fuel class right on down to the weekend warriors, who depend on spouses to line them up in the burnout box. In the Mustang world, a team is mandatory if you want to be even remotely successful on any sort of national level.
With today's competitive heads-up Ford world and the increasingly complex technology that surrounds a top-effort Mustang, it's comforting to know that when you get done with a round, there's at least one friendly face waiting for you.
The team of East Coast Ford racers Phil Clemmons and Mauro Vitale was formed out of a common need for speed. Mauro had just invested in a new FAST system, and Phil was one of the best tuners around. Phil needed a class to race in, and Mauro was looking to run with the big dogs. That little exchange ended in Mauro going nuts with top-shelf gear for his SSO effort, while Phil reconfigured his car for NMRA Drag Radial competition. Today, both racers are entrenched in the world of heads-up Ford drag racing. Phil has captured the '04 Drag Radial title, and Mauro is running neck-and-neck with the best 10-inch-tired racers the country has to offer. Here's a closer look at the dream team, called "Pegasis Racing," that has the Ford world taking notice.
Phil ClemmonsLike his teammate, Mauro Vitale, 31-year-old Phil Clemmons of Virginia has been around the 5.0 Mustang scene for quite some time, but only recently has he stepped into the national spotlight.
In December 1991, Phil purchased an '88 hatch to use as a daily driver. "I didn't know how to work on it," he says. "I couldn't even change the crank pulley. Then, one day, I got beat on the street, and I decided that I wanted to go fast." Thus began Phil's quest for knowledge.
It has been a slippery slope for Phil since then. He began with a naturally aspirated combination featuring the stock short-block, a Cobra intake, and GT-40 heads that ran 12.9s. A nitrous kit was used extensively on the street with that setup, until the day the crank snapped. Rick Anderson hooked Phil up with his next engine combination-a Vortech S-Trim on top of a D.S.S. short-block. That was good for a 9.95 at 140 mph in 1995, while the car, with an AOD installed, still knocked down 18 mpg on pump gas! Phil's next combination arrived in 1997. It was a Ron Anderson 347 with Twisted Wedge heads and a ProCharger F-1R that was good for 8.72/164 in NMRA D/R trim and a best ever of 8.56 in local testing. That 347 would last from 1997 all the way through the '03 season, until a piston finally gave up.
That's when Ron Robart and his Fox Lake Power Products team of Ford engineers stepped in. Ron was looking to hook up with a hot power-adder racer, and Phil, coming off of his NMRA Rookie of the Year Award, was Ron's kind of racer. Ron screwed together the little mind-scrambler that is featured here, giving Phil the kind of power necessary to run consistent 8.30s in NMRA Drag Radial. That kind of performance has allowed Phil to dominate the D/R class in 2004. He lost only one race-Columbus, Ohio, to Davie Hopper on a holeshot.
"That loss to Dave is all my fault," Phil says. "I take full responsibility for that-I got beat on the Tree bad, and got too aggressive with the throttle, and blew the tires off twice! I thank Dave for my motivation for most of this year after the deal in Columbus. I vowed I wouldn't get beat on the Tree again!"
Along the way, the NMRA tech staff blessed Phil with another 200 pounds of base weight (up to 3,366 pounds, total)-a serious weight penalty or compliment, whichever way you want to look at it. On that topic, Phil says, "The weight made the car violent, but it may have helped me. I'm just now figuring out how to use it to my advantage. It took me a long time to deal with that."