Real Street - It was great to see at least one new car come out and play in Real Street. The driver was a familiar face, UPR's Jeremy Martorella, who was driving a customer's car. Jeremy qualified in the bottom spot after blowing the intake off his nitrous car on his 11.65/86 pass. Jeremy and crew put the car back together overnight and ran into more troubles in the first round. Fortunately for Jeremy, Uncle Robin Lawrence had even worse troubles, breaking a tranny and his valvetrain in one pass. Jeremy limped ahead for the win. After sorting things out, Jeremy made the call against Tim Matherly in round two. A slow e.t. and a slower reaction time didn't do the job against Tim, but we're fairly sure Jeremy will be a contender as the season wears on.
Pure Street - With Gene Hindman out of the '06 Pure Street picture, the class is truly up for grabs, and Ron Anderson is certainly one to fill the void since he finished out the '05 season with a victory at the NMRA World Finals. The 5.0 Mustang pioneer showed he still has plenty of tricks up his sleeve as he continually shows the young bucks how to shift into Second gear while still hanging the front wheels in the air. Ron qualified number two with a 10.41, and it would only make sense that he and number-one qualifier Brad Meadows would meet in the final. But Brad redlighted in the final, handing Ron another Pure Street victory.
Pure Street - Bad Brad Meadows has been stepping up in the Pure Street ranks ever since the debut of his '95 Cobra a couple of years ago. Most of that time, however, was spent catching up with Gene Hindman and Rich Groh. With those guys out of Pure Street, Brad has a good chance of winning it all in 2006. At Bradenton, he looked primed to start it off right with a victory, but a redlight start in the final against Ron Anderson spelled an end to an otherwise perfect weekend.
Factory Stock - With the off-season rules changes aimed at making Factory Stock a more competitive class, Shawn Johnson came to Bradenton to show his car was ready to party. John and the Tymensky family are determined to show what a Four-Valve is capable of in 2006, and Shawn says clutch sponsor RPS will get a workout this year if Bradenton was any indication of how the '06 season will go. Shawn pulled the wheels on every successive pass, something few Factory Stock cars have done. The Bradenton race was Shawn's to lose, but if you're reading about his experience here, you know he won it with times in the mid-11s all weekend, and a victory over fellow Four-Valve runner-up Jeffery Schmell.
Factory Stock - Besides Shawn Johnson, the only other Factory Stock competitor in the 11s was Jeffery Schmell. Of course, being number-one and number-two qualifiers meant they would meet in the final round to decide it all. If anything, Jeff was deadly consistent with 11.60s all day on Sunday. If Jeff had cut a light in the final, the spoils of victory would've been his, but he couldn't quite get the jump to take the win with an 11.66 to Shawn's hair-quicker 11.63.
Modular Muscle - Sometimes the best thing a racer can have on his side-besides a good car-is luck. Chris Colitas found out how valuable luck is for the Modular Muscle class at the Nitto Nationals. For the first round, Chris drew Paul Svinicki and his Ford-GT-engine-packing '06 Mustang to run against. Paul was cutting killer times all through qualifying, and his car was looking lethal. But on the way to the staging lanes for round one, the Reverse gear broke in Paul's transmission. In the staging beams, he rolled deep because the tranny brake also became inoperative thanks to the also inoperative Reverse gear. Both factors caused Paul to redlight against Chris, giving him the first-round win. After working his way up the ladder, Chris squared off against Deltona, Florida, resident Rick Doern and his '96 Mustang GT in the final. Both racers cut nearly identical reaction times, Chris with a 0.034 and Rick with a 0.035. But it was Chris who cut the beams first at the end, running an 11.48 flat at 113.83 mph, to Rick's 10.424 at 128.02 mph.
Open Comp - When engine problems put his main race car out of service right before the NMRA season opener, Jim Brown of O'Fallon, Missouri, did what any diehard drag racer would do: He loaded up his backup 'Stang-a classic '70 Mach 1-and headed down to Bradenton. While a trailer mishap left Jim stranded in Georgia for 15 hours during the trip, he eventually made it to Bradenton and his never-quit attitude paid off in the form of his first NMRA victory-in his first NMRA race. "I was planning to go to four NMRA races this year, but with this win I may add Reynolds and Columbus to the mix and see if I can finish in the Top 10 in points," Jim says. Which leaves us wondering whether his primary race Ford will ever be repaired.
Truck & Lightning - Bradenton Truck & Lightning champ Jim Roberts is the event's best example of practice paying off, this time in the form of a first-time win for the 51-year-old racer from Largo, Florida. Taking advantage of test opportunities on Thursday and Friday to practice his reaction time, Jim welded the tree all day Sunday and cruised through the rounds for a matchup with '05 class champion Captain Keith Kohlmann in the final. Emotions took over after Jim realized the Captain lit the red bulb. "That was the most exciting moment for me," Jim says. "I want to dedicate this win to all the guys at Ford Special Vehicle Team, my crew chief Bob Churan [who Jim beat in round one], and my wife and grandchildren, who made up my pit crew. Without those people and many, many others, I would not have placed."