Horse Sense: The Factory Stock class had a race within a race at Reynolds during qualifying, and Steve Gifford came out on top. He beat Alan Cann, Jeff "What's That" Schmell, and Eric Holliday in the final to win the shootout. Eric rallied on Sunday to beat Steve in round two of eliminations.
You've read our bellyaches about the traffic woes we've endured throughout the years getting from our Tampa offices to the NMRA race in Reynolds, Georgia. Every year, the race coincides with the not-so-mad rush of all the snowbirds returning north. For the '07 event, we did the responsible thing-we left early to get a jump on the northerners heading home to Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio, among other places. It's a good thing we did, because we made it just in time for round-one qualifying. At the time, the weather was picture perfect. Sunday afternoon brought with it clouds, rain, and some more rain. Thanks to the weather, every heads-up class in the finals-save for Hot Street-will be finished at the Milan, Michigan, event June 15-17. Read on for the action leading up to the final rounds.
A lot goes into moving a car to another class, and there are plenty of racers who have had trouble making the transition. Shawn Johnson made the move from Factory Stock to our own Real Street class. He must have grown bored with beating Michael Washington every time, so he wanted to take on new challengers. Unfortunately, new combo gremlins and Michael-he also moved up to Real Street-teamed up to end Shawn's weekend in round two. To make sure the car is ironed out for the next race, he dropped it off at MV Performance on the way home to Michigan to get it tuned and performing the way it should be.
When we heard J.R. Granatelli coming to the line during Saturday's qualifying, we had a feeling Raphael Morkvenas' LX Super Street Outlaw was going to do something big. As you can see, we were right. JR began building boost as he brought the car to the line. Once it got in the lights, a line let go, sending fluid on the exhaust and setting the car on fire. As bad as this looks, the team worked on the car and made first round with it not looking much worse for wear. It was off pace with an 8.36, which couldn't get JR past John Urist. These guys deserve a lot of credit for even making the call in the first place, but to run an 8.30 after a fire is huge.
Teddy Weaver canned his old Fox GT in favor of this New Edge GT body wearing chameleon paint and featuring his existing McKeown Motorsport Engineering-built Pure Street 310ci combo. MV Performance got the call for the suspension setup on the new car, as well. At the Reynolds race, Teddy qualified Fifth with a 10.51 at 128 mph, which showed he was a couple of tenths and a couple of mph off the top spot. Speaking of the top spot, number-one qualifier Jimmy Wilson ended Teddy's weekend in round two. Teddy was still having some electrical and suspension problems with the new car, but during testing after Reynolds, MV's Tim Matherly helped sort out the suspension, and the electrical gremlins have been corrected. Don't be surprised to see Teddy in the 10.20s at Milan.
Steve Matukas from Matukas Motorsports Race Cars [(270) 842-4409, www.matukasmotorsports.com] has become a big name in Mustang chassis work. Steve constructed Joel Greathouse's '05 GT 10.5W. He's always at an NMRA event helping Sam Vincent, Donnie "Burndown" Burton, and Hot Street racer Tim Eichorn, among others. Steve began his career in chassis work in Southern California, but now he's located in Alvaton, Kentucky. Mustangs aren't the only vehicles he performs his magic on; any race car needing chassis work is allowed at MMRC.
The Pro 5.0 Team of Joe Morgan and Tom Sanders has relied on nitrous from Edelbrock's Steve Johnson for a couple of years now. At Reynolds, the Georgia-based team took advantage of home cooking with a stellar 6.62 at 211.86 mph. The ".86" is important, because that earned Joe the fastest pass in qualifying, even though he barely missed being the quickest. On Sunday, Tony Bischoff was quicker to the stripe against Joe, ending his weekend.
With Bert Kelkboom and the Aruba team suffering terminal engine damage, the rest of the Pro 5.0 field had to step up to put on a great show. Michael Hauf held up his end of the deal with a wicked 6.56/211.56-mph pass to take the top-qualifying spot and make a run at the Pro-5.0 record. Since he ran quicker than the required 6.633 with his first round 6.58, he scored the record. He'll have to wait until the Milan, Michigan, race to see if he can score the victory against Tony Bischoff.
Though he closed out 2006 with a string of victories, Pro 5.0 racer Tony Bischoff hasn't yet enjoyed that same success in 2007. The team is still testing several ideas, and it probably doesn't help the racing program when the shop is so busy, as is Tony's case with his company BES Racing Engines. Tony still ran well at Reynolds with a 6.60 in qualifying, and another 6.60 in round one against Joe Morgan. He won't know if he can get back to his winning ways until the Milan, Michigan, race.
Keith Neal brought his Straightline Chassis-built '04 Cobra to Reynolds for its first race since buying the car in October 2006. Straightline built the car for Keith in 2004; he sold it, only to buy it back. Brad Brand tunes the twin 88mm Garrett-turbocharged 458ci small-block combo that boasts a Neal Chance Powerglide and a Marty Chance converter. Keith and his crew were late for qualifying; they spent a lot of time on the dyno working on the combination. The car shook the tires in the second and third rounds of qualifying, but for eliminations, Keith and the crew moved some stuff around. With just "monkeying around," they ran a 7.14 in round two of eliminations. Keith will meet Tim Essick in the final at Milan.
Tim Essick's only issue was some tire shake out of the hole. Because of that problem, he couldn't put anymore power into it in the first 330 feet. Tim wished they could've run the finals at Reynolds so he and Keith Neal could put some money in their respective wallets, but he'll be ready at the Milan event. Tim runs Twin Turbonetics on his car, and it was in the 7.50s all last year; the car began the season the 7.10s. Tim does his own work, including engine and transmission building and maintenance. "That's the only way I can afford to race," he says.
SUPER STREET OUTLAW
Manny Buginga didn't think he had the fastest Super Street Outlaw car at Reynolds, but he says he has a good team with a mediocre driver. Those ingredients helped him go rounds on Sunday. Everything seemed to work right at Reynolds for Manny and his team. As far as driving his Super Street Outlaw Mustang, he says most of the drama-if any-happens in the first 60 feet. After that point, it's usually a controlled spin for the rest of the track. "Just keep it pointed semi-straight, and you're done in no time," Manny says. Spoken like a NASCAR racer, Manny would be remiss to thank his sponsors: Desantis Ford, Neal Chance Converters, DMC Racing, Route 28 Collision Center, Turbonetics, Dynamic Racing Transmissions, Turbo People, and wicked power from Nelson Competition Engines.
In the race within a race, Don "Burndown" Burton took the Nitto Tire shootout win over Zack Posey during qualifying. Unlike many Reynolds competitors, Don left with a check in hand to celebrate fellow JPC member Rich Groh's birthday at Applebee's. With a Gene Fulton 500ci engine underhood supplied by two big bottles full of nitrous, Don is no stranger near the top of the qualifying order, but Reynolds left him in the lucky Seventh spot with a 7.65/189-mph blast. He got down to business in eliminations with consistent 7.50s to get past Billy Laskowski, Zach, and Mike "Punk" Trimandilis. In the final, Don is paired against Manny Buginga.
Chris Tuten has been the bridesmaid so far in '07. At Bradenton, he qualified second to John Kolivas and finished in the runner-up position to John. At Reynolds, Chris had to settle for the second qualifying position to John. During Sunday's eliminations Chris was the quicker of the two, albeit by ever-so-narrow margins. Both guys know how to cut a light, so every thousandth will be important for their match-up in Milan.
John Kolivas' '95 Cobra sported a new front bumper cover from Schoneck Composites, and although it did nothing for the car's aesthetics, the new cover picked up 1 mph on the top end. If you've ever seen a top-end photo of John's Cobra, you know the factory cover would basically collapse at speed, causing aerodynamic drag. The composite material of the new bumper cover keeps it from distorting at speed, greatly cutting down on drag. With the new cover, John qualified the Bennett-powered Cobra at the top of Drag Radial with an 8.11/175-mph blast, and he ran as fast as 176 mph during qualifying. During Sunday's eliminations, John ran two 8.12s, and one of the passes again reached 176 mph. For the finals, John is paired against number-two qualifier Chris Tuten.
Longtime Mustang racer Bart Tobener was in the throes of moving from South Florida to the Atlanta area during the Reynolds race, so he was a busy man. He found the time to run an 8.82 at 154 mph to qualify Fourth in his 5.4-powered '03 Cobra. The 154-mph trap speed tells us he didn't shut it down early, which is one of Bart's traits. He doesn't want to hurt anything on the top end, so most of the time during qualifying or if he's out in front of his competition, Bart will get out of the throttle before the stripe to save equipment. He definitely didn't feather the throttle against Brian Tuten in round one, which was surprising since Brian ran into problems. He ran even quicker and faster in round two against number-one qualifier Aaron Stapleton, but he had to because the two were even out of the gate, and Aaron's no slouch. Thankfully for Bart, his 8.68 was enough to get him past Aaron's 8.77. A semifinal-round bye plucked him right into the final against Brian Mitchell. Bart will need a full pass in that race-that much we know.
Brian Mitchell has historically been one of the quickest EFI Renegade cars to the 60-foot mark. When we hear he's working hard to improve on numbers of the past, and that he's been successful at doing so, that's something to note. At Reynolds with qualifying points worth more this year, Brian hung it all out in qualifying with an 8.67 at 154 mph to secure the number-two spot behind Aaron Stapleton. During eliminations, Brian showed why his car features the number one on it. He used quick reaction times-except in round two-and consistency to make it past Rich Groh, Jason Geroulo, and Mike Roush. Brian will meet Bart Tobener in the final.
The tired boys of Hot Street were the only heads-up racers not down to the final round before the rains came. We say "tired" because they're not allowed to tow their cars up to staging, and there's a slight hill on the way to the lanes at Silver Dollar Raceway. Throw that and warm temps into the mix, and you can see why they would be tired. The class boiled down to Justin Curry, Ben Mens, Andy Schmidt, and Bangin' Bob Hanlon. Justin is the new driver for the School of Automotive Machinists. He was scheduled to get married the weekend of the Milan race, but his fianc agreed to move the wedding date so he could race Ben Mens. If he's able to get past Ben, he races either Andy or Bangin' Bob in the final.
We swear Andy Schmidt's '85 GT isn't cut down to 31/44-scale proportions; his brother, Matt, is a gargantuan 6'7" tall. Andy is just as tall, and they represent the tallest brothers in NMRA land. They're also the fastest brothers in Hot Street. Andy qualified Fourth with an 8.82 and ran an 8.82 in round one, and then an 8.80 to get around Mike Demayo in round two. In the semis, he'll have to line up against Bangin' Bob Hanlon for the right to battle Justin Curry or Ben Mens in the final.
If this Mustang thing doesn't work out for Tim Matherly, we're fairly sure he could get a job as either a meteorologist or a fortune teller. He must have tune-ups in his Real Street broken down in times, and not according to air/fuel tables. He was under the weather at Reynolds, so he knew his first round needed to be good so he could rest until Sunday's eliminations. By running a 9.83 at 137 mph, he accomplished exactly that to be at the top of the ladder. As number-one qualifier, he took a Sunday drive for his first-round bye run, and then beat Donnie "Holeshot" Bosley's nitrous car to the stripe with a 9.87 to Donnie's 10.13. In the semis, Tim took out his MV Performance racing teammate Jim Breese, and he'll be looking at Bruce Hemminger in the other lane for the finals.
Michael Washington from Isle Wynn, Florida, could sense something was amiss with his Real Street ride Sunday morning. He met his goal, which was to put his Factory Stock nemesis Shawn Johnson on the trailer in round one, but he blew up his junk in the process. After trailering Shawn, Michael did a compression check on Robin Lawrence's former engine. The results weren't good, so he packed it in and got a head start on tearing down the engine for a rebuild. Michael thinks a bent valve is the culprit, which kept him from Wynn-ing. He probably thinks we didn't catch the name of his hometown, either. We thought he was from Helsinki, Finland, but what do we know?
For many people, racing is a family affair. Jim Breese is one of those racers. He had the wife and kids with him at Reynolds; apart from a ripped contact lens, it wasn't a bad weekend for the family. He qualified second behind his fellow MV Performance team member and car-builder Tim Matherly with a 9.88 at 137 mph. The Breese pit was relatively quiet when we went to get our hourly Mountain Dew fix. Jim kept his engine cooled and his car wiped off and looking good. Unfortunately, he lost to his car's builder in the semis, but both launched harder than a Two-Valve car has the right to.
Bruce Hemminger was among many racers in love with Silver Dollar Raceway's track surface. "The air is incredible and the track is awesome," he says. According to him, the right lane was better; whenever possible, that's the lane he wanted. Bruce's car recorded a 1.31 60-foot time in the right lane, and anyone worth their VHT knows that's a stellar time. Fortunately, after his first-round 9.87, Bruce had bye runs until the early afternoon rain came. He'll need to get the leave against Tim Matherly in the final at Milan because that's going to be an even race.
Yes, it's still Gene Hindman's old car, but Jimmy Wilson is making it his own with new graphics, and he's beginning to take over the Steve Petty-built engine maintenance. Jimmy has freshened up the engine a couple of times since he purchased the Pure Street winning combination, but the components remain the same with a Dart block, a Bullet Racing Cams custom grind, Brodix Street 5.0 heads, and a Holley SysteMAX II intake. A Centerforce clutch remains in the bellhousing to help the G-Force T-5 make it to the next gear. Jimmy qualified at the top of Pure Street with a 10.29 at 130 mph, took his first-round bye relatively easy, then hammered out a 10.38 to beat Teddy Weaver. Brad Meadows redlit in the semis to hand Jimmy the win. Jimmy ran it out with a 10.31 at 130 mph. He and Ryan Hecox will meet in the final at Milan.
Tommy Godfrey won Bradenton and all of sudden began to like every Internet smack forum. All the talk was to have fun, though, but at Reynolds he sought to back it up and show his Bradenton win was no fluke. We told you in the Bradenton NMRA coverage that Tommy would be in the 11.40s in cooler weather, and at Reynolds he made us look good by qualifying with an 11.46 at 116 mph. Steve Gifford was quicker with an 11.42 at 117 mph. In round one against John Leslie Jr., Tommy bogged off the line to an 11.63, but he had the launch figured out in the semis against Jeff Schmell with an 11.52 to make it to the final round, where he'll meet Jonathan Paulk.