At Joliet, Kevin Fiscus showed it will be more than a two-car race for the rest of the year. Kevin's '02 Mustang utilizes a Fig Performance-built 360ci with a Precision Turbo 88mm hair dryer, a Steve Petty (Proline Racing Engines) tune-up, and head and intake porting by Kris Starnes. Kevin's 8.10/177-mph blast in Saturday afternoon's first round of eliminations was his fastest of the year. He said the car worked perfectly all weekend until the final round against John Kolivas when he ran into tire shake, forcing him to momentarily back out of the throttle and watch John drive away. "This is our rookie season and our biggest challenge is adjusting to the different track conditions," Kevin says. "We're learning what works and what doesn't with each pass." Kevin also says a huge challenge will be beating Chris Tuten and John at the same event, but he's going to give it his best effort.
We know several things about Tony Orts. First off, we think he could race just about anything. Second, he loves his car hauler's electric landing gear. He told us so right before we had to manually drop the landing gear on Mike Zamboni's trailer. For those keeping score at home, that's not fun to do. Third, Tony is down a battery charger because he loaned it to a fellow racer and left before getting it back. Back to the actual racing: Because Joliet is an NMRA and an NMCA race, he pulled double-duty racing in the EFI Renegade class on the NMRA side in an '05 Mustang GT, and in the Extreme Street class on the NMCA side in his '68 Firebird. He did well in both classes, but he was more successful in the Mustang and made it to the finals of EFI Renegade against Brian Mitchell. A redlight start handed the win to Brian.
Always one of the more competitive NMRA classes, EFI Renegade was up for grabs at Joliet. Brian Mitchell rose to the top once again thanks to consistency and quick reaction times. Though Brian Tuten and Bart Tobener out-qualified the defending EFI Renegade champ, Brian methodically carved his way though eliminations until he met Tony Orts in the final. Tony, obviously knowing he needed a good reaction time, lit the red bulb, handing Brian the victory. Brian still relies on Vortech Superchargers, PT Race Engines/Cleveland Performance, Dynamic Converters/Pro-Formance Transmissions, UPR Products, SGS Automotive, and especially his wife and crew.
Making time to race at Joliet paid off for Charlie Booze Jr., as he was able to get back on the winning track and add a second shootout ring to his collection. In a class quickly becoming dominated by Roush Performance powerplants, he continues to fly the Kuntz and Co. flag. He qualified in the fifth spot with an 8.85/152-mph effort, but longtime Hot Street followers know this class is decided by thousandths of a second almost every round. As such, number-one qualifier Ben Mens wasn't far ahead of Charlie with an 8.80/152-mph time. Running a 400ci engine, Charlie wasn't showing it in eliminations if he had any more power because he ran consistent 8.80s every pass. Good for him. Charlie possessed the reaction times needed to keep going rounds; he was outrun each pass, but his reaction times kept him out front. In the final against Ben, Charlie was the recipient of a gifted redlight start by Ben to get him back in the winner's circle.
Being an engine builder for a major NASCAR team, you have to figure Ben Mens has a leg up on his fellow Hot Street racers, but just like the left-turners, this class comes down to hundredths of a second between winner and first loser. Ben used every ounce of horsepower to qualify number one. Similar to eventual winner Charlie Booze Jr., Ben seemingly had his reaction times right on the money combined with consistent runs in the low 8.80s. Working with fellow Hot Street racer Mike Demayo, Ben's program has really thrived, but he ever-so-slightly jumped the gun in the final against Charlie Booze Jr., handing the defending champ the victory.
If the Real Street class seemed boring before Joliet, that wasn't the case after. Due to rule changes, nitrous cars received help to even out the racing field. Combine the changes with Bruce Hemminger's testing regimen and you have a recipe for one fast Real Street car provided attrition doesn't rear its ugly head, which has been the case for Bruce on several occasions. At Joliet, his biggest issue was clutch-related. We caught Bruce and his girlfriend, Debbie Pifer, swapping a new clutch at the event, and Bruce says one way he gauges clutch life is by studying his 60-foot times. As soon as he notices a slip, he knows the clutch is probably the culprit. Obviously, he had it figured out at Joliet. He qualified at the top with a 9.94/133-mph pass, and he continued that momentum through eliminations to take the victory over Jim Breese in the final and win the Super Bowl shootout. Bruce's final-round pass was the one that had everyone wondering if the track's timing equipment was correct: He ran 139 mph against Jim. Some say it was a timing-equipment malfunction, but as of this writing, Bruce already ran that number again. To be continued...
Aside from the occasional clutch swap, the Real Street pit of soft-spoken Jim Breese is usually quiet. On our regular Mountain Dew hunts, there wasn't much going on with Jim's car. That's not to say he wasn't busy helping other racers, because there was plenty of that at Joliet. Besides Bruce Hemminger's qualifying effort, Jim was the only other Real Street racer to find the nines during qualifying. He made it to the finals against Bruce, and everyone knows Jim can cut a light. He did his best with a 0.448 to Bruce's 0.490, but it wasn't enough to keep him out front.
Tim Matherly had several problems at Joliet. He had transmission issues during qualifying, and then he hurt a cylinder head, necessitating an engine swap. By now, swapping an engine is like plugging in a DiabloSport Predator. OK-it may not be that easy, but Tim has done it so many times, he could probably do it in his sleep. Something else he is able to do in his sleep is have quick reaction times, but even that talent wasn't able to get him past Bruce Hemminger in the semis.