EFI Renegade - "I've got the monkey on my back and can't get rid of it," says Joel Howard about his second loss to Brian Mitchell this season (Brian also defeated Joel in the first round at Joliet). After dispatching Dwayne Barbaree and Alton Clements in the first two rounds and making a single pass to earn a spot in the last round of the Nitto Tires NMRA World Finals, Joel's nitrous-gulping 'Stang couldn't overcome Brian's holeshot lead in the last stanza. The loss may mark the end of a racing career for Joel's immaculate '86 hatchback. Joel says the 'Stang will probably be returned to street duty with another engine combination during the offseason. "The body has never been damaged in any way, and with the speed we're running in Renegade, I'd rather retire the car from racing before anything happens to it, and just go back to enjoying it as a street car," Joel says.
Hot Street - All Ben Mens needed to nail down the Hot Street world championship was two round-wins going into the Nitto Tire NMRA World Finals. This may sound easy when you consider his streak of round and event wins in 2007. The real deal is, Ben's Bowling Green experience was far from easy. Long before winning those two critical rounds, his 'Stang was subjected to the always-tense teardown process after resetting the class' e.t. and mph records (8.746/158.58) in qualifying. "Not bad for a weekend, huh?" asked Ben, immediately after capturing the gold in the final over Robbie Blankenship. The clearly overwhelmed champ added, "I'm so focused in these deals when they're happening. This is probably all gonna hit me at some point when I'm driving home."
Hot Street - Robbie Blankenship laid waste to a pair of Andys (Law and Schmidt) in the first two rounds, banished Dave Murray back to his trailer, and earned a final-round meeting with Ben Mens. Unfortunately for Robbie, a staging gamble in the final paid off in the form of a -0.007 redlight, giving his Roush teammate (and 2007 class champ) the win. "He's the man," says Robbie. "It's kind of a letdown going red like that, but I rolled in deep, thinking I needed it because he had me covered by about 0.04. I figured I could pick it up on the Tree, but the combination of it being nighttime and me seeing the Tree better, and the car reacting quickly and jerking the front wheels out of the beams was enough to cause the redlight."
Real Street - Among the most fierce competitions in the NMRA was the battle for supremacy in our own Real Street class. For Tim Matherly, it came down to who had the most want-to, as he rededicated himself to testing and experimenting with his ProCharged Two-Valve combination. Apparently Tim found something, and his car was flat-out flying. He laid down a sizzling 9.73/139.60 pass in the Bowling Green heat to put his '01 Bullitt on the pole. After that, the Bullitt was practically stripped down to the casing by the NMRA tech staff, but it passed inspection. Even with a long night putting it back together, Tim was still on his game in eliminations. After rolling through the first and second round, all the marbles went on the table as he clashed with rival Bruce Hemminger and the championship swung in the balance. Bruce knew he needed to get the jump, and he lit the red bulb, handing the trophy to Tim. Tim still had the race to consider, and he was running teammate Jim Breese. Jim cut down the Tree, but Tim drove past him for the win.
Real Street - Jim Breese reiterated the idea that the MV Performance team had discovered a way to eke more power out of the modular Two-Valve combo. He confidently said that he expected to be in the finals with Tim, and guess what? To get there, he qualified right behind Tim with a 9.82/137.67 pass. That put Jim on the other side of the ladder, where he practically ran uncontested to the finals, laying at least three-tenths on his first- and second-round competitors, and riding a bye into the final. Jim's years of practice chopping down the Tree in the Modular Muscle class gave him the jump on Tim (0.055 versus 0.210), but Tim's combo made it to the stripe first.
Real Street - Fighting for the honor of pushrod 5.0s in Real Street, Bruce Hemminger had hoped the sticky Bowling Green weather would give his nitrous combo an advantage. He said the hotter temps still affect the nitrous cars, but not as much. On Sunday, Bruce was experimenting with his clutch setup, trying a setting that paid off, but not with any consistency. "I have to beat Tim and go to the final," Bruce said of his championship challenge. He qualified third with a 9.90/136.70 run, that meant Bruce would meet Tim in the third round if he could make it past Kevin Scott and his sponsor, Justin Burcham of JPC Racing fame. Neither had the beans to keep up with Bruce, and the stage was set for a heavyweight fight. Sadly Bruce redlit, ending his race and season.
Real Street - Former Pure Street powerhouse Shawn Johnson jumped into the Real Street wars this year and showed well while learning the ins and outs of the limited-power-adder dance. His Paxton-blown modular combo was still lacking, however. Shawn laid down a 10.05/133.74 pass. That put him on the Jim Breese side of the ladder, but before clashing with Jim, Shawn's Modular Performance entry made quick work of Richard Karr's pushrod-powered '99 Mustang (10.38 versus 10.74). In the battle of the modulars in round two, Jim made the quick work, but Shawn seems poised for big things in 2008.