Our old friend Roxanne Shepard was on a mission this season, and she and her ride, Tweety
Horse Sense: The closest championship points race came in Factory Stock, with Tommy Godfrey narrowly edging out Steve Gifford by a scant 15 points. Brian Mitchell carried the biggest landslide, besting Bart Tobener by 500 points in EFI Renegade.
When you think of drag racers, the first things that come to mind aren't math equations and Excel spreadsheets, but that's what these guys care about heading into a World Finals race with most of the championship races up in the air. Every racer wants to know what he has to do to speak to the audience at the NMRA Awards Ceremony at PRI. As such, the racers have done all the calculations; worked over all the points; and dropped races, records, and the like to find out. If they're lucky, destiny is in their hands and they only have to win out. If they're unlucky, they have rely on things beyond their control. Either way, it's this sort of mathematical tension that builds our excitement for Bowling Green every year. As it turns out, many of the champions won the World Finals race. Some had to just eke out enough points, others won for the sake of winning, but it proved that the racers on their game most consistently are always the championship players. Some can make a big splash at one race, but it's a lot tougher to get it done all season long. Of course, Bowling Green is a great place to make that splash. Not only is it one of our favorite stops on the NMRA tour, but it's a race completely embraced by the fans. Locals and out-of-towners flock to Bowling Green's intimate stands to take in some of the best racing of the year. If you've never been to the NMRA World Finals, keep reading and see why you should be there next year.
Aeromotive's Steve Matusek stood the Pro 5.0 world on its ear with his new modular-powered entry. Steve put the twin-turbo '07 GT 500 at the top of the qualifying sheet with a 6.54/215.48 shot heard around the world. The full details on Steve's ride are elsewhere in this issue (pg. XX), but the basic combo is a built Ford GT engine and two big turbos resulting in more than 2,000 hp. Of course, the car runs Aeromotive fuel system gear and acts as a rolling billboard for the company. An off run (7.03/211) in round two let the Dan Saitz machine go to the finals and put Steve on the trailer.
Underneath that wild hood treatment is a familiar car in the world of Pure Street, so we're sure Jimmy Wilson's ride felt right at home with the '07 championship, even if he won it by only 25 points. Likewise, the Florida Gators fan feels right at home with championship trophies coming to Gainesville. It wasn't all good fortune for Jimmy, however. He put two-tenths on Larry Weir in round one, but he faced eventual points-chase runner-up Brad Meadows in round two. Jimmy got the jump at the Tree (0.62 versus 0.98), but his motor broke and Brad drove around him (10.35 to 10.46).
A lot of guys were looking to become Mr. NMRA after Ms. NMRA made the rounds passing out T-shirts and flyers.
Do you think the Urist Racing crew felt confident going into the last race?
Pro 5.0 - What makes a champion? Having the ability to "get it done" in high-pressure situations is one of the main criteria, and Tony Bischoff definitely possesses that championship quality. With the Pro 5.0 world championship on the line in round one, Tony defeated Michael Hauf in that first round (which, due to the four-car field, was the semifinal round as well) to nail down the 2007 points title. Later, the newest and more-than-likely last NMRA Pro 5.0 champion (word is the class will be eliminated in 2008) captured his third event win of the season by beating class newcomer, Dan Saitz, in a dramatic, final-round pedalfest. "The track is usually good, but all of a sudden the car just smoked the tires at about 100 feet," says Tony. "So I just kept stabbing it until it went straight. That's usually death for a nitrous motor. It might not be pretty inside when I check it, but it's the end of the year."
Pro 5.0 - Dan Saitz added weight, downsized the turbochargers, and brought his beautiful Shelby GT 500 to Bowling Green to run with the big dogs of NMRA's Pro 5.0 eliminator; the journeyman racer has been a regular at WFC and competed in FFW's Pro class in 2007. After scoring an underdog victory against Steve Matusek's insanely fast turbocharged modular 'Stang in round one and advancing to the final, Dan's Cinderella story came to an end just before the eighth-mile mark in the final round. A broken fuel pump rendered his 'Stang powerless, allowing Tony Bischoff's Cougar to slip and slide by and get to the stripe first.
Outlaw 10.5 - In what we like to call the Dubya class, Mike Brown's wicked coupe led from wire to wire at Bowling Green. Sporting twin turbochargers, the coupe carried the wheels to low 7s during qualifying to land in the top spot. When we stopped at his pit, he had recovered from a string of broken parts-a Helicoil pulled out of the rocker stud, five bent pushrods, and a burned-out plug wire-and he was just hoping to go rounds. And go rounds he did. With all six qualifiers in the 7s and speeds hovering in the 200-mph range, we couldn't wait for Sunday's eliminations. With a six-car field, Mike was able to get past Jim Brown in round one and ride a bye into the final. Jim thought the nitrous might loosen up his engine. It did, but to the tune of broken valves and burned pistons in qualifying. We're sure Tim Essick didn't appreciate Mike saving his best pass for the final, but Mike's 7.06 at 195 mph was able to win the race over Tim's 7.28 at a whopping 203 mph.
Outlaw 10.5 - Even though Tim Essick didn't win the battle at Bowling Green, he won the war by winning the Outlaw 10.5W class for 2007. Tim runs a twin-turbocharger setup in his '03 Mustang, which has been good for 7.20s this year. He is continually working on improving front half times, but one thing he has down is how well his car works on the back end of the track. At Bowling Green, Tim repeatedly ran 200-plus mph, but it wasn't enough to get the win over Mike Brown's coupe in the final.
Super Street Outlaw - John "The Fireball" Urist had good reason to bring to bubbly along to Bowling Green. He was in the running for his third SSO championship and had the chance to become the class' first back-to-back champion. The Fireball put himself in good shape with a number-three qualifying pass of 7.48 at 193.65 mph. He took out an ailing Billy Laskowski in round one and got a redlight gift from Mike "Punk" Trimandilis before running into Hellion teammate Jarrett Halfacre. Not willing to lay over for his sponsor, Jarrett blasted off a 7.48 at 1.93, but John got the jump at the Tree (0.008 versus 0.046). That put the championship on the line as John faced Don "Burndown" Burton in the finals. John chopped down the Tree, Don blew up, and the race and championship were decided before John finished his 7.48/192 pass.
Super Street Outlaw - "I have to worry about the yellow car and the red car," Don Burton said in reference to Hellion teammates Jarrett Halfacre and John Urist. Don was gunning hard for the championship, having rented his home track for testing just before Bowling Green, and it showed. He put his silver bullet in the second qualified position just a tick behind Jarrett with a 7.43/199.23. Though the sticky Bowling Green air was clearly nitrous weather, Don was on his game. As it turned out, he had an easy path to the finals. In the last round, it was nitrous big-block versus ProCharged small-block, and the coveted number one was on the line. Don spun just past the 60-foot mark, sending the tires and the chance at a championship up in smoke.
Drag Radial - John Kolivas must be a glass-half-full kind of guy. We asked him how he was doing on Sunday morning, and he said, "so-so." Having qualified in the third spot with an 8.20/174 blast, he obviously expected more, saying he had "hoped for 70-degree days." What he got was warm weather and a track surface that wasn't kind to drag radials. That said, John made it look easy. Only Kevin Fiscus got within three-tenths of him in the second round of eliminations. Every other race was a blowout, and John cruised to the Bowling Green win and a back-to-back DR championship. Sounds better than so-so to us!
Drag Radial - As one of the most experienced racers in the NMRA, it's always great to see Bob Kurgan doing well at the races. After years of success in EFI Renegade, Bob made the relatively seamless transition into a Drag Radial player. He had a few bumps this season, however, with a big crash putting the hurt on his ride and his pocketbook. With the help of sponsors and friends, Bob had the car back on track looking and running great. He qualified Second with an 8.16/171.53 blast, and only Joey Bridge put up a good fight in the second round. Joey beat Bob off the Tree (0.072 versus 0.112), but Bob had the power to drive around him on the big end (8.24 versus 8.30). In the finals it, was John Kolivas swinging the axe (0.012 versus 0.038) and laying down the big power (8.08 versus 8.72), ending Bob's shot at the win. Bob doesn't have time to get down, however. He's gone full time with his business, Kurgan Motorsports.
EFI Renegade - Good things apparently do happen in threes. Brian Mitchell's victory at the NMRA Nitto Tire World Finals marked his third win of the season and wrapped up his third NMRA Renegade championship (which includes back-to-back titles in 2006 and 2007). Brian says that despite confirming the points-title early in the event, and although the engine in his 'Stang was suffering (bent crankshaft), taking it easy was never a consideration. "The crank has been bent and wobbling since the Columbus race. For the final, I said to myself, If the crank comes out now, it's just gonna come out. Using a higher-than-usual shift point of 7,900 rpm, and, moreso, thanks to a hellatious holeshot (0.031 versus 0.090), Brian maintained plenty of distance on hard-charging Joel Howard and closed out the final with an 8.66 at 159.17 mph.
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.
Pure Street - We've started to think of Pure Street as baby Hot Street. Like Hot Street, Pure Street is a naturally aspirated class, and nowadays, just like Hot Street racers, Pure Street times have been separated by thousandths. It was more of the same at Bowling Green. Ryan Hecox was only trying to move up to the fourth qualifying spot, but he must've been a leapfrog superstar as a child because he put his Cobra in the top spot. Ryan swore something was wrong with his Cobra in the semis against Brandon Alsept because he wasn't gaining ground on Brandon at all. Nothing was wrong with Ryan's car; Brandon's BES powerplant hammered out a stellar 10.19 compared to Ryan's suddenly off-pace 10.28. Brandon continued his semifinal success into the final against Brad Meadows with a win.
Pure Street - We don't know what it is about Pure Street at Bowling Green, but every year the class boasts a full field. This year, Pure Street featured 16 qualified cars, with Ryan Hecox at the top when qualifying was over. Brad Meadows had a few drivetrain issues, but he qualified with a 10.35 at 131 mph, although he was still down in the sixth spot. That didn't mean much to Brad during eliminations, as he moved through to the final against Brandon Alsept. This time, modular power prevailed over pushrod power with Brandon taking the win.
Factory Stock - Farmer Steve Gifford just can't harvest a break. His car has run strong all year in Factory Stock, but on a few occasions, victory was out of Steve's grasp. He improved in the second half of the season, and he needed everything to go right to make a run at the championship. He set the Factory Stock class on its ear with 11.30s at Columbus, and he closed out the year with a victory at Bowling Green. Tommy Godfrey's number-one qualifying effort and final-round appearance against him means Steve's GT will wear a two on the window for 2008. We can't wait for Bradenton.
Factory Stock - After his Bradenton opener victory, Tommy Godfrey looked to be single-handedly putting the pushrod engine back on the Factory Stock map. However, it went downhill from there until a combo change right before Columbus turned things around for the JPC Racing pilot. Tommy went rounds all year long, but he made up ground in the final few races, including Bowling Green, where he qualified number one and went to the finals again. With that performance, he took the championship in his first full year of NMRA competition.
Modular Muscle - In Modular Muscle, some would call it bad luck that Rick Doern had to race Robert Hindman in round one. Rick was battling Roxanne Shepard in the points championship, so to be lined up with one of the all-time modular Mustang racers in round one could be classified as bad luck. However, it's most often better to be lucky than to be good, so Roxanne will take it. Her Tweety has run well all year, and she has been at the top of Modular Muscle all year, so it's not all luck. At Bowling Green, though, Robert took it to the house in the final.
Open Comp - Even though Redline Randy Conway didn't win the race at Bowling Green, he did win the Open Comp class again in 2007 in his '94 Cobra. Saul Walker took Randy out in round three, but not before Randy was able to win the championship. When the Open Comp noise died down, it would be two big-block Mustangs battling it out with Robert Motycka and Sam Dyer getting after it. Robert must've seen someone taking off on the family Bronco golf cart, causing a redlight start and a victory for Sam.
Truck - We're fairly sure Truck and Lightning competitors were wishing Randy Henry was still racing in Hot Street. However, he's not, and Randy is one of the top Truck and Lightning competitors at every race. In the final at Bowling Green, Craig Cain went 0.397 red versus Randy, and we're sure he'll be thinking about that one all winter long.
|'07 NMRA Champions|
|Pro 5.0||Tony Bischoff||Real Street||Tim Matherly|
|Outlaw 10.5W||Tim Essick||Pure Street||Jimmy Wilson|
|Super Street Outlaw||John Urist||Factory Stock||Tommy Godfrey|
|Drag Radial||John Kolivas ||Modular Muscle||Roxanne Shepard|
|EFI Renegade||Brian Mitchell||Truck & Lightning||Johnny Lightning|
|Hot Street||Ben Mens||Open Comp||Randy Conway|