Talk about a good way to close out the year. Matt Bell spent a good part of the weekend working on his Fox GT's tune-up. Matt had traction issues Friday and Saturday as he couldn't quite master the car's AMS1000 boost controller, but he finally got the right tune in the car Sunday morning. The car kept getting quicker each round by sneaking up on the tune. Matt's car was built by Behind Bars Race Cars' Chris "Noodles" Hemmeter, and Noodles even raced the car for a while. Matt and Noodles have worked together to update the car whenever the need arises, but the car still boasts a Rich Groh Racing 356ci with Ford Racing Performance Parts Z304 heads, a Parker Funnel Web intake, a Precision 85mm single turbo, and a Performance Transmissions PowerGlide with a Neal Chance converter. Being consistent at Bowling Green kept Matt in the hunt, getting him to the final against John Kolivas where John rolled through the beams, giving Matt his first NMRA victory.
Well, if the '08 World Finals is the last race in John Kolivas' NMRA race career, it didn't exactly turn out the way he wanted it. John had the car ready to go racing, but he didn't have much chance to do any of his usual testing before Bowling Green. John's Bennett Racing-pushrod, single-turbo combo made really good power on Southern Speed's "stingy" Mustang Dynamometer, but translating that into e.t. is another thing, especially in Drag Radial. John and his crew dealt with a transmission issues during eliminations at Bowling Green, which caused him to roll through the beams in the final against Matt Bell. If this is your last NMRA rodeo John, we've enjoyed watching you and your Cobra fly down the track.
"That money is mine!" Yes, we definitely had to go there with Bart Tobener. While Bart's confident on-camera declaration didn't quite pan out the way he wanted it to at the PINKS All-Out event in Atlanta, his 8.54/162 final-round performance in Bowling Green guaranteed he would receive a big check and contingency payouts as the EFI Renegade winner at the NMRA World Finals. "There's really not a lot to say about this win. I usually have to fix or change something on the car, but this time I didn't even have to change the plugs," Bart said.
Brian Tuten's nitrous-powered 'Stang made the most of outstanding weather conditions and performed like a mid-8-second Swiss watch all the way up to the EFI Renegade final. Despite Brian's killer 0.026 reaction time, traction issues slowed his coupe to a far-off-pace 9.394 e.t. against Bart Tobener. Brian's BMF Racing camp didn't change the tune or make any chassis adjustments. It was just a matter of the track not being what it was in previous rounds.
Number-two qualifier Ben Mens carried consistent 8.70s and 154 mph speed all the way to the win in the Hot Street final. "We struggled all week to get out of the shop, and then battled a fuel-system issue when we got here that left us with only one opportunity to get down the track and qualify," Ben said. The recurring fuel problem wasn't fully resolved until the semifinal versus Charlie Booze. "Charlie went up on the bumper, but played it right with the changes and the car went right on through." The victory secured Ben's third-place finish in the class, which was his goal after being set back by an accident prior to the Milan, Michigan, race.
Despite losing to Ben Mens at in the Hot Street final at Bowling Green, Robbie Blankenship was full of thanks to Ben for beating Charlie Booze in the semifinal (and in their meeting at Columbus), which ultimately secured the overall class title for Robbie. "Having Ben back was a big help and really got us back in the game," said Robbie. "This feels great. We'll definitely be back in Hot Street with the same program--Ben Mens/Roush engine and Matukas chassis."
We might now refer to an against-all-odds comeback as a "Hemminger" story if it wasn't already referred to as a "Cinderella" story. Sure it's been done in Real Street before at the 11th hour by the likes of Chris Tuten, but Bruce Hemminger missed the first two races of the season and needed everything to go his way to take home his first-ever Real Street championship. Bruce qualified hot on the heels of class dominator Tim Matherly, thus putting himself on the opposite side of the ladder. Bruce took out Real Street stalwart Paul Wiley, and newcomer Jim Pickel broke, clearing Bruce's way for an apparent clash with Tim. That didn't happen, and Bruce laid three tenths on rookie Kevin Scott to take the win and the championship. Having raced the class since its early days, Bruce was full of emotion at earning his first Diamond Tree ring and burning through four transmissions to do it. He explained that he'd been wanting this for so long he would "need a raincoat at PRI," meaning he'd likely be brought to tears during his championship acceptance speech.