2009 NMRA ATCO New Jersey
Break Time's Over As The NMRA Returns To Racing At Atco's Notorious Asphalt
From the October, 2009 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By KJ Jones
All contributors: KJ Jones
Atco Raceway's legendary "hook"...
Atco Raceway's legendary "hook" and subterranean air had Chris Van Gilder's '90 ragtop LX and many other NMRA Mustangs launching with their front wheels high all weekend.
Atco, New Jersey
The NMRA, its racers, and fans arrived at Atco Raceway in New Jersey for the ninth annual Nitto Tire Ford Nationals last May, determined to exorcise the oppressive-heat/rainy-weather demons that have cursed the event (traditionally held in August) in prior years.
The date change marked the return of the always-exciting, night-qualifying session on Friday, and also brought out the best in Atco's unforgiving traction and mineshaft atmosphere as Real Street, Hot Street, and EFI Renegade 'Stangs spent plenty of time on their rear bumpers, and e.t. and speed records plummeted in those classes on Sunday, just like the temperature, which never topped 65 chilly degrees.
The event kicks off what has become your tech editor's annual extended run through the East Coast (this year, behind the wheel of a '10 Ford Fusion Sport, detailed in my blog on our website). As you'll see in the following photos and captions, NMRA's decision to change the date of its Atco race proved to be a great move for racers and fans, who definitely won't miss all of the foul-weather events of the past.
While Sunday's rain was a...
While Sunday's rain was a far cry from the washouts we've experienced at Atco in the past, we have to give props to track personnel for the great job they did at putting the bite back in the racing surface after the shower passed, setting the stage for bumper shots and high-speed blasts.
Scott Anderson and Steve Thompson's...
Scott Anderson and Steve Thompson's super-clean '88 Mustang LX coupe was the lone nitrous competitor in the Drag Radial class at the ninth annual Nitto Tire Ford Nationals. While the brand-new Pony was being dialed-in and way off the pace at Atco, Scott and Steve are confident that the new setup will be quicker and faster than their former car, which ran 8.20s with the same 400ci engine and fogger combination.
FYI While he didn't have...
While he didn't have the quickest or fastest 'Stang on the property, we still give Brent White major props for entering his brand-spankin'-new '10 Mustang GT in the JDM Engineering Super 'Stang category, reaching Round 4 before losing to Don Justus. Brent's drive from North Webster, Indiana, and Atco (and back) marked the first miles recorded on the Pony's odometer, as the journey started immediately after Brent took delivery of the car!
The spotty weather somewhat...
The spotty weather somewhat limited the number of cars that entered the show side of the ninth annual Nitto Tire Ford Nationals, but we spied this rare '92 SAAC MK I Mustang GT and its absolute perfection stopped us dead in our tracks. The car is owned by Bob Hahn Sr. of Westminster, Maryland; it has less than 80 miles on the odometer and is flawless.
Rick Moroso's beautiful '08...
Rick Moroso's beautiful '08 Mustang GT is a rolling showcase of his company's (Moroso) new lineup of bolt-on performance parts for S197 'Stangs. The car and driver's NMRA racing debut unfortunately came to an early end, as Rick lost to Brent White's '10 GT in the first round of Super 'Stang.
Pro Outlaw 10.5 "When bad...
Pro Outlaw 10.5
"When bad things happen early instead of when it counts, good things happen at the end." Those are the encouraging (and ultimately prophetic) words that Mike "Buster" Murillo gave his crew before eliminations started, after he and his team worked for two days to sort out problems with the transmission and to correct a major chassis issue (broken four-link brackets) on Sunday. The repairs enabled Mike to post high-6-second e.t.'s and eye-popping, record-setting 217-mph speed in Round 1, bringing Mike his first NMRA victory in six years.
Driving around Keith Neal...
Driving around Keith Neal in Round 1 earned 2007 Pro Outlaw 10.5 champ Tim Essick a trip to the final versus Mike Murillo. However, Tim's good fortune came to an end in that last stanza, as his twin-turbocharged New Edge rode the wheelie bars to nearly half track, and ultimately couldn't keep pace with Mike's freight-training Fox.
Super Street Outlaw Yanni...
Super Street Outlaw
Yanni "Super Greek" Papakasmos used a 0.062 holeshot and 190.32-mph speed to stave off Donnie Burton (0.090/185.82) in the Super Street Outlaw final. In the "Big Fat Greek Victory Celebration" that consumed the winner's circle, Yanni explained that the victory was the result of a weeklong thrash to simply make it to Atco, and then to make it through rounds (swapping four torque converters and two transmissions in the pits). He thanks Miller Race Cars, DiSomma Racing Engines, Don Bailey, his wife, the crew, and the spirit and memory of Ed "The Flying Frog" Kowalczyk for helping him get the win.
Donnie Burton felt the frustration...
Donnie Burton felt the frustration of losing a race and hurting an engine in his final-round matchup with Yanni Papakasmos. "It blew up," says Don. "This engine was brand-new when I got here." Despite the setback, he is looking forward to putting together a strong "back four" (the last four events are part of NMRA's new "chase" points format that will determine class champions), as his sights are set on winning the Super Street Outlaw championship for 2009.
Drag Radial Jason Lee says...
Jason Lee says he had to pray to the starter gods just before the Drag Radial final. A spacing problem with the starter in his four-eyed Fox made cranking the engine a hit-and-miss proposition. But Jason did get his ProCharged bullet fired when it counted, and kept the candles lit long enough for his Pony to stretch away from Ken Ewer and take the win.
Ken Ewer overcame major ECU...
Ken Ewer overcame major ECU issues in the week leading up to the Atco race, and made the most of his return to NMRA racing (Ken competed in the '08 event at Atco) by reaching the Drag Radial final. Ken says he initially was uncertain about running the entire series, but now we may see his beautiful '92 coupe at other races on the '09 tour. "We all decided this weekend's performance was going to be the deciding factor," says Ken. "We said that if we do well, we'll continue to go out. Well, now it looks like I'm going to be dragged out."
EFI Renegade Even though...
Even though Brian Mitchell took the win in EFI Renegade, the feat is somewhat overshadowed by his phenomenal 8.389 e.t. in Round 3. "The car was on point all weekend, thanks to great air and a track that really had teeth," says Brian, who continues to experiment with beadlocked wheels on his '04 'Stang. "I didn't have too much luck with the beadlocks at Bradenton and I almost took them off. But after I watched the videos from Florida and here, we changed a few things and the beadlocks made a difference. Now I love 'em!"
While simply reaching the...
While simply reaching the EFI Renegade final was a huge reward for Bart Tobener, losing was an equally huge disappointment. After spending all day Saturday replacing a broken piston in his '93 coupe's Vortech-blown mod-motor, a broken plug wire took Bart out of contention as soon as he clicked Second gear in his final-round duel with multi-time points-champ Brian Mitchell. Always one to find a bright spot when surrounded by darkness, Bart says that, overall, repairing the engine only cost $18 for a new head gasket-Bart replaced his broken piston with a slug borrowed from Jim Breese's engine-and he still heads back to Georgia with some money in his pocket.
Hot Street Robbie Blankenship's...
Robbie Blankenship's Roush-powered (he calls the 400ci small-block "Simon") '04 Mustang became the first Hot Street car to run in the 8.50s at Atco...or anywhere else, for that matter, with back-to-back, e.t.-record-setting passes of 8.59 and 8.58 in Rounds 1 and 2 of eliminations. Although the 2008 World Champion appeared to have the field covered, parts breakage proved that the adage "anything can happen in a drag race" definitely is true, as Robbie had to watch the taillights on Don Bowles' Maverick as it motored away in the Hot Street final.
Your tech editor has been...
Your tech editor has been trying to get Editor Turner to see the "cool" in Ford Mavericks for years; Don Bowles Sr.'s '72 model is cool in every sense of the word! In only his second race with the car and with Hot Street veteran Ben Mens making the crew chief calls, Don jockeyed his hard-launching, Roush-powered 'Rick past Richard Preiser and Bangin' Bob Hanlon in Rounds 1 and 2, and on to a huge win over '08 champ Robbie Blankenship in the final. The victory makes Don's Maverick the first non-Mustang to ever win an NMRA event in Hot Street.
Real Street Tim Matherly's...
Tim Matherly's wheels-up, winning ways continue! The 2008 Real Street points runner-up had a painless run to victory at Atco and is on a mission to claim his fourth class title in '09. Tim shouts thanks to new sponsor, MPS Auto Salvage of Winder, Georgia, and unapologetically urges enthusiasts or racers building late-model Mustangs to contact MPS for any quality, salvaged original parts that they may be having a hard time finding elsewhere.
Dave Ginter cites the long...
Dave Ginter cites the long layoff between the season opener in Bradenton (held in early March) and the second race on the NMRA tour at Atco as the source of the "foreign feeling" he had during qualifying. Unable to test during the downtime (Dave's car, truck, and trailer were parked at Tim Matherly's shop), Dave says he really had to shake off the rust, but he made it look easy by decisively taking down Jim Coger en route to his bout with Tim Matherly in the final.