2009 NMRA/NMCA All Star Nationals - Carolina Fire
The Heat Was On Everyone At The NMRA ZMax Drag Race
From the February, 2010 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Michael Johnson
Photography by Michael Johnson, Paul Rosner
We had a chance to go to the top end of the track when the Outlaw 10.5 class ran, and let me say that it's like the world is coming to an end when these cars are coming through the traps at over 200 mph. It was simply amazing to watch. You owe it to yourself and these racers to check out that view from the top end. You will have new respect for the people and the machines afterward.
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Bart Tobener raised a few...
Bart Tobener raised a few eyebrows trying to look conspicuous with a pair of Goodyear drag radials on the back of his EFI Renegade ride. Bart's Four-Valve beast took to the radials like a professional athlete to a Kardashian sister, qualifying at the top of EFI Renegade with an 8.51. Unfortunately, the "test-session" didn't last as long as Bart would've liked as he fell to Larry Hourcle in the semis.
The event racers had circled on their calendar this season was the inaugural NMRA/NMCA All Star Nationals at zMax Dragway in Concord, North Carolina. The event brought the NMRA to the heart of NASCAR country, and to arguably the nicest dragstrip in the land.
The purported Taj Mahal of dragstrips, zMax is a four-lane dragstrip with paved areas on both sides of the track, and a tunnel going under all four lanes to make it easy for fans to traverse both sides. The car show, swap meet, and True Street class were on one side of the track, while heads-up and index classes were on the other.
The majority of the Mustangs...
The majority of the Mustangs that race over on the NMCA side of the fence have something other than a small-block Ford under the hood. Thankfully, one of the original 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords' Real Street competitors, Jason Hoots didn't swing that way to race in the Street Radial class. This class is kind of like a more street-friendly drag radial class. Jason runs a Vortech T-Trim, which was good for 9-ohs using a BF Goodrich 275/60/15 drag radial. Jason's familiar LX runs a carbureted 363ci with Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads from his Real Street days. Jason beat another one of our Mustang boys John Macaluso in the final to win the event.
Supplanting the Silver Dollar race in Reynolds, Georgia, zMax is the polar opposite of Silver Dollar. Reynolds was out in the middle of nowhere, but thanks to NASCAR's growth, zMax is right in the center of everything. This feature made the swap worthwhile. Though we loved Silver Dollar's personality, zMax's pretty face leaves us wanting to come back again and again.
One thing we could've done without though was the heat. Reminiscent of Joliet a couple years back, the heat was oppressive. When sitting in the stands, you felt like bacon in a frying pan.
However, the race had to go on. Counting the zMax event, there were three stops left on the 2009 tour, so every racer was looking to put on a push for points down the stretch, and finish strong.
We used to see our boys Jesse...
We used to see our boys Jesse Houseman and Brian McKinley at the Maple Grove events, but with those going by the wayside, they have to travel a little farther from their Pennsylvania stomping grounds to race. The duo showed up with Brian's Fox coupe to do battle in True Street. Slightly over-matched, Brian's coupe makes do with a little 306 with Roush 200 cast-iron heads, and a Holley SysteMAX II intake, boosted by a Vortech S-Trim supercharger. While rowing a T56 transmission, Brian struggled with traction issues at zMax, averaging a 12.75 when it was all said and done. Thanks for the A/C, the refreshments, the phone charger repair, and the burgers, guys.
Adam Jude is another racer...
Adam Jude is another racer flying a Vortech flag and carrying drag radials, as well. However, Adam's SN-95 runs a BES Racing 363ci with a Vortech Xi-Trim by wya of a Supercharger Store gear drive. The foundation is a Ford Racing Performance Parts 9.5-inch-deck R-block, while Total Engine Airflow-ported Trick Flow High-Ports reside up top. A TCI 'Glide and converter channels power back to a 9-inch Ford rear, filled with the best parts Moser Engineering can make. The car had run a best-of 8.09 in testing, but in the heat the car was "only" good for 8.20s, which allowed Adam to make it to the semi-final round, losing to eventual winner Dave Guy.
Wanting to change things...
Wanting to change things up a bit, Outlaw 10.5 racer Dwayne James swapped out his twin turbocharged automatic combination for a gear-driven ProCharger and a Liberty five-speed. As everyone knows, this combo carries a steep learning curve, as well. As such, Dwayne still has a little to learn in mastering the clutch setup, but that doesn't keep him from having fun in the meantime. At zMax, Dwayne struggled only to get left behind by Conrad Scarry in Round 1. The combo shows promise but more testing is needed to iron everything out.
Pro Outlaw 10.5
Pro Outlaw 10.5
Speaking of a learning curve, it's safe to say Dan Millen and the Livernois Motorsports crew has his Outlaw 10.5 Mustang figured out. After lots of testing, Dan's turbocharged drive-thru machine now routinely runs in the 6s. Dan even cranked out a 6.85 at 209 mph in the heat to qualify No. 1 over Conrad Scarry and the rest of the Outlaw 10.5 field. Dan was able to keep the consistency going during eliminations as well, getting past Dan Millen in Round 1 and Conrad Scarry in the final.
With the heat, Don Burton's...
With the heat, Don Burton's nitrous-aspirated ride was the odds-on favorite to win. Leading up to the zMax event, Don had good success, and he hoped to carry that through the event. Well, Don made it to the final round, but we know he wanted the outcome to be different. He ran into problems against John MacDonald, who took the big win.
Super Street Outlaw
Super Street Outlaw
The Super Street Outlaw class was a little low on contestants at zMax with only five racers showing up to battle it out in the heat. As usual, John Urist jumped to the front of the line with a 7.40 at almost 195 mph, but a red-light start against Don Burton in the semis meant someone else would get a shot at victory at zMax. John MacDonald was looking for his first NMRA victory, and he took advantage of the opportunity by taking out Chris Tuten with a 7.54, earning him a spot in the final. John had the least problems in the final against Don Burton to take get his first NMRA victory. It wasn't pretty, but a win's a win.
Need a little extra room for...
Need a little extra room for the intake elbow on your Mustang racer? Check out the Scarry Crew's solution. Remember the Laser/Talon cars with the hump in the hoods to clear the DOHC 2.0 cam cover? Does it look familiar? It should, because that's what the crew used to clear the top of the twin-turbocharged, big-block engine. Evidently, the scoop does its job, allowing the engine to make use of every horsepower on the way to 6-second e.t.'s. Conrad qualified right on the heels of Dan Millen with a 6.96 at 208 mph. In the final, Conrad matched Dan Millen's reaction time, but as the two got down track, Conrad's ride got a little loose, forcing him to get out of the gas.
The Carolina heat wasn't doing any favors for the supercharged crowd, so we assumed zMax provide an opportunity for the nitrous guys to snake a victory or two. South Carolina's Brian Tuten is used to racing in the heat, but his qualifying effort was a little off with an 8.70 at 156 mph. Evidently, Brian had the rest of the EFI Renegade class a little startled. Either that or there really was something to the popular theory that the reflection from competitors' front wheels were causing red-light starts. It seemed every racer in the left lane suffered a red-light start, but Brian chose the right lane and sure enough, his competition redlit each round, including the final.
Enzo Pecchini has been sneaking...
Enzo Pecchini has been sneaking up on the tune-up with his Fox coupe for a few races now, but he and Tim Lyons had to work double time to figure out the track at zMax. For Sunday's eliminations, the two had a better handle on the launch, and a first round 8.35 pass to get past Sean Lyon showed promise. An 8.23 against Matt Bell in Round 2 showed the team was heading in the right direction. However, they went a tad far with the tune-up in the final, handing the win to Dave Guy.
Larry Hourcle's qualifying...
Larry Hourcle's qualifying effort was also an 8.70, but it was with a 4, while Brian Tuten's 8.70 came with a 6. While Brian runs with the juice, Larry utilizes a Vortech supercharger to make the power. Larry made it out of the first round against Chad Almandinger thanks to a red light and got past Bart Tobener in the semis. However, the red-light bug bit Larry in the final, handing the win to Brian Tuten.
Another first-time winner came in Drag Radial where Dave Guy was able to rebound from his Milan crash and take the victory. The Drag Radial cars had a tough time getting down the green track, and some really had to dial down the power out of the hole or as they went down track, but the one who was able to get it down the track with the most consistency was Dave Guy. Dave and his modular-powered, single-turbo SN-95 car were almost gone in Round 1 thanks to sleepy reaction time, but he was able to regroup and move on. After a first-round wake-up call, Dave ran consistent 8-teens to take his first win.
Bruce Hemminger took advantage of the heat in Real Street. While the blower cars were busy taking in hot air, Bruce brought his own dense oxygen to the foray, and showed the other racers in our favorite class the fast way down the track with a 9.43 to qualify in the top spot. Bruce ran in the 9.50s on several runs, which were enough to get past Jim Breese in Round 1, and Paul Wiley in the final.
Robbie Blankenship qualified behind Charlie Booze in Hot Street at zMax with an 8.76 at 154 mph. As is always the case, no one in Hot Street was an odds-on favorite, and every race is won and lost at the tree. Case in point, Robbie's first-round opponent Jim Sutterlin really took a nap at the tree with a 0.708 reaction time, while Robbie blasted out with a 0.441 light. Jim's time didn't match Robbie's, but the race was over right out of the gate. In Round 2, Max Gross had a heartbreaking -0.004 red light. In the final, Robbie once again had a stellar light with a 0.417 reaction time, while his opponent Don Bowles was just a tad off that number with a 0.478 reaction time. However, the damage was done, and Don couldn't catch Robbie, even with an 8.86 to Robbie's 8.88.
Paul Wiley must really love...
Paul Wiley must really love Real Street-he's been racing the class pretty much since its inception. At zMax his performance showed promise, and he is heading in the right direction. The heat wasn't doing Paul any favors, but he was still running consistent 9.80s, which is half the battle. His consistency kept him going rounds, getting past Dave Ginter and Tim Matherly on the way to the finals. However, knowing he had to pull out the run of his life against Bruce Hemminger, he got anxious and redlit, speeding up the inevitable.
In a sea of Mustangs, Don...
In a sea of Mustangs, Don Bowles' Maverick stands out in the crowd. The eye-searing yellow paint also raises its profile, but one thing's for sure, Don's fellow Hot Street racers don't like to see the horns in the other lane. Don uses a Roush Performance-built 360ci combination when many others in the class choose to go with a 400ci engine. The combo works for Don, and it's probably the only Maverick to ever appear regularly in 5.0&SF. Then again, it could be one of the few Mavericks capable of running in the 8s. I know my grandparents' '71 Maverick couldn't run 8s in the eighth-mile-not even close. Don had a bye run in Round 1 when Richard Preiser didn't show, but Don was right on his game in Round 2 against Charlie Booze with an 8.72 in the heat against Charlie's 8.80. In the final, Don just didn't have the reaction time to stay with Robbie Blankenship.
Ryan Hecox had...
Ryan Hecox had his Rich Groh Racing-powered Pure Streeter on point all weekend at zMax. Ryan qualified No. 1 by the skin of his teeth over Mark Anderson, but he made a swap to Holley SysteMAX cylinder heads to see if they would improve performance. Ryan does a lot of testing back home in Maryland, and it paid off as he was able to get past Brandon Alsept thanks to a Holeshot victory. Then Ryan was able to get past Teddy Weaver in the semis. Ryan saved another stellar pass for Mark Anderson in the final with a 10.27 at 131 mph to take the win.
Something's always going on...
Something's always going on in the MV Performance pits. Tim Matherly and the crew is always busy fixing or replacing something at the track. Tim's usually good for swapping engines at a few races a year, but the crew was busier working on Jim Breese's and Dave Ginter's cars at zMax. Even in the heat, Tim's combo was still good for 9.50s during qualifying, but he lost grip in Round 2 against Paul Wiley, which allowed Paul to get the round win.
Mark Anderson qualified in...
Mark Anderson qualified in the second spot at zMax, which meant he would be on the opposite side of the ladder from Ryan Hecox. As such, Mark took care of his business to make it to another final round, and again it was with Ryan in the opposite lane. It seemed Mark's shifting woes from Milan were a thing of the past, but he didn't have enough in the final to get the win.
Dave Ginter had all kinds...
Dave Ginter had all kinds of problems at zMax. Dave tech'd in the car, then came back to the pits and took out the engine to swap on the new Trick Flow Twisted Wedge Two-Valve heads. Dave and the crew were able to get that done, but the increased power threw off his program. He was happy to have a clean pass, but an off-pace 10.14 against Paul Wiley in Round 1 wasn't enough to move on to Round 2.