David Algozine's year had been "wreckers or checkers" until he got to Miller for the nationals. Another Midwest NASA racer, David was used to mixing it up with Matt Erickson and others; at the nationals it was mainly more of the same. But instead of wrecking or taking the checkered flag, David posted a solid Fifth-Place finish; part of the first through eighth Mustang parade at Miller. David's SN-95 runs a conventional 331ci small-block and TKO 600 trans, but employs a Cobra IRS rear suspension. David says the IRS is a mixed bag-on the bumpier Midwest tracks, he figures it is a true advantage, especially on faster corners where it lends stability and allows getting on the power earlier, but on slower corners, it doesn't rotate as well as the stick-axle cars. Miller, he says, is a glass-smooth track, so he figured the IRS wasn't much help there. A masonry repair contractor in the Chicago area, David says the economy has been fairly up and down, and he's spent more then he should on racing, but he has "an understanding wife." Sounds like he has it made.
Representing the true open-trailer and tote-handle toolbox racer was Bryan MacMillan of Benica, California. Using plenty of Steeda chassis equipment under his Fox coupe but retaining the basic MacPherson-strut front end, the electrical contractor put his journeyman racing skills-and plain old being there at the finish-to rise to Sixth in the national race, a fine showing considering the semi-pros and hardware lined up against him. The Fox is 302-powered with a Tremec TKO 600 gearbox and Torsen T2 rear axle behind it. The brakes are a PBR/Wilwood combination, and the rear axle benefits from a three-link. Bryan has figured regularly in West Coast American Iron racing, racking up a consistent top-five finishing record.
Mason City, Iowa's Ryan Winchester capped his first year in American Iron by trekking to Miller for the nationals and finishing a respectable Seventh in the big race. One of the Rehagen Racing crowd, Ryan's S197 is quite similar to Rusty Ferguson's Mustang, also running in the Rehagen Racing camp. In fact, their engines are clones-5.0-liter Three-Valve strokers using a Saleen stroker kit-but Ryan's yellow speedster shifts a Tremec TKO 600 gearbox instead of Rusty's T-56. The similar powertrains mean the weight must be similar as well. In Ryan's case, that means 361 rwhp and 3,430 pounds; torque is 346 lb-ft. That's just 10 hp and not quite 100 pounds less than Rusty's numbers, so theoretically Ryan's car was likely better suited to a momentum track such as Miller. In the real world, that's within the larger variables of driveability, and above all, chassis setup. Ryan's car wears Koni struts and Hypercoil springs and the same Brembo brakes as Rusty's, although Ryan has no power assist while Rusty runs a GT500 booster. Ryan runs both Steeda and Cobra wheels. Before AI Ryan ran NASA's HPDE (open-tracking) and a YZ125 in motocross competition. In fact, his Mustang's path to AI follows the NASA script, starting out as a street car, moving to open-track status, and finally past the point of no return to AI racer in 2006. Expect to see Ryan in East Coast and Midwest AI races as he builds experience while searching for his first win.
Robin Burnett had an impressive 26 NASA "win" stickers on his car at Miller, but adding a 27th proved a fleeting dream when he over-revved his Steeda-sponsored S197's transplanted 347 crate engine early in the nationals weekend. The high rpm was not a missed downshift, but simply over-gearing on Miller's long straight; typical of over-revving, valvetrain carnage ensued with a broken roller in one of the lifters along with a mangled camshaft. Getting parts and making repairs kept Robin out of action until the big race on Sunday, not to mention he had to run a non-optimal replacement camshaft. He had hoped for something around fifth place, but starting last and stuck in the back of the race traffic, he found himself closer to the back then mid-pack and finished Eleventh. As he put it afterward, "I wasn't concerned about denting the car for a ninth rather than an eleventh place." Wise words from one of NASA's craftier Midwest racers who enjoys traveling to run at NASA's more premier Midwest events. For this season, Robin is looking to build a '10 Mustang for a class outside of AI, and possibly putting an '11 Coyote engine in his AI car. We'll see, but chances are good Robin will be back at Miller this coming September with a lot more than fifth place on his mind. We must say Robin has done a good job of demonstrating NASA's AI philosophy of gaining excellent results from bolt-on parts. His 347 is an FRPP crate engine, and the chassis is a Steeda-enhanced catalog car with a strut front end. As Robin says, "You don't have to do much to the S197 for American Iron." Also typical of S197 AI racers, Robin's car weighs a hefty 3,524 pounds and is officially rated at an equally large 371 rwhp and 356 lb ft of torque.
Horse Sense: For hugely fun, safe racing, we can't think of a better way to go for a Mustang enthusiast than a rebuilt Fox Mustang in American Iron. Just curb your natural instinct to build power; concentrate on a lightweight, sharp handling chassis, and you'll have a ball. Get a couple of friends together, share the bills and seat time, and you'll actually get racing. It's worlds better than anything on the street.
The Next Nationals
NASA's upcoming Nationals are set for September 16-19, 2010, at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah, just southwest of Salt Lake City, so plan on SLC if coming by airline. Assuming you're as low-brow as us, simple accommodations about three miles up the road in humble middle-American Tooele (say "Two-el-ah") save time and are fine for a pizza-and-beer experience. Salt Lake City is more like a 40-minute drive if steak is more your thing.
Democratically located a long way from anywhere, Miller Motorsports Park is new and exceptionally upscale in its elbow room and contemporary facilities. Spectating is good-all the action is visible from the main viewing areas, and there are a couple of trackside spots where you can get close to the cars for a more personal look or snap a pic. But as a major amateur event, the cars and people are fully accessible in the paddock and garages, so it's a great place to immerse yourself in road racing. And don't forget the Nationals encompass many other classes, many of which offer competitive racing.
For more information: www.nasaproracing.com or www.millermotorsportspark.com.