2011 NMRA Ford Nationals Joliet - Woodshed Win
The NMRA Racers Took the NMCA Buys Out Back for a Good Ol’ Beatdown
From the November, 2011 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By Michael Johnson
Photography by Paul Rosner
Each year, the race we circle on our calendars is the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing. Tech Editor Jones and I almost fight over who gets to go, and even Editor Turner threatens to attend this event...
Why is this a hot race, you ask? Well, since the race is normally in July, it's simply hot. However, a move to late June, and unseasonably cool and unruly weather provided a break from the heat this year. However, there are two big reasons this race is major. First, it brings out all the Chicago area racers. Then it hauls in the rest of the Midwest racers. As you would imagine, racing action is always hotly contested.
Second, the race combines the NMRA and NMCA on the same dragstrip, and ultimately, against each other. Once an NMRA competitor makes it through their side of the ladder, they must contend with their counterpart from the NMCA contingent. Usually, it's win your class and go home. But at the Super Bowl, if you win your class, you still have work to do. Instead of putting the car in the trailer, you must race against the NMCA equivalent.
Since NMRA and NMCA classes closely mimic each other from a rules standpoint, respective winners face off to decide the Super Bowl winner. Since some classes are faster than others and many are on indexes, the Super Bowl races are on an index as well. However, they're only set up as an index at the tree. Meaning, they leave on an index, but the first one to the stripe wins. Each index is the competitor's best run of the weekend.
Last year, the NMRA easily handled the NMCA, and it was more of the same in 2011.
Horse Sense: John Urist and Andrew DeMarco faced each other twice during the weekend at Jolietùonce for the rain- shortened Atco race, and again during eliminations for the Joliet event. John pocketed both wins. Andrew tried his best to win the Atco event, but raising the launch rpm resulted in controlled tire spin for the length of the track. The warmer temps didn't help Andrew's plight on Sunday, either.
Pro Outlaw 10.5
With Conrad Scarry on the sidelines, Mike Murillo has taken over the Pro Outlaw 10.5 class. The good thing at Joliet was that the Pro Outlaw 10.5 class joined with the NMCA's Super Street class. Unfortunately, of the Mustangs in attendance, none would make the final round. However, since he made it the farthest of any NMRA competitor, Mike Murillo got a second chance to beat up on an NMCA competitor in the Super Bowl match. Mike lined up with the NMCA's Dan Stevenson from Pro Street. Mike had to run on a 6.63 index, and he was able to get the leave, taking advantage of that fact with a 0.437 light. Mike redeemed himself with a 6.71, which was closer to his index, giving the NMRA a victory in that matchup.
Super Street Outlaw
John Kolivas tried to take advantage of the weekend's initial cool air and go for a 6-second pass. He came close with a 7.05 in qualifying, but as the weekend went on, warmer temps hurt his chances. With his trusted Precision, single-turbo-fed, Bennett Racing-built 427 under the hood, John was still going for it, but changing track conditions would keep him from the 6s. John was able to put together several so-so passes to attain a final round against John Urist. Once there, Kolivas ran closer to his qualifying attempt with a 7.17 at 201 mph to take the event win. For the Super Bowl race, he ran unchallenged since his NMCA counterpart, Nick Scavo, was unable to make the call. Score another victory for the good guys.
In the Hellion Power Systems...
In the Hellion Power Systems pits, it’s a team effort, bro. John Urist’s significant other, Melissa Leslie, always helps crew member Mike Rousch in making sure everything’s a go for the next pass. John is nowhere to be found in this shot. No doubt he’s at the back of the trailer shaking babies and kissing hands. Speaking of go, John qualified with a 7.123 at 196 mph, winning the rain-shortened Atco race over Andrew DeMarco in the process. For the actual Joliet action, John slowed to the 7.20s in Sunday’s warmer temps, which wasn’t enough to beat John Kolivas in the final. Hey, Mike, you need some sun, son.
On Friday night, I strolled...
On Friday night, I strolled over to Sean Lyon’s pit to see how his weekend was going. Panhandle Performance’s Mark Biddle does a lot of the mechanical work on Sean’s car, and once we got the car stuff out of the way, Mark and I got to talking about more important stuff—our golf games. Then in the middle of that, I actually helped turn a few wrenches on the car. I know. Me working on a 7.50-second drag radial car, and a really nice one at that—a recipe for disaster for sure. Sean and Mark were fighting a faulty boost controller, so they decided to swap out the turbo’s exhaust housing for a different unit to compensate. We had it swapped out in time for Friday night’s qualifying session, and Sean ran a 7.60 at 187 mph, to which Mark said, “I can work with that.” Mark worked the tune for Round 1 of eliminations to the tune of a 7.53 at 188 mph to get past Orson Johnson. Unfortunately for Sean, the track wouldn’t hold the power for Round 2 against Brad Medlock, ending Sean and Mark’s weekend.
The original John Leslie dusted...
The original John Leslie dusted off his racing shoes, and climbed into the seat at Joliet for a go at Factory Stock. He raced the coupe his son, John Leslie Jr., has raced for several years now. Proving drag racing is much like riding a bike, John did well at Joliet. He qualified back in the pack, but he came out swingin’ in eliminations, taking out Michael Washington in Round 1 with an 11.88 at 115 mph. However, Junior came knocking in Round 2, and it appears the original taught Junior how to race a little too well. It was exciting to watch, but the younger Leslie put his dad on the trailer with an 11.20 to a 12.00.
Xtreme Drag Radial
Andy Manson snuck in under the radar in Drag Radial. Amidst class favorites Jason Lee and Sean Lyon, Andy was right there with them after carding a 7.63/178-mph qualifying pass. Andy's quick lights and consistent runs paid big dividends at Joliet, as he and fellow Drag Radial racer Brad Medlock took out the aforementioned heavy-hitters for a bout in the final. Brad's car seemed to have a hiccup on a couple runs, including the final, which allowed Andy to take the win. For his Super Bowl race, Andy was once again out of the gate fast against NMCA racer Jeff Lutz, and he carried it all the way to another win for the NMRA.
If Brian Mitchell doesn't have this EFI Renegade thing figured out by now, he might as well give up. However, Brian's been around this block many times, and he showed that experience when he ran an 8.38 to qualify atop the class at Joliet. Once it warmed up a tad, Brian was still able to post 8.40s at 161 mph, which enabled him to get past the 8.50-passes by Chad Allmandinger in the semis and Alton Clements in the final round. For the Super Bowl match-up, Brian had a stellar reaction time, followed up with an 8.53 against his 8.38 index from his qualifying time to beat James Jarrett's '69 Camaro to the stripe. Score another win for the NMRA.
In Hot Street, Robbie Blankenship and Charlie Booze seemed on a crash course to meet each other in the final, which is how it played out. Robbie and Charlie traded jabs in qualifying, but decided to get the hard shots in for their competition in eliminations. Both guys qualified in the 8.40s in the cooler early weekend air, but Sunday's warmer temps relegated each into the mid-8.50s. Each guy ran an 8.55 in the semis, setting up anyone's race in the final. Charlie was out first with a 0.412 light, but Robbie was right there with a 0.415 reaction time. Down track, Robbie finished off the run with an 8.552 at 156 mph, while Charlie hit the stripe with an 8.588 at 152 mph. Robbie poked his '04 Mustang's nose out just far enough to take the win. Unfortunately, Robbie didn't have quite enough to cover Don Baskin's '67 Nova in the Super Bowl race. Score one for the bad guys.
Dan Baumann has been quiet for a little bit, but it appears he's been testing. He came out in qualifying and laid down a mind-bending 9.18 at 147 mph in the cooler air, which is the quickest Real Street pass ever at press time. If this keeps up, the guys will be running 8s by Bowling Green. However, at Joliet, once the temps came back to ônormal,ö Dan's Vortech-supercharged pushrod combo came back to the pack. Plus, the engine was a little hurt, as well, but he was still able to keep going rounds by capitalizing on the mechanical ills of others. Craig Baldwin had issues against Dan in Round 1, and then he had a bye into the final against Bruce Hemminger, who had already made a trip home to fix a hurt engine. Bruce did his best to get past Dan, but had problems down track, handing the win to Dan. Since Dan couldn't regain his qualifying mojo, the NMCA scored a victory as Bill Travato was able to best Dan.
Yours truly got a talkin' to from Brandon Alsept, who was rather put off that he hadn't received a visit before bumping into him in the lanes after the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl races. Truth is, with the mix of NMRA and NMCA racers on the massive Route 66 Raceway grounds, finding everyone is a difficult task. Brandon did just fine without my help. He qualified his modular-powered Pure Street ride at the top with a 10.20 at 131 mph, setting up a battle with Shawn Johnson in the final. By that time, Brandon had whittled his times down into the 10.teens, which was too much for Shawn on this day. For the Super Bowl race, Brandon was lined up against the Mustang of Alan Von Ahnen, but Brandon would take the win and the Nitto Diamond Tree ring.
John Leslie Jr. had an interesting weekend. His dad came out of retirement to give him a scare in Round 2 of eliminations. Well, let's back up. First of all, Carlos Sobrino has taken top billing this year, so John first had to regain some momentum after starting over with a new car and combination. At Joliet, it appeared he was definitely headed in the right direction. John qualified with a 10.88 at 123 mph, which was almost two tenths quicker than Carlos, who was the number-two qualifier. Not even his own dad could beat him in Round 2, as Junior took the win over Louis Sylvester in the final round. Seemingly, the only way John could be beat was by the system. You see, in the Super Bowl race against the '66 Fairlane of Doug Poskevich from the NMCA, the tree was set-up with a 0.500 Pro Tree. Of course, John redlit since he normally runs on a 0.400 tree in Factory Stock. The race was re-run, and John took the win for the NMRA. He even won the rain-shortened Atco race, as well, which finished up at Joliet during the qualifying rounds. Needless to say, it was a good weekend for John.
As usual, Hollywood Gary Parker qualified near the top of the sheet with a 0.504 reaction time. His stellar reaction times are part of why he's been so successful in the class. At Joliet, it was more of the same as he was able to get past Dustin Clarke, Mark Magnuson, Kevin Eisenbach, and Joe Marini in the final. For the Super Bowl race, Gary was matched up with the NMCA's Edgar Perez and his '99 Corvette from the EFI class. Gary left first, and Edgar must've thought it was his turn to leave as well, but instead he redlit, handing Gary the Super Bowl win.
We think Wade Vincent could've been sand-baggin' during qualifying. He qualified with a 0.525 reaction time, but during eliminations, his worst reaction time was a 0.521 light. His 347-powered Fox ran against a 10.97 index, and thanks to his quick reaction times and consistent 11.0s, he had his competition covered. Wade had to line up against Open Comp-stalwart Jon Pickering's '74 Mustang. However, a 0.505 light combined with a 10.988 pass took the win. Unfortunately, Wade pushed the tree a little too hard in the Super Bowl race against the NMCA's Andy Brodzinki's '67 Buick, giving the bad guys a win.
In Super Stang, Kent Nine runs a Three-Valve 5.0 stroker with a Saleen supercharger up top. The combination makes the car capable of 10.70s, but the car's bolt-in cage relegates it to 11.0s, so that's what Kent runs in competition. At Joliet, he took out some Super 'Stang heavyweights to take the event win. In the Super Bowl race, Kent had to race the True Street winner, but the Oldsmobile Cutlass of Tim Gehrs broke, handing Kent the win.
Truck and Lightning
Stellar is one way to describe Steve Martin's season in the Truck and Lightning class thus far. He started the year with consecutive runner-ups, and at Joliet, he took the overall win. Steve saved his best run for last against Dave Cole in the final. He threw down a 0.536 light, with a 10.692 against a 10.67 index to take the win. Unfortunately, Steve wasn't able to take the Super Bowl race against the NMCA's Gerry Vizzo and his '66 Chevy II.