2011 NMRA-NMCA Westcoast Shootout - Westward Go!
’Stangbangers converge on Auto Club Dragway for the NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout
From the December, 2011 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By KJ Jones
Photography by KJ Jones
They say some of the biggest (and best) things in life come from small, humble beginnings, and you'll find there's a lot of truth in that notion when applied to modern Mustang drag racing. ProMedia Publishing's NMRA Ford Drag Racing evolved from being a simple dream (of founders James Lawrence and Steve Wolcott) for a Mustang race series. It's now recognized as the official sanctioning body for Ford and Mustang enthusiasts to showcase their cars and compete in heads-up, Open Comp-format, and bracket drag racing on a national level.
There's something about the term national, however, as it gives the impression all of the primary U.S. regions (Northeast, South, Midwest, and West) are included in the fun. That may have been the intent back in 1998, but the reality is that NMRA has flourished since 2001 without having a Western event on its schedule. Yes, while many of you probably don't know this, attempts to hold West Coast NMRA races were made in 1999, Y2K, and 2001, and your author is a veteran of all three efforts.
Those early West Coast events were held at dragstrips in Phoenix, Arizona. While the races brought NMRA superstars of that period to the West (racers such as Jon "Krazy" Yates, Mike Murillo, Chip Havemann, John "Fireball" Urist, and Carlo Catatalonatto), unfortunately the events aren't talked about much (if at all) because none of them were actually completed. That's right. Each race was done-in by a severe storm (which includes a freak, full-on, mini-tornado in 1999) before eliminations could be completed, or in some cases, run at all. The fury of Mother Nature, along with "so-so" participation by the West Coast rank-and-file, ultimately led to the suspension of NMRA racing in the West.
If you haven’t heard, the...
If you haven’t heard, the NMCA assumed control of the NHRA Unleashed heads-up racing program just a few days before the NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout, and for the remainder of 2011, is presenting drag racing’s biggest prize, an NHRA Wally trophy, to winners in the heads-up categories at NMCA events. At Fontana, a decision was made to reward victorious racers in all eight classes with the coveted trophy.
Seeing NMRA Detroit Locker...
Seeing NMRA Detroit Locker Truck and Lightning racer Bob Cochran in the lanes at Auto Club Dragway was a pretty cool surprise. Bob and his popular truck were victims of a first-round loss in Fastest Street Car magazine Open Comp, but the ’09 truck champ says he enjoyed racing with the West Coast’s hitters and is really glad he decided to make the trip.
NMRA founding father James...
NMRA founding father James Lawrence arrived at the NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout with the naturally aspirated ’85 coupe that stars in StangTV.com’s Project 666 video series. Despite intentions of racing in Centerforce Hot Street, James and his crew were forced to load up early after the coupe suffered both engine and transmission damage during a qualifying pass.
NMRA events typically feature...
NMRA events typically feature drag racing and a display of beautiful Ford hardware in the car-show area. While there were plenty of ’Stangs in those core segments, many West Coast enthusiasts with alternative driving interests were found thrashing their Ponies around the tricky autocross grid.
Sunny, warm SoCal weather...
Sunny, warm SoCal weather brought the best of the Western region’s sharp-looking ’Stangs to the NMRA’s UPR Products car show on Saturday and Sunday.
Could this interesting little...
Could this interesting little morsel of NMRA intelligence be a sign that big changes are coming in 2012? Hard details were not shared with your author, but we think a class featuring Mustang’s Coyote 5.0 engine will make for some great heads-up racing.
Byron Alexander drove to Fontana...
Byron Alexander drove to Fontana from Sierra Vista, Arizona, with this gorgeous ’92 GT. The poppin’ orange paint is the eye catcher, but closer inspection reveals a super-sano interior (with a hatch full of stereo wattage) and a nitrous-fed, stroked Windsor under the hood that puts 900 horses on the ground. When asked what engine-management system is used to tune the beast, Byron pointed to the Ford Motorsport Extreme Performance Engine Control system—better known as EPEC—mounted in the front-passenger’s footwell. That’s kickin’ it old school for real, and we definitely dig it.
We were thrilled to see “our”...
We were thrilled to see “our” ’96 GT out of mothballs and back in on-track action after more than a year of retirement. The former 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords project Pony is now owned by Maximum Motorsports and powered by a naturally aspirated aluminum Two-Valve engine. Maximum hot-shoe Mike Croutcher handles the driving, and despite the event being Mike’s first time ever driving the GT, he gamely took on all challengers and jockeyed the ’Stang to an overall win in the autocross competition.
Without fail, we always come...
Without fail, we always come across Mustang enthusiasts who go the extra mile, sometimes literally, to participate in NMRA events. Young Tucker Brigham and his dad (the pair standing next to the blue coupe) traveled all the way from Seattle, Washington, to Dallas, Texas, to purchase the former Georgia State Police car—Tucker’s third Fox-’Stang—and drove it 1,600 miles to enter Tucker’s new Pony in the UPR Products car show. To the right of the Brighams are friends and statemates David Clem and LuAnn Smith, who own a beautiful ’93 Saleen (number 16) with only 35,000 miles. Correction—36,400 miles after they make the 1,400-mile trip back to Seattle.
Including Ford Racing Mustang...
Including Ford Racing Mustang Maddness—a Ford-powered-Mustang/Capri-only Open Comp-style class and one of the PSCA’s most-popular categories—at the Shootout was a no-brainer and a huge success.
Nearly all of the West Coast-series’...
Nearly all of the West Coast-series’ Maddness regulars and several newcomers returned to Fontana to run in the big show, just one week after competing in their home-series event.
Xtreme Drag Radial While...
Xtreme Drag Radial
While Sandi Wold didn't "win" the Mickey Thompson Xtreme Drag Radial eliminator (Sandi failed to stage in a timely fashion and was "timed out," giving the win to Terry Barkley), there's no question her '02 GT was the quickest, fastest Pony on the property. Sandi qualified number one with a 7.74/187-mph shot in a turbocharged Pony, which Sandi's husband jokingly says, "We used our kids' college fund to build."
Hot Street Daniel Bott II's...
Daniel Bott II's AMP Performance-sponsored Pony qualified first (8.39/161) and proved to be the best of the rest in the five-car Centerforce Hot Street field. Daniel scored the win-and the NMCA/NMRA Wally-in a close, all-Mustang final round against Gypsy Mike Valentino.
Mustang Maddness Scott Dool,...
Mustang Maddness Scott Dool, the PSCA's 2010 Ford Racing Mustang Maddness champion, was all smiles after winning the all-'Stang eliminator. Scott's victory included a bit of luck when he needed it most. The shifter in his low-9-second GT broke during his burnout in the final round against Cal Gordon. The win earns Scott the elite distinction of being the first, and possibly only, Mustang Maddness racer to ever win a Wally at an NMRA-sanctioned event.
Packed stands on race day...
Packed stands on race day are always a good indicator of a successful event. While the NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout was small compared to other races on the circuit, we really enjoyed being there and are looking forward to watching the event get bigger and NMRA’s presence on the West Coast get stronger in the years to come.
Over the course of 13 years, we've watched the NMRA grow from a three-race series in 1999 to five events in 2000, and into the nine-event extravaganza it is today. These days it plays out on some of the NHRA's marquee quarter-miles such as Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, and Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia. Thankfully for California, Arizona, Washington State, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, and other West-based 'Stangbangers, the NMRA has finally made a resurgence in their neck of the woods. Along with its sister sanction, the NMCA, it appears all-Ford racing is also off to what ProMedia officials believe is a great start in new territory!
In July 2011, the sanctions met at Auto Club Dragway in Fontana, California, where racers and fans turned out in force for the inaugural NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout-an event that definitely can be considered the rebirth of big-league, all-Ford drag racing in the West.
“I’m digging this organized-racing...
“I’m digging this organized-racing stuff, KJ. I’m definitely gonna do this again!” That’s what Los Angeles-area racer Jose Nunez had to say when asked how his race experience was going. Jose and his nitrous-shot ’85 GT are a force to be reckoned with on the streets of Tinseltown. However, after going rounds in the bracket class at the NMRA/NMCA West Coast Shootout, it appears we’ll be seeing the red GT at the track a lot more.
Of course, 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords was on hand covering all the action, in addition to the drag racing, which is run using PSCA's class and rules structure. Other fun included a huge Ford-only (NMRA) and an all-makes (NMCA) car show, and also featured a few new performance-driving events such as an Autocross, a Speed-Stop Challenge, and the Racers Against Street Racing True Street Challenge-which gave competitors the opportunity to win the first-ever NHRA Wally awarded in a True Street-style event.
Unfortunately, Brand-X entries dominated these classes at the inaugural race, but we hope to see the West's quickest Ponies running for heads-up glory at the 2012 event. We elaborate more on all the exciting action at Fontana through the following photos and captions. Yes, the NMRA is back in West, and based on the success of this small, humble re-start, we're pretty sure future events in the region will be bigger and better in the years to come.
Horse Sense: In the past, Western-based Mustang racers hoping to actually participate in or see an NMRA show in person have had to made the huge commitment of traveling to various points in the East-a gargantuan effort based on travel costs, especially fuel for those towing their cars, and the time that it takes to get to and from an event. To date, Albuquerque, New Mexico-based Super Street Outlaw mega-champion John Urist, Hellion's "B-Team" leader; Dwayne James; and Hot Street's Mike Abdalla are the leaders in what basically amounts to cross-country attendance at the NMRA races, logging approximately 500,000 miles collectively since 1999.
True Street coordinator Damon...
True Street coordinator Damon Rivetti (in the camo bucket hat) explains the class format to its 45 eager participants. As anticipated, Racers Against Street Racing (presented by Tremec) True Street brought out a ton of the West Coast’s hard-hitting, street-driven muscle, which included project cars developed by various Source Interlink Media magazines, as well as several major aftermarket performance companies. True Street competitors also were given the opportunity to score Wally trophies for the overall RASR True Street win (which went to Mike Nordhal) and winning the Nitto Tire West Coast Shootout, a heads-up runoff of the quickest 16 RASR True Street finishers (won by Brian Rock).
It's kind of ironic how on one hand the mission to achieve more-and-more "street" performance from our Mustangs never ends. Yet, the street, without question, is the absolute worst place to display a hot 'Stang's horsepower, handling, and overall performance prowess.
Obviously, we're not advocates of street racing, but we do realize such illegal activity does happen once the sun sets-in desolate industrial areas, on deserted country back roads, and even on major public highways from coast to coast. While we're definitely staunch advocates of running Mustangs at their full potential, we understand the danger and problems that are inherent with street racing, and implore all of you to take it to the track whenever you really want to cut a Pony loose.
The Racers Against Street Racing Media vs. Manufacturers Challenge is a special True Street program-an eliminator-within-the-eliminator if you will-that's designed to take racing off the streets and put it on the track. RASR True Street showcased cars and trucks built by more than 20 magazines and aftermarket performance companies, which cruised and raced along with cars owned by enthusiasts and readers of such magazines as 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords, Hot Rod, Car Craft, and more, for something we believe is a great cause-showing street racers the virtue of racing fast street cars at the track.
Your Tech Editor participated in the RASR program using Mrs. Crystal Jones' '02 Mustang GT-a street-driven, supercharged, 650hp Pony. Unfortunately, 5.0&SF didn't win any of the e.t. categories (awards and prizes were presented to the RASR 15-second, 14-second, 13-second, 12-second, and 11-second winners, and overall winner and runner-up). But, being part of this deal was a great opportunity for us to experience how challenging True Street really is for car and driver (temperature at the Auto Club Speedway facility was more than 100 degrees during the competition), as well as have a good time with everyone who participated.
Brandon and John Lahey epitomize...
Brandon and John Lahey epitomize the hard-core enthusiasts that participate in True Street challenges. The brothers loaded “a set of tires, a few tools, and a couple of folding chairs” into their Kenne Bell 3.6-blown, ’07 Shelby GT500 and drove 1,800 miles from Calgary in Alberta, Canada. After driving that far without incident (and averaging 20 mpg), the 30-mile cruise and back-to-back dragstrip laps were a piece of cake for the Lahey brothers’ supercharged street ’Stang.
Our supercharged, Ford Racing...
Our supercharged, Ford Racing Performance Parts Aluminator Two-Valve-powered ’02 definitely showed its true “street” mettle, making it through the entire challenge (in insanely hot weather conditions) without any issues. Look for cool video coverage (including in-car GoPro footage) of Tech Editor KJ Jones’ experience in the Racers Against Street Racing Media versus Manufacturers True Street Challenge on our website at www.50mustangandsuperfords.com.
We admit this photo might...
We admit this photo might seem a bit abstract at first glance. However, what you’re looking at is the nose of our ’02 GT as it approaches the Start/Finish line at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California—at 100 mph! That’s right, the same track that hosts the NASCAR Sprint Cup Pepsi 400 stock car race was used as the driveability proving ground for all of the True Street entries. With temperatures well over 105 degrees in Fontana, NMRA officials elected to conduct the 30-mile cruise “on the high banks” of the speedway—a huge surprise and an awesome treat for all of the True Street participants.