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Bench Racer With Steve Turner—Ohio Retro

Posted By: Steve Turner
Bench Racer With Steve Turner—Ohio Retro
Written by Steve Turner
Photography by the author
During the event season, there is plenty of excitement to behold. With each race the stakes get higher in the championship points chase, the records matter more, and on the NMRA side of things, we creep closer to the epic season finale in picturesque Bowling Green.
However, the NMRA calendar's midpoint holds a special place in our hearts this season. For months the ProMedia team, led by the indomitable Steve Wolcott, has put maximum effort into creating a once-in-a-lifetime event to celebrate not only the 25th anniversary of the series but the movement that began well before 1999 that led to the launch of a series that would stand the test of time.
As I hammered at these keys trying to hit my deadline, we were exactly two weeks away from the Mickey Thompson NMRA Ford Homecoming event at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio. Internally, we have been talking about this event for more than a year, so the fact that it was on the horizon hit home. Leading up to the event, every time I would run into someone, I would ask them if they were coming. 
The event has taken on a special energy, and part of the reason for that is NMRA is embracing not only the stalwarts who have run the series for decades, but the pioneers that blasted down the 1,320 before them and paved the way for what seems like an entire industry geared toward Ford and Mustang performance. The Homecoming might be the only time that there is enough gravitational pull to get so many of these people and cars in one place.
I am most excited about seeing the racers, players, and machinery that shows up from the glory days of the 5.0 movement. It was the efforts of these people, the cars they created, and the performances they achieved that turned me from just another Mustang enthusiast into someone that turned this world into a decades-long career and an integral part of my life.
When I was young, I used to long for the day that my car magazines arrived in the mailbox, but there was one annual issue that meant more than the others — Super Ford’s 5.0 Shootout! Before there was an Internet or racing series dedicated to Fords, this event brought the quickest 5.0-liter Mustangs running a variety of combinations to one track to see how they stacked up. It was like a performance Christmas when that issue arrived. I would read it over and over, honing in, particularly on the spec boxes that listed all the major modifications to the cars. Whether they were custom or aftermarket I made note of them. They often foreboded what we regular enthusiasts would add to our cars.
Believe it or not, back then running a Ford was an outlaw move. The aftermarket had much broader support from other brands and older muscle cars. The 5.0 Mustang and the racers, builders, and tuners that pushed its limits helped foster a change in the culture that led to the era we currently enjoy where the Ford aftermarket is vibrant and strong. However, without these early days, we might not be living in these times with a full national racing series and a plethora of parts to choose from.
For me, the passion this movement instilled in me led to an internship and eventual job at Super Ford where I was able to not only attend the 5.0 Shootout but help put together the last few events. I rented the track, ordered the catering, invited the racers, and help write the stories. It was a dream come true for a kid that used to live vicariously through the pages of that magazine.
Of course, starting on that path led me to this page, and once again I will get to experience something truly special firsthand in Norwalk. I hope to see you there, and if I do, forgive me if I get emotional. I feel truly fortunate to have walked my unique path, and the Homecoming will give me a moment to reflect on that good fortune.
This is what started it all for me (see photo) — Super Ford’s 5.0 Shootout. Created by editor Donald Farr and Rick Smith, who worked at Trick Flow at the time, this gathering of the quickest 5.0 Mustangs in the country to one track to test their mettle, was a foundation of the Mustang racing movement that led to the formation of NMRA. I can’t wait to celebrate the entire movement in Norwalk.

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