Overcoming a drenched start, the Holley NMRA Ford Nationals Series' 25th Anniversary season came to a rousing conclusion at scenic Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, during the Whipple Superchargers NMRA World Finals + Holley Intergalactic Ford Festival. Season champions and individual race winners were crowned in a multitude of classes as the six-race season ended on a high note.
The headlining VP Racing Madditives Renegade class featured a heated championship battle between title contenders Terry Wilson and Martin Connelley who traded punches until the semifinals where Connelley of Salyersville, Kentucky, prevailed. To win the title, Connelley still needed to win the final, which he did with a 4.64 after opponent Keith Cioborowski spun the tires in his ’14 Mustang. Connelley provisionally won the championship by a scant 35 points over Wilson.
Samantha Moore of Brighton, Michigan, long ago locked up the final championship in Whatever It Takes Transmission Parts Limited Street but went out early via a surprising red-light start. That opened the door for Stacy Roby of St. Marys, Ohio, to win the race. Roby wheeled his 2014 Mustang to a 9.65 to best the quicker 9.37 of Jay Misener of Brantford, Ontario, Canada.
Ed Bennett of Carleton, Michigan, wrapped up the Coyote Stock title at the previous event in Martin, Michigan, but kept the pressure on his opponents by qualifying first in Clair Stewart’s ’91 Mustang and winning for the fourth time in six events. Bennett triumphed in the final round against past series champ Frank Paultanis, of Newport, Michigan, 9.778 to 9.779 in one of the closest races of the day, regardless of class. Overall, Bennett’s 2023 season is one for the ages, as he compiled a 23-2 record in elimination rounds.
Mike Bowen of Girard, Pennsylvania, wrapped up the championship in Richmond Gear Factory Stock by going to the final round, but his bid for a victory was ultimately derailed by Justin Fogelsonger of Mont Alto, Pennsylvania. Fogelsonger drove his ’03 Mach 1 Mustang to a 10.09 for the victory after Bowen, the low qualifier, slowed to a 10.76. Fogelsonger finished the season on a strong note by winning the last two events of the season.
The Suncoast Performance 8.60 Street Race title went to Gaby Lujan of Miami, Florida, who drove to an 8.62 in the final round with her ’92 Mustang to overcome Paul Sienkiewicz of Renton, Michigan, who slowed to a 9.58. Meanwhile, Casey Shotwell became the first champion in the category, which enjoyed substantial growth in its first season, thanks to a quarterfinal finish this weekend.
The newest NMRA class, Whatever it Takes Transmission Parts Street Bandit 10.10 debuted in Bowling Green to rave reviews and a strong car count. Similar to the 8.60 class, the new eliminator features a fixed 10.10 index with a chip draw used to determine pairings. Shawn Olson of Vienna, Ohio qualified No. 1 and then went to the final with his ’66 Mustang where he topped Cary Shotwell of Carlisle, Ohio, 10.26 to 10.42. Next year, the Whatever It Takes Transmission Parts Street Bandit class becomes a full championship category at all six NMRA events.
One of the best championship clashes in all of NMRA competition happened in Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle where Susan Roush-McClenaghan and Adam Cox battled to the bitter end. McClenaghan did not fold under pressure as she drove her ’10 Mustang to a 9.33 on her 9.36 dial to win the double-breakout final over Charlie McCulloch, who broke out by a greater amount with a 10.58 against his 10.62 prediction. The final margin in the championship was less than one round of competition.
ARP Open Comp featured another robust field with 39 entries vying for the victory. In the end, Will McKay of Rockingham, North Carolina, outlasted the field in his ’85 Thunderbird to take the title over AJ Williams of Rossville, Georgia. McKay was sharp with an 11.44 on his 11.43 dial to secure the victory while Williams posted a 14.13 on his 14.02 dial. Dennis Corn broke and was unable to appear for the opening round, but he managed to earn enough points to secure the world title in the ARP Open Comp category.
The championship in HP Tuners Super Stang was also decided early in favor of 2020 champ Kevin McKenna, but the race win went to Rick Doern of Winter Springs, Florida, who topped Mike Moistner of Dublin, Indiana, in the final round. Doern drove his ’20 Mustang to a 10.64 on his 10.70 dial, while Moistner ran further under his 11.50 prediction with an 11.34.
Mike Roup of Lockhart, Texas finished second to Johnny “Lightning” Wilker in the CJ Pony Parts Truck and Lightning championship, but he ended his season on a high note with a final-round win against Danny Scheele of Crump, Tennessee. Roup got off the starting line first in his ’70 Ranchero and drove to an 11.37 against his 11.34 dial for the win, while Scheele ran well under his 8.65 dial with an 8.51.
Danny Towe of Westminster, South Carolina, pulled off a rare feat as he successfully defended his championship in Race Pages Digital Ford Muscle. A week ago in Indianapolis, Towe wrapped up the title in the NMCA Nostalgia Muscle class, and then put together a dominant performance to win the final over Donald Fotti to clinch his fourth title in two seasons. In a double-breakout, Towe won with an 11.70 on his 11.75 dial after Fotti ran an 11.44 on his 11.50 dial in his vintage ’68 Cobra Jet Mustang.
Mike Jovanis of Wall, New Jersey, remains the acknowledged master of the Circle D Specialties True Street category after driving his ’89 Mustang to a 7.83-second average after three consecutive runs. Jovanis ran more than a second quicker than runner-up Mike Niehaus, who logged an 8.713-second average, while Mike Niehaus finished as runner-up. Other winners were Randy Thomas (8.50), Jason Wagner (9.00), Shannon Doyle (10.00), Trevor Thorne (11.00), Elaine Moistner (12.00), Chris Lee (13.00), AJ Williams (14.00), Luan Walker (15.00).
While Jovanis has dominated the True Street class, Gaby Lujan of Miami, Florida, followed suit in the TREMEC All-Female True Street category, which was also contested in Bowling Green. Lujan, the 8.60 class winner, recently finished her ’93 Mustang and drove it to an impressive 8.838-second average to secure top honors. Lujan also won the All-Female class in Orlando and Norwalk this year. Kimberly Walker finished as the runner-up to Lujan with a 9.200 average. Other champions were Deneen Seguira (9.00), Brandi Phoenix (10.00), Jill McKenna (11.00), Shelly Schwemley (12.00), Lauren Stoney (13.00), MaryAnn Mammen (14.00), Amanda Johnson (15.00).
The Bowling Green event featured the Capri Swarm class where Bill Davidson of Dexter, Michigan, took top honors by beating London, Ontario’s Jeff Mathyssen, who broke out at the finish line. Davidson used a 17.29 on his 17.15 dial to claim the win after Mathyssen broke out by two-hundredths of a second.
The King of the Street class, which was comprised of the top eight finishers in the Circle D Specialties True Street class, went to Randy Thomas who eclipsed Mike Niehaus in the final round, 5.466 to 5.97 on the eighth-mile course.
Neihaus also appeared in the final of the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout where he faced Daniel Watts for the title, but Watts prevailed in his ’03 SVT Cobra with a strong 9.24-second performance.
Johnny Matthews of Pleasant View, Tennessee, had to outlast 55 other drivers to win the Bracket Open category over Jackson Snider of Rogersville, Missouri. Matthews wheeled his ’65 Comet to a 6.72 against his 6.70 dial to secure the title after Snider broke out by two hundredths.
With the 2023 season complete, the Holley NMRA Ford Nationals series will now begin to look ahead to 2024, where the 30th Annual NMRA Spring Break Shootout will move to historic Gainesville Raceway in Gainesville, Florida, on February 22-25, 2024.