As the weekend hits its stride today, the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport is packing Rockingham Dragway with non-stop action. On the racetrack, the heads-up and index classes continue qualifying, while racers in the Circle D. Specialties True Street categories compete to send victors to the Winner’s Circle in a wide range of elapsed-time categories.
Looking down on the track from above, attendees are welcome to enjoy the Innovation Performance Technologies Top of the Rock Fan Experience festivities in conjunction with the UPR Products Car Show. Atop the towering, amphitheater-style grandstands the fan experience is hosted by Clarence Barnes and Chris the Car Guy who will entertain the crowd with spin-to-win prizes, automotive trivia, and more. The first tube-chassis Bigfoot Monster Truck is also up there and available for some great photos.
Naturally, we will keep you updated with highlights from the event throughout the day on this page and our social media channels, so stay tuned.
Here is how the action unfolds today at the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport.
One of the unique features of Rockingham Dragway is the elevated concrete grandstands that line the spectator side of the race track. The top of the adjacent hill not only makes for a suitable viewing area, but it’s also the perfect spot for the Top of the Rock experience presented by Innovation Performance Technologies. While enjoying the premium view of the on-track action, fans in the Top of the Rock can take in the UPR Products Car Show, visit several manufacturer’s displays and food vendors, and check out the legendary Bigfoot, the world’s best-known monster truck. It should not be surprising that the Innovation Performance Technologies booth is a constantly busy place. Fans can check out some of Innovation’s handiwork, which includes classic Mustangs and Camaros built using today’s technology in order to combine classic styling with modern performance and reliability. “Our cars are largely turn-key high-end builds that combine the best of both worlds,” said Rob Kinnan, VP of business development. “We are a low-volume manufacturer which allows us to focus on attention to detail.” The Innovation Performance Technologies display also includes several interactive fan activities including a wheel of fortune hosted by TV personality Clarence Barnes and Chris the Car Guy.
“I picked up about a second-and-a-half from last year but what is really impressive is that going from 93 [octane gas] to E85 we picked up five-tenths and 12 mph. That’s a lot. The biggest challenge was just doing all the work myself while keeping a full-time job. It took a lot of time but it's been worth it.” Still on Rusch’s to-do list is a fresh gearbox from Calimer's Transmissions that he hopes will help fulfill his goal of having a nine-second street car. He’s currently running in the mid-10s but is closing in on 140 mph, indicating that the power is there for quicker elapsed times. When it comes to defending his HP Turners Super Stang title in Rockingham, Rusch, who has one of the few manually shifted cars in the class, is solidly qualified in the middle of the 16-car field.
Leticia Hughes (right, being interviewed at the Innovation Performance Technologies Top of the Rock tent by host Clarence Barnes) doesn’t require much motivation to be excited by the Suncoast Performance 8.60 class but after an encouraging runner-up finish in Orlando, she’s more enthusiastic than ever about the class she helped create. Hughes tested her supercharged 2018 Mustang on Thursday and ran an 8.50, a bit too quick for the class. She made a few adjustments, primarily to shift points, and was rewarded with an 8.61, a solid baseline headed into Friday’s qualifying rounds. “I’m definitely feeling good about the start of the season,” said Hughes. “Orlando was a good start. Of course, Casey [Shotwell] won the race so we’re chasing him. My goal is to qualify well and win a few rounds, hopefully at least one more round than Casey. Overall, this class is doing well. We’re growing at every race.”
At the Mod Nationals last year, CJ Pony Parts Truck & Lightning regular Robert Chuhan set out to run the quickest time with a Two-Valve Lightning. He accomplished that mission with a 9.09 rip but lifted a head. As a result, he sent the engine to Johnny Lightning Performance, where the company namesake welded up some head and block damage and added a set of his Xtreme Racing cylinder heads. The result was more than 1,000 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels, which led to this big wheelie during qualifying. Now crew chief Tony Ganno is tasked with taming the front-end lift as the pair continue their quest for an 8-second pass.
When you hear the term Power Couple, think of Casey and Jamie Flora. Jamie (right), who owns PowderUp Powdercoating, is a retired motocross racer, who fell for fast cars when she met Casey (left). Her 2019 Mustang is naturally aspirated and benefits from Suncoast Performance transmission upgrades and a UPR Products suspension in Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle. She has an NOS nitrous kit at the ready just in case, but it has yet to be sprayed. Casey’s Suncoast Performance 8.60 Street Race entry is a bit more serious. The 2016 Mustang runs a TKM-built Coyote with a Precision turbocharger, a TH400 transmission, and tuning by Jesse Coulter at Jesse’s Garage. With 1,400 horsepower on tap, Casey says he leaves the line in turtle mode before flying downtrack. However, this fast couple works so well together, they compete under the Team Duo banner.
ARP Open Comp racer Tom Hoffman is a happy camper this weekend at the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport. After chasing an induction issue all last season, he found out that cracked intake runners were the culprit. This year his Mustang is running a fresh engine topped by the latest Dale Cubic carburetor and he says it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Hoffman just needs to hone his reaction times, but he says as long as it does that he has a chance this weekend.
The Suncoast Performance 8.60 Street Race class continues to gain strength both in quantity and quality of entries and one car that best exemplifies that is the new Vortech-supercharged, Tuxedo Black 2015 Mustang GT of Terry “Beefcake” Reeves. The owner of Beefcake Racing near Cincinnati, Reeves was set to debut his new car last month in Orlando but encountered a few setbacks along the way. “We took all of the stuff out of our 2018 [Mustang] and put it in this car because it’s a lot lighter,” said Reeves. “We sent the engine out to get freshened and the first pull on the dyno, a 6 pounds of boost, something let go. I’m not sure if we would have made the 14-hour drive to Orlando anyway, but we were going to give it the college try.” Reeves worked to repair the damage and made it to Rockingham where he managed to run 9.20 on an easy checkout run. He believes the car has enough power to run well into the 7-second zone. “We had a problem with the Ford Control Pack that was affecting the launch,” Reeves said. “On Thursday, I just foot-braked it and ran 9.20 at almost 160. We’ve definitely got enough power to go 8.60s. We just need to work out a few bugs.”
Tim Donathen is always thinking about creative ways to improve performance, particularly on his Coyote Stock Fairmont wagon. He recently relocated his battery from the cooler to the picnic basket and moved to a small, lightweight XS Power unit. He also made the move to a lightweight ACT clutch and he is working to dial that in with a new datalogger. He hopes to try out some new transmission ratios at the 18th Annual NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Muscle Car Drag Racing in St. Louis.
Shane Williams, the reigning champion in the Exedy Racing Clutch Mod Muscle class, knows the importance of qualifying points in the Holley NMRA Drag Racing Series so when it came time to hit the track in Rockingham, he wasted no time rocketing to the top of the chart with an almost perfect .0001 reaction time on Rockingham’s Accutime timing system, which displays reaction time to the ten-thousandth of a second. After one run, Williams holds a slight but notable advantage over provisional No. 2 qualifier Charlie McCulloch, who posted a .0026-second reaction. It would take a perfect .0000 light to unseat Williams from the top spot. It’s possible, but not likely.