By Mary Lendzion
Joel Greathouse has accomplished a lot in his years of racing. He is competitive in any car he is in, he is competitive in any category he is in, and he is talented, tenacious, resolute, and relentless. The Kentuckian was committed to capturing a championship in NMRA Edelbrock Renegade this year, and was willing to work hard—incredibly hard—for it.
He and his team, including crew chief and tuner Justin McChesney of KBX Performance and car chief Ben Thomas, worked with Jon Bennett of Bennett Racing Engines to develop a 311 cubic-inch 8.2 deck alcohol-sipping engine, paired it with a Forced Inductions 76mm turbocharger and then hit the road for the first event of the season, the 26th Annual Nitto NMRA Spring Break Shootout, which was Feb. 27-March 1 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida. There, Greathouse qualified in the second spot with a 4.65 and finished as the runner-up after having to pedal to settle his car.
He then qualified in the fourth spot with a 4.73 and exited in the third round of eliminations with a 4.87 at the 12th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals, in June at Atlanta Dragway. He qualified in the second spot again, this time with a 4.70, and arrived at the always-inviting Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle with a 4.69 — his quickest pass of the weekend — at the Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl presented by HPJ Performance in early August at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.
Nearing the end of the season, Greathouse qualified in the ninth spot with a 4.72 and exited in the second round of eliminations with a 4.82 at the Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA All-American Nationals presented by Force Engineering in late August at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan. Upon returning home from that event, he and his team pulled his engine from the engine bay, delivered it to Jon Bennett of Bennett Racing Engines, who enhanced it to 363 cubic-inches.
Greathouse was focused, and quite formidable, when he then led qualifying with a 4.58, won with a 4.60, set records with a personal best of 4.58 and a 153.06 mph and was crowned the 2020 NMRA Edelbrock Renegade champion at the final NMRA event of the season, the NMRA All-Ford World Finals featuring the Holley Intergalactic Ford Festival, in late September at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky. Making the weekend even more momentous were the many family members and friends who were there to support him.
While the Coronavirus pandemic prevented NMRA from having its annual ceremony to celebrate champions, each was invited to share the words they would have shared on stage in front of their fellow racers, family and friends.
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE EARNED A CHAMPIONSHIP DURING SUCH AN UNUSUAL SEASON?
The way this year has been makes it extra special. I have won a variety of championships before, but never an NMRA series championship. That was our goal my team set over last winter, and with COVID, we weren’t sure we were even going to run an entire season. I want to give a huge thanks to the NMRA directors who were able to make this year happen with an ever-changing nation from month-to-month. They were able to make adjustments and make it happen, and that is greatly appreciated by us competitors.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU OVERCAME ON YOUR WAY TO EARNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
The biggest challenge this year for our team was coming out with a 100-percent-new combo untested and showing up in Bradenton. We completely rewired the car over the winter, installed an all-inclusive FuelTech FT600 engine management system, dropped in an untested 311 cubic-inch 8.2 deck Bennett Racing engine, and installed a new 3-speed 400 from RPM Transmissions. We had no idea how it would go with no dyno time and no testing. We worked on different things all year long with gear changes, suspension changes, and eventually an engine overhaul before the NMRA Finals to gain some cubic inches. I am extremely proud of my team and those who support us for never quitting and never settling until we found what works.
WHICH FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS WOULD YOU LIKE TO THANK FOR SUPPORTING YOU ALONG THE WAY?
Justin, Ben, and I want to thank our wives and families for letting us chase our racing dreams. Missy, Michelle and Tiffany have supported us along the way, and our kids have enjoyed tagging along as well. We also get amazing support from our KBX Team. We have developed lifelong friendships with John Kolivas, Jon Bennett, Charles Hull, Rodney Ragen, Shawn Pevlor, Tim Gibson and others, and their support this year is unmatched. None of this year could be accomplished without the car owner and true friend, Jeremy Wolf, giving us the opportunity.
WHICH SPONSORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE?
John Kolivas with KBX Performance is definitely at the top of the list. Also, Bennett Racing, as Jon Bennett has supplied our horsepower for the past 27 years in all cars we raced and categories. Jon, Tony, Ray, and Lee at the shop have been crucial to our success. Wayne Young with Young’s Performance has also been there since the beginning and dyno’d every engine that has been in the race cars. Joe Rivera of Protorque Converters has supplied every torque converter we have run since 2010. Rodney Massengale of RPM Transmissions and the crew there are always a phone call away and have provided us with exactly what we have needed to win. Jose and the crew at Forced Inductions have provided us with an awesome 76mm turbo to run the past few years and it has been flawless. Mark, John and Craig of Menscer Motorsports have been there for us for the past 6 years and are great friends. For shocks and struts, there is no other answer for us but the best.
Jason Ruckert of VP Racing Fuels has provided the go-go juice for the past few years and the product speaks for itself. Jason is great to have in your corner. Rick, Shawn, and Tony of RC Components are friends right here in Bowling Green and we have run their awesome wheels since 2016. Steve Matukas of Matukas Motorsports has been there for us all year long. He is local to us also and has been always available when needed for fabrication and chassis setup, and he is a genuine friend. Glad to have Steve as part of the team. Anderson, Luis and Cameron at FuelTech have also been crucial to our success this year after switching to FuelTech over the winter. Cameron has been on-call for Justin and always provides the customer support when needed. [There is] no better engine management software out there. Jason Smith of TBM Brakes has provided awesome stopping power for us for three years now, and is always there when needed—truly a product that is functional and a work of art. Jim Craig of Weldon Pumps has provided us with the support and fuel pump/filter products for fifteen-plus years.
Broc Porter and the Jones family at Beech Bend Raceway, our home track, are always available if we need to test the car or try new things. Broc has really made Beech Bend the place to race and test for the past several years. We would not be racing today without the friendship and support from Jeremy Wolf. What an awesome opportunity he has given us to continue running this car and his friendship is also second to none. Great friend Tim Gibson from Bowling Green helped Justin totally rewire the car last winter and install the FuelTech FT600 from start to finish. Tim does awesome work and has been there for support for several races this year.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT RACING IN NMRA EDELBROCK RENEGADE?
All the competitors in the Renegade/Xtreme class. What an awesome group of guys and gals to race with. Their friendships this year have proven that it goes much deeper than racing. We hope we have the opportunity to do it all over again next year. The class is so tight in performance and we have had every combination in a position to win all year whether it be turbo, supercharger, big-block nitrous or small-block nitrous. We really also enjoy how the NMRA has a set schedule and sticks as closely to it as possible to make it a more enjoyable racing community. The staff always is helpful and thanks us for racing with the organization. We have made lifelong friendships.