By Mary Lendzion
While John Leslie Jr. is used to going into wheelies in his Mustang in NMRA Richmond Gear Factory Stock, he recently went into his most wild and wicked one yet.
It was during the first round of qualifying at the 11th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE in early April at Atlanta Dragway.
“After the launch, the car pulled a usual wheelie, but when second gear was pulled, it just climbed the ring gear onto the bumper, and it just kept going up, until it hit the tow bar mount, which at that point the car started to teeter, and doing so went left toward the wall,” said Leslie Jr. “Feeling it veer toward the wall, I let out of the throttle, losing all momentum, and came crashing downward. When the car initially landed, the driver’s side spindle snapped and broke. At that point, the driver’s side wheel kicked outward and pulled me into the wall. The car bounced off the wall, then I was able to pull it back over and bring it to a stop.”
Upon getting back to the pit area, Leslie Jr., who was not injured, and his crew chief, Tony Meier Jr., thought for a moment that there may be a chance they could repair the car before the next round of qualifying.
“We contemplated the idea, and had so much support and offers to get the car back out,” said Leslie Jr. “That’s why I love our circuit and racing community. It’s a family and everyone comes together to help out. (But) after my crew chief, Tony Meier Jr., inspected the car and kept finding more and more issues, he made the final call and the right decision and said there was no way was I getting back in the car until it was gone-through.”
As it turned out, the car would need a new front clip, fender, door, quarter panel, driver’s side wheels and tires, an oil pan and pick-up tube, motor mounts, struts, strut towers and rear-end.
“Repairs are going great, and the car is almost complete,” said Leslie Jr. “Quite a few people have helped, starting with Bobby Barker of Body Art, Chad Tadman with a fender, Bruce Hemminger with an oil pan and pick-up tube, J.C. Cascio of Strange Engineering with struts and axles, Joey McKernan with all his help, Tony Meier Jr. with headers and fab work, Tony Meier Sr. of Meier’s Automotove with alignment and help, Ryan of Rusted Knuckles with tires and help and Steve Higgins with all hands-on work on tear-down, reassemble, rear-end and lift work.”
With work on the car wrapping up, Leslie Jr. hopes to take in a test session before heading to the Inaugural NMRA Ford Gateway Rumble, May 16-19 at Gateway Motorsports Park in Illinois. The car won’t be repainted by then, but watch for Leslie Jr., who added that he appreciates all of the moral support from his family, friends and fans, to pick up where he left off in his car which features a Coyote engine and a relatively new G-Force G101A transmission, shifter from Long Shifters and ACT clutch and rolls on Hoosier slicks and Mickey Thompson radials alternately.