By Mary Lendzion
While Kevin McKenna had been competing in NMRA Ford Muscle, he made the move to NMRA ROUSH Performance Super Stang in 2020.
He was prepared for the challenge, and to be sure that his street-driven Mustang motivated by a stock Coyote engine and VMP supercharger was also prepared for the challenge, he drove it from his home in Indiana to Ramsey’s Performance in Florida for some work. There, its stock rear-end was replaced with an Eaton TrueTrac, Richmond gear, Strange axles, QA1 shocks and a QA1 carbon fiber driveshaft. The shop also paired the car’s stock transmission with a new FTI converter.
Then, McKenna pulled into the first NMRA event of the season, the 26th Annual Nitto NMRA Spring Break Shootout, which was Feb. 27-March 1 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida. After qualifying in the fifth spot with an .030 reaction time, he raced to the runner-up finish with an 11.44 on a 10.71 dial.
“That was a solid start to the season, although I botched the final against defending champ Larry Firestone pretty badly,” said McKenna. “I made a change in my car before the final, and it didn’t like it at all.”
McKenna qualified in the fifth spot again, this time with an .088 reaction time, and exited eliminations in the second round at the 12th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals in June at Atlanta Dragway. Taking things further, he qualified in the second spot with an .051 reaction time and made it to the semifinal before exiting eliminations with a breakout time of 10.87 on a 10.90 dial at the Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street-Legal Drag Racing presented by HPJ Performance in early August at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois.
In the chase for the championship by the time he arrived at the Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA All-American Nationals presented by Force Engineering in late August at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan, McKenna leaped off the line with an .012 reaction time to lead qualifying, and exited eliminations in the second round.
Really focused on going rounds at the final NMRA event of the season, the NMRA All-Ford World Finals featuring the Holley Intergalactic Ford Festival, in September at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky, McKenna qualified in the fifth spot with an .056 reaction time, went all the way to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle with a better reaction time than his opponent and a 10.94 on a 10.76 dial and wrapped up the 2020 NMRA ROUSH Performance Super Stang championship.
“It wasn’t something I really expected because I didn’t think I’d be in a position to race a full season because my duties at NHRA.com and National Dragster tend to keep me pretty busy,” said McKenna, who drove his 10-second Mustang, which has never been on a trailer, to all five events on this year’s NMRA tour. “When the pandemic hit, we obviously had no idea if or when we’d be racing, but I was able to compete in all five events for the first time. I have no idea how many events I can attend next season, but I’m very much looking forward to it. I’ve often been told that defending a title is harder than winning one, so I guess we’re about to find out.”
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?
Well, to be honest, I might not have won it had this been a “normal season” simply because my travel schedule for NHRA events most likely would not have allowed me to attend all of the NMRA races. As it was, I was able to shuffle a few dates to make it to the five events that were held in 2020. As for the championship, I’ll just say it was a bit of a shock. Obviously everyone would love to win one. You are just never sure that you’ll be in a position to do so.
WHAT WAS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU OVERCAME ON YOUR WAY TO EARNING THE CHAMPIONSHIP?
My own incompetence. I’m not really trying to be funny here. I made numerous mistakes and own up to all of them. There were a couple of races where I felt like my car was very good but the driver, not so much. Then again, that’s what I love about this sport. It’s always a challenge and there’s always something that can be learned from both wins and losses.
WHICH FAMILY MEMBERS AND FRIENDS WOULD YOU LIKE TO THANK FOR SUPPORTING YOU ALONG THE WAY?
First and foremost, my wife, Jill. She was the sport’s first Jr. Drag Racer and it was awesome for her to be in Bowling Green for the season finale. Also thanks to Joe and Becki Cram, Jason Henson, Lloyd Mikeska, Evan Smith, Mark Lacroix and Abe Tang.
WHICH SPONSORS WOULD YOU LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE?
VMP Superchargers, JMS Chip, QA-1 Performance, JEGS Mail Order, Mickey Thompson, FTI Converters, JLT Performance, Stiffler’s, Dennis Ramsey Performance and REVan Media.
WHAT DO YOU ENJOY ABOUT RACING IN NMRA ROUSH PERFORMANCE SUPER STANG?
It fits within my budget and schedule. My car is a street car that is driven to every NMRA race and has never been on a trailer. It was built to show people that you don’t need a huge investment in either time or money in order to have a fast and fun car that can be enjoyed often. It just happens to fit the Super Stang class quite nicely.