Break On Through
The 2016 NMRA Keystone Automotive Drag Racing season broke out in an all-out slugfest at Bradenton Motorsports Park during the opening weekend of March. The 22nd annual Nitto Tire Spring Break Shootout, presented by Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords is the first of six races for the all-Ford series. As the rest of the country dug out from snowstorms and battled against the cold, NMRA racers began chasing their championship dreams and the glory that comes along with it.
The VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw class saw Dwayne Barbaree and Russell Stone push their Kuntz and Company–powered 1990 Mustang LX coupe into the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle with a win over newcomer Vince Palazzolo. The number-one qualifier found himself in a pedal-fest against Palazzolo—of which Barbaree won out with a 5.14 at 154 mph, far off his quickest run of 4.39 during qualifying. The Edelbrock Renegade finals came down to the two most dominant racers from 2015, Frank Varela and Alton Clements. The supercharged coupe of Clements ran 7.64 at 181 mph to Hellion Racing B-Team’s Varela, who had gone 7.78 at 177 mph.
ProCharger Coyote Modified picked up the pace over the winter and the field saw two 7-second runs. The finals came down to the two quickest—Joe Guertin and “Johnny Lightning” Wiker, but the race would be anticlimactic as Guertin went red big time and Wiker cruised to the win with an 8.01 at 175 mph. The G-Force Transmission Pure Street class saw its quickest and fastest field in the history of the category, and the top two Pure Street racers met up to figure out who would head over to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle. Teddy Weaver broke Jimmy Wilson’s five-race win streak by going 9.62 at 139 mph to Wilson’s 9.97 at 139 mph.
The two stocker categories in NMRA, American Racing Headers Factory Stock and Race Pages Coyote Stock, saw Coyote engines top the fields. The Factory Stock finale came down to the number one and number two in points from 2015—James Meredith taking on reigning champion Matt Amrine. Meredith was caught sleeping at the tree with a .183 reaction time, while Amrine cut it down with a .067 light. Shortly after the tires dug in, Amrine spun and Meredith took off and grabbed the victory with a 10.60 at 123 mph to Amrine’s 10.85 at 125 mph. The Race Pages Coyote Stock eliminator was quite the show with a very tight field of racers. Jacob Lamb pulled into the beams against the defending class champion, Drew Lyons. On paper, Lyons was quicker and faster, but races are run on track and not in fantasyland. Lamb rolled out a NMRA career best of 10.27 at 129 mph to beat the champ, who had logged a 10.37 at 128 mph performance.
Shifting over to the specialty shootouts, the drama ran high in the Fluid Turbo Concepts Turbo Coyote Shootout as top qualifier Ronnie Reynolds had a close encounter with the wall during a grudge race the night before. Despite those challenges, he ran consistent 7s during eliminations to meet local hero Justin Jordan in the finals. Jordan drilled the tree and never looked back as he ran a career-best time of 7.74 at 175 mph to top Reynolds who ran 7.78 at 182 mph. The Livernois Motorsports EcoBoost Battle was a repeat of last year’s matchup during the NMRA World Finals. Brad Gusler of BG Racing faced UPR Products’ Bill Putnam in what would’ve been an all-10-second final round, but Gusler spun and lifted while Putnam ran a career best of 10.87 at 125 mph to score a second victory in the EcoBoost Battle.
Brian Devilbiss and his Devil’s Reject 2013 Shelby GT500 dominated the VMP Performance Terminator vs. GT500 Shootout as the turbocharged ride set low e.t. of the event with a 7.52 at 184 mph. It was David vs. Goliath in the finals and this time Goliath won it; Devilbiss and Rick Kaknes represented each of their camps to decide which SVT product was superior. Devilbiss lit the tires after the start, but it didn’t matter. The car recovered and streaked to the win with an 8.11 at 181 mph and Kaknes tripped the beams with a 10.38 at 137 mph.
The biggest specialty class, the Spring Break Shootout, is in its 22nd consecutive year of competition and the top 16 cars from QA1 True Street make up the field. It is a chance for the little guy to compete heads up, though it took a 10.09-second or better average to make the shootout. Randy Seward became a three-time Spring Break Shootout winner when he defeated Raul Torres in a close final-round match up. The Calypso Green turbo coupe charged to the finish line with an 8.53 at 166 mph to Torres’ 8.81 at 152 mph.
Marco Ponce Jr. scored his first NMRA class win when he crossed the stripe in Roush Performance Super Stang, beating Brenspeed’s Marvin Knack in the process. The Real Deal Boss ran close to his 11.57 dial-in through four rounds of eliminations for his trip to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle. Ford Muscle got off to a quick start with 14 racers entering the rookie class. When the brake dust settled on the foot-brake class, Danny Towe and his 1970 Mustang stood on top with his victory over Tom Osterkamp and his twin-turbo Mustang. Exedy Racing Modular Muscle features vehicles with Ford’s modern Modular engine, and the SN95 of Charlie McCulloch took the win over Rick Doern and his 2007 Mustang GT.
Flex-a-lite Open Comp saw the largest car count of the weekend and North Carolina’s Greg Essen pushed his way into the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle over class veteran Dennis Corn. The .003 reaction time by Essen was a good start and it would’ve been hard to overcome, so Corn stayed wide-open through the finish line and got there first. The problem was that Corn ran .002 under his index and handed the automatic win over to Essen! Veteran NMRA racer Randy Conway used his 1984 Ranger to earn a victory at the season opening race for Detroit Locker Truck & Lightning. The Michigan resident took out everyone’s favorite Ranchero owner, M.J. Smith.
The QA1 True Street class was huge as the final count settled in at 121 entries and Randy Seward collected another victory. He took the Overall Winner title thanks to an 8.32 average (8.33, 8.30, and 8.32). The Overall Runner-up was last year’s class winner, Mike Jovanis, who finished the challenge with an 8.68 average. Other True Street class winners for the 2016 season opener include Grant Guise (9-second), Trevor Glasgow (10-second), Connie Greiner (11-second), Mike Baker (12-second), Daniel Augustine (13-second), Mary Ann Mammen (14-second), and Andrew Kelly (15-second). The Tremec Stick Shift Shootout recognizes the top eight stick-shift cars in True Street and the top two racers have a grudge race with a Tremec six-speed transmission as the prize. Jeff Smith met his VMP Performance teammate Rick Kaknes as they both shifted their Terminator Cobras to mid-to-low 10s. Smith was sharper on the tree, earning him the win light on the top-end with a winning, but slower, 10.48 at 137 mph to Kaknes’ 10.28 at 142 mph.
The next stop on the NMRA tour is Atlanta Dragway (Commerce, GA) for the NMRA/NMCA Borla All-Star Nationals, April 7-10, 2016.
If you would like to look at the raw data of each round of action, then follow the link to the Elimination results <<HERE>>