By Mary Lendzion
Photos courtesy of Dwight Ausmus and by NMCA
While Dwight Ausmus always puts on a show with hard launches and high wheelies in his Firebird in FST Carburetors NA 10.5, he did it differently at the 18th Annual NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance last September at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana.
That’s where the front clip and hood went flying from his Firebird and smashed to the ground in the first round of qualifying, and while fans feared his weekend was over, MagnaFuel Open Comp racer Cameron Bowles’ friend, Michael Wiener, helped Ausmus and his crew get the front clip and hood back on the car, helping Ausmus go on to a runner-up finish against Leonard Long.
Upon returning home to LaFollette, Tennessee, he accessed the damage, and made plans for repairs. He reached out to friends Robert and Debbie Murray, who helped make new brackets and mounting supports for the front of the car. When that work was wrapped up a few weeks later, the Murrays began body work on the car.
“I’ve had little-to-no experience in this area, so I’ve been allowed to do some rough fiberglass work on the inside shell of the frontend and sanding in areas that are less noticeable,” said Ausmus, with a laugh.
The factory lower valance and VFN Fiberglass front nose that were on the car before it was outfitted with new parts and repainted in 2015 were pulled out of storage and put back on the car.
“We cut and glassed-in replacement sections to the damaged front clip,” said Ausmus, who secured a second place finish in FST Carburetors NA 10.5 points in 2019. “Some wet sanding and buffing and this project should be complete. All credit goes to Robert and Debbie. They have worked 200-plus hours during the past three months outside of their normal 12-hour-shift jobs. They have also attended all the NMCA races since 2016. Their dedication in supporting my crew, Curt Jamison, Tom Andriopoulos, Keith McCormack, my wife Becky and me while we’re racing in NA 10.5 is second-to-none. I’m truly blessed to have such great friends.”
When all of the fabrication and body work has been completed, the Murrays will lay fresh paint on the car, and then Ausmus and his wife, Becky, will pull the BES Racing Engines-built 570 cubic-inch Pontiac engine from the engine bay and deliver it to BES Racing Engines in Guilford, Indiana, to be freshened.
When Ausmus has the engine back, he’ll pair it with his Proflite three-speed transmission maintained by Sean Wiley, and head to the first event on the 2020 NMCA tour, the highly-anticipated 18th Annual NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem, March 5-8, 2020 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.
“Around Thanksgiving, my crew and I start counting down the days until we make the trip to sunny Florida in early March to attend the first race of the season,” said Ausmus.