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Corn Becomes Five-Time NMRA Open Comp Champion

Posted By: Mary Lendzion
Written by Mary Lendzion
Photos by NMRA Staff
When it comes to racing, Dennis Corn is a very deliberate person.
He carefully considers what he wants to accomplish, and cleverly calculates the steps he needs to take in order to reach his destination. When he is confident that those steps will help him reach his destination, he sets out.
That is a proven process for Corn, who works for Roush Engineering and Engine Build Operations in Michigan, as he had already achieved NMRA ARP Open Comp championships in 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2022 before setting his sights on another one in 2023.
Also up to the task was his 1988 Ford Thunderbird, which had 100,000 on the odometer when he purchased it from a seller in North Carolina back in 2008 before being transformed into a race car at Roush in 2009-2010. These days, the car is very competitive with a Roush small-block Ford built around a Dart block and boasting AFR heads, CHI intake manifold and Holley carburetor. Corn loves rowing the gears of his G-Force Transmissions-bult five-speed manual transmission.
At the first race of the 2023 season, the Ryno Classifieds NMRA Spring Break Shootout presented by Nitto in March at Orlando Speed World Dragway in Florida, Roush qualified in the sixteenth spot out of 29 cars with an .025 reaction time. He lost in the first round by breaking out more than his opponent with a 9.02 on a 9.11. Despite the early exit, Corn was pleased to clock 8.92 and close to 154 mph earlier in the weekend, as the times are nods to work that has been performed on the combination.

He then headed to the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport in April at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina, where he qualified in the third spot out of 28 racers with a .002 reaction time. He won the first round, a double break out, with a 9.08 on 9.09, and the second round with a lifting 9.19. He scooted past the third round with a nice .022 reaction time and a 9.13 before losing in the fourth round with breakout time of 9.06.
“The competition in this class is often unreal,” said Corn. “Money does not significantly influence the nature of the competitiveness. This class rewards killer reaction times and running the elapsed time round after round against many experienced hardcore index racers who usually know their car from years of racing it. The margin of victory is expected to be thousandths of a second.”
Corn made the several-hour drive to take part in the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Muscle Car Drag Racing in May at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois. He qualified in the fifteenth spot with an .024 reaction time out of 29 racers, and won the first round when his opponent turned on the red light. He lost in the second round with a 9.08 on a 9.07.

The 3rd Annual Mickey Thompson NMRA Ford Homecoming in June at Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio was next on the tour. There, he qualified in the sixteenth spot with an .019 reaction time out of 43 racers, won first round with a 9.20 on a 9.18 and won second round with another 9.20. He advanced past the third round with a dead-on 9.18, but went -.008 red in the fourth round.
Ready to race in his home state, Corn made the short trip to the TorqStorm NMRA/NMCA Power Festival presented by Paul’s High Performance in July at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan. He qualified in the eighteenth spot with an .023 reaction time out of 35 cars and dialed 9.20. He won the first and second rounds with a 9.23, and the third round after he ran right on his number. He recorded a .008 reaction time in the fourth round and had room to lift on the way to the win, and he won the fifth round with 9.22. After that, he went to the NMRA Winner’s Circle with a 9.20 against Robert Motycka, who broke out.
“We challenge ourselves to remain competitive each race we attend, and if the championship points happen to work out in our favor at the end of the year, great,” said Corn. “If not, so be it, as long as we put forth the effort, did the work and were competitive.”

Hoping for a fine finish to the race season, Corn went to the Whipple Superchargers NMRA World Finals presented by Competition Clutch featuring the Holley Intergalactic Ford Festival in late September, early October at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky. He qualified in the fourteenth spot out of 39 cars with an .013 reaction time, and lost in the first round after struggling with some issues.
“We had a power window failure, fuel tank pick failure, oil pump fitting failure and ultimately an engine starter failure at Bowling Green which we could not recover from,” said Corn.
The weekend was not a total loss, however, as Corn walked away as the 2023 NMRA ARP Open Comp champion.
“We are proud of having another championship in such a tough class with numerous racers,” said Corn. “Chasing a championship is the goal, but winning one is humbling, especially knowing there are many other racers who were right there who also deserve the championship. I would like to thank my crew, including my father, Bob, Uncle Doug and buddy John. I also have unwavering support from my wife, Lisa, son, Trevor, daughter, Alyssa and soon-to-be son-in-law Theo. I would like to thank Jack Roush, the Roush organization and the Roush family, Kathy Ostrander, John and Robin Stanford, Doug and Laurie Thompson, G-Force Transmission, McLeod, MAHLE, Eagle, Jesel, Holley, MSD, Dart, AFR, PAC Racing Springs and ARP. In 2023, we lost a close friend, Dan Ostrander, who was a part of our race crew, and a dear aunt, Joanne Thompson, and my mother, Nancy, had significant struggles but encouraged us to not give up as she would not give up. She inspired us, and she is the reason why we sport a sparkly pink ‘Get Well, Mom’ sticker on the car. I also want to mention that our beloved cat, Eevee, was my wife’s buddy when I was away at the races.”
Corn and his fellow champions will be celebrated at the Holley NMRA Ford Nationals Awards, held during the Performance Racing Industry Trade Show, Dec. 8, 2023, at the Indiana Convention Center, and in the upcoming Champions Issue of Fastest Street Car.

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