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Donato Sierchio’s Firey Fiasco & Rapid Rebuild

Posted By: Ainsley Jacobs
Longtime NMRA Circle D Specialties True Street and Street Car Challenge hot shot Donato Sierchio had his hands full with a different kind of “hot” during a recent test session, as his 1986 Ford Mustang went up in flames.
The New Jersey native was testing his infamous Fox body – which is capable of low-7-second quarter mile elapsed times at nearly 200 mph – at Maryland International Raceway on Friday, July 21, 2023, in preparation for a race with the Warriors Outlaw drag racing group later that evening.
After a strong run, Sierchio scrubbed his speed in the track’s lengthy shutdown area. “I can see into the engine compartment a little from the driver’s seat,” noted the New Jersey-based wheelman. “I saw some clear liquid and in a split second went from hoping it was water to seeing a big burst of fire.”
What happened next was all a blur, but Sierchio was able to get his Mustang safely stopped before he hit the fire system and was able to exit the car under his own power. “The fire system, which Eric Williams from Performance Metalcraft Solutions (PMS) had just installed this year because my wife [smartly] insisted on it, put the fire down for about twenty seconds so I could get out,” Sierchio recalled of the scary situation from which he hurriedly tried to escape. “The Optic Armor windshield melted and deformed, but it never collapsed so no fire got into the driver compartment and that saved me.”

Mere moments after his egress, the fire flared back up and completely consumed the front end of his wicked street car. Sadly, Sierchio didn’t know that a fire extinguisher was situated just a few feet away on the other side of the retaining wall, and he had to stand there helplessly watching his beloved car go up in flames while he waited for support to arrive.
“My crew – tuner Brian Friedentag and friends Art Henniger and Ray Ackerman – actually got to me before the safety crew did because I have the fastest golf cart known to man,” laughed Sierchio, who is dismayed at the extent of the damage but grateful it’s all repairable. “They stopped to grab some fire extinguishers from the ET shack on the way.”
Sierchio believes the blaze was caused by a faulty fuel injector O-ring splitting and pushing out on cylinder number five, and wasted no time in getting started on the repairs. The team drove home that same afternoon and began tearing down the blackened-to-a-crisp Fox body the very next morning.

After a thorough pressure wash and degreasing session, Sierchio pulled his 427 cubic inch small block Ford engine and brought it to Mike Curcio Race Products in Pennsylvania. Curcio immediately dug in and was able to confirm that everything, including the Dave Jack Blue Thunder cylinder heads, had not been harmed.
The twin 88mm Forced Induction turbochargers, however, had sustained some internal heat damage to the bearings and backplates, but Jose Zayas was able to get them repaired in no time flat. Similarly, Sierchio’s Powerglide transmission was mostly okay save for a melted dipstick.
Given that no fire made it into the car’s cabin, Sierchio lucked out in that his Holley Dominator EFI computer and matching Holley Pro Dash both were still fully functional in the aftermath but the Holley coils and sensors in the engine bay, along with his Injector Dynamics ID2600 fuel injectors and many other odds and ends, were all toast.
The rest of the build, though, wasn’t so lucky. “I’m having to cut out every piece of wiring and plumbing and completely redo everything,” Sierchio affirmed. “Rich Concato at Auto Rod Corporation (ARC) is helping me out a ton, and Rick Riccardi even flew in to help after everything happened.” Additionally, there was major damage to the car’s front end; body panels and the fiberglass hood were completely destroyed, but Dennis B Colón generously stepped in to supply a new bumper and hood.

Sierchio will be treating the next few months as an “extended off-season” and will take the time to tackle some projects he had been putting off. At the NMRA season opener race in Florida, his Mustang had overheated during the True Street cruise due to its rear-mounted radiator; now, Sierchio will be relocating the radiator to the front of the car and moving the twin turbos down to the Fox’s stock fog light locations instead.
With so much work ahead of him, Sierchio is hopeful to have his tried-and-true Circle D Specialties True Street car back up and running before the end of the year. However, it isn’t just the blue beast that’s keeping him busy…
“Eric [Williams] from PMS is also building me a 2015 Mustang to run in NMRA VP Racing Madditives Renegade,” proclaimed the man excitedly. The S550 will be propelled by small block Ford pushrod power, which Curcio is also building, and it will be turbocharged as well. “I love heads-up racing and really only go to NMRA events that have the heads-up shootouts, so I’m looking forward to running a whole season in 2024 – with both cars.”

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