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Mid-Season Review—NMRA Championship Heats Up With Three Races Remaining

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
Mid-Season Review—NMRA Championship Heats Up With Three Races Remaining
By NMRA Staff
Following the successful completion of the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Muscle Car Drag Racing in St. Louis, the 2023 NMRA Holley Drag Racing Series has officially hit the halfway point.
While there have been some dominant performances, all 10 championships remain very much up for grabs with events in Norwalk, Ohio, Martin, Michigan and Bowling Green, Kentucky still on the docket. 

In VP Racing Madditives Renegade, Terry Wilson is off to a flying start with wins in Orlando and St. Louis. As a result, he’s got a respectable 315-point lead over Rockingham champ Martin Connelly and a 670-point lead over third-ranked Becki Cram. Wilson struggled a bit at the combo event in Rockingham with a Round-two loss, but he helped himself by scoring the maximum number of points available (790) with a record-setting performance in St. Louis. Wilson doesn’t typically attend all the NMRA events, but this season he’s in a prime position to deliver a title.

In Whatever it Takes Transmission Parts Limited Street, Samantha Moore and Stacy Roby are the prime contenders for the title. Moore has steadily improved each season since 2020, including a 2022 championship. She scored wins in Orlando and St. Louis, and has earned bonus points for records at two events. Currently, Moore is 325 points ahead of Roby, and while that’s not an insurmountable advantage, the smaller field size represents a significant challenge for Roby or anyone else that is looking to claim the No. 1 spot.

Following a semifinal in Orlando, Ed Bennett III has become a powerhouse in Coyote Stock with back-to-back wins in Rockingham and Orlando. The winner of eight consecutive rounds, and driver of the Clair Stewart II’s Mustang LX, Bennett has built a 270-point cushion against second-ranked Vincent Destra. Former class champ Frank Paultanis is 530 points back, despite missing the first event. Dastra won in Orlando and then suffered a tough outing in Rockingham before a quick rebound with a runner-up in St. Louis. Randy Soper, Chad Stephens, and even defending champion Charlie Booze Jr., who was disqualified from the first event for a technical infraction, remain in contention for the title in one of the most competitive NMRA classes.
With a semifinal, a runner-up, and a victory to start the season, Richmond Gear Factory Stock racer Mark Anderson has progressively gotten better at each race and heads into the second half of the season with a slim 60-point advantage over Mike Bowen. Matt Williams dropped to third after missing the most recent event. Last year, Bowen cruised to the title with four wins and a runner-up in six events. Given the close competition among the leaders, this is one title that will likely be decided in Bowling Green this September.
The 2023 season will mark the first championship for the Suncoast Performance 8.60 Street Race class and there are currently a number of drivers in contention for the top spot. They include current leader Casey Shotwell, who has two wins in the first three races. Shotwell holds a 200-point lead against Leticia Hughes, who was instrumental in bringing 8.60-style racing to NMRA. Hughes got off to a fast start with a runner-up in Orlando, and has managed to stick around by being consistent. The same goes for third place point holder Casey Flora, who has staked his claim to the top spot by winning in Rockingham.

With robust car counts and a lot of talented racers, the battle for the top spot in Exedy Racing Clutch Mod Muscle is usually a fight to the bitter end. And this year figures to be no different. Multi-time champ Susan Roush-McClenaghan presently holds the upper hand following back-to-back wins in Rockingham and Orlando. McClenaghan is 200 points ahead of No. 2 James Meredith, while Charlie McCulloch, Adam Cox, Shane Williams, James Flora, Peter Blosser and a few others are in the hunt. There are nine racers who have attended the first three events so they all remain eligible for the perfect-attendance bonus and with half a season to go, no one is out of the running at this point.
Perhaps the best battle in all of NMRA racing lies in the ARP Open Comp category where the entire top 10 are separated by just 385 markers. At the halfway point, Rockingham champ Tom Hoffman holds a slight 120-point lead against Terry Haynal, while Charlie Atkinson, Paul Svinicki and Dennis Corn round out the top five. It’s also worth noting that there are 11 drivers with perfect attendance, but they do not include Dennis Hilliard, Will McKay, and Cameron Bowles, who have won the first three races. Open Comp is a class where many races are decided by thousandths of seconds at the finish line so it’s not the least bit surprising that the title might also be determined by a very slim margin.

Former class champ Kevin McKenna won the first event of the season in HP Tuners Super Stang and has yet to relinquish the lead. McKenna heads into the second half of the season with a significant, but not insurmountable 485-point lead over Ray Williams Sr. with Rockingham finalist Anthony Jaeger is 555 points back. Historically, the Super Stang class has produced some incredible come-from-behind championship finishes so this is another class where the title is far from decided.
With a runner-up followed by back-to-back wins, Johnny Lightning (Wilker) has built a sizable lead in the CJ Pony Parts Truck & Lightning class over his biggest rival, reigning champ Mike Roup. Lightning holds a 474-point lead over Roup headed into the Norwalk event, while Robert Churan is third, 640 points back. There is still room for someone else to win the title, but the key will be defeating Lightning, who has a 10-1 record in elimination rounds this season. 
With his win in Rockingham, NMRA veteran “Silent Lloyd” Mikeska established himself as one of the favorites to win the Race Pages Ford Muscle. Mikeska has 1,395 points so far, which puts him 50 points ahead of second-place Cindee Hall and 350 in front of third-ranked Geary Bates. Mikeska, who typically races in several classes on any given weekend, has indicated that he might pare his program to focus on the Ford Muscle title, and given his experience, that might be bad news for the competition although this one is also far from over.

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