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Saturday Coverage | NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals

As the weekend hits its stride today, the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport is packing Rockingham Dragway with non-stop action. On the racetrack, the heads-up and index classes continue qualifying, while racers in the Dodge // Mopar Hemi Shootout and Circle D. Specialties/TorqStorm Superchargers True Street categories compete to send victors to the Winner’s Circle in a wide range of elapsed-time categories. While the eight quickest Mopar machines graduate to the HHP Racing Quick 8 on Sunday.
Looking down on the track from above, attendees are welcome to enjoy the Innovation Performance Technologies Top of the Rock Fan Experience festivities in conjunction with the UPR Products Car Show. Atop the towering, amphitheater-style grandstands the fan experience is hosted by Clarence Barnes and Chris the Car Guy who will entertain the crowd with spin-to-win prizes, automotive trivia, and more. The first tube-chassis Bigfoot Monster Truck is also up there and available for some great photos.
Naturally, we will keep you updated with highlights from the event throughout the day on this page and our social media channels, so stay tuned. 

Here is how the action unfolds today at the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport.

One of the unique features of Rockingham Dragway is the elevated concrete grandstands that line the spectator side of the race track. The top of the adjacent hill not only makes for a suitable viewing area, but it’s also the perfect spot for the Top of the Rock experience presented by Innovation Performance Technologies. While enjoying the premium view of the on-track action, fans in the Top of the Rock can take in the UPR Products Car Show, visit several manufacturer’s displays and food vendors, and check out the legendary Bigfoot, the world’s best-known monster truck. It should not be surprising that the Innovation Performance Technologies booth is a constantly busy place. Fans can check out some of Innovation’s handiwork, which includes classic Mustangs and Camaros built using today’s technology in order to combine classic styling with modern performance and reliability. “Our cars are largely turn-key high-end builds that combine the best of both worlds,” said Rob Kinnan, VP of business development. “We are a low-volume manufacturer which allows us to focus on attention to detail.” The Innovation Performance Technologies display also includes several interactive fan activities including a wheel of fortune hosted by TV personality Clarence Barnes and Chris the Car Guy.

“I picked up about a second-and-a-half from last year but what is really impressive is that going from 93 [octane gas] to E85 we picked up five-tenths and 12 mph. That’s a lot. The biggest challenge was just doing all the work myself while keeping a full-time job. It took a lot of time but it's been worth it.” Still on Rusch’s to-do list is a fresh gearbox from Calimer's Transmissions that he hopes will help fulfill his goal of having a nine-second street car. He’s currently running in the mid-10s but is closing in on 140 mph, indicating that the power is there for quicker elapsed times. When it comes to defending his HP Turners Super Stang title in Rockingham, Rusch, who has one of the few manually shifted cars in the class, is solidly qualified in the middle of the 16-car field.

Leticia Hughes (right, being interviewed at the Innovation Performance Technologies Top of the Rock tent by host Clarence Barnes) doesn’t require much motivation to be excited by the Suncoast Performance 8.60 class but after an encouraging runner-up finish in Orlando, she’s more enthusiastic than ever about the class she helped create. Hughes tested her supercharged 2018 Mustang on Thursday and ran an 8.50, a bit too quick for the class. She made a few adjustments, primarily to shift points, and was rewarded with an 8.61, a solid baseline headed into Friday’s qualifying rounds. “I’m definitely feeling good about the start of the season,” said Hughes. “Orlando was a good start. Of course, Casey [Shotwell] won the race so we’re chasing him. My goal is to qualify well and win a few rounds, hopefully at least one more round than Casey. Overall, this class is doing well. We’re growing at every race.”

Pozzi brothers Brent (right) and Mike (left) are frequent racers but “NMCA virgins,” running with the series the first time this weekend in their home state of North Carolina and representing for Jet-Hot High Performance Coatings. Competing in NMCA Micro Strategies Super Stock, Brent’s 1969 Chevrolet Camaro is propelled by a 2012 COPO engine that’s been built by friend and fellow racer Robbie Draughon of Robbie Draughon Powertrain Development (RDPD) fame. The car was only finished up earlier this year, but wasn’t running its index due to a converter issue which the guys have been working to sort out recently. On Friday night, Brent pulled the transmission and changed to a new Greg Slack converter and is finally ready to make his first hit of the weekend during today’s qualifying sessions. Mike is also racing with the NMCA for the first time and also in Micro Strategies Super Stock with his RDPD small block-powered 1983 Chevrolet Camaro. Between rounds, the crew is relaxing in their rig and trailer, both of which are maintained by Jim Baker of Alpine Mobile RV Repair.

Namesake of Robbie Draughon Powertrain Development, Robbie Draughon himself having a blast experiencing his first-ever NMCA event with his wonderful wife, Tabitha, by his side. Draughon’s father had a C2 Corvette when he was a kid and it inspired the racer to build one of his own. He acquired the body in 2014 and spent the next two years assembling the absolutely flawless ‘Vette with his father by his side. Debuted on the dragstrip in 2016, Draughon’s 1966 model features a 363 cubic inch SB2 engine which he built himself at RDPD, of course. Draughon is aiming for 8.80-second passes in NMCA Micro Strategies Super Stock this weekend while rowing the gears on a Liberty 5-speed transmission, but his car has been down in the 8.20-second zone previously.

A two-time back-to-back NHRA Gatornationals winner, Kevin Riner, is also an NMCA newcomer and competing in Micro Strategies Super Stock. The now-34-year-old racer has had his 1998 Chevy Camaro since high school, but he and his father decided to turn it into a racecar around 2012. Riner has been running NHRA Super Stock ever since with support from Warren Engines, Red Line Speed Shop, and Riner and Son Racing, and his LT1 engine with its TH-200 three-speed automatic has served him well over the years. Riner arrived at Rockingham Dragway early on Saturday morning and rushed to get registered, through tech, and on track where his 10.490 at 109.73 mph hit on an 11.00 index put him mid-pack in the qualifying standings.

There’s royalty on the property at Rockingham, as the winningest driver in IHRA history – with 17 national event wins and a 1996 championship title – has joined the NMCA. Hailing from Clinton, North Carolina and with support from Deacon Jones Chevrolet Buick GMC of Clinton, Curtis Smith is competing in NMCA Micro Strategies Stock this time out with his son Curt Jr’s 1969 Chevy Camaro. Smith has plenty of data and experience to work with and isn’t messing with the first gen’s tune up too much as it already runs consistently on an 11.85 index.

It’s been a busy weekend for the Hutnick brothers, Dave and Josh. Partnered on their 1993 Ford Mustang in NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street, this is the first-ever outing for their notchback Fox body and the guys are also sharing driving duties as Josh got his NHRA license on Thursday and Dave took over for the competition portion of the weekend. Dave – who previously raced in Limited Drag Radial – supplied the 540 cubic inch big block Chevrolet powerplant from Bill Trovato from BTR Performance while Josh supplied the car. Race Engineering in the brothers’ home state of Indiana assembled the 25.2 SFI-certified chassis, but they handled the bulk of the assembly themselves. The guys are working to get everything sorted out and dialed in, and the straightforward combination also includes a two-speed Turbo 400 from RPM Transmission, plate system from Nitrous Outlet, a carburetor from Dale Cubic at CFM Performance, every piece of Holley equipment except for an EFI system itself, and four-way adjustable AFCO by Menscer Motorsports rear shocks. Dave was sitting ninth after his first qualifying hit with plenty of room to improve.

“The Calypso Kid,” Alex Hays of Hays Consulting, has made his triumphant return to racing with his naturally aspirated Fox body on radials. Hays hasn’t run in NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street since 2017 when he runnered-up at the event in Ohio, but the South Carolina resident decided to get back to it this weekend. A new engine combination is powering his Mustang, and it’s comprised of an SR20-headed 588 cubic inch big block Chevrolet engine from Ian Landies at Mid-South Racing Engines with dual four-barrel carbs – also by Landies – along with a “hodge podge” Turbo 400 and Neal Chance torque converter. The Ford’s chassis and overall setup has also been updated, courtesy of Matt Smith at Performance Fab. With only a handful of runs on the all-motor car so far this weekend, Hays is hovering in the 4.6-second zone and is creeping up on the incrementals.

High Horse Performance/HHP Racing’s head honcho, Josh Schwartz, is hanging out this weekend helping customers, supporting the NMCA as the class title sponsor for the HHP Racing HEMI Quick 8, and getting in on the action in both the Dodge // Mopar HEMI Shootout as well as NMCA MagnaFuel Open Comp with not one but two HHP-backed Dodge Challenger Hellcat entries. Schwartz is piloting 2017 model with a stock engine, upgraded pulleys, and a small shot of nitrous to hang out in the 9.0-second range while Tommy Falk is wheeling a widebody 2018 entry with a Whipple-supercharged and BES-built engine that prints 8.50-second timeslips. Both Mopar men are hoping to land in the HHP Racing HEMI Quick 8 competition on Sunday to represent Team HHP they’re certainly staying busy gathering data that will be put to good use helping other HHP customers to run even quicker and faster, too.

NMCA Quick Fuel Technology Nostalgia Super Stock racer Dave “Old Hippie” Schultz was scrambling to pinpoint an electrical issue in his bright orange “Vitamin C” Plymouth Belvedere on Friday afternoon. During Thursday’s test session, Schultz went to make a pass but the car was running poorly. He suspected the carburetors so he swapped them out, but on Friday morning the Plymouth shut off just after the launch. He had it towed back to his pits where he changed out the main switch with a new unit which temporarily fixed the problem, but the classic car decided not to start yet again. A relay was the next item to replace, but when the problems persisted, Schultz was finally able to trace it to a faulty wire. Fortunately, his friend and fellow racer Brent Wheeler helped out to bypass it with a new wire, and the guys are all hoping that the frustrations are now solidly behind them.

At the Mod Nationals last year, CJ Pony Parts Truck & Lightning regular Robert Chuhan set out to run the quickest time with a Two-Valve Lightning. He accomplished that mission with a 9.09 rip but lifted a head. As a result, he sent the engine to Johnny Lightning Performance, where the company namesake welded up some head and block damage and added a set of his Xtreme Racing cylinder heads. The result was more than 1,000 lb-ft of torque at the rear wheels, which led to this big wheelie during qualifying. Now crew chief Tony Ganno is tasked with taming the front-end lift as the pair continue their quest for an 8-second pass.
When you hear the term Power Couple, think of Casey and Jamie Flora. Jamie (right), who owns PowderUp Powdercoating, is a retired motocross racer, who fell for fast cars when she met Casey (left). Her 2019 Mustang is naturally aspirated and benefits from Suncoast Performance transmission upgrades and a UPR Products suspension in Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle. She has an NOS nitrous kit at the ready just in case, but it has yet to be sprayed. Casey’s Suncoast Performance 8.60 Street Race entry is a bit more serious. The 2016 Mustang runs a TKM-built Coyote with a Precision turbocharger, a TH400 transmission, and tuning by Jesse Coulter at Jesse’s Garage. With 1,400 horsepower on tap, Casey says he leaves the line in turtle mode before flying downtrack. However, this fast couple works so well together, they compete under the Team Duo banner.

ARP Open Comp racer Tom Hoffman is a happy camper this weekend at the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport. After chasing an induction issue all last season, he found out that cracked intake runners were the culprit. This year his Mustang is running a fresh engine topped by the latest Dale Cubic carburetor and he says it is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. Hoffman just needs to hone his reaction times, but he says as long as it does that he has a chance this weekend.

The Suncoast Performance 8.60 Street Race class continues to gain strength both in quantity and quality of entries and one car that best exemplifies that is the new Vortech-supercharged, Tuxedo Black 2015 Mustang GT of Terry “Beefcake” Reeves. The owner of Beefcake Racing near Cincinnati, Reeves was set to debut his new car last month in Orlando but encountered a few setbacks along the way. “We took all of the stuff out of our 2018 [Mustang] and put it in this car because it’s a lot lighter,” said Reeves. “We sent the engine out to get freshened and the first pull on the dyno, a 6 pounds of boost, something let go. I’m not sure if we would have made the 14-hour drive to Orlando anyway, but we were going to give it the college try.” Reeves worked to repair the damage and made it to Rockingham where he managed to run 9.20 on an easy checkout run. He believes the car has enough power to run well into the 7-second zone. “We had a problem with the Ford Control Pack that was affecting the launch,” Reeves said. “On Thursday, I just foot-braked it and ran 9.20 at almost 160. We’ve definitely got enough power to go 8.60s. We just need to work out a few bugs.”

Tim Donathen is always thinking about creative ways to improve performance, particularly on his Coyote Stock Fairmont wagon. He recently relocated his battery from the cooler to the picnic basket and moved to a small, lightweight XS Power unit. He also made the move to a lightweight ACT clutch and he is working to dial that in with a new datalogger. He hopes to try out some new transmission ratios at the 18th Annual NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Muscle Car Drag Racing in St. Louis.

Shane Williams, the reigning champion in the Exedy Racing Clutch Mod Muscle class, knows the importance of qualifying points in the Holley NMRA Drag Racing Series so when it came time to hit the track in Rockingham, he wasted no time rocketing to the top of the chart with an almost perfect .0001 reaction time on Rockingham’s Accutime timing system, which displays reaction time to the ten-thousandth of a second. After one run, Williams holds a slight but notable advantage over provisional No. 2 qualifier Charlie McCulloch, who posted a .0026-second reaction. It would take a perfect .0000 light to unseat Williams from the top spot. It’s possible, but not likely.


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