By Mary Lendzion
Photos by NMRA and courtesy of Sondra Leslie
Sondra Leslie has had a strong showing in NMRA JDM Engineering Limited Street.
She finished fourth in points in 2018, and then third in 2019 after two runners-up and a win in her Mustang powered by a Coyote engine by MPR Racing Engines, Vortech V1-Ti supercharger and Turbo 400 by Transmission Specialties and sourced by JPC Racing. She relies on UPR suspension components, Strange Engineering suspension and driveline components, and Strange Engineering brakes.
With her sights set on an even stronger showing in 2020, Sondra sent her Injector Dynamics injectors to Eric Deer to be cleaned over winter, and had help from her brother — and NMRA Richmond Gear Factory Stock driver — John Leslie Jr., in moving weight bars around the car and re-scaling it.
She also ordered a new wrap for her car, which has carried her to a best of 8.56 and 159 mph, from Metro Restyling, and then wrapped it herself, sometimes working well into the morning to finish it before it was time to make the trip from her home in Indiana to the first event on this year’s NMRA schedule, the 26th Annual Nitto NMRA Spring Break Shootout, Feb. 27-March 1 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.
“Each sheet of the wrap had to be cut, and doing the bumpers was a nightmare,” said Sondra, with a laugh. “I finished it just one hour before loading up and leaving for the race in Florida.”
She was set to have a solid start to the season in the Sunshine State in her car wearing the number 3 on its windows and rolling on a new set of Mickey Thompson Pro Bracket Radials she received courtesy of Rusted Knuckles, but she gave fans a fright in the third round of qualifying.
“We had been working on keeping the car from going into a wheelie, and in the third round of qualifying, it went into a wheelie, came down hard and an A-arm got damaged on the passenger’s side,” said Sondra. “At that point, I didn’t have steering and I was going toward the wall, and couldn’t change direction or stop. My car scraped against the wall from the front bumper all the way to the rear wing. When I got out, Mike Washington, who was the first person to reach me, asked if I was okay, and I appreciated that.”
Understandably upset, Sondra and her crew went over the car when it was back in the pit area.
“We assessed the damage, and decided I could make the final round of qualifying or the first round of eliminations with a little work,” said Sondra, whose combination was tuned by Bob Kurgan of Kurgan Motorsports, who used SCT software to shake out some more horsepower. “We got a new A-arm from UPR, who offered to give us whatever we needed, a new front tire from Mickey Thompson, who also checked the front and rear wheels to be sure they weren’t compromised. We also got a front fender at the swap meet.”
Eddie Bennett and Tim Donathen were on hand to help realign the front end of Sondra’s car, and to help reset the rollbar.
“We managed to make the call to the lanes for the fourth and final round of qualifying,” said Sondra. “I was happy to shake off what had happened, but the car wanted to go into a wheelie again, so I decided I would short-shift after that.”
Sondra went on to qualify in the seventh spot with an 8.63, and then made it all the way to the semifinal round of eliminations before exiting with an 8.80.
“If the car was unsafe after brushing the wall, I would have just put it in the trailer, but it wasn’t unsafe,” said Sondra. “I was very happy with the outcome, and I was also moved by the camaraderie that weekend. People were asking if I was okay and what I needed to get back to racing, including my parents, my brother, Johnny, his crew, Kevin, Joey and Pat, fellow racers and sponsors.”
With several weeks before the next event, the Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA Power Festival presented by HPJ Performance, May 28-31, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois, Sondra plans to send her struts to her longtime sponsor and supporter, Strange Engineering, to be inspected. She also will take her car to Body Art Collision and Color in Hebron, Indiana, where she works, to have it put on a frame rack to be sure everything is square, and to have her door and quarter panel repaired. Then, she will rewrap the right side of the car.
“I’m super-excited to get the car back out,” said Sondra. “In addition to the NMRA races, I want to try some local No Time races, and I have a bigger blower from Vortech to do that with.”