Photos by Team Race Pages and Wayne Stewart
The QA1 True Street category is one that’s usually known for its assortment of spectacular street cars, not spectacular wrecks. Larry Albright managed to combine the two while racing at the 2016 NMRA season opener in Bradenton, Florida, when his ’91 Ford Mustang rolled over but he has since come full circle.
Albright, who has been a member of the NMRA community for over a decade, had just finished the requisite 30-mile cruise before making his first qualifying run. A veteran of the drag strip, his notchback surprised him when it dead hooked, went straight up on the bumper and rolled over before it came to a stop on its roof.
Fortunately, Albright escaped with just a few bumps and bruises, but his Fox-body Mustang wasn’t as lucky. He ultimately chose not to repair it, and was floored by the outpouring of support he received from fellow drivers and the community when his friends set up a Go Fund Me account to help offset the costs of getting him back behind the wheel. In April of 2016, Albright purchased a ‘91 hatchback with a chro-moly roll cage already installed and quickly got to work.
As the damaged, donor Mustang’s engine and transmission were still perfectly good, Albright decided to reuse what he could. His crew chief, Paul Lewis, generously donated over a hundred hours of labor to help complete the new car.
In went the MPR Racing Engines-built 348 small block Ford engine and 85mm Precision turbo, and Albright’s trusty JW Performance Powerglide transmission and PTC torque converter were bolted on to complete the install. His Chiseled Performance intercooler was also undamaged and therefore reused, while a new suspension setup from UPR Products was installed to ensure the new ride was safe and predictable. Many other companies, too, such as Florida Performance and Holeshot Wheels, also donated to Albright’s cause, while Errol McCollum at TPS handled the tune up of the Holley EFI Dominator system.
After winding up toes to the sky, Albright also took the time to have the existing 8.50-certified cage updated to meet SFI 25.5 specs – more than he needed at the time, but it is far better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it. “Also, I had all RaceQuip safety gear before the accident, and they gave me new stuff to use with the new car,” said Albright gratefully.
Albright took his time finishing the build, and was able to debut his new Mustang 2.0 just one year later at the 23rd Annual NMRA Spring Break Shootout in March of 2017. There, he finished fourth overall in the QA1 True Street class with an impressive three-run elapsed time average of 8.652-seconds which qualified him for the Quick 16 race on Sunday where he also managed a semi-finals finish.
When it came time for the 19th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA All-Ford World Finals season finale at Beech Bend Raceway Park, though, Albright originally wasn’t planning to attend. “Honestly, the decision to go was a last-minute thing, but everything fell into place with the weather and me getting the time off work,” he admitted.
Along with Lewis, Albright made the long, eighteen-hour drive from his home in Jensen Beach, Florida, to Bowling Green, Kentucky, set up camp, unloaded his car, went through tech, and started testing. “I ran 8.31 at 149 mph, lifting early, just to see what the track was like. Then we grilled some food and had a few beers. We were up 41 hours straight without sleep, so we finally crashed – I shouldn’t say ‘crashed’ – that’s a bad word,” Albright added jovially.
Once he had rested up, Albright got set for the event itself. “On Friday, all the faster True Street cars were spinning. On Saturday morning, I decreased my launch boost a tad and slowed up my boost ramp, too. Eric Kenward came by and pushed on my car a bit and told me to free up the rear shocks a little,” noted Albright, who made a test run that afternoon and purposely waited until he was last in line. “I wanted the worst track conditions possible, at the hottest part of the day, so that when I made my pass it would tell me what I needed.” He wound up running 8.152 at 171.23 mph and made a few adjustments after that to prep for the actual competition.
Albright was looking forward to a leisurely thirty-mile cruise, but wound up driving a bit longer than originally planned. Together, with the group of 140+ QA1 True Street entrants, Albright meandered around rural Kentucky. “First, the lead car got lost, then there was a wreck on a small, one-lane country road so we all had to turn around,” he laughed of the unexpected detours. As expected, though, his car completed the cruise without any incidents, and Albright made his way to the burnout box to start his quarter-mile runs.
Albright wound up making three hits that would make any bracket racer jealous. His first, an 8.265 at 169.51 mph pass, went off without a hitch, but his second, an 8.284 at 169.57 mph blast ended with his parachute not deploying. “That’s when you appreciate good brakes, like the Aerospace ones I run,” he joked. Finally, Albright ended with an 8.311 at 169.19 mph pass for an overall average of 8.287-seconds.
The consistency that Albright demonstrated was not only impressive, but helped put him into the number one spot overall on the list and earned him the win in QA1 True Street. “With over 140 cars all making their hits, everyone chews up the track a little or brings something (sand, water, oil) with them, and since they don’t prep for us or clean between rounds, it’s pretty challenging to run the same number by the time you get to the third pass!” he elaborated of why he was so pleased with how the weekend panned out.
With the bad juju of his wreck officially behind him now thanks to his big win, Albright’s looking to the future. “My goal is to try and run a 7.99-second pass when it gets cooler down here [in Florida] and then I want to run Outlaw True Street in addition to regular True Street at the 2018 Spring Break Shootout,” he asserted of his goals and long-term strategy. Running only 19 pounds of boost currently means he’s got plenty of room to turn it up, and Albright will be working to chip away at those numbers while staying firmly planted on the 1,320.