By Mary Lendzion
After taking some time off to focus on his business, Charlie McCulloch returned to NMRA Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle in 2016.
He was on a mission, as he motored to a second place finish in points in 2016, a third place finish in points in 2017 and a second place finish in points in 2018.
Just as motivated heading into the 2019 race season, he qualified in the fourth spot with an .012 reaction time and had a perfect .000 reaction time in his ProCharger-equipped 1998 Mustang Cobra in the second round of eliminations, but lost with a 10.12 on a 10.00 dial against Lloyd Mikeska, who ran a bit closer to his dial, at the 25th Annual Nitto NMRA Spring Break Shootout in March at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida.
McCulloch, of Kennesaw, Georgia, qualified in the fourth spot with an .012 — again — and turned on the red light against James Meredith in the first round of eliminations at the 11th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by Mahle Motorsport in April at Atlanta Dragway.
He decided to climb out of his ProCharger-equipped 1998 Mustang Cobra and into his naturally aspirated 2004 Mustang Cobra, both flying the North Georgia Exteriors banner, for the next event, the Inaugural NMRA Ford Gateway Rumble presented by HPJ Performance in May at Gateway Motorsports Park in Illinois. There, he qualified in the eighth spot with another .012 reaction time before running into trouble and exiting eliminations in the second round against Roxanne Shepard.
“This year, after seeing my longtime Mod Motor racer buddy, Shane Williams, win the first two races, I knew I needed to bring out my old reliable silver car,” said McCulloch. “(The Inaugural NMRA Ford Gateway Rumble presented by HPJ Performance) was the first race with it, and I was on the path to winning that race when the timing chain broke. My good friend and fellow racer, Susan Roush McClenaghan, hooked me up with a company that made timing chains that held up and didn’t break. So, after installing those and replacing a couple bent valves and a couple broken rocker arms, I was back in business.”
Back in business indeed, as he went on to qualify in the fifth spot with an .011 reaction time and make it all the way to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle with an 11.00 on a 10.99 dial against Jason Henson at the 19th Annual NMRA Ford Motorsport Nationals in June at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania.
On a roll, he qualified in the thirteenth spot with an .023 reaction time and won again, this time after running right on his 10.84 dial, against Donnie Bowles, at the 14th Annual Nitto NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing in July at Route 66 Raceway in Illinois.
With a fire in his belly, he led qualifying with a .004 reaction time and landed another event win with a 10.88 on a 10.86 dial against Henson, who turned on the red light, at the 21st Annual Nitto NMRA All-Ford World Finals in September at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky. With that, McCulloch marched right to the 2019 NMRA Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle championship.
“There were five of us (who) had a chance to win the championship as we were less than a round apart from each other,” said McCulloch. “So, I put my mind to being the number one qualifier and doing my homework with the weather station and winning the race and the championship. The fact that it came down to the final event with all of us so close in points made it that much more special.”
The NMRA will celebrate McCulloch and his fellow champions at the NMRA Muscle Car Nationals presented by E3 Spark Plugs Awards Ceremony presented by Aerospace Components, Dec. 13 at the Indiana Convention Center.
(Please watch for stories on all NMRA champions to be posted on the NMRA and Race Pages Digital websites and in Fastest Street Car in the days to come.)