Excitement for the 13th Annual Nitto NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing at Route 66 Raceway this weekend had been escalating for months, as drivers in both series were expected to turn up the wick for the late-season points race. That’s exactly what they did during today’s first and second rounds of qualifying. Don Walsh Jr. wheeled to a 3.70 to set the pace in VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod, where 30 cars were entered and each in the 16-car field were in the 3s. DeWayne Mills leads Mickey Thompson Radial Wars with a 3.89, Andy Manson leads Vortech Superchargers/VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw with a 4.32, Jordan Ensslin leads ARP Nitrous Pro Street with a 4.38 and Joel Greathouse leads Edelbrock Xtreme Street with a 4.68. Joseph Welch wheeled to a 8.02 in Holley EFI Factory Super Cars, David Theisen drove to a 7.81 in Fuel Systems Technology NA 10.5, Dennis Breeden blasted to a 9.43 in Coan Engineering Stock/Super Stock Combo. Rick Harden was .002 in MagnaFuel Open Comp, while Don Fotti was 11.50 on an 11.50 in Detroit TrueTrac Nostalgia Muscle Car and Jeff Frees was 10.25 on a 10.25 in ATI Nostalgia Super Stock.
The ever-captivating Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series is also being contested at this event, and yesterday’s qualifying leaders include Jesse Wilson, who wheeled to a 10.11 in Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center Chevrolet Performance Stock, his wife, Jenna Wilson, who wound up with a 9.75 on a 9.75 in LME Street King and Bryan Benge, who posted a 12.27 on a 12.25 in Proform Rumble.
Things are set to heat up even more today, as we finish qualifying and head into eliminations.
Despite Tommy Annunziata talking about slowing down his 2014 Cobra Jet for the past two days, he rocketed right to the top of ProCharger Coyote Modified field as the provisional number-one qualifier with an impressive 7.696 at 179.49 mph. He and racing partner Jimmy LaRocca worked hard to fix a braking problem that reared its ugly head on Thursday during testing. Thankfully Strange Engineering headquarters is nearby and had the parts in stock for the New Jersey-based team. Annunziata’s 7.696 is a touch quicker than Haley James’s effort, who posted a 7.698 at 176.56 mph during round two last night.
Where would Street-Legal Drag Racing be today without these guys? In the middle is Jeff D’Agostino and on the right is longtime friend, business partner, and fellow racer Chuck Samuel. These two terrorized the early years of NMCA drag racing both as a racing team and famed engine building shop. On the left is Mike McConnell, whose drag racing history includes a now-defunct class called Factory Street. It was an “entry-level” class that ran on BFGoodrich drag radials and the cars utilized naturally aspirated small-block engines. McConnell eventually had Fast Times upgrade the engine to a nitrous setup so he could compete in the early years of Drag Radial.
Total Venue Concepts added slicks to the tractor dragging the tire rotator because the track surface was becoming so sticky that the knobby tire would pull up the rubber. The new tractor slicks have worked well and doesn’t leave any marks when the NMRA/NMCA starting line crew make hard turns while running the tire rotator.
Last night, following the second round of qualifying, the NMCA tech officials held back several categories for a more intrusive inspection. In some categories the nitrous jets were checked to ensure the cars were adhering to the size limits and in the case of Holley EFI Factory Super Cars, the supercharger drive pulleys and other supercharger components were inspected. NMCA officials worked with NHRA to acquire special tools that makes pulley checks easier and more accurate. According to NMCA officials three cars were found to be out of compliance and their second round qualifying runs were disallowed. There is no other information available on racer names or any specifics on the infractions.
Normally piloting a turbocharged ’91 Mustang, Alan Felts got the call for driving duties in Vortech Superchargers/VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw this weekend in this gorgeous ’99 Camaro of Jeremy Sullivan. Jessie Coulter was tapped to rebuild the front end after the car suffered an on-track mishap, as well as upgrade the turbocharger to a 98mm version to feed the BES-built big block. Although the car is currently a bit overweight for the class, Felts produced a clean 4.57 lap in last night’s session to qualify twelfth out of 20 cars.
Defending Edelbrock Xtreme Street champion Jessie Coulter enters Joliet this season mid-pack in points and looking to improve. “We changed some stuff in the off-season,” said Coulter, “and we’ve been trying to chip away on the front half of the run.” The 388 cubic inch LS powerplant wearing Trick Flow heads remains from 2017, but Coulter switched to a smaller turbocharger from Midwest Turbo and made the move to methanol, which allowed him to remove the intercooler for a weight savings. A season-best 4.70 in last night’s session put Coulter in the second qualifying spot.
A fresh face to the Edelbrock Xtreme Street class is Cody Medeisis and his clean ’94 S-10. Built to compete in heads-up competition and Hot Rod Drag Week competition, the truck is the result of a two-year build from a shell headed for the junkyard. A 390-cube LS powerplant gets extra atmosphere from a single Precision turbocharger, while stock suspension with leaf springs and supporting parts from Calvert Racing plants the power on the 3,450 pound ride. He’s creeping up on the tune, but a 5.65 pass qualifies him for today’s eliminations.
Nick Bacalis has stepped up his game in Vortech Superchargers/VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw, making the switch from naturally aspirated to nitrous assistance. “The big wheelies were cool last year, but they don’t put me in the winners circle at the end of the weekend,” said Bacalis. The 5-inch bore space 738 cubic inch engine got some new Ross Pistons to adapt for the Induction Solutions fogger, and Bacalis clocked a 4.40 at 167 mph last night to slide into the sixth qualifying spot. “We’re creeping up on it,” Bacalis admits. “But I’d like to get into the 4.30s to have a shot at the top guys.”
Alton Clements has temporarily parked his potent Edelbrock Renegade ride to wheel the Manny Buginga-owned ’89 Mustang in the Vortech Superchargers/VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw class. The car is fresh from a front half job at JW Racing and Fabrication, and Buginga picked a Procharger F-1X for the boost and a Proformance Transmission to pass the power. Josh Ledford and Jamie Miller perform the keyboard magic, and the first full pass on the revamped ride last night produced a 4.34 at 165.78 mph to qualify Clements second. “It feels like my Renegade car to the 60 foot mark,” Clements said of comparing the cars. “But after the 60 foot, that sh*t is gone!”
While Krista Elyse is relatively new to Richmond Gear Factory Stock, she’s well on her way to winding up in the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle in the very competitive category where current records are the 10.262 held by Dan Ryntz and the 129.53 mph held by Louis Sylvester. In her Mustang featuring a Coyote engine she purchased from fellow racers Joe and Becki Cram and freshened with her fiancee and NMRA Edelbrock Renegade racer Adam Arndt and Mike Curio of Mike Curcio Race Products, she spun in the first round of qualifying, but after an adjustment to the tune-up and a swap from her 26X8.5 Mickey Thompson Pro Bracket Radials to 26×10 Mickey Thompson Pro Bracket Radials, she drove to a 10.60 in the second round of qualifying and is currently qualified in the sixth spot going into today’s third round of qualifying. “It’s going well, and the guys in the class are great,” said Elyse. “Everyone helps each other. For example, Dan Ryntz was just helping us with our tune.”
Brian Mitchell and Adam Arndt continue to be a potent pair in Edelbrock Renegade, as Mitchell is currently holding down the third place in points in the category in Arndt’s Mustang. They are, however, looking to move up in qualifying this weekend, as they recently made some upgrades to their small-block Ford, changed the oiling system, haven’t had time to test and have so far posted off-pace numbers, but to know them is to know that they will have a handle on it sooner rather than later. “We’ve had to use qualifying sessions as test sessions, which isn’t ideal, but we did see some really good numbers on our slip last night,” said Mitchell. “Now we just need to be able to run it out.”
The father/son team of Jim and Drew Whalen are filling the role of home-state racers in the Coan Engineering Stock / Super Stock class. “I had a LT1 Firebird in high school, so I really like it,” said Drew, so naturally he wanted another one for a Stock Eliminator ride. The ’98 model was purchased from Gary Emmons, and currently packs a Warren Racing Engines LT1 engine under the hood. Jim came out of racing retirement by purchasing the 2000 Camaro car in 2017, and although it could run in Stock Eliminator, the team is making some changes to make it more competitive in Super Stock.
Vortech Superchargers/VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw standout Charlie Cooper has proven time and time again that he has a stout combination in the MCRP-built and Garrett turbo-fronted small-block Ford under the hood of his Mustang, and he’s relying on it to help him haul to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle this weekend. New Jersey-based Cooper, who is currently holding down the eleventh spot in qualifying with a 4.51, recently had his car at Acors Performance for some chassis adjustments, and switched from his previous engine management system to a Haltech engine management system. He is working with Jason Lee and Patrick Barnhill of PTP Racing to get dialed in for today’s third round of qualifying.
After driving to two championships, NMRA G-Force Racing Transmissions Coyote Stock driver Drew Lyons decided to make some upgrades to his wheel-standing Mustang motivated by a Coyote engine and Tremec TKO transmission. Over winter, he replaced its stock torque boxes, which had been braced and welded, with new torque boxes using a kit from Lyons Customs Motorsports, and he replaced the floorboard on the rear passenger area and the trunk of the car using material from Late Model Restoration. He debuted the changes during a test session recently, made his return to competition this weekend and is currently qualified in the fifth position with a 10.30. Lyons, who has not yet earned an event win at the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl, is focused on doing so with support from his wife, Kristen Lyons, crew chief and fellow racer, Bruce Hemminger, JPC Racing and Pro Tree Race Cars.
A veteran on the NMRA series, Jimmy Dahl has been tapped to drive this turbocharged ’90 Mustang in the Vortech Supercharger/VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw class, and he hopes to turn his luck around after a tough outing Friday. “We thought we had a boost problem,” said Dahl. “But I found the wastegate was missing a spring.” Luckily Tial was on the midway and he got the needed parts to fix it up for the third qualifier session today. A small block Ford from Bennett Racing provides the power, boosted by a Pro-mod style 85mm turbocharger.
Current Edelbrock Renegade points leader Frank Varela has three final rounds and a win to his credit in 2018 thus far, but Joliet started out with some struggles for the Team B ride. “The MSD was misfiring, and we changed a lot of stuff for the first qualifying run,” said Varela. “But not the right stuff.” The team got it together on the second shot last night, putting down a 7.38 to claim the top qualifying spot.
He started the season with a runner-up in Bradenton, Florida, but John Leslie Jr. has struggled since then in Richmond Gear Factory Stock. “After Florida I swapped clutches, and we had wheel hop issues since. He eliminated that issue in Ohio, but found a big wheelstand in exchange. Joliet is starting to get the ship righted, as Leslie produced a 10.76 best in qualifying.
A veteran of the NHRA Competition Eliminator wars, Rick Hord landed at Route 66 to make some hits in preparation for the upcoming World Series of Pro Mod event at Bandimere Speedway. “Our car isn’t optimized for VP Racing Fuels Extreme Pro Mod class,” said Hord, noting his car currently sits in NHRA-legal Pro Mod trim. Despite the ability to run less weight and more boost, Hord clocked a 3.79 to qualify sixth, thanks to a turbocharged 521 cubic inch XRE combination.
Participating in his first NMCA event, Randy Taylor made the long tow from New Mexico to compete in the Holley EFI Factory Supercar class. “I’m fortunate enough to work for Ray Westall,” said Taylor. “He owns three COPO Camaros, and he asked me to drive this one. Dressed in Hyper Blue Metallic and sporting an engine done by Gray Motorsports, the Camaro clocked an 8.16 best to qualify Taylor eighth in the field.
Fuel Systems Technology NA 10.5 driver Frank Hoffman has been creeping up on his tune as of late, and he’s on the right course, as he ripped off a personal best of 8.72 and 155 mph in the third round of qualifying today in his Mustang. It’s motivated by a 440 cubic-inch LSX engine which he built a few years ago after Roush Performance performed machined work and port work on it, and it’s paired with an ATI-built Turbo 400 and an Ultimate Converter Concepts converter. When asked to what he attributes the personal best of 8.72, Hoffman pointed to Lenny Croteau of Ultimate Converter Concepts, fellow Fuel Systems Technology NA 10.5 driver Rick Riccardi and Dale Cubic of CFM Performance Carburetors. “Lenny reworked my converter, Rick has been helping me with the suspension and chassis on my car and Dale has been working with my carburetor, and obviously, it’s all working,” said Hoffman. “Dale’s going to try something else with the carburetor now, so hopefully that will help me pick up even more.”
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