For the past two seasons it seems as if the Coyote combination has been the dominating setup to run in Richmond Gear Factory Stock. Last year, James Meredith went undefeated for only the third time in NMRA history with his Coyote-powered 2003 Mustang Mach 1. John Leslie Jr. secured the national records earlier this year with a 10.517 and 125.97 mph, again with a Coyote 5.0 powerplant. A quick glance at the field and the engine of choice is quite apparent. One person bucking the trend is Matt Amrine, who has been a staunch supporter and loyalist to his Two-valve 4.6L Modular powerplant since he entered the class in 2008.
Amrine has the hardware to show that Factory Stock isn’t just a Coyote playground, despite the overwhelming number of entries with that engine platform. He is a four-time NMRA champion having won the title four straight years from 2013, 2014, and 2015 while grabbing his fourth title in 2017. The Ohio-based racer got a late start to his 2017 campaign but has made up for lost time by securing class wins in the rain-delayed finals of the WyoTech NMRA Ford Motorsport Nationals, the Nitto Tire NMRA/NMRA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing, and the Nitto Tire NMRA All-Ford World Finals. Coupled with runner-up finishes at the NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals, presented by Steeda Autosports, and the NMRA Super Nationals helped Amrine take his fourth title. An argument can also be made for Amrine being the most dominant NMRA racer over the last five years, based on round wins and championships.
We sat down with Amrine to discuss the modern Factory Stock ranks and here is what he had to say.
The Two-valve 4.6L is hardly a sought after engine in the drag racing world. What made you go with that setup in Richmond Gear Factory Stock, instead of the popular pushrod 302 or Four-valve 4.6L?
Well the Two-valve came in the car and was my first introduction into the Mustang world, so that was the obvious choice because we had all the parts. What made me go ahead with it was the knowledge I had obtained over the years working at MD Motorsports, where everyone got their start with the Two-valve. Brandon Alsept and Ken Bjonnes both had some fast Two-valves, and we were already fielding a Two-valve in Steve Gifford’s Factory Stock car, so we had a good idea of what we were aiming for with my initial build. We started out with un-ported PI heads, tried them ported while that was allowed briefly, and then ended up with un-ported SVO heads, ultimately, when the rules got rid of porting. I am still running those today.
The modern Factory Stock wars have been largely about the Coyote 5.0 over the past two years. After watching Meredith go undefeated and John Leslie Jr. set the record in the 10.50s, did you ever consider swapping over to that engine combination?
I have contemplated fielding a Coyote quite a few times, but each time I started adding up the cost of what it would take to convert to the 5.0C against what I would need to spend to make mine more competitive, and sticking with the Two-valve has always won out. I think the 5.0C with a stick is still the best overall combo, along with the 4.6 Four-valve, but not until someone reliably figures out the right clutch setup. Once I factored in the cost along with how long it would take to figure out an entirely new combo, it seemed like a no brainer to stick with what we know.
You missed the first race since the engine wasn’t ready, what took so long?
We missed Bradenton due to the timing of it all and living up north really. None of the tracks around us open up until around the same time, so it never allows any local testing beforehand. We had a few things to wrap up on the AEM Infinity install that we didn’t want to rush, and 17 hours is a long way to drive with a completely untested combination. After driving to Georgia and Pennsylvania, last year, thinking we had found our problem only to get there and realize that we hadn’t, I wanted to make sure we had this all correct before making that trip. So naturally we finished it two days before Georgia this year (ed note 2017), threw it on the dyno, and then tested in Commerce!
This year also marked the allowance of an aftermarket ECU for the Two-valve 4.6L. What system did you select and how has it been in terms of tuning compared to the factory ECU?
The AEM Infinity has been awesome! Considering we had an issue with the stock wiring harness and the stock ECU, which caused us problems at 4 of the 6 races last year, this rule change was a Godsend. Eric Holliday at JPC Racing was instrumental in getting us the right system picked out with all of the components we needed. After the install, he then got us a base file to get the car started so we could send him some logs to get us in the right ballpark before the dyno. Once we got to the dyno, Brandon Alsept was able to get it dialed in with just a couple of pulls and we were off to race.
Every time we’ve stopped by your pits, you have been swapping a transmission. What has happened this year with the transmissions? It seemed as if driveline woes happened in the past, but not at the failure rate this year.
You should stop by more often! We had the transmission out once in Hebron because I had some concerns about the 2-3 shift. Once we got it apart, that turned out to just be a few burrs in some key spots that prevented smooth operation of the shift rail and the detent ball. On a recent bye-run, I think I got a little greedy and didn’t quite give it enough clutch, which resulted in a missed 2-3 shift. It went back in and felt okay on the return road, but I learned from last year’s mistakes and decided to just go ahead and throw the spare in while we had the time between rounds. We pulled the inspection covers and it looked all right, so no major transmission carnage this year thankfully.
With the allowance of the 8.5-inch wide slicks, how does that affect your approach to each race? Does it require you to have two sets of tires ready to go or are you just going with the slicks? Is one quicker than the other?
Well, we only had the slicks for two races so there wasn’t a lot of strategy involved there. The radial is probably the faster tire in good and cloudy conditions, while the slick is going to allow the tire to recover on a hot and greasy track and provide more consistency. I have both sets, but the track conditions have dictated that we stick with the slicks at these last two hot and sunny events. We did contemplate throwing the radials back on for a night session in Bowling Green, but ultimately opted against it. We will probably play it by ear next year and have both sets ready.
You can catch Matt Amrine on Friday, December 8th, at the PRI Show on stage, along with the other 2017 NMRA champions, during the NMRA Awards Ceremony collecting his fourth championship trophy and Nitto Tire Diamond Tree ring.