The VMP Superchargers GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout took a starring roll at the epic NMRA MIR event
By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and Stacy Reynolds
After its debut, the Shelby GT500 didn’t just take jabs from Brand X owners. Some Ford owners had a bone to pick as well. Terminator fans immediately lined up to take shots. There is no doubt that the ’03-’04 Cobra paved the way for the performance Mustangs that followed. It certainly must have been difficult for owners of these rides to see the world celebrate the Shelby GT500 and its bigger, blown 5.4. An instant family rivalry was born.
Today many original Terminator owners have moved on to GT500s—and even to Coyotes—yet the blown Cobras retain a rabid fan base of modders. Likewise, the many GT500s have evolved from more-refined street performers into incredible quarter-mile rides despite the S197’s considerable mass. Though the rivalry seems to have cooled in the ensuing years, it is still open to debate which camp truly rules the quarter mile. Since the inception of this shootout, Terminators dominated the first four events, but of late the momentum has moved the GT500s.
Over the years the NMRA has experimented with specialty classes designed to enhance its already impressive lineup of heads-up, open-comp, and bracket-style classes. It’s a great way to add a little spice to the standard event fare, and it can bring out racers that might not have participated in other classes. It’s a superb strategy—especially when a class plays up a rivalry.
“The shootout was stared by Jim ‘cobracloud’ Ireland. It was his initial contact with the NMRA to host a shootout that got this all going in 2011. He could not attend MIR, so he contacted me about helping him and making rules for the class,” organizer Jake Conant explained. “We wanted to keep it simple yet show how these cars can perform when pushed to the limits. Bowling Green was the initial trial race in 2011 and we had 23 cars, which was the largest heads-up class at the event. Steve Wolcott loved it and it came to this venue the following season.”
For fans of this site, one of the most compelling specialty classes is the GT500 vs. Terminator shootout, which debuted at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, back in 2011 and came to Maryland International Raceway in Mechanicsville, Maryland, two years ago. We’d say the SVT theme is a success, because this year’s MIR event housed several SVT-oriented events under the SVT Shootout banner.
Obviously the team here at SVTP gets pretty excited about an event focusing on SVT vehicles, so we packed up our cameras and headed to the track to take it all in. If you were there, you know how much fun it was. If you weren’t, we’ll give you a glimpse at all the fun you missed, which will definitely make you want to hit this event next year.
“This year’s MIR event was awesome. The last two years of MIR have been somewhat dull. I think we had 10-11 cars last year and the first year we only had 8 or 9. This year we had twice as many and they were some of the quickest in the country dropping some serious personal and ‘non-official’ records,” Jake added. “This was also the first year of doing a Stick-Shift shootout to pit the quickest two cars against each other. The average distance traveled to MIR was 750 miles. We had guys from Quebec and as far as South Florida, which tells something about the event and the people that race in it. Most of them also said they will be at Bowling Green, so I’m expecting the largest car count ever there at over 30 cars.”
Better yet, there are rumblings that the rivalry race is so successful that it just might be held at the Bradenton season opener next season in addition to its current cameos at MIR and the World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
“For the future I think we will have to evolve a bit to keep things fresh. This class pitted two of Fords fastest supercharged Mustangs against each other. The ’03-’04 is now 11 years old and a new Mustang is upon us,” Jake said. “I’m sure we will see a new ‘special’ model by 2016. We always get requests to add other years into the class also but for right now it is a nice manageable size. I expect to see a couple of 7-second cars in the class at BG later this year, which should be amazing.”
However, before we get too excited about the future, let’s bask in the glow of what just happened in Maryland.
A man on a mission, Scott Waters made the trek up to Maryland from Cape Coral, Florida, to continue the momentum he started by runner-upping in True Street at the season opener. He immediately took charge of the situation at MIR by topping the qualifying charts with an electrifying 8.25/169 jaunt. After taking out two fellow GT500 drivers, Scott faced the driver of the quickest Terminator, Jake Conant, in the third round. It wasn’t even close. The GT500 won by half a second. Then things got interesting as he clashed with Brian Devilbiss’ Shelby in a battle of low-8-second rides. Scott’s turbocharged win eked out a win, which set the stage for a final round battle with Nelson Whitlock. Despite a stalling scare, Scott took the bulbs in time to launch. Nelson spun, giving the easy win to Scott.
Nelson Whitlock was truly excited to bring his historic Evolution Performance machine back out of the garage. This ride was the first GT500 in the 7-, 8-, and 9-second zones, and Nelson said it was killing him to have it collect dust in the garage. After chasing the combo in qualifying, Nelson found his groove and put the bad, black machine in the third slot. After an easy ride through eliminations—which found competitors breaking, red-lighting, and running off-pace—Nelson brought his Kenne Bell-boosted machine into the finals against Scott Waters’ turbo beast. As Nelson staged, Scott stalled. However, Scott lit the bulbs in time and Nelson lost traction off the line
Nelson not only got his infamous ride rocking on the quarter mile again, but he also won a wash bucket, put together by event main man Jake Conant, in the raffle. Jake (left) also handed out JLT Performance gift certificates and T-shirts, a Terminator cooling mod from Cobra Engineering , and a GT500 oil separator from Competition Speed & Sound to other lucky winners.
One of the leading contenders heading into the shootout, Brian Devilbiss catapulted the Evolution Performance-built Devil’s Reject right into the mix by qualifying just ticks behind Scott Waters thanks to an 8.28/169 rip. Brian’s Kenne Bell-blown, ’13 GT500 went largely unchallenged until the fourth round where he met up with the Number 1 qualifier. It was a titanic battle as the supercharged 5.8 tried to take down the turbocharged 5.8. The e.t.’s were so close you to feel the tension. Yet it was over just as the lights came down. Brian slept at the tree and Scott maintained serve into the finals.
In addition to racing his 8-second ride, Jake ‘BADASS03SVT’ Conant was the primary organizer of this event, and his enthusiasm is infectious. (Thanks Jake!) Besides that responsibility, he carried the weight of the ’03-’04 Cobra world on his shoulders, as he was the highest qualified Terminator due to an 8.68/159 pass. Unfortunately he put over a second on Terminator teammate Cory Jones to proceed to the second round. There he faced the quickest GT500 piloted by Scott Waters. Jake knew he needed an advantage, and he took it by chopping down the tree. Leaving early wasn’t enough, as Scott still got to the stripe first. From there it was an all-GT500 race.
It’s rare that a car packs the one-two punch of looks and performance like Mark ‘BirdDoc’ Duber’s 2013 Shelby GT500. Not only was this ride the first car to score a 10 in the fit and finish category of the King of the Street competition, but at MIR, he set a new low e.t. record rowing a Tremec Magnum XL-six-speed-manual, pushing his Shelby deep into the 8s. Yes, Mark can bang some gears! He qualified in the sixth spot with a 9.25 at 154 mph, but obviously improved on that in eliminations. Supported by Revan Racing’s Van Collier this manual-trans masterpiece took out Tim McCalonen and Jimmy LaRocca with back-to-back 8-second passes before running into trouble against Nelson Whitlock. Mark did win the Stick-Shift Shootout pitting the two quickest manual racers against one another on Saturday night. He bested Matt Brunette to take home $750 from McLeod.
Owner of the next quickest Terminator, Louis Pepe qualified 10th with a 10.22 at 140 mph. His Whipple-boosted Cobra scored one of the few victories over Team GT500 when he bested Justin Teixeria’s ailing ’12 Shelby in the first round. He lucked out and rode a bye run into the third round. With only he and Jake Conant bringing Terminators to battle there, the pressure was on. Even though Brian Devilbiss took let him have a headstart, Louis’ 10.37 was no match for Scott Waters’ 8-second machine.
Of the top 10 qualifiers, four were 5.4-powered GT500s, and Randy Thomas was the fourth thanks to his 9.29/141 qualifying shot. Built by Kurgan Motosports, Randy’s 5.4 is built to stand up to big boost courtesy of a Kenne Bell supercharge. A three-speed automatic puts that power to the ground. After an easy first round thanks to John Gruta’s ailing 2013 Shelby, Randy drew the short straw and faced eventual winner Scott Waters in Round 2. Though Randy cut a great light, Scott had way too much steam and put over a second on him for the win. Though he faltered in the shootout, Randy did rebound and win the SVT True Street even with runs averaging 9.78 seconds.
Rare members of the Terminator breed, Mystichrome 2004 Cobras are likely candidates for cold storage. Collectors gravitate to these rides and sock them away in hopes they will one day hold immense value. Brandon Dillard enjoys the value of his Cobra in the moment—by yanking the wheels at the drag strip. His Kenne Bell-boosted snake was the second-highest-qualifying Cobra with its 9.51/137 blast. In a battle of last of the breed, Brandon’s ’04 took out Marlon’s ’14 GT500 in round one. However, that lined him up against Best Reaction Time winner Nelson Whitlock in Round 2. Brandon got a head start at the tree, but Nelson reeled him in for the win.
Your author had the pleasure of meeting Wesley Murray at the SVTP get-together at the Mustang 50th in Charlotte, North Carolina. I learned that Wesley had scored a killer deal on his ’14 Shelby GT500, but he hadn’t gotten too carried away with the mods yet. That didn’t stop him from running in the shootout. He qualified in the 19th spot with an 11.73 at 119 mph. After getting a freebie in Round 1 thanks to Stephen Bowen’s misfortune, Wesley’s bolt-on Shelby clashed with Jake Conant’s built Terminator. Chalk that win up for the Cobra camp.
An old friend of your editor’s from the formative years of Pro 5.0, Jimmy Larocca was on hand racing a friend’s ’14 Shelby GT500. Jimmy owns a pair of his own Shelby’s, but he agreed to put some laps on his pal’s new ride. Proving his time away from racing a series hasn’t added any rust, Jimmy garnered accolades for both the Quickest Stock Supercharger (thanks to a 10.25 at 140) and the Most Consistent for his driving. That 10.25 was good enough for the 11th qualified spot, and after an easy Round 1 against Rick Kaknes, Jimmy faced the Mark Duber freight train in the second round, and the stock blower was no match for the big Kenne Bell.
Hooray GT500! Ben Moses’ 2007 Shelby GT500 goes by the appropriate moniker, Red Stripe. He obviously has a lot of fun modding and racing his striking Shelby. At MIR was a bit off of his low-10-second pace in qualifying, but he still managed to put down a 10.61 at 130mph, which was good enough for the 13th slot. Alas, things didn’t go his way in the first rounds. He had issues, and Nelson Whitlock was hitting his stride, so Ben’s race ended sooner than he would have liked.
One of two Competition Orange 2004 Cobras in the shootout, Cory Jones’ ride rocks a VMP TVS-supecharged engine and a Full Tilt Boogie Racing-bolstered IRS. This one is a legit street car and it puts down 659 horsepower and 611 lb-ft of torque. Cory maximized that power on the track as he clicked off 10.63 at 132, which was good enough for the 14th qualified spot. Unfortunately for Cory, he lined up beside the quickest Terminator in the shootout, and Jake Conant’s silver bullet sailed to the win.
It was a clean race for most all the participants, but Tim McAlonen did manage to snap a half-shaft. Of course, when your VMP TVS-blown 4.6 is putting down 754 horsepower and 701 lb-ft of torque to the wheels and your car weighs 3,865 pounds, you run that risk. Fortunately, with the help of friends, Tim was able to replace the shaft and get the car back into the action. His ’03 Cobra qualified in the 16th spot by way of an 11.05 at 134. That put him in the unfortunate position of facing Mark Duber’s 8-second, stick-shift ride in the first round. Tim got the jump, but his 12 was no match for Mark’s 8. There was a silver lining for Tim, as he took home the Best Appearing Engine Award.
A former Terminator owner that moved on to a GT500, Jason Teixeira put his VMP TVS-blown ’12 Shelby GT500 on the board with an 11.77/129 qualifier. Sadly the Terminator team extracted a little revenge in Round 1, when the Smurfinator struggled and Louis Pepe’s Terminator cruised to the win.
There were only two convertibles in the shootout, the black Terminator owned by Rick Kaknes and this Grabber Blue beauty owned by John Gruta. John showed up several hardtops in qualifying by posting an 11.18 at 125, which was good for the 17th slot. It didn’t go as well for him in eliminations, as he ran into trouble and gave the easy win to Randy Thomas. Things worked out much better for John in the SVT True Street race, as he won the 11-second category with runs averaging 11.11 seconds.
Putting down an 11.61 at 121 on street tires and Alcoas was a nice effort for Marlon Smith’s ’14 Shelby GT500. Though his 11.74 in the first round wasn’t too far off of his qualifying pace, Marlon’s Shelby was no match for Brandon Dillard’s 9-second Terminator.
Rick Kaknes was banging gears and flying the VMP Tuning flag in qualifying, and his car nosed over. The engine had died, and it wouldn’t restart. After some troubleshooting, he determined that his PCM wasn’t telling the ignition coils to fire. Sadly a Terminator computer isn’t a common item, and there just wasn’t time to acquire one in time to run in eliminations. Though it would have been far more affordable for Rick to stay home, he still had a great time hanging out with his GT500 vs. Termi classmates.
Making the trek up from Florida on VMP Tuning dyno trailer, Jeff Smith’s Flying Pumpkin qualified right behind the Cory Jones’ Comp Orange Terminator with an 11.79 at 123. With so many quick cars in the field, his VMP TVS-boosted Cobra looked to have a tough row to hoe in eliminations. However he didn’t make it up for the first round versus Matt Brunette as he headed home on Sunday. Jeff did get make it to the line for the SVT True Street race, however. There he won the 10-second category by putting together three runs averaging at 10.95. That made the trip worthwhile.
Mat Brunette’s ’07 Shelby GT500 leapt out of the hole so hard we almost didn’t capture it. He qualified in Number 5 thanks to an impressive 9.04 at 153 mph, which was flirtation with the elusive 8-second-zone from a TVS-blown Shelby. Matt’s Billet Pro Shop-backed ride is fortified with a BPS-built 5.4, CNC-ported heads, custom cams, a BPS-ported Trinity TVS and more. MIR was the first outing for this new combo, and it obviously performed well, but neither Matt nor his opponent Jeff Smith made the call for the first round of eliminations. The 9.04 did garner the Quickest 9-Second Pass award for Mat.
Rolling the Jon Lund Racing ’14 Shelby GT500 onto the sticky surface at MIR, Jon Lund Jr. put down its best runs yet on 19-inch drag radials. He qualified the Trinity-powered ride in the 12th slot thanks to an impressive 10.60 at 132 mph. It is capable of that performance thanks to a 2.4-inch blower pulley, a 10-percent-overdriven damper, an oval-bore throttle body, some fuel system upgrades, E85 in the tank, and, of course, a Jon Lund tune. He ran even better in Round 1, posting a 10.26 rip, but that was no match for Brian Devilbiss’ 8-second run.
Steven Bowen’s white Terminator looked to be a contender based on his 10.06 139 mph qualifying pass, which put him in the 9th spot. Things didn’t go well for Steven in the first round, and he handed over the easy win to Wesley Murray. However, his qualifying pass was good enough to earn him kudos for the Quickest 10-second Run.
While GT500 vs. Terminator class sponsor VMP Tuning was busy making boost (and tuning) happen for most of the weekend, the crew—Justin Starkey, BJ McCarthy, and Steven Cleveland —did take some time to enjoy the shootout. We know we enjoyed watching it, so thanks for supporting such a cool event!
If you didn’t make it out to MIR for this year’s SVT Shootout, it’s obvious that you missed out on a lot of fun. In addition to the GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout, there were also several SVT categories in the True Street class. Some racers ran in both classes, so we noted their achievements above. However, there were a few winner that just ran in True Street. Notably, Jake Heinemann, of M&H Racing fame, won the 12-second category, while Charles Zierle and Joshua Verdieck took home the 14- and 15-second honors.