Ready to Race
The NMRA prepares itself for a new era in Mustang drag racing
By Steve Turner
Photos by Dale Amy and courtesy of Ford Motor Company
If you closely follow the world of Ford drag racing, you know that the NMRA Ford Nationals series recently tweaked its Super Stang class to allow for the inclusion of the 2015 Mustang. This was a significant announcement because this class was originally designed to show case the 2005-2014 Mustangs. So, adding the S550s to the mix with the S197s shows the importance of a new Mustang.
According to the rules update, “Super Stang is designed for any S197 and S550 body vehicles using a Ford modular OEM 4.6-liter, Coyote, or 5.4 V-8 (3V or 4V) and V-6 engines only (2005-2014 Mustangs are referred to as S197 cars, and 2015 and later model Mustangs are referred to as S550 cars). The Super Stang class will be contested on an Index based format.” And, don’t worry, the EcoBoost Mustang will be part of the fun too.
With this interesting development, we thought it was time to touch base and see what impact the 2015 Mustang might have on the world of drag racing, both immediate and long-term.
“Any time there is a new platform, there will be an impact at the NMRA. We strive to be on the forefront of Mustang drag racing, so we need to be a catalyst in getting new cars on the track. This summer we added the 2015 Mustang platform to the Super Stang rules in anticipation of cars showing up to the NMRA World Finals,” Mike Galimi, editor of the NMRA’s Race Pages magazine, explained. “Our tech department is already working with manufacturers to properly integrate the S550 chassis into heads-up competition, to give our racers the added option to use that platform.”
The racing experts and the Blue Oval are clearly geared up for the S550 to positively impact quarter mile. Since the street-going Mustang is the basis for all drag-racing iterations, the factory knows that what wins on Sunday sells on Monday.
“My hope is that it will affect all the classes. The success in the Mustang street-car drag racing world is because of Mustang GT. The original intent around all the classes is based on that car. One class is unmodified Mustang GT, then Mustang GT with commercial power adder kits, then Mustang GT with heads/cams, etc.” Jesse Kershaw, Drag Racing Parts and Competition Manager at Ford Racing, said. “New cars build excitement and should be encouraged in all classes. By doing this it keeps dealers and performance shops involved and gives new car buyers a way to grow through a racing career. You shouldn’t buy a brand-new Mustang and then build a Fox body to go heads-up. New cars build excitement and should be encouraged in all classes.”
While the Mustang GT is the natural to go right into quarter-mile action, the EcoBoost Mustang might just be a player too. “We are developing a calibration now for the I4, and I think the performance enthusiast will be very impressed. In preliminary testing, we have shaved several tenths off its quarter-mile e.t.,” Jesse offered. “All the IRS parts we develop for the 5.0 will work on the I4 as well. I think it will be surprisingly fast!”
With the 2015 Mustangs on the street soon, it is great timing for the NMRA’s last race of the season in Bowling Green, Kentucky, on October 2-5. This event could prove as a showcase for how well these cars can run out of the box, and set the pace for the eventual race for the records that ensues when any new Mustang hits the track.
“…Given the release date and some hints from a few different racers in Super Stang, we expect to see some 2015 Mustangs showing up to the NMRA World Finals. It will be fun to see the cars on track and for the racers and fans to get a close-up view of it,” Mike said.
Of course, Super Stang offers a relatively open set of rules because of the nature of index racing. However, moving an all-new platform seamlessly into heads-up drag-racing classes can present numerous challenges. At least the engine in the S550 is similar, but the highly touted independent rear suspension will make things a bit more difficult for racers and rule makers.
“Rules are difficult?” Mike said. “The Index categories are obviously easier to bring in the new S550 chassis and on the heads-up side, it is really a class-by-class situation that we will need to address. Our 2015 preliminary rules will have provisions for the new chassis; there are some characteristics that are different so we are trying to balance each heads-up category’s theme with the new technology. One goal of the NMRA is to give companies a place to develop new products for street and drag racing markets as well as a stage to show off these components. A drag racing solution for the IRS will be the biggest hurdle for companies to overcome and we will work hard to keep the balance of fair rules and new-product integration.”
“The IRS in the new Mustang presents a challenge for all drag racers. In an all-out race car like Cobra Jet we will find a live axle option, but for the street/strip performers we are working on parts to up-fit the platform and have had excellent results,” Jesse offered. “At stock power we are nearly pulling the front tire off the ground. There will be a learning curve, but we knew early enough that we will be ready by the 2015 season.”
In addition to the chassis considerations, the updated 5.0-liter engine does present a possible impact on the popular sealed-engine class, Coyote Stock. In this class, racers can affordably build a race car around a sealed Ford Racing crate engine, which is run by the same rules-mandated Ford Racing calibration. It makes for competitive racing which places and emphasis on driver and chassis. However, that crate engine is based on a stock Mustang GT engine.
“…This is a topic that came up many months ago as the hype of the 2015 Mustang 5.0 engine was at the forefront of the newsfeeds everywhere,” Mike said. “Jesse believed there would be supplies and product on shelves for many years to come to keep the Coyote Stock program consistent. I don’t know what it will mean down the road. But for the foreseeable future, we are confident it won’t change.”
However, if the time does come to switch to the newer engine, don’t worry. Ford Racing will have a Control Pack installation kit for the S550-spec Coyote in its catalog. Ah, the idea of a new era of engine swaps is exciting, and so is the future of S550 Mustangs having an impact on more classes in the future.
“Right out of the gate the Roush Super Stang category will see the largest influx of cars. I believe that for two reasons. First, it is a fixed dial-in category that makes it easy to enter a completely stock vehicle. The other reason, so many Mustang specialty shops participate in Super Stang with either their shop cars or customer cars, that the odds of a 2015 hitting that class are far greater than a heads-up class,” Mike added. “I would expect to see a few in Tremec True Street as well, which is a catch-all type of category like Super Stang. And, to be honest, there will be at least one heads-up 2015 Mustang GT in competition next season. I can’t reveal much more, but a major player in the Mustang market has already indicated a full build for a heads-up class.”
If that doesn’t get you excited to see S550s drag racing, we don’t know what will. For now, you can whet your appetite by revisiting Ford’s line-lock feature in action: