When the NMRA World Finals rolls into Bowling Green, Kentucky, records fall and champions are crowned
Photos by Stacy Stangz
It is only fitting that all the efforts put into writing the epic tale that is an NMRA season come to a close at the most picturesque stop in the world of Ford drag racing—
Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky. It’s not the biggest, nor the most high tech of racing facilities, but its scenic quarter mile tucked away in the rolling hills of the Bluegrass state, make it one of our favorites.
As you now know, SCT Performance made history at the World Finals by making the first drag pass in a retail 2015 Mustang. The Premium GT ran a 12.86 at 107 despite a stiff headwind. The car was stock at Bowling Green, but went directly back to SCT HQ for tuning.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that this is the race that everyone wants to attend.
Whether you having been slugging it away in the points chase all season long or you want to preview your campaign next season, the
NMRA World Finals is the big stage.
As much fun as it is to watch, the event is the pressure cooker for those wanting to walk up on stage at the PRI show and collect an NMRA Diamond Tree ring. Some of the championship-points battles were separated by as few as five points. Sure, a couple racers had carved out a nice lead heading into Bowling Green, but, in general, if you want to apply a Number 1 decal to your windshield in Bradenton next season, you have to have your act together in October.
We will bring you more extensive coverage of the VMP Tuning GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout in the near future. However, we had to at least mention Brian Devilbiss’ Evolution Performance-backed ride. It qualified at the top of the heap with a 7.69 at 176 mph and made it all the way to the finals. There Brian spun the tires gave up the win to Frank Yee’s 8-second turbo Terminator.
It certainly doesn’t make it any easier when Mother Nature throws you a few curve balls at the World Finals. Rain on and off on Friday meant the qualifying session was abbreviated.
Then the front that came through dropped the temperatures drastically, which makes for great horsepower weather, but that shifts the challenge to finding the hook.
Of course, no one ever said winning is easy—especially winning a championship—but it is a lot of fun to watch. So check out our post-event wrap-up, and don’t get too nostalgic. Bradenton will be here before you know it.
The storybook ending doesn’t always come true in Bowling Green. After a strong season in Factory Stock, Matt Amrine didn’t win the Bowling Green battle. Despite getting the jump at the tree, Matt lost to eventual winner James Meredith with an 11.06 to James’ 10.77. Matt did, however, win the war by securing enough points to lock up the championship.
Not to be outdone, John Urist of Hellion Power Systems also had a 2015 Mustang at Bowling Green. Rather than driving it there himself, Brent Carver of Dempewolf Ford in Henderson, Kentucky, drove it through the night and delivered it to John at the track. The car spent the weekend in the Nitto Tire booth. After the race John said he was driving the Premium automatic car home and taking it apart. Well, apart enough to design and install a new Hellion turbo kit in time for the SEMA show.
Hopefully you are a regular reader that checked out our feature on husband and wife racers Brad and Nina Gusler. You know that the couple’s only goal for the season was to win the Truck & Lightning championship. Heading into the finals Nina carried the narrowest of points leads. She qualified eighth with an .035 reaction time. From there she slugged her way through the rounds until the fourth round where Fred Wade got the best of her. By then, however, the rookie driver had sewn up her first championship. Street Outlaw
With the exception of a challenging campaign last season, we are used to seeing John Urist of Hellion Power Systems play with a lead in the finals. This season the most decorated champion in the history of the NMRA rode into the finals trailing Phil Hines by only 40 points, while Andy Manson was right on John’s bumper, trailing Phil by another 20 points. It was anything goes in the class formerly known as the Freakshow, but John came to do work, and he did. After qualifying third with a 6.95 at 200 mph, John made it to the semis to face Phil. After wounding a cylinder head on a record-setting run, it blew again in the semis, giving John the easy win. After locking the championship, John also took the Bowling win after Andy Manson couldn’t make the final-round call. Thank makes nine NMRA championships for John!
It’s no small feat to become the number-one qualifier in Renegade, but at Bowling Green the top of the sheet was so tight that only a tenth of a second separated top dog Bart Tobener’s 8.10/168 shot from fifth qualifier Johnny Lightning’s 8.20/170 hit. Despite the tight qualifying sheet, when it came down to eliminations, Bad Bart had a nearly uncontested run. After defeating Valerie Clements in round one, Bart cruised to the event win—making it four in a row thanks to two competitor fouls and a bye run. In doing so, he also locked up his first NMRA championship. Coyote Modified
Your scribe played a minor role in getting the Coyote Modified class off the ground back and also scored an NMRA Race Pages cover shot of Frank Varella’s ride from the season opener. So, it feels good to see a class and car I had an association with come to such an exciting close in its first season. It would be safe to assume that the giant “The Reckoning” decal might have something to do with a certain staging controversy in Joliet. However, before that grudge race could take place in round two, it looked like Frank might have a steep hill to climb. With Dyno Joe Cram and Terry “Beefcake” Reeves trading shots as top qualifier, Frank qualified in the third spot with an 8.54 /163 pass on fresh Mickey Thompson 275 radials. When it came to eliminations, however, it was Frank that was dropping the quickest e.t.’s. He laid down a string of 8.30 passes to take down John Kauderer, Beefcake, and Dyno Joe en route to an event win and a championship.
Things happen during the course of a drag-racing season. Parts break, traction gives way, and competitors get lucky. That’s racing. However, it seems there is occasionally an exception to that rule, and Teddy Weaver’s 2014 season was exceptional. That’s because he won every round he raced in on his way to a Pure Street championship. Yes—spoiler alert—that means he won every round at Bowling Green. However, that doesn’t tell the whole story. He not only won, but he dominated an extremely competitive category. Teddy qualified at the top of the sheet with a 9.72 at 137.95. As eliminations rolled on, his car seemed to get stronger, and his only real challenge came in the finals, as Jimmy Wilson posted a 9.73, but it wasn’t enough to stop Teddy “The Broom” Weaver’s clean sweep at the Finals. He ran a 9.65 for the win. Coyote Stock
Powered by a sealed crate Coyote from Ford Racing, the Coyote Stock class has grown into one of the most robust and competitive classes in the NMRA repertoire. With a whopping 18 cars running in the 10-second zone, the field was fierce at the finals. Though HiPo Joe Charles put the Coyote Stock world on notice with his blistering 10.29-second top qualifier, it was Farmer Steve Gifford sitting in the fifth qualified spot that would prevail. Steve got the jump on everyone at the tree and ran consistent mid-10s all the way to the finals. There he kept it going by winning at the tree in a dead heat race with wheelie wonder Drew Lyons (10.43. vs. 10.43). Factory Stock
It only took two rounds of qualifying for James Meredith to lock up the number-one qualified spot in Factory Stock with a 10.75 at 120.55 mph. He would have made a third hit, but he had to participate in what is being called The Great Factory Stock Teardown of 2014. All racers—save those running sealed Coyote engines—were required to provide the NMRA tech inspectors with a piston and ring from their engines. Undeterred, James got his 2003 Mach 1 back together for eliminations. From there he handily defeated Steve Moberly and Matt Amrine—who still managed to secure his second consecutive Factory Stock championship—before a redlight by Justin in the finals gave James the easy victory. Despite the easy win, James still ripped off a 10.78 at 121 on his last pass of the day. Turbo Coyote Shootout
A new addition to the World Finals was a Turbo Coyote Shootout sponsored by a triumvirate of interested parties—Henchmen Racing, Revolution Automotive, and JPC Racing. Pretty much any ’05-’14 Mustang with a Coyote engine, a turbo, and a VIN could compete. Clearly it was a great idea, as 12 cars showed up to battle at Bowling Green. Bud Sell topped the qualifying sheet with a blistering 8.24 at 168 mph, but he would lose to eventual runner-up, Alan Wofford, in round two. It was master driver Justin Burcham of JPC Racing that soldiered through the field in his 8-second, air-conditioned street car. Alan got the move at the tree, but Justin put 1.56 seconds on him for the win.
While she only qualified in the seventh slot with a .041 reaction time, Susan McClenaghan was not to be denied in her quest for two Modular Muscle championships in a row. Once eliminations were underway, Susan got on a roll, running within a tenth or so of her dial-in in all four rounds. Only in the final did her competitor, Jerry Fisher, make the first move at the tree. However, even that wasn’t enough to prevail against Susan. Open Comp
It might not get the hype of the heads-up classes, but Open Comp brings out the racers in droves. At Bowling Green no less than 34 competitors qualified in the class. Tim Hamilton’s ’88 Mustang topped the sheet thanks to a .004 reaction time. However, it was 18th qualifier Gordon Harlow that prevailed through five rounds. In the finals, Wesley Dalrymple chopped down the tree, but it was Gordon that ran closer to his dial-in for the win. Truck & Lightning
The Truck & Lighting championship could have been won by any number of racers, including Nina Gusler, James Streamer, Randy Conway, and Robert Chuhran. In the end, rookie driver Nina Gusler won the war in her Coyote-powered F-150 by surviving until round four. However, none of these racers won the Bowling Green battle. Instead it was class stalwart, Johnny Lightning that drove his 8-second truck to victory. Remaining consistent in a truck that quick isn’t easy, but he did have it easy in the final round when Fred Wade lit the red bulb. Super Stang
Suddenly, Super Stang is a class for older Mustangs. As scary as that is, the arrival of the 2015 Mustang didn’t dissuade 12 S197 racers from clashing for at the World Finals. Lloyd Mikeska qualified number-one with a .007 reaction time. Cutting it that close cost Lloyd in round two, as he fouled out. However, Shannon Papier qualified mid-pack and stayed consistent till the end. In the finals Shannon got lucky when Kent Nine ran right on his dial-in but lit the red bulb at the tree. NMRA World Finals Gallery