Shelbys and snakes battle for serpent supremacy at the NMRA World Finals
By Steve Turner
Photos by Stacy Stangz, Ford Racing Nation, and courtesy of the NMRA
Movies once portrayed the Internet as a virtual world, where we would live a life that we couldn’t have in the real world. To some extent, that prediction has come true. However, the online world has also fostered community and helped people come together to create things that might never have come about without it. Such is definitely the case for the popular GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout, which is run as a specialty class at select NMRA events.
It all began when 2003-2004 Cobra racers in the Midwest got jealous of the Terminator track rentals being held on the East Coast. After discussing it on various online outlets, including right here at SVTP, one enthusiast, Jim Irelan, was inspired to put something bigger together.
After gauging participant interest online, he brought the idea of pitting one of the most intense sibling rivalries around—Cobras vs. GT500s. When NMRA President, Steve Wolcott, agreed to host the event at an NMRA race, Jim became the Class Director of the shootout. That meant he had to make it a reality.
“So I posted up on the websites that it was a go but since I haven’t raced a lot on the track I knew I would need help with the rules. Jake Conant and Brian “Posi” Hartledge, who were running an Eaton-porting company, contacted me. They said they would love to do this, so Jake wrote up the rules and Posi Performance sponsored the first one and it was a success! Most cars were in the mid 11s to high 8s. In 2012, we had a change in sponsorship to VMP Tuning with Justin Starkey and Rick Kaknes,” Jim explained. “The cars got faster and more people started taking notice, Jake kept up with the rule changes and we offered plaques for the fastest 12-second pass, 11-second pass, 10-second pass, and 9-second pass. Something for everyone! Plus, we offered 10 special-recognition plaques for things like best engine best interior, most consistent, fastest six-speed, and so on.”
“I was pretty heavily involved with the Cobra guys early on, Brian at Posi, Jake Conant, and Rick Kaknes,” class sponsor, Justin Starkey of VMP Tuning, added. “We decided to get involved since several guys in the class were running our VMP TVS blowers.”
Clearly, the class has evolved to a highly successful level. If you followed our coverage of the event from Maryland International Raceway, you know the turnout and performances were great. Twenty one cars participated, and the top e.t. in qualifying was an 8.25 put down by Scott Waters’ turbocharged GT500.
“We added a second event each year in Maryland at MIR and it was a slow start the first event but ramped up for the second one at the 20-year anniversary of SVT. Cars were going a lot faster, especially with a certain stock-engine Terminator running a 3.4 Whipple dipping into the 8s and a VMP TVS supercharged car also in the 8s. Last year at Bowling Green we had a lot of rain and racers had to go home because of rain all day Sunday, but a few stayed for the Monday runs,” Jim said. “This year at MIR I could not make it, so Jake took over for that event. He and his fiancé Amanda worked really hard to make it a success. That event is when the GT500 guys showed up with some serious turbo cars and the class got even faster.”
The expectations for this class heading into the NMRA World Finals were big, so Jim knew he had to step things up for the participants. So he worked hard to give more to the racers, and they returned the favor in kind by showing up—26 cars qualified— in force and laying down even more impressive elapsed times.
“So, after MIR, I started hitting up the race shops and manufacturers for donations to be given away to the racers and—with the help of Steve Wolcott and Jake Conant—we received about $7,000 worth of parts, gift certificates, shirts, etc. We gave them away at a special dinner Saturday night after qualifying along with all the special recognition plaques. It was a great time, enjoyed by all,” Jim said. “Evolution Performance gave $500 in cash to the fastest qualifier and has really brought in some serious GT500s and Brian Devilbliss’ GT500 ran a 7.69 at about 180 mph and we had or first 7-second pass in the class! But, in racing, the fastest car doesn’t always win. After driving 27 hours and 2,000 miles Frank Yee’s beautiful and deadly 2003 Cobra proved that by winning the shootout and then beating an awesome, turbo-powered Coyote Mustang in a special grudge match race at the end of the race.”
“We had a great turnout at the finals, everything from OE style supercharged cars to custom single- and twin-turbo cars,” Justin said. “The GT500 guys have been raising the bar this year, but a Terminator guy came all the way from Las Vegas and won the event. It goes to show anything can happen on the racetrack.”
And, don’t think this rivalry has cooled off at all. In fact, it seems to be getting more intense. “It’s gone nuclear! At first it was mainly Terminators, but now it’s about even with the onslaught of a lot of bad-ass GT500s. The record now stands at 5 to 2, with the Terminators out front,” Jim enthused.
With that kind of rivalry brewing, it shouldn’t be a surprise that two events—Maryland and Bowling Green—aren’t enough to contain all the excitement. Now, the battle for SVT supremacy will help kick off the 2015 season.
“We are the biggest heads-up class going in the NMRA and it’s only going to get better. We have now added Bradenton, Florida, to next year’s events,” Jim concluded. “The racing this year was incredible and the final was two drivers playing ‘the game’ to get the advantage and Frank Yee played it the best. I expect Brian Devilbiss and Scott Waters to reset the records next year.”
Until then, you can re-live the excitement of the NMRA World Finals shootout with us.