Kicking off the NMRA Ford Drag Racing season in Florida was a blast
We don’t know what it was. Could it be the weather? Could it be the gas prices? Were people just anxious for the racing season to begin? Whatever it was, the energy was great at
Bradenton Motorsports Park for the kick off of the NMRA Ford Drag Racing season. We were certainly ready for the burnouts to start and the tree to drop, and it seems that racers and fans were on the same page with us.
It was pretty exciting to see the 2015 Mustang finally hitting the drag strip en force, and this 2015 Roush didn’t even make it to the street before running down the 1,320 at the NMRA season opener. Racer Pete Espeut picked up the car, loaded it on a trailer, and headed right down to Bradenton Motosports Park, where he qualified it in the 12th spot in the Super Stang class.
Particularly on Saturday—the big day for any car event—the stands were packed with fans and the lanes were packed with race cars. Even the car show overflowed into the manufacturer’s midway, despite the NMRA staff laying out the arrangement with a little extra space. The event went off well, and the energy oozed with positivity.
When it came to the racing side of things, there was much to appreciate about the season opener. Naturally the most exciting thing was to see so many jaw-dropping performances right out of the gate. The levels that NMRA racers have pushed their combos to is insane, and this is just the first race, so records are sure to fall as the season moves on.
The NMRA was definitely all smiles with such a great start to the racing season. Here Race Page editor Mike Galimi captures the NMRA team right after Coyote Modified racer Haley James sang the national anthem to start out the festivities on Sunday.
We are, of course, excited about how competitive the Coyote Modified class was. Since we are the freshly minted presenting sponsor of the Coyote power-adder class, we’ll be keeping on close eye on the class right here.
Moreover, it was great to see some new additions to the NMRA season. Notable was the first large gathering of 2015 Mustangs at an NMRA race. Sure, there were a couple at Bowling Green last season, but now that the cars are available, they are coming out and racing.
Lastly, it was fun to see the NMRA expand several of its specialty classes to the season opener. Without a doubt, the GT500 vs. Terminator shootout is near and dear to our hearts, but the addition of the Turbo Coyote Shootout was fun as well.
Now the stage is set for a great season of Ford drag racing, and we can’t wait to see what the next race—held in Commerce, Georgia, on April 9-12—has in store.
We see Wayne and Debbie Vance all over the country showing off their Coyote-powered SV0—which is in the background—but now the couple have another car to display at car shows—this 2015 Mustang GT. It looks sharp with the blacked out hood and roof.
Joey Basile turned the world on his 20-inch wheels, as he put down a few 8-second passes his Fluid Turbo Concepts’ boosted 2014 Mustang GT. His Coyote machine qualified in second place in the Turbo Coyote Shootout with a 9.03/159 hit, but bettered that in the second round of eliminations with a mind-scrambling 8.84/160 rip. It was a good weekend for Joey, but his luck did run out against Justin Burcham in the finals. Then he lost a grudge race against the Blow By Racing-backed, Hellion-boosted machine driven by Bret Stabler. Street Outlaw
One of the most decorated racers in the history of the NMRA, Hellion Power Systems’ John Urist is no stranger to the top of the qualifying sheet. However, with off-season rules tweaks in place, John entered the season with caution. Leaving the event, he can replace that caution with optimism, as he qualified in the first spot and set both ends of the record with one of the cleanest passes we have seen in Street Outlaw—a flawless 6.86 at 205.29. In eliminations the cards fell his way, as his string of consistent 6.90s was more than enough to climb the ladder to the finals, where number-two qualifier Phil Hines’s off-pace run let John glide to any easy win. Street Outlaw Gallery
There was an injection of fresh blood in Renegade at Bradenton, and one of the newcomers topped the qualifying sheet with a stout 7.72/181 pass. That racer was none other than last year’s Coyote Modified champ, Frank Varella. Also running out of the Hellion Power Systems’ stable, Frank Varella brought a new car to a new class and picked up right where he left off. Frank didn’t face a real challenge until the third round, when he clashed with defending champ, Bart Tobener. Bart got the jump, but Frank ran him down for the win. In the finals, Frank clashed with fellow newcomer, Brian Devilbiss in his turbocharged Shelby. Brian left first, but Frank edged him at the stripe 7.83 to 7.99. Yes, these new Renegade racers are serious. Renegade Gallery
It’s almost like they swapped spots. Frank Varella moved to Renegade and Johnny Lightning, of JLP Racing, moved to Coyote Modified. With the rules allowing the Kenne Bell 3.6-liter blower, Johnny saw the class as a great place to showcase his longtime sponsor’s wares. He is running a built Coyote based on Ford Performance Racing Parts new R50 block, and the combo was good for the top qualified spot with an 8.29 at 168 mph. Johnny had a smooth path to finals where he clashed with fellow CM newcomer, Haley James. They ran nearly identical e.t.’s, but Johnny got the jump to take his first heads-up class win with the NMRA.
Qualifying right behind Mr. Lightning was Haley James, daughter of Hellion Power Systems’ B-Team honcho, Dwayne James. While she had run in junior dragsters and some quick street cars, the B-Team Coyote Modified machine was her first all-out race car, and she reveled in the opportunity, saying she was “having so much fun.” And, why not? She qualified in the second slot with an 8.31 at 164, and running laps into the finals, where she fell to Johnny Lightning’s blown Cobra Jet.
After running in Coyote Stock and sitting out a season, Joe Guertin realized his dream of racing a supercharged Mustang with the NMRA. His ProCharged Coyote Fox landed right in the middle of things with an 8.55 at 161 mph pass. After taking out Dyno Joe Cram in the first round, Joe lined up against Johnny Lightning. You can probably figure out how things played out, but Joe had troubles and gave Johnny a clear path to the finals.
Qualifying hot on the heels of Haley James’ Coyote Fox was Michael Harris in his JLP Racing-backed 2013 Cobra Jet. Michael clicked off an 8.36/164 hit to lock down the third qualified spot. In the first round, he took out John Kauderer, but that lined him up against Haley James in the second round. He cut down the tree, but she ran him down to move on to the next round. Coyote Modified Gallery
Steve “The Farmer” Gifford has found rich soil to plow in the Coyote Stock class. Coming off of an event win at the World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, last year, Steve rolled into Bradenton and put himself into the fifth qualified spot thanks to a 10.43/125 hit. In eliminations, Steve locked into a mid-10-second groove and rode that to the finals against Michael Washington’s JPC Racing-backed machine. The race was over at the tree, as Farmer Steve got the jump and ran the quicker e.t. to the stripe, taking the win 10.48 vs. 10.54. Coyote Stock Gallery
When it comes to dominating performances, it’s hard to argue with Teddy Weaver’s undefeated 2014 campaign in Pure Street. In this high-revving, naturally aspirated class the tuning and driving has to be on point, and Teddy still has his 2001 Mustang dialed in. He picked up right where he left off in Bowling Green. He clocked a 10.38/138 hit to nail down the number-one qualifier position. After blasting past C.J. Reese in the first round, Teddy lined up against number-two qualifier Jimmy Wilson in the finals. Teddy chopped down the tree and rolled out to another event win, 9.77 vs. 9.92. Pure Street Gallery
It was the beginning of a new season, but we saw plenty of familiar faces in the winners’ circle at Bradenton. Factory Stock stalwart Matt Amrine clocked the low e.t. and top mph with a 10.67/125 hit which was obviously good for the top qualified spot. After a bye in the first round, Matt and Gary Parker both left at the same time in round two, but Matt rolled to the win by a nearly half a second. That set the stage for a clash with James Meredith in the finals. James needed the leave to have a chance, but Matt got the jump and Matt powered to the stripe first to clock another event win. Factory Stock Gallery
Open Comp-style racing is all about consistency and driving, so the qualifying is set by the driver’s reaction time. Jason Henson dropped the mic with a perfect light to claim the top spot in the OC-style Modular Muscle class. After a bye run in the first round, Jason actually got tree’d in the second round by Richard Pringol’s 1996 Cougar. However, Jason ran closer to his dial-in for the win. In the finals, that story repeated itself. John Rusch got the jump in his 2006 Mustang, but again Jason ran closer to his dial to take the event win. Modular Muscle Gallery
John Mummery qualified number one with a .001 reaction time and carried that level of performance into the finals, where he defeated Marvin Knack with an 11.01 pass on his 11.0 dial-in. Super Stang Gallery
Truck & Lightning
We saw some amazing performances in Bradenton, but only one man won two vastly different classes. After scoring his first heads-up event win in Coyote Modified, Johnny jumped back into the seat of his 1999 Lightning to make a run at the class he is most associated with. Johnny had qualified in the second spot with a .009 reaction time. Running consistently is the name of the game in the OC-style Truck class, and doing so in an 8-second truck is no small task. Johnny ran closer to his dial-in for three rounds to take the win, but the finals were a gimme when Greg Bagwell lit the red bulb. Truck & Lightning Gallery
Louis Fernandez from right down the street in Tampa, Florida, went four rounds in his 363-cube 1991 Mustang to take the Open Comp win. After qualifying seventh with a .014 reaction time, Louis ran right on top of his dial in for the first three rounds, but he got to take it easy in the finals, as Wes Dalrymple redlit to pave the way for Louis’ win. Open Comp Gallery
GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout
It seemed that Shane Halleman was in for a rough weekend in his turbocharged 2003 Cobra. On the way down from Aurora, Illinois, his car suffered a cracked wastegate flange and a leaky CO2 tank. However, they fixed up the car and ran the table in the first outing of the GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout at Bradenton. He kicked off the weekend in the top qualified spot thanks to an 8.18/167 rip. He took out three GT500s on the way to an all-Termi final round against Rick Kaknes. Rick chopped down the tree, but Shane had a second on him so he made it to the stripe first to notch another win for Team Terminator, which still holds the edge in this SVT grudge match.
With VMP Superchargers sponsoring the first appearance of the GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout at Bradenton, VMP racer Rick Kaknes was anxious to show off his new combo, which was highlighted by VMP’s new Gen2 Cobra TVS supercharger. Rick qualified fifth with a 9.65/145 hit. After taking out fellow VMP racer Jeff Smith’s Terminator Pumpkin in round one, Rick also passed by a couple of GT500s on the way to final-round clash with Shane Halleman. Knowing he was up against it, Rick cut down the tree, but his 9.84 was no match for Shane’s blistering 8.48 rip. GT500 vs. Terminator Gallery
Cobra Jet Showdown
From the jump it looked like Ford Racing’s Cobra Jet Shootout would be taken by Chris Holbrook’s 8-second machine, but that’s why they run the races. While Chris was running on a 10.00 index, suspension guru John Calvert was on the other side of the ladder working a 10.10 index. Both racers were running mid-eights, but John was locked in, clicking off 8.60 passes on the way to the finals. There John got the jump and took the win with an 8.65/157 mph run. Cobra Jet Showdown Gallery
Turbo Coyote Shootout
Coyote engines and turbochargers make great partners, and that is the genesis of the Turbo Coyote Shootout, which was one of the specialty classes making its first appearance in Bradenton. From the jump, the man to beat was Justin Burcham, who laid down the law in qualifying with a 7.59/183 mph blast that put as one and a half seconds between him and his nearest competitor, Joey Basile’s 20-inch-tire stealth fighter. Both racers cruised to the finals, but Justin could breathe as Joey’s 9-second run was no match for his 7.97. Yes. A streetable Coyote running consistent 7-second e.t.’s is real. These are the times we live in—good times. Turbo Coyote Shootout Gallery