The NMRA and NMCA rumbled into Georgia for a down-south drag race
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of the NMRA
Just weeks after the season opened in Bradenton, Florida, the
National Mustang Racers Association headed north to the South for its second race of the year. Hosted at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, this was not just any race, but a joint venture with the series’ sister sanctioning body, the National Muscle Car Association.
Some of the big-power cars struggled to find traction, but Factory Stock racer Louis Sylvester clearly had the hook in Georgia. He made it all the way to round three before falling to eventual winner Matt Amrine.
While we stick to the Ford side of things for our coverage, the NMCA brings out muscle cars of all makes. As you might imagine, fusing both of these events under one roof made for a popular event with racers, vendors, and car show aficionados. That said, we have to say that the Ford group represented the Blue Oval with a strong showing.
There was a pair of scary moments in the Peach state. On Friday Rick Riccardi put his NMCA NA 10.5 Capri on its lid during the first round of qualifying. Then on Saturday Krista Elyse’s Factory Stock ride lost its brakes and when into the sand trap at the end of the track. Both cars took significant damage, but, fortunately, both drivers were OK. Krista is already working to put together another car to run at the NMRA’s next stop at Maryland International Raceway.
Having the two events together did mean it was the first time that the Strange Engineering Coyote Stock and Chevrolet Performance Stock sealed crate engine classes were in the lanes at the same time. The Bow Tie brigade is just getting started, so the Fords have a head start. However, the idea of seeing these cars run heads-up against one another at some point is tantalizing.
Of course, we are always worked up about the Coyote Modified class (presented by your favorite Ford performance site), and with most of the racers running in the mid-8-second zone, the class demonstrates what a winner Ford’s modern V-8 engine is.
For a sampling of all the exciting classes, you can check out this video…
VIDEO Street Outlaw
Dan Saitz is no newcomer to Mustang drag racing, but he did make a fresh appearance in the winner’s circle after winning the hotly contested Street Outlaw class in Georgia. Qualifying hot on the heels of Phil Hines, Dan was the only other racer sneak into the 6-second zone in qualifying with his 6.98/201 hit. The duo seemed destined for a classic race in the finals, but it just wasn’t to be. Phil’s ride sprung a leak on the starting line, so Dan cruised to a solo win in the NMRA’s top category. Street Outlaw Gallery
While the A-Team—John Urist’s Street Outlaw machine—was struggling to find traction on the Atlanta Dragway surface, the B-Team’s Frank Varella had a handle on things. His transition from Coyote Modified has been as smooth as it gets. In Georgia he was at the head of the class in qualifying with a 7.72/181 rip. From there Frank had an easy path to the finals. After a single in round one, he put four tenths on Tim Matherly in round two to head into a clash of titans against last year’s champ. Bart Tobener had issues resulting in an 11-second pass, and Frank cruised to with a 7.70 at 182 for the win and a class record. Like teammate Haley James’ ride, Frank’s Fox also does work with a Hellion-boosted MMR 302XR Coyote. Renegade Gallery
We used to think that our camera was a jinx, but it turns out that’s a thing of the past. We spent part of the weekend shooting Haley James’ Coyote Modified machine for a feature and it didn’t slow her down one bit. The Hellion B-Team entry qualified in the second spot with an 8.41/164 hit, but wounded a band in the transmission. They fixed it up on Saturday and were ready for action on Sunday. Clearly the Hellion-turbocharged MMR 302XR Coyote onboard was ready to perform. The final round was a rematch from Bradenton, and this time Haley took the win over Johnny Lightning—her first ever—with a searing 8.28 at 166 mph.
It would be difficult to match the stellar outing he had in Bradenton, but Johnny Lightning came into Commerce to give it his best shot. He topped the Coyote Modified qualifying sheet with an 8.30 at 167 mph. (He also qualified fifth in the Truck & Lightning class with a .042 reaction time.) However, when it came to the finals, it was spun and done for Johnny. He had to get in and out of the throttle, and that made it easy for Haley to grab her first win. Coyote Modified Gallery
It’s hard to imagine that it has never happened before, but NMRA stalwart had never won a race—until Commerce this year! Consistency was his recipe to getting the job done. Though he qualified in the fifth slot with a 10.46 at 126, Drew turned it up when it counted in eliminations. Drew turned his sealed-motor heads-up racer into a bracket car with a string of 0f 10.30s that took him through to the finals. On the way, Drew also set the class record at 10.34. In the finals, Drew clashed with Joe Marini, who had run consistently in the low 10.40s through elims. However, Drew got the jump and powered to the win with a 10.35 at 127. Coyote Stock Gallery
The thing about streaks is they are bound to break some time. In Pure Street, Teddy Weaver has been on a tear for over a year. However, in Georgia Jimmy Wilson announced that he was a serious threat in qualifying, when he topped the sheet with a 9.62/139 hit, which put him just ahead of Teddy. The duo had an easy road to the finals, where they were on a path to meet as they had at the season opener in Bradenton. Jimmy got the jump at the tree and ran quicker out the back door to take the bit win 9.66 vs. 9.69. Pure Street Gallery
Speaking of streaks, Matt Amrine is on a roll in Factory Stock. Following up a winning performance at the season opener, Matt kept that momentum going in Georgia. He was clearly quicker than the rest of the field in qualifying, where he topped the list with a 10.79 at 124 mph. After coasting a bit in the first two rounds, Matt turned things up in the semis to take out Louis Sylvester en route to final-round clash with Joseph Jones. It looked to be a good race, but Joseph lit the red bulb. Though it was an easy win, Matt still ran it out the back door to the tune of a 10.74 at 124. Factory Stock Gallery
A stout field of 25 cars filled the lanes for Open Comp in Georgia, so it would be a tough road for every competitor. The class qualifies via reaction time, and Greg Cole put his 1988 Mustang on the board in the 17th slot thanks to a .038 light. Eliminations in Open Comp is all about consistency, and Greg had it locked he ran within a tenth of his dial-in every time, including the finals when he took out NMRA stalwart Wesley Dalrymple. Open Comp Gallery
Another Open Comp-style class that emphasizes efficiency but allows racers to run a bit quicker than their dial-ins is Modular Muscle. A class, which is obviously designed to highlight the performance of Ford’s modular engines, it is a great showcase for Adam Cox’s 1999 Mustang. He qualified second in the 13-car field thanks to a .012 reaction time. After breezing through the first two rounds, he staved off challenges from Rick Doern and Donnie Bowles to take home the win. Modular Muscle Gallery
Truck & Lightning
The NMRA truck class is mostly populated by modern haulers, but it was Greg Bagnell that prevailed in his 1970 Ford Ranchero. He qualified in the middle of the 18-truck field in the eighth spot with a .072 reaction time. In eliminations, he hit just on either side of his dial-in to run the gauntlet to the finals. There he clashed with fellow Floridian Matt Banks in a battle of Spring Hill versus Ft. Myers. Spring Hill took the win as Greg chopped down the tree and carried the momentum to the win. Truck & Lightning Gallery
Dedicated to the S197-to-present Mustang, the Super ’Stang class had a strong 20-car field in Georgia. After putting his 2007 Mustang in the fifth qualified spot with a .025 reaction time, Chad Wendell glided to the finals with the help of competitor redlight starts, but he had to work for the win in the finals. Bobby Barrick got the jump at the tree, but Chad was still able to run closer to his dial for the win. Super ’Stang Gallery
Fords definitely dominated the car show, and it’s not often you see a Walking Dead-themed Mustang GT. That’s just what Wesley Smith of Adairsville, Georgia, had on display. His Gotta Have It Green GT had skulls on the engine cover, inlet tube, and radiator-support cover. It even had a zombie torso belted into the driver’s seat. Car Show Gallery