All in the Family
Melissa Urist runs 9.50s in a twin-turbo 2015 Mustang at the NMRA finals
By Steve Turner
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of Hellion Power Systems
If you follow the National Mustang Racers Association, you are well aware of the last name Urist. It is associated with a long list of race wins, championships, and Nitto Tire Diamond Tree rings. An important part of that racing effort is Melissa Urist. Winner of the NMRA’s Crew Member of the Year award in 2014, Mrs. Urist is set to add and additional role at the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, this weekend—driver.
That’s right, in addition to assisting her husband, John, in his quest for a Street Outlaw championship, Melissa will campaign the Hellion Power Systems 2015 Mustang GT in the wild Turbo Coyote Shootout class, which features some of the quickest turbocharged Coyote Mustangs on the planet.
“We were able to rent the track in Albuquerque, where I made my first hit ever in a race car. It felt amazing. We made multiple hits that day and I’ve just been going over procedure. I like to look at it as if it’s a job. Everything gets done in a systematic way,” Melissa explained. “Of course, it’s an absolute blast, but mentally, it’s got to be the same every pass. We also have a few more test sessions planned before Bowling Green.”
You might remember the car Melissa is driving at the finals, as she and John picked it up at the finals last year and drove it back to New Mexico where it became the development vehicle for Hellion Power Systems’ Eliminator twin-turbo system for the 2015 Mustang GT.
These days the car wears that same Hellion kit with the smaller 55mm turbos. Supported by a Fore Innovations fuel system and Deatchworks fuel injectors, the stock 5.0-liter engine produced enough power to propel this streetable S550 to low-10-second quarter-mile e.t.’s at 132 mph in spite of the 90-degree desert heat and a density altitude of 8,200 feet. It should run a bit quicker in Bowling Green.
While Melissa might be new behind the wheel of a car like this, don’t think she doesn’t know her way around the racetrack. Melissa’s brother, John Leslie Jr., and sister, Sondra Leslie, have long been blasting down the quarter mile, and her family has always been supportive of those efforts.
“I started going to races in high school to support my brother from 1999 through 2003. Then I got way more involved while in college. Shortly after that, I met John in 2008,” she explained. “Now I have a family full of racers.”
At the final race of the year, the Hellion Power Systems team wants to show off the capabilities of its turbo system for the latest Mustang, and it seemed only natural for another Urist to take the wheel. While, Melissa wants to make fast passes, safety will always come first for this racing mom.
“I was given an amazing opportunity to drive from my husband and his business partner, Dwayne James. I’ve always wanted to drive but the timing was never right,” she added. “I feel very confident in the car as my husband is overly protective. Being a mom has changed the way I view racing. I’d rather go overboard on safety and safety equipment than not come home to my daughter.”
We can’t argue with being safe, and it was definitely exciting to see one of the most powerful 2015 Mustangs around making clean passes at Beech Bend Raceway. On a test hit Melissa clicked off a stout 9.50 at 133.86 mph. Not too shabby for a street car!