Case of the Mondays
The NMRA Ford drag racing season concludes after rain delays the action
Photos by Steve Turner and courtesy of the NMRA
NMRA World Finals is a bittersweet event. It’s our favorite drag race of the year because of the gorgeous setting at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and excitement of the final push toward championships. Everyone runs hard and wants to end the season on a good note to set the stage for next year. This year, however, the weather just didn’t want to cooperate.
So you want to be in pictures? Well, if you don’t win the event, there’s one sure way to get everyone to remember you. Put your Street Outlaw car on the bumper and let it ride in the first round of qualifying. That’s just what Dan Wilm did in his ’88 Mustang GT. He gets bonus points for the sparks off the rear bumper. Unfortunately he had issues in the first round of eliminations, which gave Chris Grove an easy win.
Constant rain on both Friday and Saturday led the NMRA to surrender to Mother Nature. As you know, this year’s event was jam-packed with specialty classes—including the
EcoBoost Battle, GT550 vs. Terminator Shootout, NMRA Grudge Night, and Turbo Coyote Shootout—which would have made it a challenge to complete even without water on the ground.
When things finally did get rolling on Sunday, it was an oil-down that preempted the festivities on Sunday night, which made eliminations spill over onto Monday. It was the last race, so there’s no way to continue at the next event. Things had to get settled, and eventually the NMRA season came to a close and Nitto Diamond Tree rings were earned.
We featured Haley James early in the season and here first year racing in the NMRA proved quite the success story. At Bowling Green she qualified in the top spot thanks to an 8.29 at 162 mph blast. After cruising through two rounds of eliminations, she clashed with Johnny Lightning in the finals. However, the teen racing sensation’s season didn’t quite have a Hollywood ending. She spun the tires coming out of the hole, and Johnny cruised to the win. Haley did collect enough points to collect the Coyote Modified championship.
Here are your 2015 NMRA Champions:
Street Outlaw: Phil Hines
• Renegade: Frank Varella
• Coyote Modified: Haley James
• Coyote Stock: Drew Lyons
• Pure Street: Jimmy Wilson
• Factory Stock: Matt Amrine
• Modular Muscle: Donnie Bowles
• Super Stang: Kent Nine
• Open Comp: Mel White
• Truck & Lightning: Johnny Lightning
Of course, we can’t wait until the championship chase starts all over again in Bradenton, but for now let’s see who finished the season with a win.
Bringing some extra spice to the Grudge Racing sideshow at the finals were some celebrity guests. Chris “BoostedGT” Hamilton of the Street Outlaws television fame proved quite popular with fans who lined up all weekend for autographs and swag. Street Outlaw
Heading into the finals Phil Hines was in the driver seat and he wasn’t going to let up at Beech Bend. After qualifying in the top spot with a 4.45 at 168 mph eighth-mile hit, Phil piloted his ProCharged machine to a final round clash with John Urist. Along the way, Andy Manson was the only thing stopping Phil from the finals, and Phil dropped two tenths on Andy to head into that epic final-round battle. The two foes have met many times and this time the championship hung in the balance. John’s car was off-pace, and Phil cruised to the win. Renegade
Alton Clements was running neck and neck with Frank Varela in qualifying. In the end, Alton was just a tick behind Frank with a 7.79 at 178 mph. That set the pair on opposite sides of the ladder on what looked to be an inevitable meeting in the finals. Alton made easy work of Bart Tobener, Adam Arndt, and Dominic DiDonato in the first three rounds of eliminations. None of those competitors could get into the 7-second range to compete. However, Frank slipped up against Brian Devilbiss in the finals, and Brian had issues in the final round, so Alton cruised to the win. Turbo Coyote Shootout
The Turbo Coyote Shootout field was stout at the World Finals. This specialty class has run at both Bradenton and MIR, but in Bowling Green 15 turbocharged 5.0 Mustangs made the call. Of those cars, four qualified in the 8-second zone, including Tony Hobson (pictured) in the second slot and eventual winner Kenny Rice in third. We had a plane to catch, so we missed photographing Kenny’s Grabber Blue machine, but he didn’t miss a thing. After breezing through the first two rounds, he took out the number-one qualifier in the semis and bested Tony in the finals (8.24 vs. 8.39). Coyote Modified
After a health scare the week before the finals, Johnny Lightning was cleared to go racing, and go racing he did. As you likely know, he competes in both Coyote Modified and Truck and Lightning. As it turns out he won the race in the Cobra Jet, but took home the championship in the Lightning. With a stout 8.35/164 hit, Johnny qualified hot on the heels of number-one qualifier Haley James. After an easy win over Joe Guertin in Round One, Johnny had a close call against newcomer (and SVTP feature alum) Jeff Polivka in the second. Jeff got the jump, but Johnny was able to drive around him an into the finals against Haley. She blew the tires off, but Johnny still ran it out the back door to put an exclamation point on the win. GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout
The specialty classes were definitely bringing it at Bowling Green. One of the oldest of the bunch is the GT500 vs. Terminator Shootout sponsored by our friends at VMP Tuning. It’s definitely aging gracefully as 18 competitors turned out to battle for SVT supremacy. Of those, 10 were Cobras and eight were GT500s, so the teams were pretty even. Historically the Cobras have the edge, but this year Randy Thomas qualified his GT500 in the third spot with a 9.44 at 140 and powered to the finals where he took out the number-one qualifier, Frank Yee, and his turbocharged Terminator. Randy clicked off a 9.44, while Frank ran way off his pace with a 12.27 in the finals. Coyote Stock
Of the 18 Coyote Stock racers on the Beech Bend property, 16 of them qualified in the 10-second zone. That’s pretty impressive for a class running a sealed crate engine from Ford Performance. Clocking in with the third qualified spot—thanks to a 10.28 at 127—was Steve Gifford in his 1997 Mustang. Proving the class isn’t all about Foxes with Coyote engines, Steve piloted his S197 through five rounds of competition, and when things got close, he got it done at the tree. In the finals Shane Stymiest ran quicker, but Steve chopped down the tree and held his slight edge to the stripe to take the win. NA 10.5
It’s been a while since we’ve seen a big-power, naturally aspirated class with the NMRA, and at Bowling Green it was cool to watch the high-winding NA 10.5 cars run. Rick Riccardi qualified his 420-cube Capri in the number-two spot with an 8.18 at 166 mph, which was hot on the heels of Don Bowles’ 8.17 in the number one spot. In the finals, Rick got the jump at the tree and ran the quicker e.t. to defeat Don. Pure Street
The Pure Street crew is a small but dedicated bunch, and among its stalwart competitors are Teddy Weaver and Jimmy Wilson. The two qualified first and second, respectively, and seemed destined to meet in the finals. That’s just how it played out, as Jimmy beat Shawn Johnson and Teddy defeated Derek Downs so they would meet in the last round. Teddy left first, but Jimmy drove around him to take the win. Factory Stock
Though he was running in a heads-up class, James Meredith might as well have been piloting a bracket car. He was that consistent. Though he qualified in the third spot with a 10.91/121 hit, he locked into a 10.80 groove in eliminations, which was more than enough to run the table. In the finals, Sondra Leslie cut a light on him, but James had the power to run her down and take the win. EcoBoost Battle
Bill Putnam was definitely in it to win it with his Triple Yellow 2015 Mustang. After qualifying with a 12.35 at 111, he went so far as to yank his exhaust system to eek out more performance in eliminations. There he took out Brandi Phoenix and BJ McCarty before riding a bye into the finals against Brad Gusler. Brad ran into issues and ran a second off his pace, so Bill became the first-ever EcoBoost Battle champ thanks to a 12.04 at 112 mph hit. For more on the Livernois Motorsports EcoBoost Battle presented by SVTPerformance.com, check out our full coverage, which posted earlier this week. Open Comp
Brett Blacker was doing work in Bowling Green. He made it his business to run 10-teens on a 10.09 dial-in every round. That effort promoted him all the way to the finals where he clashed with John Pickering’s 9-second Maverick. Bret got the jump and run closer to his dial-in to take the win. Modular Muscle
Since the Open Comp-style classes qualify based on reaction time, the top qualifier doesn’t always have an advantage in eliminations. In the case of Shane Williams, his quick work at the tree did put pressure on his opponents in eliminations, as he continued to cut great lights and run right next to his dial-in. In the finals versus Jason Steamer, Shane left first and he ran an 11.538 on an 11.53 dial to earn the victory. Truck & Lightning
Like most of the classes in Bowling Green, the Truck & Lightning category was fully stocked. Robert Churan survived four rounds of eliminations to square off against Jim Roberts in the final. The race was over before it started, as Jim lit the red bulb and Robert sailed to an easy win. Super ’Stang
Brenspeed engine builder Kent Nine qualified right in the middle of the pack in Super ’Stang with his 326-cube 2007 Mustang. He ran right on top of his dial-in though four rounds to make it to the finals against John Mummery, who cut a light. Kent, however, ran closer to his dial-in again to take the win and the championship. NMRA World Finals 2015 Gallery