Bill Putnam repeats as EcoBoost champion at the NMRA Super Nationals
By Steve Turner
Photos courtesy of the NMRA
The wait was finally over. There have been two events since the NMRA Ford Drag Racing season kicked off in Florida, so it’s been a minute since the Livernois Motorsports EcoBoost Battle presented SVTPerformance raced. Over the weekend the second race of this mini series went down in Hebron, Ohio, at the NMRA Super Nationals.
Designed to encourage the development of the EcoBoost platform, this class began at the World Finals last season and expanded to a three-race class with NMRA in the 2016 season—including stops in Florida, Ohio and Kentucky. At the prior events there were a wide variety of EcoBoost machines, but at this season’s second stop at the Super Nationals the field narrowed its focus to some of the quickest EcoBoost Mustangs around.
When a 3.5-liter-swapped S197 didn’t make the call, it became an all-S550 field, including two Mustangs out of the BG Racing stable. Naturally one was the quickest EcoBoost Mustang in the world piloted by Brad Gusler. Both he and his wife Nina brought out their machines and Brad once again laid down the quickest e.t. and top speed in qualifying to top the ladder.
That set the stage for a familiar clash with reigning champ Bill Putnam, who qualified in second place and lined up on the opposite side of the ladder. The two racers would again run the table to meet in the finals, but that wasn’t a guarantee as, after some upgrades, Bill struggled with electronic gremlins.
“After successfully testing in Florida a change we made it caused a check engine light here in Ohio that closed the throttle on us,” he explained. “So Steve Gelles flew up with the parts to return it to old setup. Thanks Steve and Mark Mainiero! It wouldn't be a race if there wasn't some last-minute wrenching in the pits.”
Despite the last-minute thrash, Bill once again outdueled the quicker car to remain undefeated with three consecutive wins in EcoBoost Battle competition.
He will carry that momentum into the final round of EcoBoost action at the World Finals at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, from Sept 29 through October 2, 2016.
Though he had to overcome some issues, Bill Putnam put his Triple Yellow machine in the second qualified spot in Ohio with an 11.11 at 121 mph pass. That matched him up with Nina Gusler in round one. Bill eased past her into a final round battle with her husband Brad. Bill got the jump and held the edge to the stripe (11.27 vs. 11.58) to take his third consecutive EcoBoost Battle win and remain undefeated in the class.
Brad Gusler’s 2015 EcoBoost Mustang was the first two dip into the 10-second zone and it was the only car to run in the 10s in Ohio. Brad qualified in the top spot with a 10.98 at 125 mph rip that put him atop the ladder. In round one he vanquished Alexis Fruggerio to move into a final-round clash with Bill Putnam, who got the jump and held the advantage to the finish line to take the win.
Backed by class-sponsor Livernois Motorsports, Alexis Fruggerio is a regular in the EcoBoost battle and she came to Ohio rocking some additions like 15-inch wheels, Mickey Thompson slicks, UPR suspension gear, and Viking shocks. She qualified in the third spot thanks to an 11.65/115 pass that matched her up against number-one qualifier Brad Gusler in the first round. Brad left first and it was all over. He took the win despite running a slower e.t. (12.05 vs. 11.95). “My goal is to reach mid 10s by Kentucky and Livernois and I have collaborated on a plan to achieve at least 500 rear-wheel horsepower safely and efficiently, but it won’t be ready for another month,” Alexis said.
Regular readers know that Nina Gusler’s 2016 EcoBoost Mustang is the street-car version of husband Brad’s all-out racer. Determined to show that street cars can get it done too, Nina qualified in the fourth spot thanks to a 13.13 at 102 mph, and faced off against eventual winner Bill Putnam in round one. He cut down the tree and didn’t let up to take a convincing victory (11.34 vs. 13.16) to move onto the finals.