The NMRA Storms Into Florida With Guns Blazing

With a laser focus on the Ford Mustang and the automotive aftermarket, the NMRA has given the Blue Oval faithful a place to play – whether the game is drag racing or entry into the car show – for the better part of two decades. Over the weekend of March 4-6, 2016, the event series opened the season with their annual Spring Break Shootout in Bradenton, Florida. The participants displayed a number of outstanding performances on the dragstrip, and there was plenty of drama in the pits throughout the course of the weekend.

Randy Seward had one of the more impressive performances we’ve seen at the Spring Break Shootout, winning the True Street class on Saturday with a bracket-car-like performance. The True Street class forces drivers to first take part in a 30-mile cruise around the local streets and highways, then come back to the dragstrip and run three back-to-back-to-back passes with virtually no cool-down time. From Seward’s first run to his third run, the car varied only .025-second in performance, recording a personal-best elapsed time of 8.309 at 165.74 mph in the process. To top off his excellent weekend, Seward came back on Sunday to run in the Spring Break Shootout and defeated Raul Torres after another four rounds of intense racing.

Alton Clements (Left) and Frank Varela (Right) battled throughout 2015 for the Renegade title, with Varela coming out on top at the end of the year. The pair picked up right where they left off at the inaugural event of 2016, with Clements’ supercharged machine capturing the win in the final round.

Over the winter, James Meredith made some changes under the hood of his Triangle Speed-built, Coyote-powered Factory Stock machine . The result? A stout 10.61 top qualifier effort and a trip to the final, where Matt Amrine was waiting for him. Although Amrine got out of the gate with a huge holeshot – over a tenth of a second – his tires went up in smoke before the 60-foot mark, propelling Meredith to an advantage he wouldn’t relinquish. A worthy win for the fellow from Texas.

Justin Burcham and the JPC team spent all winter thrashing to get their Street Outlaw machine up to spec; Burcham raced in the class once last season, at the Route 66 stop, this was his first time in Florida with a plan to run in the NMRA’s pinnacle heads-up class. Alas, it was not to be, as on the second pass, the engine ate a piston and a bunch of other parts. Here the JPC team was loading the car up to go home for repair, sans engine. We hear he’ll be back by the next race, just a few short weeks away in Commerce, Georgia.

Brian Devilbiss made the choice to run in the GT500/Cobra Shootout this weekend, and his efforts paid off as the Devil’s Reject Racing/Evolution Performance team won the class with an outstanding 8.11 over Rick Kaknes’ 10-second ET in the final round.

Longtime NMRA fans may recognize this car – the big-tire machine owned by none other than Wild Bill Devine, former Pro 5.0 star and Mustang pioneer. Devine had the twin-turbocharged machine on-site with a plan to make test hits all weekend and put on a show for the fans, but a broken crankshaft during a Thursday hit put him out of commission. Devine lives in Michigan and has plans to attend many 10.5-style races in Canada along with others where the car fits.

What you’re looking at is a very real 2013 Boss 302 Mustang, owned by Virginia resident Jeff Polivka. The combination is based around a Forced Inductions-modded 68 mm Borg-Warner turbocharger and Coyote engine, along with all of the necessary supporting gear to compete in this class.

“I cut up a real Boss to build this car. It wasn’t the plan, but it’s kind of snowballed. I bought it brand new and put a JPC turbo kit on it, then looked at Coyote Modified, decided I wanted to run in the class, and here we are,” says Polivka. “JPC built the whole car, and Dom Cimino of DC Performance did the cage.”

Polivka has now been to the semifinal round at the only two NMRA events he’s attended; from the looks of it, this team will surely find their way into the final round soon enough.

The event had a monster 121 entries into the True Street class. Here are just a few, awaiting their trip down the 1320.

Joe Guertin battled all winter long to get his Coyote Modified machine to the track, making a number of changes in the process. As recently as the Tuesday prior to the event, he had crew chief Chet Caminita of CRE Performance buried underneath the car in his garage welding up the busted up torque boxes for the rear suspension. By Saturday, Guertin had become the first-ever Coyote Modified racer to break into the seven-second zone on the dragstrip by knocking down a stout 7.928 at over 171 mph. Come Sunday, Guertin made his way to the final round before pulling the trigger a hair early on the starting line and giving up the event win to Johnny Lightning.

Coyote Stock was full of drama all weekend long, but in the end, Kentucky resident Jacob Lamb came out on the top of the heap. When the smoke cleared, Lamb was in the winner’s circle with a victory over Drew Lyons.

“It was a great weekend – I didn’t touch the car all winter.  It was exactly the same setup that was in Bowling Green last year. This is the best class going and with all the past NMRA Champions there are no easy rounds. You better be on your game every round. I feel very fortunate to be able to come out with the win,” says Lamb.

Speaking of Lyons (seen here taking the tree in front of crew chief Bruce Hemminger), he was at the center of some controversy throughout the weekend. Since the NMRA’s Coyote Stock class came to life, the competitors have been trying to determine what happens when one of the sealed engines fails – does it get rebuilt, or thrown away? Lyons, acting at the direction of Ford Performance and NMRA tech officials, delivered a damaged engine still in sealed form to Holbrook Racing Engines, where it was rebuilt over the winter using factory components and returned to him in a sealed state. Not surprisingly, the other competitors were furious that a professional engine builder had gone through what was supposed to be a sealed, from-the-factory engine, and placed it back into service in the class. Since the end of the event, Lyons has agreed to remove the engine from his program for the next event, until the NMRA and Ford Performance can develop a fair-to-all service program that will continue to keep the parity alive between all competitors. Lyons says he was only following instructions, but we suspect there is much more to come regarding this issue moving forward.

“When my oil pump failed, I fully expected that a new engine would be in my near future. Due to a very limited number of remaining sealed engines and no firm plans for allowance of a sealed 2015 Coyote engine, the rebuild seemed like the best option at the time. If I had anticipated the controversy though, I would have done everything in my power to avoid it. I’ll be borrowing an untouched sealed engine for the next race and am very eager to see how it performs, as the rebuilt one was definitely down on power from last year,” explains Lyons.

This is the face of one focused Street Outlaw racer, none other than class winner Dwayne Barbaree. Over the winter, Barbaree and crew chief/car owner Russell Stone made many changes to their turbocharged entry, including a brand-new 400 cubic inch Kuntz & Co. small-block engine topped off with a set of Jim Kuntz-massaged billet cylinder heads from Don Losito.

Coincidentally, businessman Stone also purchased Kuntz & Co. from Jim Kuntz just a few months ago, becoming the owner of one of the premier Ford engine shops in the country in the process. Kuntz will stay onboard for several years to aid in the transition, and no other changes are expected, other than working to string together more event wins through the season. Stone is also readying a small-block nitrous combination –with a Kuntz-designed engine – for the class, which will compete between the framerails of a state-of-the-art chassis purchased last year from former NMRA Hot Street racer Ben Mens. Stone will wheel this second car upon its completion, which should be shortly.

It’s been years – almost a decade, in fact – since Manny Buginga (seen ogling the camera) has been down the track at an NMRA event. The former Street Outlaw class champion purchased this chassis from Mike Alwardt, filled the engine bay with a small-block bullet from engine builder Kris Nelson of Nelson Competition Engines, and hired none other than the Bruder Brothers to help shorten his learning curve with the new combination. Longtime crew chief Pat Speer dusted off the mechanic’s gloves, and the team was in Florida trying to make their mark on the Street Outlaw field. Buginga qualified second with a 4.509 at 164 mph, but ran into some new-car gremlins on the starting line in his first-round matchup with Vince Palozzolo and never made a pass during eliminations. Manny Bug will be back, and if past results are any indicator of future performance, the rest of the field should consider themselves on notice.

Not to be confused with the NMRA class, “Street Outlaws” TV show cast members draw a big crowd anywhere they go. Chris “BoostedGT” Hamilton showed up at the event to sign autographs for his fans, and also make some runs at the end of Saturday night during the NMRA’s Grudge Night event. We saw him make a test pass during the day, and there’s no doubt that the man can wheel a racecar.

Joe Basile’s 4,168 pound twin-turbo Mustang turned in an insane 8.56 at 165 mph – on 17-inch drag radials – during Turbo Coyote Shootout action. Basile’s car relies on a Lund Racing-tuned engine built by Tim Eichhorn at MPR Racing Engines, a Fluid Turbo Concepts turbo system, and a Power By The Hour 6R80 transmission backed by a Circle D torque converter. This car is no joke.

Last year Teddy Weaver (shown) and Jimmy Wilson battled all season long in the Pure Street class, driving the high-winding small-blocks to single-digit elapsed times. Wilson came out on top five times, winning the class championship at the end of the year. This season started with a different outcome; Weaver took advantage of Wilson’s bobble on the starting line to take home the win at the first event of the year.

Gary Parker goes rounds in Modular Muscle. Here he puts on his game face prior to an elimination round on Sunday. Parker went all the way to the semifinals before bowing out to eventual runner-up Rick Doern.

Stock 2.3-liter engine, stock turbo, 3,650 pounds. UPR Products put Bill Putnam behind the wheel of their 2015 EcoBoost Mustang (on right in photo) and watched as Putnam ran through the EcoBoost shootout field on Sunday afternoon. In the final round, Putnam took out Brad Gusler with an insane 10.87 at over 125 mph; UPR’s Steve Gelles was just a bit overjoyed at the result.

NMRA Street Outlaw standout John Urist (L) gives Turbo Coyote Shootout winner Justin Jordan a bit of racing advice. Or maybe he’s giving out directions to a top-secret dinner location. We’re not sure, but whatever is happening here is serious bidness.

Jordan’s 2014 Mustang GT features an Eliminator twin-turbo kit from Hellion which features a pair of Precision Turbo 6466 snails, an MPR Racing Engines long-block with Porting Solutions-prepped cylinder heads, and a Trans Specialties Powerglide and torque converter. Perhaps most impressive is the use of the stock engine management system that’s been tweaked by Jordan Performance and Racing using HPTuners software. The result? An outstanding 7.74 at 175 mph to defeat Ronnie Reynolds’ 7.78/182 mph blast in the final round of competition on Sunday.

It was a crazy weekend with plenty of wild racing action to open the NMRA’s 2016 season. Check out the gallery below with more photos our camera captured during the course of the weekend. See you at the next event in Georgia!