The NMRA and NMCA’s efforts to put on an excellent event were nearly derailed this past weekend at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia, by challenging conditions all around. When qualifying was called on Friday and Saturday evening due to the cold, many racers wondered whether the race would even be finished on Sunday as scheduled. In fact, even late Sunday afternoon there were rumblings in the pit area by concerned racers, but after a Herculean effort, the entire event – save for one class, Radial Wars – finished their scheduled elimination rounds, crowning winners in each class.
Twenty-one-year-old Haley Rounsavall finally scored her first win in the hotly-contested Chevrolet Performance Stock class in the NMCA series. Rounsavall, who campaigns a car under the tutelage of her grandfather – and fellow competitor – Ronnie Hackleton, was impressive on elimination day.
“I am so excited that I finally got my first win! I have been trying for around two years now to get my first win, but it seemed like second place was all I could achieve,” says Rounsavall.
“This weekend had a lot of up and downs, but I could not have been happier about how it ended – celebrating with my family and friends right after I won was one of the best feelings I have ever had. I was very excited and shocked in the final round because I knew his car was faster, but my grandpa told me right before I left that I could win, and I did. I hope I can continue this success going forward in the rest of the season!”
Dwayne Barbaree went for a wild ride in the first round of eliminations; a broken throttle body shaft locked the engine wide open – at over 170 mph – and nearly sent him into the wall in what would have been a wreck of epic proportions. Instead, he and longtime racer Joel Greathouse managed to keep from running into one another, and Barbaree saved the car for another day. Sadly, the engine and transmission are toasted, as he ran the eighth-mile car through the quarter-mile.
“I was on the brakes, fighting the wheel and the car was still accelerating,” says Barbaree.
“The car was running 190 mph at 5.6 seconds into the run. After fighting through a long drift toward the left wall, I finally swatted the chute handle and the switches but still slid into the other lane. The brakes were burnt off, we left a rod on the track, and the engine bay was on fire, but thank the lord there were not two wrecked race cars and bruised up drivers.”
Two in a row for Coyote Stock player Jacob Lamb – he’s now wrapped up event wins in Florida and Georgia to take a commanding points lead in the class. Lamb, no stranger to stringing together consistent passes, has taken the skills he honed for years in the NMRA’s Modular Muscle class and brought them to Coyote Stock. Consistent reaction and elapsed times means Lamb is always in the hunt once eliminations begin.
This is the NMRA Renegade record-holding engine, stuffed between the fenders of Aaron Bates’ Dez Racing-backed Mustang. Bates, who not only set and backed up the class elapsed time record but carded his first win over the course of the weekend, was humble when asked about his performance.
“The weekend was great. We had some intermittent electrical issues haunting us throughout the race and hope to have that squared away soon so we can become more repeatable,” he says.
“The rest of the car worked flawlessly, all due to the talent and hard work of the crew. We have begun preparations for Maple Grove knowing the class is very competitive and the teams that put the most effort into their program will have the most success this year.”
You’re looking at a 2016 Cobra Jet, but this particular car is special. Not only is it the very first Cobra Jet to roll off the assembly line, it was purchased by none other than Chuck Watson of Watson Racing – the company tasked with building the Cobra Jet chassis for Ford Performance. So the car is #001, and you’d think it would be off in some museum somewhere, appreciating until Watson’s ready to put the cash into his retirement nest egg, right? Not the case – this car is raced, and raced hard, as Watson qualified with an 8.44 in the NMCA’s Factory Super Car class.
This is the face of the NMRA’s Coyote Stock record-holder. Carlos Sobrino – who just a few short weeks ago was debating hanging up his Coyote Stock program – turned in an outstanding 10.22 during the first round of eliminations to claim the class record by a solid margin.
Just a few short weeks ago at the NMRA’s Florida event, Sobrino was thinking about hanging up his program.
“I was all strapped in the car for first round of eliminations when all of a sudden I asked myself “Why am I here? I really don’t want to be here,” says Sobrino.
“That’s when I realized I might be burnt out from 16 years of heads up racing. I did a lot of thinking on the 21 hour drive home. That’s when I realized I could simply take the weight out of the car, go 9s at will, and run index or bracket classes to have fun again without the stress of constantly chasing a tenth or hundredth of a second. I told my crew chief, Carlos Florenca, and he wasn’t too happy about it. But he understood that I was simply burned out.”
So Florenca took over the research and development responsibility from Sobrino, and the results have proven themselves out so far on the track.
“Working together – arguing – and swapping ideas – more arguing – netted good results during testing. But just like the past, testing doesn’t mean squat at an NMRA event as results are rarely duplicated. Our testing results were not only matched in NMRA competition, they were surpassed,” says Sobrino.
Louisiana’s DJ Loiacano had a tough, tough weekend in Atlanta. On his first-round qualifying pass, he had a door blow off at the top end, which he attributes to the bumps in the left lane knocking the door off its pins – and he still managed to become number-one qualifier in that round.
If that’s not all, during the final round of qualifying, Loiacano was on his best pass ever – on pace for 4.40s given the timeslip incrementals – and got out of shape over the same bumps, tagging both walls as seen here. Jarod Wenrick did a masterful job driving in the other lane, managing to collect his racecar and stay out of Loiacano’s way.
Loiacano has reported that the car is repairable, with the majority of the damage from the rear wheels back, with only cosmetic damage to the front of the vehicle. In addition, the engine is fine, but he plans to take some time to regroup and reassess his program.
Jarod Wenrick had his way with the combined Street Outlaw class. After qualifying his Bischoff Engine Service-powered ’66 Nova in the number one spot with a strong 4.45, Wenrick ran through the field on Sunday before meeting up with Ronnie Diaz in the final round of competition. There, he put nearly a tenth-and-a-half advantage on Diaz right on the starting line, before winning a pedalfest down the track. This car is simply beautiful.
It was refreshing to see Mustang performance pioneer Brian Wolfe out and competing in his old-school Fox Mustang in the N/A 10.5 class on the NMCA side. Wolfe, who normally competes – and sets records – with his big-block New Edge Mustang at Milan Dragway in the All Motor class, came back to his small-block roots this past weekend. He had but one sentence for us: “There’s nothing like a small-block.”
Photo Courtesy NMRA
In a battle of the ladies, Nina Gusler (seen here) and Amanda Saad faced off in the final round of the NMRA’s Truck and Lightning class. Saad won the battle on the tree and to the big end, running closer to her dial in a pedalfest. We spoke with Gusler after the final round and she said the track wasn’t there for either competitor, but she was happy to see Saad take home her first-ever win.
There was another first-time winner this weekend; the NMRA’s Coyote Modified class saw Jeff Polivka score his first win in any kind of competitive drag racing, with the help of crew members Eric Holliday and Charlie Barnes and the rest of the team at JPC Racing.
Coyote Modified has been home to some drama lately with regards to class rules and weight breaks for individual combinations.
“We had a few fortunate breaks to get the win on Sunday with having a turbo combo, which is down on power to the blower cars. We would like to see some changes for a bigger turbo but we will keep fighting and hope all the combos get better aligned,” says Polivka.
The lone class to remain unfinished – the NMCA’s Radial Wars eliminator – saw last year’s champion, Keith Berry (L), still in competition against Daniel Pharris (R). Berry, who had a bent valve on Saturday afternoon when we stopped by, had the Pro Line Racing team tune up the cylinder head and had it back on the car for Sunday’s competition. Pharris, who was knocking down 3-second passes at will on the Atlanta Dragway surface, will be tough competition for Berry’s Woooooo Crew when they complete this event at the NMCA’s next stop in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
In the NMRA’s Pure Street class, it’s been the Teddy Weaver and Jimmy Wilson show since the beginning of 2015, with Wilson taking home the class title last year. So far in 2016, the roles have been reversed, with Weaver’s Roush-powered small-block Mustang taking home top honors at the first two races. In Georgia, Weaver sought out the assistance of former NMCA Mean Street championship team (and current Ultra Street racers) Alan and Dave Von Ahnen for crew duty, and the return was worth the investment of hot dogs and air beds. In the final round of Pure Street, Weaver’s machine responded to the touch with an awesome 9.59 blast at nearly 140 mph, while Wilson’s car bit hard and shot for the sky. Weaver also reset his own record down to 9.55 in the first round of competition against Billy Gimbel.
“We had the car on rails all weekend long. We’re trying a few new things and still tweaking in the horsepower department, but clutch and chassis-wise, we were on point!” says Weaver.
Tim Savell is doing double-duty with the Bankston Racing Xtreme Pro Mod Camaro in the NMCA. The Rick Jones-built car, which is outfitted for PDRA Pro Nitrous duty as well, runs a 960-cubic-inch Pat Musi fuel-injected engine in competition. The Bankston team – which is based in Mississippi – has hired well-known crewmembers Randy and Keith Auwarter to help line out the car. The Auwarter boys are best known for their time putting former Outlaw 10.5 racer Conrad Scarry into the winner’s circle time and time again, and their talents were on full display this weekend along with Savell’s skills behind the wheel.
Savell was on point all weekend with the well-sorted-out car, qualifying in the top spot with a 3.76 before going on to eliminate everyone he faced on Sunday. Paul Gibbs, Ken Cruz, Adam Flamholc, and Michael Biehle all felt the Camaro’s wrath, with Savell taking home the class win in his very first time in NMCA competition. Our understanding is that the team plans to continue out the season and try to capture the Xtreme Pro Mod championship for 2016. The future is bright for this NMCA class.
Old-school iron took the win in the NA 10.5 class. Dwight Ausmus, who qualified at the top of the field with an 8.07 in Saturday’s windy conditions, showed the difference between a 30 mph headwind, which was present Saturday, and how the Firebird performs in calm conditions. On his first-round bye run on Sunday, he dropped a 7.89 on the field, then a 7.88 in the final round took out longtime player Mike DeMayo, Jr.’s monster 7.85 blast with a holeshot win – the margin of victory at the strip in the final was .006-second, or 18 inches at 170 mph.
It was a fruitful weekend for the racers who are part of the KBX Performance team in the Street Outlaw class. Joel Greathouse (pictured) piloted Jared Johnston’s car for the weekend into the top qualified spot with an insane 4.39 elapsed time, Vinny Palazzolo qualified second, and Ronnie Diaz qualified 12th in the field. On Sunday, all three racers made it into the semifinal round, where Greathouse went down to Jarod Wenrick, and Diaz put Palozzolo on the trailer with a stout 4.47 at 165.60 mph to Palozzolo’s 4.52. In the process, Diaz became the quickest modular-engined 275 radial racer in the world. In the final round, Diaz went down to Wenrick’s consistent machine.
The NMRA hits Maple Grove Raceway in just a few short weeks – April 29 through May 1 – and we’ll be there on-site to document the festivities. Stay tuned!