The NMRA World Finals Return To Bowling Green—With A Twist

The 21st Annual NMRA World Finals—held in Bowling Green, Kentucky—offered the traditional exciting drag racing action that NMRA fans have come to know and love, and this year there was more activity throughout the entire facility. Much more, thanks to the addition of the Intergalactic Ford Festival, dreamed up by the fine folks at Holley Performance Products.

In years past, the NMRA racers have been the stars of the show; this year, the Holley folks added to that excitement by pulling out all the stops, adding the drifting exhibition and other elements of the event. Populated by several Ford-powered cars like those of Vaughn Gittin, Jr., and Chelsea DeNofa, the drift pits offered fans a chance to get close to their heroes.

Several times throughout the weekend, these guys and girls—including Kelsey Rowlings’ nasty supercharged, Coyote-swapped Nissan 240SX—took over the circle track area of Beech Bend Raceway Park in both single-run and tandem pairings. For those NMRA fans who had never seen drifting action in person, it was undoubtedly a breathtaking and dramatic display of horsepower and car control. During Saturday night’s drift exhibition session, the stands were packed from end to end, with people also lining the fence to watch the festivities. Vaughn and company didn’t disappoint.


The circle track was rolling hot all weekend; the drifting action was just the start, though. There was also an autocross course laid out on the track surface in between the displays of drifting, while the burnout contest also took place in this area.

The Manufacturer’s Midway was jam-packed full of vendors showing off their wares. From Race Star Wheels to UPR Products to Tremec Transmissions and more, this was the place to be to find parts for your fast Ford. And in the Swap Meet, I saw a ton of go-fast parts (and stock Mustang body parts, and more) to be had on the cheap. I always go to Bowling Green and wonder why I didn’t drive… but you can’t take large, heavy car parts home on a plane.

Charlie Booze, Jr. and Justin Fogelsonger qualified one and two in Factory Stock, but on elimination day, Fogelsonger got the better of Booze on the track, by just 13-thousandths at the stripe. The most compelling part of this equation, though, is that Fogelsonger owns both cars. Oh, and the Fox that Booze was driving was previously used to compete in Coyote Stock. The one-two punch of the Fogelsonger-Booze alliance may just be primed to dominate Factory Stock in 2020.

One item I found that was specifically interesting to me was this Fox-body frame rail repair kit from the folks at Scott Rod Fabrications. As the oldest of those cars have now crossed the 40-year mark, the chances of finding a rust-free example are few and far between. The front frame rail/strut area where the K-member attaches is the main failure point, and Scott Rod has this nifty little kit to repair it. It’s not a kit for the novice installer, but it does make the repair process much more straightforward than if the equipment didn’t exist. It comes with the upper and lower frame rail, lower strut tower plate, two strut tower corners, K-member bolt slugs (for the bolts to pass through), and the K-member bolt top plate. For those with the ability to weld and fabricate, this is a serious timesaver. A crisp Ben Franklin gets you a kit to repair one side, and two Bens covers both sides of the car. I love seeing innovative, problem-solving products. This product is just one of the many manufactured by the company.

Yes, this is the first-ever Bigfoot monster truck—the truck that spawned an entire genre of mind-bending possibilities. It was super cool to see it in person.

It’s no secret that I think NMRA’s Coyote Stock class is one of the neatest classes on the planet. In fact, I’ve written about it. From the wheelstanding launches to the incredibly tight racing action, it’s a ton of fun to watch these guys hang ‘em high and shift two or three gears with the front tires dangling a few feet in the air.

Coyote Stock racer Jacob Lamb offered up an interesting tidbit of trivia regarding the class in 2019.

“Out of the six races this year, the number-one qualifier won one race and had two runner-up finishes. The number-two qualifier won one race and had two runner-up finishes. The number-three qualifier had three wins and one runner-up. There was one win from the number-five qualifier and one runner-up from the number-eight qualifier. There have been five different winners in six races and seven different racers in the final round. Also, out of the six races, the lower-qualified car in four of the races won. I think this shows how close the racing is in this class and that no matter where you start, you can get to the finals,” he says.

Nate Stymiest (bottom) took home the win over Jacob in the final round, with the season championship going to longtime NMRA racer Clair Stewart II (top).

The car show was jam-packed full of fantastic Fords—so many, in fact, that I couldn’t manage to spend enough time over there to capture them all. The way that the Beech Bend Raceway Park grounds are laid out, you actually couldn’t see the end of the car show. There were fabulous Fords everywhere you looked, and a chassis dyno from Red Line Motorsports packed right into the middle of the grounds.

I liked the appearance of this ’56 Ford F100 pickup, from the mint-green wheels to the fuel-injected pushrod 5-liter engine underhood. While it wasn’t a perfect show car, it was most certainly what appeared to be one heck of a fun hotrod: the right stance, plenty of power, and a five-speed manual transmission for rowing gears. Sign me up!

Dom DiDonato ran through the Street Outlaw field, qualifying just behind Phil Hines at the end of Saturday. With crew chief Chuck Wrzesniewski of C&D Autotech and tuner Craig Pachar of Triangle Speed prepping his hotrod to get down the track, DiDonato ran away with the event win over Hines in the final round.

“This was the first year I ran Street Outlaw—last year I ran Renegade. We have always struggled, and have finally have put a winning team together. C&D Autotech, Triangle Speed Shop, L&M Race Engines, and Rhodes Custom Auto. What a phenomenal weekend!” says DiDonato.

It’s been one heck of a crazy season for Street Outlaw class champion Vinny Palazzolo. On his way back to Pennsylvania from the Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing event in Illinois, Palazzolo had a tire blow out on the team’s toterhome. The resulting accident severely damaged his car; the roof, quarter-panel, and driver’s side of the car were crushed. A serious thrash by Chris Hare at Fatal Finishes and Palazzolo’s gang at R&S Automotive Specialists to get the car back together earned them the 2019 Street Outlaw championship. It’s impressive to see this car today—it looks like it had never been injured.

True to form, Beech Bend hosted tons of wheels-up action from the NMRA’s stars.

After qualifying at the top of the Renegade class, Joel Greathouse and the KBX Performance team had a cylinder head off in the pits for a quick head gasket change. It always amazes me how quickly these guys can turn a car around.

A rough end to the season for 2019 Renegade class champ Haley James, who had the title wrapped up entering the race. The throttle stuck just after launch and sent her for a wild ride into the wall. It appears to be totaled, but she—save for a sore arm that bumped the cage—appeared none the worse for wear, and was wandering around the track all weekend long. I think her feelings were hurt that she couldn’t save the car. I had a conversation with her father/crew chief Dwayne James late Saturday, and I fully expect them to be ready for the 2020 season with a new car.

Qualify at the top of the heap in Limited Street? Check. Win the event over the 2019 champ, Mike Ciborowski? Check. Do wheelies? Check. It looks like Bill Putnam scored the trifecta in Kentucky.

I love Tim Knieriem’s SN95. Black, bad-ass, and beautiful. Knieriem took out Alton Clements in the final of the Renegade class.

Brad Schehr battled it out with well-known racer Martin Connelley in the Modified Street class in what was the tightest final round of the event. Schehr dropped a .014-second reaction time and 7.740 elapsed time, but Connelley did his job as well, going .006 on the tree and 7.750 at the stripe—a difference of two-thousandths of a second at the finish line, or 17.77-inches at 176 miles per hour. Oh, and he won the class championship as well.

There was so much happening through the course of the weekend that it was hard to capture it all. Other drag racing winners included Modular Muscle winner Charlie McCulloch (who also won the championship), Elmer Long in Open Comp, Mike Motycka in Truck & Lightning, Lloyd Mikeska in Ford Muscle, and Super Stang’s Larry Firestone, who dropped a perfect light and a .001-over pass in the final round to win the event and secure the class title. Terry Reeves won the 10R80 Throwdown, Keith Rhea captured the Hellion Turbo Battle, and Chad Epperson won over all comers in the Cobra/Terminator Vs. GT500 Shootout.

With the dragstrip and circle track running simultaneously, the cars howling away on the dyno, and the car show area filled with row upon row upon row of gorgeous Fords, the NMRA World Finals and Holley Intergalactic Ford Festival had something for everyone who bleeds Ford blue. Enjoy the gallery!