NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl 2020: Persistence Pays Off At The St. Louis Gateway

After the second consecutive day of a rain cancellation at the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing, I reached out to my editor here at Front Street and informed him of the bleak outlook for the weekend. The event started with a few hiccups, as Thursday’s test session was washed out. Friday had a more promising start, with several classes being able to get their cars down the track before the skies opened back up. The difficult decision was made to scrap the second day in a row. Saturday’s forecast didn’t look much better; this wasn’t a typical event as both series hold their separate events alongside one another, then the victors of each class battle in a head-to-head matchup for ultimate bragging rights and a shiny Super Bowl Champion ring. Any further delays introduced by Mother Nature would only stand to jeopardize the likeliness of seeing the event be completed. Many of the racers expressed their doubts with me. In contrast, others conceded that, “If anyone was going to get us down the track, it was ProMedia,” a reputation the promotion company has earned over the years for pulling off tremendous turnarounds in some incredibly adverse conditions.

That reputation was put to the ultimate test at Worldwide Technologies Raceway in Madison, Illinois. Located just over the Mississippi and only 15 minutes outside downtown St. Louis, this track was a late addition to this year’s tour, as the traditional home for the Super Bowl — Route 66 Raceway — decided to keep its gates closed for the remainder of the year. This closure forced ProMedia to find a new home for one of its most significant events. The ownership at WWT Raceway was eager to welcome the fastest muscle cars in the nation and provide an entertainment outlet for the St. Louis-area natives.

Friday’s events typically consist of final testing and everyone’s initial round of qualifying. Thanks to the weather as mentioned above, each class only had the chance for two qualifying passes to help alleviate schedule concerns. This shortened schedule reduced the racers’ margin for error and opportunity for data acquisition that each car so crucially needs to be successful on-track. Many of the teams weren’t able to knock down the pass they were looking for before being placed onto the elimination ladder.

Nowhere was this made more evident than in Factory Super Car, where it seemed like everyone was either haulin’ ass or lazy off the line. Half the field was digesting the cooler evening air into deep 7-second passes, while everyone else was over half a second off the pace. Tripp “Chicken Man” Carter was coming off a massive win in Atlanta against his teammate, Chuck Watson, where the two men kindly provided airborne champagne samples for bystanders of the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle. Carter qualified with the lowest elapsed time in the class with a 7.64 run, with his teammate just one-hundredth behind him. The Cobra Jets are flying right now, but Scott Libersher sat his COPO Camaro five-hundredths behind the quickest CJs — something he could easily compensate for with quick reaction times. Libersher matched up against Carl Tasca in round two and got off the line first with a .034-second reaction time, but that wasn’t enough, as the 3.0-liter Whipple supercharger in Tasca’s Coyote huffed to the finish line first and booted the final Chevy from contention. Tasca then fell to Carter in the semis, while Bill Skillman took out Watson to spoil a final-round rematch. The Chicken Man took the back-to-back victory in an all-CJ final round and slid himself comfortably into first place in points by jumping ahead of Chris Holbrook.

The crowd-pleaser, VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod, had one of the most exciting qualifying sessions I’ve ever witnessed. Jackie Slone Jr., Ronnie Hobbs, Craig Sullivan, Adam Flamholc, Tom Blincoe, Jerry Hunt, Eric Gustafson, and Jim Widener all traded blows as they were vying for the top spot. Each of these drivers qualified with a 3.7xx ET, and it seemed like each pair that went down the track made a new number-one qualifier pass. It was exciting! When the smoke cleared, the C7 Corvette of Jim Widener — wearing a fresh silver and black-flamed wrap — held the ET and MPH record of the weekend. Widener had the car to beat, and naturally, he lined up against the points leader and number-two qualifier Eric Gustafson in the final round. The two Chevrolets were side-by-side down the eighth-mile for a thrilling finish, as both cars broke on the track just as Jim slipped past Eric to win the class battle. However, that nitrous backfire put the Corvette out of contention for the Super Bowl, and Gustafson’s ProCharged Camaro was also limped back to the trailer.

Dom DiDonato came into Illinois with a solid points lead in VP Racing Madditives Street Outlaw, just ahead of Phil Hines, who had captured the win at the last event. Sitting just behind Phil was Tony Hobson, who debuted his new car in Georgia with a final-round appearance against Hines. Hobson repeated that performance, but this time he faced off against DiDonato’s red GT500, where the points leader and number-one-qualifier didn’t disappoint by earning his way into the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle.

In the Super Bowl’s 15-year history, the NMRA has served up a cold dish of whoop-ass to the NMCA ten times in the faceoff portion of the event. The bragging rights have gone to the heads of NMRA icons like Mike Washington, who can often be seen doing cartwheels and jumping jacks after each NMRA contender takes down its NMCA rival. This year, the NMCA captured an early lead with Cody Poston’s 2010 Camaro and Brenda Blair’s ‘77 Caprice winning their races against the NMRA competitors. But the NMRA soon tied things up and ran away with the competition from there to capture its eleventh Super Bowl victory. Will the NMCA start pulling some tricks to take home the rings next year? Probably not. Some of the heads up classes have to chase down slower cars on a bracket-style starting-line procedure, and that has resulted in a lot of advantageous racing conditions for the NMRA’s racers.

Taking a step back to observe the results of the weekend, I’d like to note that over just two days of competition, 421 racers in 24 different classes competed to find class winners, with True Street and the Super Bowl also part of the program. It meant that ProMedia’s event staff was forced to take advantage of WWT Raceway’s lack of curfew, which it did on Saturday. I didn’t leave the track until 1:45 am on Sunday and was back along the wall less than six hours later to do it all over again. It was all worth it. Faced with the adversity of not only the 2020 race season but the incredible task of competing against the weather, ProMedia won the event. The persistence of this team to put on a great race for its competitors and fans never ceases to amaze me. The growing rumor now is that the Super Bowl will return to WWT Raceway in 2021. Let’s all hope for a drier event!