Photos by Phil Hutchison Story by Phil Hutchison and courtesy of NMCA
During the off season, the NMCA made major changes to their VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod series with blown, nitrous, and turbocharged cars running side by side in the 1/8 mile. Twenty of these beasts made it through tech and only 16 would be racing on Sunday, which made for some wild qualifying.
Tinley Park, Illinois’ Randy Adler put his ’57 Chevy Pro Mod on the top of the qualifying sheet with a 3.80, and he would wade through the field to meet Raymond Commisso of Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The two supercharged cars lined up and at the hit, Adler’s Chevy broke traction, allowing Commisso to streak to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle.
The finals of Pro Mod had Adler (far lane) up against the Camaro of Commisso
Earlier in the second round, Commisso was up against Chris Rini’s beautiful ’69 Camaro and as the cars went down the Bradenton track, Rini’s Chevy went toward the centerline, corrected and contacted the wall heavily damaging the new car. Chris was transported to the local hospital with several broken ribs on his left side, bruised lung and a bruised knee but is expected to recover fully.
All hell broke loose for Chris Rini (far lane) during his first round race with eventual winner Commisso as Rini’s Camaro hit the guardwall hard sending the Northeast driver to the hospital with a few broken ribs and a punctured lung
In Mickey Thompson Radial Wars, it was Keith Berry that laid down the first 3-second pass (3.89) in the class’ history during Friday night’s first qualifying session. The rest of the field wasn’t far behind with the next three cars logging 4.0-second runs. Berry fell to DeWayne Mills in the semis, where Daniel Pharris had a bye run. As the air began to cool, the setting was ripe for quick times and we were in for a show. Pharris got off the line first and the holeshot would pay off as he took the win with a 3.99 to Mills’ quicker 3.97.
Daniel Pharris (far lane) used a holeshot to take the Mickey Thompson Radial Wars over the quicker Camaro of DeWayne Mills
Wiseco Performance Products Street Outlaw, now in its second year in the eighth-mile format, began with a field separated by just 3 tenths of a second after qualifying. Last year’s NMCA Finals runner-up,
, took the top qualifying spot in his Chevy II Nova with a 4.458 lap. The Deuce made its way to final round where it would face off against the late-model Mustang of Phil Hines. Hines had low ET of the weekend with a 4.451, and the final was an awesomely close race. Wenrick left first by just .02 seconds, and at the stripe, it was Wenrick first with a 4.506 to Hines’ 4.511.
ARP Nitrous Pro Street saw 2015 champion Joe Bucaro pick up where he left off last year, dominating the field once more. While he missed the Florida race last year, his car was ready and took the number-one qualifying spot with a 7.34. Bucaro would meet John Trobiani of Romeoville, Illinois, in the final, which ended with Bucaro’s victorious 7.37 over Trobiani’s 9.52.
The Edelbrock Xtreme Street field was chock full of heavy hitters like 2015 champ David Hutnick, Tony Alm, Bill Trovato and Eric Kenward, but several newcomers posted quick times in qualifying that shook up the contingent. Kenward and his newly painted Wheelie Wagon set the bar in qualifying with an untouched 7.67 elapsed time, and he lowered that to a 7.65 on his first-round bye run. In true champion form, Hutnick made his way round after round until he landed in the finals against newcomer Martin Connelley. Connelley’s Mustang got off the line first, but Hutnick’s nitrous-fed Camaro edged past the Fox body running a 7.73 to Connelley’s 7.82.
Dwight Ausmus and his Pontiac Firebird grabbed the number-one qualifier position in Quick Lane of Downs Ford NA 10.5 with a 7.92. After dispatching newcomer Richie Nye, Ausmus met 2015 champ Leonard Long in the final. The lights were near identical, and it was a tight race down to the finish line where Long squeaked past with an 8.02 to Ausmus’ 8.03.
New this year is the Holley EFI Factory Super Cars class, which is a heads-up eliminator pitting Mustang Cobra Jets, Chevrolet COPO Camaros, and Dodge Challenger Drag Paks. The class was dominated by supercharged entries, and Kevin Skinner’s CJ Mustang sat on top after qualifying with an 8.41. Whatever advantage the Mustangs of the class had faded round after round until the COPO Camaros of Glenn Pushis and Bruno Massel were the only ones standing in the final round. Pushis grabbed a slight advantage at the start, but Massel’s COPO pulled ahead to take the win, 8.55 to 8.82 in the all-Chevy final.
Holley EFI winner Bruno Massel and family in the Winner’s Circle
With a successful start in 2015, Chevrolet Performance Stock presented by Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center picked up where it left off last year with Hazen, Arkansas’ Ronnie Hackelton qualifying number one with a 10.35—slightly quicker than last year’s debut performance. As the rounds passed, it would be Hackelton meeting last year’s Florida winner, Kevin Lumsden in the final. Their lights were near even at .092 to .093, and that slight advantage is all that remained for Ronnie Hackelton, but it was enough to give him his first win of the year.
As happened last year, the NMCA hosted a round of the local Ross Racing Pistons Outlaw 632 class. In the final round, it was a familiar site as last year’s winner, Ken Quartuccio, lined up next to the Corvette of Curt Steinbach. At the end of the eighth-mile contest, it was once again Quartuccio taking the victory with a close 4.42 to 4.45 Win.
The 2015 E3 Spark Plugs Top Sportsman champion, John Lynch, arrived in Florida ready to defend his title. He and his father had made some changes to the suspension of their Third-Gen Camaro that allowed it to run solid, straight runs in the low 7-second range. Lexington, Kentucky’s Greg Cason was the number-one qualifier with a 7.02, but in the finals, he did not make the lane call and Lynch took the easy single en route to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle.
As with many of the other classes, ATI Performance Products Nostalgia Super Stock welcomed new racers to the group. Class regular Mike DeChicco had put his ’65 Dodge on pole by the end of qualifying, with newcomer Robert Killian and his ’69 Dart right behind him. In the final, however, it was Joe Midile Jr. facing Ron Tiller. Midile left the line and something immediately broke in the car, but the win was his as Tiller was a heart-breaking -.003 red.
With his ’71 Caprice not quite ready for the first race of the year, 2015 Detroit Truetrac Nostalgia Muscle Car champion Andy Warren called up Jason Rollins to borrow a ride. The wild-launching Malibu wagon worked well for the champ, and he drove it to the final round where he defeated Mike Roup and his ’66 Mustang. Warren had the starting-line advantage and went 11.01 on his 11.00 index while Roup was 13.84 for his 14.00 index.
Kurt Neighbor sat on top of the Magnafuel Open Comp qualifying list in his ’79 Mustang with a .002 reaction time. As often happens with Open Comp, though, the good qualifiers don’t always make it to the late rounds. This year, it was
facing the Kelly Pierce in his wheel-standing Chevy Malibu. The race was over at the start, though, as McClenaghan’s propane-fueled Mustang left .004 seconds before the green light said go.
Gear Vendors True Street featured two very fast Mustangs, but a faster Pontiac Firebird that topped them all. Stephen Smith of Loxahatchie, Florida, carded a 7.81-second three-run average to claim the True Street crown, while the twin-turbo Mustang of Randy Seward runner’d up with 8.44 effort. Closely behind him was the Coyote-powered machine if Justin Jordan, who has gone 7s before, but gathered an 8.47-second average on Saturday. Taking the 9-second award was Mile French with a 9.20 average, and Jesse Schmitt rounded up the 10-second win with a 10.68. Bill Locke averaged 11.06 in his ’72 Buick Gran Sport for the 11-second award, and Grant Martin in a much newer ’86 Buick Grand National gathered the 12-second win with a 12.006. Jerry Morse averaged 13.02 for the 13-second win, and Wyatt Morse drove his ’71 Ventura to a 14.06 average for the class win. Rounding out the Gear Vendors True Street winners was Burtt Greiner with a 15.02-second average.
The NMCA heads north to Georgia next for the 8th Annual NMRA/NMCA Borla All-Star Nationals Presented by Miller Welders April 7-10, 2016.