SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - NMRA WINS SUPER BOWL, FAVORITE SON WINS TOP PRIZE
Donnie Walsh is two-for-two with at least one home run at his last event.
Last week Walsh scored his first NHRA Pro Modified national event victory. On Sunday, he won while racing at home – hence his home run.
Home for Walsh is not in the literal sense for the Wixum, Mich.-based driver.
Home is where you hang your firesuit and in Walsh’s case he spent many successful years as a champion on the National Mustang Racers Association. This weekend he participated in the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street legal drag racing where he competed in the Kook’s Pro Street division.
“The nice part is always feeling like you can come home,” Walsh said. “We have a lot of history here with the NMRA and even though we’re here with the NMCA this weekend, this feels good.”
Walsh, during his NMRA days, dominated the Pro 5.0 division. Since the class is no longer offered in NMRA competition, he slipped into the Pro Street division and in beating Clint Hairston in the finals at Route 66 Raceway, proved he has made a smooth transition.
Winning Sunday was emotional for Walsh, who was overtaken in a similar manner last weekend after winning the Summit Racing NHRA Nationals crown.
“It was pretty emotional for me,” Walsh said of the Norwalk victory. “My family, girlfriend and the team was there to share in the experience. The cards fell into place. It was a special day. Winning a Wally is something some drag racers dream of but never pull off.”
Coming back to race with the NMRA/NMCA family wasn’t really different for Walsh outside of those well-wishers congratulating their friend.
Walsh understands the importance of supporting a friend. He carries the name of a fallen friend and NMRA legend on the driver’s side window of his turbocharged Mustang. Steve Grebeck, an NMRA icon, was dating Walsh’s sister at the time of his death while racing his Mustang at a Fun Ford event in 2002.
“He was like my big brother,” said Walsh. “He formed a lot in me, what makes me the racer I am today. Both my dad and him helped me out a lot. I like paying homage to him. I like taking him for a ride with each run.”
Grebeck still inspires Walsh a decade later.
“Those who knew Steve knew he was a driven person,” explained Walsh. “Sometimes you liked it, loved it or hated it. Something not working wasn’t acceptable to him. It was always, we have to make it work.”
Walsh would like to think a measure of Grebeck’s spirit lives in his approach to racing.
“There have been days where we went to test and for days, didn’t make a full run,” Walsh said. “Every once in a while you have to dig deep and when you think about him, it drives you to succeed.”
When drag racing lost Grebeck, Walsh said it lost a unique individual.
“It lost a great and selfless person,” said Walsh. “It lost a very selfless person. He would help anybody.He'd come back from a run in complete shambles and still help somebody that needed him before he would touch his own car. That says a lot about the guy he was. He was a tremendous human being and racer. We lost a great guy when we lost him.”
CHANGE IS COMING -The face of at least three major divisions in the street legal drag racing scene will change in 2013.
The NMRA’s Super Street Outlaw and Drag Radial divisions will merge into one unified quarter-mile eliminator and the NMCA, also owned by Pro Media will adopt these rules into their Drag Radial division.
According to officials from street legal drag racing’s largest race series, the proposed changes have been bantered around in secret over the past few months. Trey Capps, national event director of the NMCA says the proposed adjustment to the rules are closer than they ever have been and should become available for review by August 1.
“What we’ve learned as a company is that our rules process can sometimes be slow and cumbersome,” Capps told CompetitionPlus.com Sunday afternoon during the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl event in Joliet, Ill. “We want to get ahead of the curve before everyone gets behind and can’t order parts and be in time for the season opener.
“We want to move ahead by getting some preliminary rules out earlier to our racers or potential racers who might have a combination which will fit within the new rules. This way if they need to order a crank or something, this will enable to get the parts in time. We wanted to speed up our rules process.”
Capps said Super Street Outlaw has been a strong backbone eliminator for the NMRA series for many years but with the demise of many touring series’ around the country, a lot of the places where a regional racer could run a purpose built car has disappeared. Case in point, this weekend’s event at Route 66 Raceway only attracted three entries.
“It affects the traveling associations such as ourselves if we say we are the only one left in this market,” said Capps. “It’s hard to find purpose built cars to travel. We needed to step outside of our normal rules and look at what is around the country.”
Capps said the NMRA/NMCA has been monitoring the regional trends nationwide and implementing subtle changes to their programs within their 275 Drag Radial classes.
“We’re essentially looking at the pockets where these racers are,” Capps admitted. “With Super Street Outlaw becoming such a nice class. We believe its run its course as a staple within NMRA with participation.
“Not to say those racers aren’t important to us, they are. They have helped make NMRA what it is. We want to help the series and organization grow and expand. We are going to take those classes, and their rules – modified them and take the 275 rules we have and modify them, and bring in a more unified set of rules to fit the country, as a whole, better.”
Capps said the goal is to attract more of those regional racers to their shows.
In doing so, Capps said the rules package will essentially create a new division which will be universal between their NMRA and NMCA properties. He believes the best course of action will be in combining the three divisions.
The new division, which is rumored to be branded as Street Outlaw, will be a three power adder combination. Racers will have the option of running a nitrous engine in both small and big block configurations.
Likewise Capps adds his group hopes to add the option of allowing lighter front-ends with no core supports.
“Every excuse that anyone has ever used to not race with either organization, we are looking to alleviate that,” explained Capps.
Furthermore, Capps pointed out, the new class will be on a true 10.5 tire, 28-10.5 or 275 drag radial.
“We’re providing no excuse for the Super Street Outlaw guys who have the tire and are used to running on it,” Capps said. “We have done extensive racer research at this event and outside, to put heads in the industry together … those who race these classes and know. The ones who can counsel us on this being a good direction to follow in standardizing a set of rules nationwide. Hopefully we can pick up five to ten new racers in addition to those we have who will follow the series.”
Capps said for those regulars who frequent the tour now should have very little challenge in confirming to the new rules package.
“If you’re a present Super Street Outlaw guy, the only change you are looking at is a power adder,” Capps said. “They would go from a 98-mm turbo down to either a 94 or 91, depending on which one we decide. They would go from an F3 to an F1X. The nitrous combination actually opens more for those guys because they get to open up to a second stage for a big block whereas today they are running a single stage now.
“There’s not much of a monetary move involved unless maybe they wanted to go with a different crank to increase engine size. That might be one but right now as it stands, their car is legal. Power adder wise they are available. The level of expense depends on how fast they want to go.”
Capps is adamant Super Street Outlaw didn’t need saving but did need an adjustment for its long term future.
“Super Street Outlaw has been band-aided enough over the years to the point some wholesale changes needed to be made,” Capps admitted. “The disparity is getting to the point where it is 300 – 400 pounds. It has become hard to manage between power applications and power adders.”
And as Capps points out, change isn’t always a bad thing when something good can come from it.
BROTHERS IN HORSEPOWER - Drag racing is better when your brother is your keeper, just ask Clint Hairston.
Clint, along with his brother Jake, campaign a turbocharged Pontiac GTO in the NMCA’s premiere eliminator, the Kook’s Headers Pro Street division. He drives, Jake tunes and their successful businessman father Jim provides his sons with a championship caliber team.
Together they won the 2010 Pacific Street Racing Association title.
Now their focus is on winning an NMCA crown. At the midpoint in the season they rest in sixth place in the championship points.
However, just racing together can be as gratifying as winning the ultimate crown in street legal drag racing.
“I wouldn’t trade this for the world,” Clint said of racing with Jake, who got his start in Junior Dragsters. “My dad raced Super Stockers in the 1960s. I guess it has become a generational thing. It’s something we love to do and are fortunate to have good friends to help us out.”
When your brother is responsible for your well-being, Clint believes it helps him to be a better racer. Eleven victories in 19 final rounds serves as proof.
“I have no worries when I strap in,” admitted Clint. “I know that every nut is tightened and every fitting is checked. We’ve had one minor mishap with a parachute but that had nothing to do with anybody. Other than that, we’ve kept a pretty good record.”
Jim’s sons come from a strong racing pedigree and a natural drive to succeed. The elder Hairston is a past Super Stock racer who has been a successful executive in the aftermarket automotive industry.
Clint, who credits horsepower icons John Lingenfelter and Ken Duttweiler as influential figures, went to Cal State San Bernardino on a golf scholarship before transferring to Cal Poly Pomona to study animal sciences. He currently works in the dairy industry as an independent Breeding Consultant for ABS Global. His drag racing talents were cultivated under the watchful eye of drag racing champion Frank Hawley and he has been long lauded for his lightning quick starting line reflexes.
Jake started out as a driver but as he got older, the challenge of tuning and the lure of technology led him in a different direction.
He graduated Cal Poly Pomona in December 2004 with degrees in Manufacturing and Industrial Engineering. He also worked a stint with the NHRA in their technical department as an electronics specialist before accepting a position with Coughlin Brothers.
Jake spends most of his time focused on the demands of the rigorous NHRA tour. Racing with Clint on the NMCA tour provides a perfect diversion from the usual hustle and bustle.
“It’s just more relaxing,” Jake said. “This is truly a family affair for us over here. We all get together when we race and for me, that provides a great opportunity. It’s different than what I am used to, a little more relaxed.”
Relaxing it might be, but it provides a different kind of challenge, one which can be equally as tough.
“Obviously it’s a lot different than the NHRA side,” Jake explained. “These cars are different animals and because my family has always enjoyed racing turbochargers and EFI, it’s a little more of a challenge. I really enjoy it.”
Clint enjoys racing with the NMCA as well.
“I like it a lot,” Clint added. “We race at different tracks and meet a lot of new people. It’s been a good change. This is a good place to race and sure, I’d like to see more spectators but then again, I think the NHRA does as well. The tracks are beautiful and the competition is great.”
OUCH!!!! - Charles Carpenter on Saturday afternoon had no intention of using the parody line from the 1974 film Blazing Saddles where a Mexican bandit uttered the phrase. “Badges, we don’t need no stinking badges.”
The iconic doorslammer racer turned crew chief altered the phrase to fit his situation.
Unfortunately, he altered his fingers as well.
Carpenter suffered an accident in his pit area, while working during the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl, where he lost a quarter-inch of a fingertip and suffered extensive damage to another. He was treated by on-site EMT’s at Route 66 Raceway and later visited a local hospital where they dressed his wounds and referred him to a finger specialist when he gets back home to Charlotte, NC, Monday afternoon.
“I was just trying to do too many things at one time,” explained Carpenter, who is crewchief for nitrous racer Dan Stevenson. “When we shook the tires in the first qualifying session, I remained on the starting line to watch the rest of the session. When I got back to the pits, I looked the car over and the fan we run on the car is a quick removal unit. The fan was over the top of the radiator [and running]. So I went to put the fan on and became distracted and looked away.”
Carpenter accidentally stuck his hand in the running fan.
“It’s an eight-inch fan but it was turning several thousand rpms,” Carpenter explained. “It worked my fingers over pretty good.”
Carpenter and the crew did, as he believed most any mechanic would do, grabbed towels and dressed the wound, then returned to working.
The excessive amount of blood showing up in the towels was enough to warrant a visit to the track’s medical site, where the fingers were cleaned and the wounded areas properly dressed.
Carpenter went back to work and the wound began bleeding again to the point he knew he needed to go to the hospital.
“They put something on it to make it start clotting,” Carpenter said of the actions by the doctors at the hospital. “There were no broken bones but it looks like one finger will have a nubby ending. I guess you could say it’s a flesh wound, I lost some flesh.”
Carpenter says he didn’t need it anyway.
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - NARROWING THE CAR COUNTS; PREPARING FOR RACE DAY
ADVANCING ON - Clint Hairston remained the king of the hill after the first round of eliminations at the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl.
Hairston, by virtue of a faster mile per hour, was the low elapsed time winner of the opening round when he turned in a 6.069-second run to defeat Scott Christoffel.
The determining factor was his 244.52 speed which enabled him to win the tiebreaker over John Sullivan, who also ran a 6.069 but only ran 236.34 to defeat Hector Laracuent.
Hairston meets Tony Williams in the second round while Sullivan meets most recent NHRA Pro Modified winner Donnie Walsh.
Other first round winners included Mario Orsimi (Clint Satterfield), Dan Stevenson (Jeff Lutz), Steve Matusek (Bill Lutz) and Chris Rini (Dan Bills).
Heads-up eliminations resume at 12 Noon, CST.
The Super Street Outlaw division only had three entries for this weekend and all three John Urist, Phil Hines and Fred Whitcomb will race off later on Sunday. Urist has a bye run into the final round.
The Nostalgia Pro Street division is eliminated down to six cars and by virtue of the competition ladder, David Beeson and Darren Breaud will advance via bye runs into the semis. Skip Baskin will meet Joe Colleta, while Joe Bucaro meets Rob White.
Mike Murrilo was in a zip code of his own in Pro 10.5W by running low elapsed time of the first round, a 6.646, to beat Enzo Pecchini. Murillo will meet Mikey Rees, who beat Frank Meyshaw. Other quarter-final matches include David Demarco versus Tim Essick; Tony Nesbitt races Steve Summers and 84-year old Willard Kinzer squares off against Eric LaFerraiere.
YES, IT'S FAST AND IT'S A GREMLIN - When Brian Ambrosini envisions true American spirit, he doesn’t see red, white and blue. He sees orange.
Orange cloaks his classic 1972 Gremlin, an American Motor Company icon he drives in the NMCA’s ARP Nostalgia Pro Street division.
As an American flag waves in the wind while hanging from the back of his hauler, Ambrosini points out his hot rod brings out the patriot in him.
“American Motors Company … the original red, white and blue,” Ambrosini proudly proclaims.
And before you draw to the conclusion this Gremlin is nothing more than a fiberglass shell cloaking a tube chassis, think again.
“This was an original steel car,” Ambrosini confirmed. “It was a street car that I bought and made into a race car. When I was younger, I had Gremlins and drove them as I grew up. I just decided one day I wanted a Gremlin race car, found a good shell and made it happen.”
Ambrosini said he got his first Gremlin when he was 16 and ever since, has been infatuated with the most talked about member of the American Motors Company product line.
Ambrosini points out running a Gremlin isn’t really out of the ordinary when you consider his hometown of Kenosha, WI., was once the birthplace of this forgotten member of musclecars of the early-1970s.
Ambrosini said his decision to run the Gremlin was not out of hometown obligation but rather a true affection for the car with body lines only a mother could love.
“I really always liked the way they looked,” Ambrosini admitted. “And with this car, we just keep making it quicker and quicker.”
During Friday qualifying at the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl, Ambrosini ran a 7.59-second elapsed time at 178.83 miles per hour.
Ambrosini understands driving a 170-mph car with a 97-inch wheelbase isn’t the wisest move or even normal activity. Still, Ambrosini’s Gremlin is a regular at Great Lakes Dragway’s heads-up series where he more than holds his own against the competition.
“It’s not a normal procedure, but it’s fun and different,” Ambrosini adds. “Some might even call it suicide. But we have a good handle on it. Mac’s Performance Chassis built the chassis underneath. It’s a lot of fun when it’s on a good run.”
How is it on a not-so-good run?
“You just hold on,” Ambrosini said with a smile. “It’s tough to maneuver into the groove sometimes with the short wheelbase. It can be sensitive to the point if you grab the wheel too much, you are in the other lane before you know it. You have to be careful and certainly on your game every time.”
And being on his game “every time” makes the challenge of running and maintaining his legendary Gremlin well worth every moment.
PARENT REFLECTS - Kevin Mitchell crashed his Outlaw 10.5 Camaro during a Friday evening qualifying run at the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl event at Route 66 Raceway. Even though Mitchell’s accident looked spectacular, with flames and a shower of sparks, he walked away uninjured.
Mitchell, of Booneville, Miss., said his car drifted out of the groove about 1,000-feet into the run and immediately made an abrupt left turn into the retaining wall.
“It was a lot calmer from the inside than I’m sure it appeared from the outside,” Mitchell explained. “I saw some flames when I flipped the car onto its roof. I pulled my [fire] extinguisher and waited for the ride to stop. After watching the video, it was apparent the flames were a lot bigger on the outside than in the cockpit of the car.”
Mitchell confirmed the fuel cell detached from the car during the accident.
“One of the turbos got into the fuel cell,” explained Mitchell. “I don’t know what ignited but it doesn’t take much to ignite highly flammable racing fuel. The safety equipment worked as it was supposed to. The cage was intact, the belts were fine and everything did its job.”
The morning after the crash, Mitchell said he was feeling the effects of the crash.
“Just kind of sore, not too bad; kind of like I’ve been thrown from a dirt bike,” admitted Mitchell. “I have experience how that feels. My body had a major jolt.”
Mitchell believes the car might be repairable.
“We didn’t look it over much Friday night other than to roll it into the pit, unloaded it and stick it in the trailer,” said Mitchell. “We’ll get it home and cut it apart and see what is what.”
Right now Mitchell is glad it’s the car and not him which needs repair.
KING OF THE HILL - Clint Hairston led rain-shortened Kook’s Headers Pro Street qualifying during the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl event.
A combination of rain, a racing accident and a track oildown pushed Friday evening qualifying up against the Midnight curfew and shorted the top division to two sessions.
Hairston, of Visalia, Ca., made his best run during the first session with a 6.030-second elapsed time at 248.94.
Hairston said he felt his first run provided a good baseline but didn’t expect it to remain No. 1 after the evening session. The evening session never transpired.
“I really expected our Friday evening session to bring out a five-second run,” said Hairston. “On Saturday the track got hot and we figured as long as we could run a 6.0-second pass, we’d be fine. When we saw the last car go down, we knew we had it locked up.”
Hairston faces No. 16 Scott Christofell in the first round of eliminations.
“This feels pretty good,” Hairston added. “It beats qualifying No. 2 any day.”
Bill Lutz was the No. 2 qualifier in the Kook’s Headers Pro Street division.
John Urist, of Albuquerque, NM, continued his domination of the ProCharger SS Outlaw division as he recorded a 7.250, 199.70.
Mike Murillo gained the Pro 10.5 pole position as he recorded a 6.635 to edge early leader Tony Nesbitt, who turned in a 6.655 best. The third seed was 84-year old Williard Kinzer with a 6.672.
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - A LONG DAY OF MUSCLE CAR MAYHEM
FOREVER YOUNG - Willard Kinzer knows the exact location of his personal fountain of youth.
The 84-year old drag racer says it’s between the small population Kentucky towns of Pikesville and Paintsville, and somewhere in the vicinity of Prestonville.
And, as long as he’s drag racing, he’s not sharing the secret of the fountain and how it is also his secret of speed.
The admitted late-bloomer races in the National Muscle Car Association’s Super Street division where he drives his turbocharged 3,100 pound Mustang on 10.5-inch tread width tires to 6.74-seconds at over 228-miles per hour.
Age is a meaningless number to Kinzer, except to point out he’s lived another wonderful year of being blessed with good health and family. Ask him if he feels 84 and he’ll pose the question, “How is an 84 year old supposed to feel?”
When prodded further for how he feels, he’ll smile and offer, “Not a day over 60.”
Kinzer, in his own estimation, is like the deserted island resident who lives each day without knowing the time, the day, the month or the year.
“I don’t know how you determine what age you feel,” said Kinzer, as he dined on one of wife Lucy’s bologna salad sandwiches, a staple of his feel young diet.
“I guess if I was born on a deserted island and my parents had passed, if you never left and never had contact with anyone, you’d have a hard time determining how old you were. I guess under those kinds of circumstances, I might feel about 60. There’s no doubt God has really blessed me, there’s no two ways about it.”
In many senses, Kinzer believes God made him one those late bloomers with a tendency to be successful.
When sons Terry and Jerry took up AMA motorcycle hill climbing the elder Kinzer accompanied his kids for moral support. However, when Terry, now 65, suffered an accident and broke his arm so badly he couldn’t return, Kinzer [then age 47] took his son’s place on the team. Kinzer ended up winning an AMA amateur championship before turning professional and adding three championships. He eventually retired from motorcycles at 56.
Twenty-three years later at 79, he took up another thrill-seeking sport – championship drag racing. And the car he drives, it’s a challenging proposition to say the least. How does he train for the rigorous demands of wrestling the sometimes volatile doorslammer into the groove?
“I work six days a week … in the office at 6:45 AM,” said Kinzer. “I usually leave about 4:15 to 4:30. Occupying your mind and keeping active is important. I usually walk about two miles daily, too.”
Inspiring others means more than winning to Kinzer, who is a U.S. Navy veteran. He served during World War II in the Pacific theater.
“People tell me I’m an inspiration quite a bit,” added Kinzer.
The experience he loves to tell the most occurred at a drag strip which is located an hour-and-a-half from his home at Mt. Park Dragway.
“I had been putting down some pretty good runs and this fella came up to me, he told me about how he loved drag racing and had to quit because he got too old. I asked him how old he was and he told me he was 58. I was 81 years old at the time of the conversation. He told me he was going home to get his car back out.”
The only regret Kinzer admits in his youthful adventures is Lucy, now 83, hasn’t been able to experience the same youthful exuberance. Lately she’s felt the effects of arthritis and a month ago suffered a broken arm.
Through it all, she supports her husband’s efforts.
“She don’t care what I do,” admitted Smith.
This is not to say she isn’t proud of him.
Who wouldn’t be proud of an 84 year old drag racer who is scratching off bucket list items with the same efficiency of his race car covering the quarter-mile.
His most recent bucket list elimination was in winning a revered Wally trophy. When the NMCA absorbed the NHRA Unleashed Series, one of the perks was the permission to reward its winners with the iconic trophy.
Kinzer won the Super Street division at the NMCA Musclecar Nationals in Bradenton, Fla.
And now, there are just two more bucket list items left, but he’s sure he’ll come up with more somewhere down the line.
“I want to see the pyramids in Egypt and run 200 miles per hour in Bristol,” Kinzer said with a smile. “The people at Bristol always treat me right but just can’t get the track prep right for me to pull it off. One day I will slip in and get it done.”
And when he gets the momentous 200 in Bristol he’ll likely cut cartwheels in the shutdown area.
This is one of the perks of his fountain in Kentucky.
SCARY MOMENT - Kevin Mitchell crashed during Outlaw 10.5 qualifying Friday evening. From the starting line, it appeared Mitchell lost control of his Camaro in the shutdown area and struck the wall. The impact caused the car to catch fire. Mitchell was uninjured in the incident.
CALLING IT A DAY - The combination of Mitchell's crash and the first car out, after the cleanup, exploding a transmission, pushed
the event past the midnight curfew bringing an end to Friday's action. The balance of second session qualifying was also cancelled.
ONE DAY AT A TIME - Charles Carpenter intends to return to the competition soon.
The acclaimed king of the shoeboxes for his 1980s exploits behind the wheel of the World’s Fastest 1955 Chevrolet isn’t currently driving.
Instead, Carpenter is tuning Dan Stevenson’s nitrous injected doorslammer, a car which pulls double-duty in the ADRL’s Pro Nitrous division and this weekend in the National Muscle Car Association’s Pro Street division.
Carpenter believes this is the best role for him; at least it is right now. The longtime driver understands there will be a time and a place for him to race again.
The timing just isn’t right now.
“I’m just a crew chief right now,” said Carpenter. “I’m having a lot of fun and for the last two seasons, I’ve been hanging out with these guys. We are really making progress with the car. It’s the next best thing to driving.
“There is life outside of the cockpit. It’s difficult to watch and not let the clutch out. Someday I will be back out there.”
Right now Carpenter’s primary focus is, for a good reason, is tuning while at the track. He’s still healing from a tough personal tragedy. On October 28, 2010, Carpenter lost his wife of 30 years. Terry Carpenter succumbed to the effects of a severe stroke.
“I don’t have my heart 100-percent in it, but I’m getting it back in there,” Carpenter said. “You just can’t get over this stuff easy. I had a great thirty year marriage and had a nearly perfect life and didn’t know it. That’s hard to regroup from. There’s an old saying that goes, ‘you never realize what you had until it’s gone’ and I realize it every day.”
Carpenter isn’t sure when he’ll be able to emotionally return to driving though he’s hoping for an August return.
“I’m not there yet, but I am trying. I will get back out there. I know it’s what I need to do, and I want to, but I really want to keep helping these guys as long as they want to race. This is my priority and we will race when I can.
“Racing has helped the healing process. It’s been a huge part of my life. It’s the racing and the racing family and when it’s all said and done in our careers, it won’t be the numbers we put up on the scoreboard or the cars we drove, it will be the people we met along the way we remember the most. This is good for me and I look forward to coming to the track as a driver.”
When he does return, he will return with the same 1955 Chevy he ran on the ADRL tour two years ago albeit with a new look thanks to
Terry “Red” Strege. Strege applied a new paint scheme and longtime Carpenter graphic artist Stan Tipton did the lettering.
“The car looks awesome, the best paint I’ve ever had,” Carpenter proclaimed. And, he believes the new look of his car is going a long way towards inspiring his return.
“When the time is right, we’ll be back. Right now, this tuning is what I need to do.”
Tuning engines, cars and his life.
A GRAND TORINO - Ten years ago Dick Cerame found a gem.
Cerame purchased a 1969 Ford Torino Cobra and instead of letting it become a show piece or auction money-maker, he’s allowing the classic musclecar to do what it was built for – run fast.
Cerame races his classic Blue Oval in the National Muscle Car Association’s Open Competition division; a move which has led more than a handful of automobile purists to question his judgment.
“Every now and then I get that,” Cerame said. “I politely remind them that it’s my car and I will do with it as I please.”
What he pleases to do at present is take the special edition Arco Drag Pack version to the strip at least four times per season with his son, as natural father-son bonding moments. Or, “as many as my wife says my budget will allow.”
Cerame didn’t initially envision the car as a drag racer but the more he attended the NMCA events, the more driving the car on the drag strip became appealing.
“One thing led to another and I began coming to the NMCA events,” Cerame said. “I have a ball,” Cerame added. “I have a blast racing the car with my son helping me.”
Friday afternoon at the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl event, he drove the Torino to an 11.433 elapsed time at 105 miles per hour.
If his car gets any quicker, he’s going to face a decision which could make those same purists regurgitate.
“It’s getting to the point that I need to decide whether I want to put a roll bar in it,” Cerame said. “I’m pretty close but I want to keep it this way for a little longer.”
At this point, his visible alterations for drag strip action have been limited to replacing the wheels and the bench seat with a pair of racing bucket seats.
“I haven’t done anything to it that I can’t undo,” Cerame advises.
GETTING MORE HITS - Steve Matusek cannot bring himself to turn down track time.
Even when the NHRA Pro Modified racer destroyed the guts in his transmission during Friday time trials at the NMCA/NMRA Super Bowl in Joliet, running this weekend was never a second-guess.
Matusek and his crew simply returned to the pits where they replaced the damaged gears with a different ratio and returned to the lanes for another hit.
“We’re trying to take advantage of every opportunity to test,” said Matusek. “We want to make the car better and figure some things out.”
The combination he’s running this weekend per NMCA rules is the same size [88 mm] but vastly different than what the rulebook requires for his NHRA participation. The turbocharger he runs in NHRA is a spec one, aimed at keeping modifications and expenditures at a minimum.
At the NMCA/NMRA event; however, the turbo he’s running is a bit more liberal with the modifications. This kind of difference can often throw a curveball to the rest of the combination even if it is a favorable option.
“I think what we are running out here might be better,” said Matusek. “That’s creating problems for us in trying to control the boost.
Matusek thoroughly enjoys competing on the smaller stage this weekend.
“This is a lot of fun,” Matusek said. “This is the same kind of racing I used to do some years ago. It’s fun to come back and hang out in a low key environment. The people running the sanction are great guys. We are happy to come back and play this weekend.”
The weekend might be a play weekend but Matusek clearly understands an all-out concerted effort will be required if he hopes to win.
“These guys are serious about what they do,” admitted Matusek. “They race in different conditions here. In some ways I think it is more difficult to race on the kind of track they have. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s just different and you have a different level of consistency in the track prep. You never know what you’re going to get, that’s the challenge.”
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