Spring Break. We look forward to it every year.
There may still be snow on the ground in many places in early March, but in Bradenton, Florida, there's sand and sunshine. Couple that with a very capable Bradenton Motorsports Park, and it's easy to see why the NMRA hosts its season opener there every year. If you've never experienced it, go ahead and book a room now for next year. You won't regret it.
Little Miss Sunshine
As the holidays were winding down, racers thrashed on their rides to prepare for the upcoming racing season. Through the lull of winter, everyone anticipated the trip to Bradenton.
Being the first race of the season, many hopeful racers show up with their sights on a championship ring. Others come out to dust off their Pony for a stab at a win in Tremec True Street or a spot in the MM&FF Spring Break Shootout class sponsored by Blow-by Racing (Read about it on page 136.) For others, the car show is their comfy spot.
This year, we saw a slew of early and late-model Stangs in the overflowing UPR Products car show. We always find feature cars at the Bradenton event, and this year was no exception.
But for most, spectating is the name of the game. Food, drinks, fast cars, and beautiful weather attracted a few thousand spectators on Saturday alone! Attractions included full pit access, a sprawling swap meet area, the NMRA Power Mall, and too many vendors to name. Companies like Tremec, Nitto, QA1, UPR Products, Blow-by Racing, and Steeda had their products displayed, many offering weekend-only specials.
To the Stripe
"You can't win ‘em all if you don't win the first one" is a phrase that was drilled into your author's head during the off-season by a former coach. As in sports, this first race of the year could create a points margin that can be carried throughout the entire season.
Drew Skillman took the win in the Cobra Jet Shootout, beating Chris Holbrook in the Final.
The Pro Outlaw 10.5 class is gone, and taking its place at the top of the heap is AFCO Street Outlaw. Formed by merging former Super Street Outlaw and Drag Radial classes, this new premier class brings the best of both classes together in one wild show. Lebanon, Ohio's Phil Hines qualified first, just in front of eight-time champion John Urist. The two faced each other in the final, where Hines bested the champ with a 7.30 at 195.01 mph to Urist's 7.42 at 192.06 mph. "I'm usually on the other end of the Tree," said Hines after his win and 0.040 reaction time to Urist's 0.042.
In Edelbrock Renegade, record-holder Brian Mitchell launched the new season the way he ended last season—with a win. After qualifying second to Scott Grove, whom he beat in the finals at Bowling Green for a season-ending win, Mitchell went on to face A.J. Wyce in the final, but Wyce's 8.97 wasn't enough for Mitchell's 8.54.
Strange Engineering Coyote Stock continues to grow and get faster. Almost all of the competitors are picking up 10-second timeslips—many approaching the 10.50 mark. Champion Joe Charles qualified second with a 10.72, followed by Joe Marini with a 10.76. Marini, whose car was piloted by JPC Racing's Justin Burcham last year, is now piloting the '11 Mustang himself. Marini defeated Charles in the semi-finals, and went on to take out number one qualifier Shane Stymiest in the finals with a 10.63 to Stymiest's 10.66. Marini's slow reaction time almost cost him the race, but he won by a thousandth (0.001) of a second!
In the Nitto Factory Stock ranks, veterans Louis Sylvester, Matt Amrine, Carlos Sobrino, and John Leslie Jr. all rolled into Bradenton with the taste of win on their tongues. After qualifying first, Sylvester went on to face Amrine in the Final. Amrine bested Sylvester's 10.95 with a 10.87 at 122.26 mph.
1. Portland, Indiana’s Chad Wendel qualified second with his Moser Engineering ’07 GT, but
2. In Edelbrock Renegade, Brian Mitchell (far lane) faced A.J. Wyce in the final. Wyce let
3. Susan Roush McClenaghan dominated Exedy Clutch Modular Muscle in Bradenton. After quali
4. In the ever-growing Strange Engineering Coyote Stock class, Joe Marini (far lane) has t
5. Nitto Factory Stock brought Matt Amrine (far lane) and Louis Sylvester together in the
6. This Lightning isn’t competing in Detroit Locker Trucks—no, it competes in AFCO Street
Roush Super Stang gives all racers a chance at victory, fast or slow. Dave Liechty and his '06 Mustang dominated the class all weekend. After qualifying first, Liechty went on to defeat John Memmery in the final.
One of the toughest classes is Exedy Clutch Modular Muscle. Veterans like Donnie Bowles, Susan Roush McClenaghan, Gary “Hollywood” Parker, and Reggie Burnette Jr. all showed up looking for the win. In the end, teammates McClenaghan and Bowles faced each other in the final. Both pre-staged quickly and then a burn-down of epic proportions ensued. Drama built as neither would light the stage bulbs for over a minute (which felt like an hour). Finally, Bowles crept in, and subsequently redlighted—badly—with a -0.308, handing the victory to McClenaghan.
In Detroit Locker Trucks, an impressive field of Lightnings, Powerstrokes, and Rancheros battled for the victory. Fred Wade's '04 Lightning served him well, defeating truck-meister Johnny Lightning in the final round. And in Flex-a-lite Open Comp, Donald Carver took home the victory with his '76 Mustang II, besting Ashley Conway-Lang.
7. After qualifying 11th in Detroit Locker Trucks, Fred Wade came back to take out veteran
8. The Blow-by Racing team helps racers out with on-the-spot custom tuning.
9. John Leslie Jr. chills in the staging lanes between rounds of eliminations during the S
10. In a surprise victory, AFCO Street Outlaw racer Phil Hines took the win away from eigh
11. You could practically build an entire Mustang from the parts available in the swap mee
12. Yes, this first-gen Lightning was as clean as it looks, and was for sale for a mere $5
13. Yes, this first-gen Lightning was as clean as it looks, and was for sale for a mere $5
14. Mike Covelli’s ’88 Saleen is pristine from top to bottom and only sports 79,000 origin
15. We caught this old-school cool ’93 LX coupe owned by Todd White in the show corral as
Beer, Babes, and Burnouts
Friday evening of the Spring Break Shootout is what we affectionately call the Hooters Party at the Hooters in Bradenton. Though not official, it occurs every year, even though no invitations are sent out. The Hooters staff tells us it's their busiest day of the year—even busier than the Super Bowl.
Fully staffed, the friendly Bradenton Hooters welcomed Mustang racers and fans alike. We were there, of course, and caught many of the shenanigans on camera. Bradenton's finest did show up a time or two to speak sternly to a few rogue partiers doing burnouts in the parking lot.
In all, it was a successful night. The beer was cold, the food was hot, and nobody was arrested—at least, as far as we know.
In the House
For the third year in a row, the MM&FF staff hosted an Open House at our headquarters in Tampa, Florida. Just a 45-minute drive from Bradenton, this Thursday afternoon celebration brought in almost 200 attendees. There was free food, drinks, a car show, and a slew of awesome giveaway prizes.
Companies like Shelby American, Ford Racing, Roush Performance, RaceQuip, Comp Cams, Royal Purple, Stifflers, Bob's Machine, Holley, and Kenne Bell donated parts or merchandise to give away. And the grand prize consisted of $1,200 worth of Fox-body interior parts thanks to National Parts Depot and TMI Products.
We'll certainly host this event again next year, so stop by on your way to Bradenton!