For Blue Oval race fans seeking hard launches and low e.t.'s, the first chance to get their fill is the NMRA season-opener, held each March in Bradenton, Florida. This year, the 16th Annual Nitto Tire Spring Break Shootout kicked off with a bang as more fans than ever before came out to see the racing, car show, and everything else that the event has to offer.
The highly anticipated Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords SBS, presented by Pro50.com, is a special addition to the True Street class that pits the top 16 True Street qualifiers in a heads-up battle for street-legal bragging rights and a shot at the $800 winner's prize (which is only a part of the overall purse), a Pro 5.0 shifter of choice, a set of Nitto tires, a 6-foot trophy, and a custom jacket.
As with most highly anticipated races, many Internet forums and websites were flooded with speculation about who was bringing the big guns and what kind of e.t.'s they were going to run. There was speculation about the first 7-second TS average, but only time would tell. And while True Street isn't held until Saturday, the pits were packed by Friday, with many racers testing and making the necessary adjustments. The energy level was high and the event was shaping up to be the hottest True Street/SBS ever.
By Saturday morning the total number of vehicles entered peaked at 102, though only 88 made the cruise. After the obligatory drivers' meeting and 30-mile trek through the Manatee County countryside, the field cooled down and was called to the staging lanes for the three runs. Unfortunately, Angel Padilla of Converse, Texas, who was driving Joel Cura's low-8-second notch, didn't make the call because of a cracked block during the cruise. Padilla won the Lone Star Shootout back in November 2009 and there was speculation he would lay down the first 7-second average.
Still, the field was packed with a slew of 8-, 9-, and 10-second hitters, and fans lined the fence once the three back-to-back runs began. It didn't take long for the single-digit e.t.'s to start popping up, either. Larry Albright knocked down a pair of 8.64-second passes before springing a transmission fluid leak, which knocked him out of competition.
Running 8s and 9s once is one thing. Doing it three times in a row is another-and sadly fans watched a few hitters fall victim to problems. Florida natives Don LaMana of Hudson and Matt Scheleon of Lake Wales each made an 8-second pass before dropping out.
Over 100 True Street competitors lined up for the 30-milecruise
Ultimately, the Tremec True Street crown went to Orlando, Florida's Randy Seward and his Calypso Green coupe. Amazingly, Seward's coupe made the 140-mile trip to Bradenton (from his home) under its own power and without a trailer. This sick street '91 LX packs a 363ci Windsor that gets help from twin-63mm turbos, and believe it or not, this was its first time on track since Seward had TRZ Motorsports install new suspension components. Seward averaged 8.669 seconds to nudge out 10-time True Street winner Chris Escobar, who was happy for Seward. "Ten-time True Street champion goes down in flames," said Escobar in jest, as he laughed and congratulated Seward with a handshake and a smile. "I'm glad he's the one who beat me," added Escobar. "He deserves it." The win in True Street also gave Seward the top qualifying spot for the SBS, which was still to be contested.
Alan Happel of Warner Robins, Georgia, took the 9-second win with a 9.098-second average in his Pacific Green '97 SVT Cobra. Built by Panhandle Performance, the Four-Valve features a 76mm turbo. Ten-second bragging rights went to Alexys Garcia of Miami. He averaged a perfect 10.000 over the three runs. A stock engine out of a Terminator boosted by a 78mm Hellion turbo powered his black '99 SVT Cobra.
True Street winner Randy Seward (near lane) goes heads-up against Darryl Buckner in the fi
Winner of the 15-second trophy, Chris Parisi heats up the hides during the True Street eve
Halston Jernigan replaces spark plugs on Darryl Buckner's LTD prior to the True Street com
Macon, Georgia's Jason Borum averaged 9.14 on Saturday but lost in Round 2 of the Shootout
Rich Vollberg wheeled his '09 GT500 to a 12.064 average-enough for the 12-second win.
Nine-second winner Alan Happel averaged 9.098 seconds on Saturday and made it to the semif
Steffan Pearman made it through the cruise....
.....but sheared the studs off of his right axle....
....launching on the first pass.