The NMRA has aimed to provide a more eclectic product on and off the track after the success of its partnership with Holley in producing the NMRA Intergalactic Ford Festival in Bowling Green at the end of the 2019 season. Its goal is to make each standalone event have its own flavor with more focus on the car show, integration with the True Street class, and new exhibition offerings. The NMRA and RTR Vehicles also struck a deal to make the badass RTR Mustang the official car of the series for 2020. This strategy adjustment showcases the drag racing series to a new audience and will create more buildup for another fantastic finale at Beech Bend Raceway in October. For the remainder of the season, we’ll be seeing some alternative classes and activities at each race, which will sculpt the future of the NMRA. With this in mind, the Spring Break Shootout in Bradenton featured a pair of new exhibitions that were fun to watch and will hopefully become a staple of the event at this track.
The Florida No Time 28/275 Shootout and Street Car Shootout. The rules for the Florida No Time class are extremely open and have no limit to displacement—just a restriction to a single type of power adder—and the car must be either Ford-powered or a Ford body. This ruleset means you could enter a Coyote-powered Camaro if you wanted to! The heads-up grudge class introduced some new cars to the NMRA; it was exciting to watch buckets of power being put down on the 275 mm radial tire. David Wayne Green’s white and red nitrous Mustang took the win from Raul Torres in the infamous “China WhiTTe” Mustang, which is infused by twin turbskies. Bradenton Motorsports Park owner and promoter, Victor Alvarez, sees a lot of potential with the new class and believes next year the field will be rather large after some drivers put on their big-boy pants and enter the competition. Adding to the “NMRA After-Hours” fun was the Street Car Shootout, a heads-up class run on a Quick 16-format ladder. This part of the event came down to True Street winner Mike Jovanis and TS runner up Donato Sierchio. However, in the shootout, Sierchio took down Jovanis to capture the win.
On Saturday, the “Funhavers” themselves—Vaughn Gittin Jr. and RTR teammate Chelsea Denofa—were in attendance for some friendly drag racing competition in their drift cars. The gutted Mustangs run some wonky front camber that assists them during their high-steering-angle drift maneuvers, which created a rather interesting spectacle going down the dragstrip. Vaughn and Chelsea are incredible drivers and were very eager to go head-to-head in a straight line. Chelsea struggled a bit, but Vaughn’s first pass down the strip was a 9.70 at 149 mph! Everyone was in shock by the performance of a car and driver best known for going through corners roasting Nitto tires. Sadly, on their final test hit, both cars ran into transmission issues that prevented them from completing their full show, but the crowd still enjoyed every second of the madness.
This year is shaping up to be exciting in Street Outlaw with race-winning drivers and former champions like Dom DiDonato, Vinny Palazzolo, Manny Buginga, Phil Hines, and John Urist all competing in the series’ top class. The opener looked like it was going to be Manny’s race as he set the low ET and the top speed of the weekend during qualifying, and had just come off resetting the X275 record at Duck X Productions’ Lights Out 11 a few weeks prior. His qualifying ET was way out in front of the pack with a 4.24, but he was taken down by DiDonato in the third round after DiDonato scored multiple hits at the 4.30 mark. In the final round, DiDonato matched up with the defending champion, Vinny Palazzolo, in his screaming yellow DiSomma-powered Mustang. Blessed with bye runs in rounds two and three—thanks in part to Urist breaking before the semis—the champ experienced traction woes that he couldn’t seem to correct before the finals. This struggle left DiDonato with lane choice for the final, and Palazzolo spinning at the line yet again. It’s safe to assume that the R&S Automotive team won’t let that happen again in Atlanta next month.
Fielding her new car—The War Eagle—in Renegade after her unfortunate incident where she wrecked her old car at Bowling Green last year, Haley James set her new personal best multiple times. After speaking with her, it was pretty clear that the New-Edge Mustang sightlines and seating position difference from her familiar Fox required a bit of adjustment in the driver’s seat. Judging from her performance over the weekend, they left with a lot of good data and will be vying for a repeat championship with her quickest car to date.
Meanwhile, the rest of the Renegade field was highly competitive, and Jason Spina took down Joel Greathouse (seen above) in a pedalfest in the final round with an off-pace 5.76 to Greathouse’s 5.97.
In my eyes, the best part of the Spring Break Shootout was watching the wheelstanding performances of the racers in G-Force Coyote Stock. The unusually cold temperatures for the race gave us a density altitude that hovered around 100–300 feet above sea level for most of the testing, qualifying, and early elimination rounds. The naturally aspirated, sealed Coyote powerplants were practically salivating at the horsepower-making weather opportunity, much like last year’s 7-second Club experience with Factory Super Car at NMCA Bradenton.
Frank Paultanis, who qualified with a 9.92 and clicked off one 9-second pass after another, became the first Coyote Stock racer to crack the 9-second barrier, and by the end of the weekend, claimed the official class record. Hot on his heels was his teammate Kevin McMullin with a 10.003 and Nathan Stymiest, who carded a 10.008 elapsed time. Paultanis dominated the weekend, and McMullin followed with a runner-up effort. From the news we’ve seen on the NMRA website this week, the 460-horsepower Gen 3 Coyote engine is cleared for Coyote Stock competition in 2021 at the same weight as the current Gen I and II powerplants. The new engine comes with direct injection and a few other goodies that should see the entire field move into the 9s for next season. The weather at the other NMRA events is typically not as conducive to making naturally aspirated horsepower, so we’ll just have to see if the planets align in 2020 to make 9-second passes possible again—maybe in Bowling Green at the end of the year.
It’s clear to see the NMRA is trying to inject a different personality into its races that make them stand out from other motorsports events. The No Time races at the Spring Break Shootout were wild, nitrous-flamed goodness, while the additional races for the quickest of the True Street field and other grudge races created some interesting matchups and birthed some rivalries along the way. Mustang racing has always been about those bragging rights and smack-talking amongst friends. Introducing that back into the organized atmosphere at a national event like the NMRA Spring Break Shootout is certainly a welcome sight. Most of all, the event was a blast for everyone, and it’s great to be back on the national tour again. Keep your eyes on Street Outlaw and Renegade—we have a feeling those classes are going to get pretty spicy as the year pushes on!