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NMRAPaul
10-10-2008, 08:01 PM
A Perfect Ten
A decade of NMRA racing comes to a close with beautiful weather and surprise finishes.

There’s no getting around it – 2008 is unlikely to place high in many people’s lists of favorite years. Between stratospheric gas prices in the spring, the sub-prime mortgage collapse in the summer, and fall’s stock market “correction”, there hasn’t been much news to cheer about on the evening news this year. Even the NMRA’s Tenth Anniversary Tour wasn’t immune from misfortune; with weather playing a role in every event leading up to the 10th Annual Nitto Tire NMRA Ford Nationals in Bowling Green, Kentucky, racers and fans were hoping for clear skies and good racing. That’s exactly what they got, with several close points chases going into the race, and more than the usual number of twists and turns throughout the event. It was a fitting end to a season that was turbulent at times, but always entertaining, bringing the Tenth Anniversary tour to a close on an upbeat note and setting the stage for long winter nights dreaming about things to come in 2009.

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The championship in Turbonetics Pro Outlaw 10.5’s first full season was already decided before the gates at Beech Bend opened, but that did nothing to dissuade the half-dozen racers in attendance from giving it their all. Mike Murillo, not seen since Georgia, was back with a new look inside and out, and Ron Lummus, breakout star in Joliet, was also on the tarmac, looking for his second win in two races. To round out the surprises, Mike DeMayo made his Pro Outlaw 10.5 debut as well, but when the qualifying order was posted Saturday night, it was no shock at all to see champ-in-waiting Conrad Scarry at the top of the list, the only driver able to break into the sixes with a 6.799 at a ridiculous 215.62 mph. Eliminations on Sunday saw Scarry make quick work of Roy Taylor, laying down a 6.99 at 213 in the process, and the competition bye in the semis let him coast straight through to the finals. There, he paired with Lummus, who had been fighting transmission gremlins all day but had a real shot at denying Scarry a victory lap. Almost a tenth at the tree, plus a 6.886 at a whopping 217.28 mph to Lummus’ 6.954 at 208 put Scarry into the winner’s circle for fourth and final time in 2008.

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It was an exceptional year in ProCharger Super Street Outlaw, and the exceptional last race of the year was completely in character. Putting the exclamation point on his unprecedented fourth class championship, John Urist turned his new-for-08 Fox notchback all the way up in qualifying, posting a jaw-dropping 7.356 at 192.69 in the second round of qualifying, and earning the tech equivalent of a colonoscopy as a result on Saturday night. After being given a clear bill of health, Urist’s pass would stand as the best of the nine-car field, though both AJ Powell and Don Burton were deep in the seven-forties and just waiting for a misstep from the Fireball. To prove it wasn’t a fluke, Urist ran out his first round competition single to a 7.379, but dodged a bullet in round two against Sam Vincent. Running 7.661 to Vincent’s 7.663, only Urist’s razor-thin three-hundredths advantage on the tree kept him from going out early. Powell had another chance to knock Urist off the rails in the semis, running a 7.449 to Urist’s 7.418, but once again it was a three-hundredths holeshot that made most of the difference. By comparison to the prior close calls, the final was a non-event. Lined up against Burton, a four foot tongue of flame from the nitrous car’s hood scoop as the tree dropped signaled an uncontested win for Urist, and a completely unexpected end to a turbulent season.

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With a complete 16-car ladder by the end of qualifying, no other heads-up class was as well-represented as DiabloSport EFI Renegade, and there was quality to go along with the quantity. As he had done previously in Columbus, Dan Rawls led qualifying, but the difference in Bowling Green was that he did it with an 8.415, the quickest pass in the class since Bradenton’s mineshaft air. It wasn’t just Rawls, either – second-qualified Bart Tobener was at 8.483, and Dave Guy clicked off an 8.496. Eliminations proved to be Rawls’ Achilles heel, with a second round exit at the hands of Brian Tuten, who had his mojo working like never before. In the semis, despite giving up a big holeshot, Tuten simply drove around Dave Guy and into the finals, where he’d have to face off against Tobener, who had trailered Chris Beary, Dwayne Barbaree, and Brandon Foley along the way. Tuten hit the tree hard and put almost a tenth on Tobener from the word “go”, but something went away down-track and Tuten’s 9.394 wasn’t going to do it against a clockwork 8.546 for Tobener, earning him his first win of the year.

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“Another race, another engine combo” seemed to be the motto for John Kolivas this year in BFGoodrich Tires Drag Radial, but to his credit, everything he tried seemed to work. An 8.065 in qualifying put him at the top of the 14-car roster, but the real surprise were the blower cars of Bob Kurgan and Jason Lee right behind at 8.069 and 8.081. Though Kurgan fell in the first round, Lee just got quicker in eliminations, running 8.066 against Enzo Pecchini, then followed up with an 8.073 against Kolivas’ heir apparent, Joey Bridge, before falling to the Iceman just short of the finals. On the other side of the ladder, Matt Bell was having a weekend he’ll never forget. Qualified dead-center in the pack, Bell got out of the first round unscathed when Doug Johnson broke, then took down Adam Jude with an improved 8.345. Bell got another boon bestowed upon him in the semis when Tony Akins couldn’t contest the round, and to show he deserved every bit of Lady Luck’s attention, Bell clipped an 8.292 single at 174 and change. With two tenths in the bag, and a well-deserved reputation as a lumberjack at the tree, Kolivas looked like a safe bet in the finals, but as he and Bell staged up, Kolivas rolled the beams as he brought his car up on the converter and fouled out, leaving Bell to take his first Drag Radial win with an 8.238-second single.

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Once again, Edelbrock Hot Street racers were up against the dreaded nine-car ladder, and for the fifth time this season, Charlie Booze, Jr. was in the number one slot at the close of the qualifying sessions, carrying an 8.640 at 155.24 mph. Booze took the odd-field single out to an 8.681 in the first round, then knocked off Tim Eichhorn in the second, 8.692 to 8.726. The Curse of the Nine struck in the semi-finals, where Booze had to face number two qualifier Ben Mens, and this time Mens came off ahead when Booze put the car hard on the bumper and could only run 9.027 to Mens’ 8.726. With Mens’ sort-of teammate Robbie Blankenship getting the final single, stolen from third-qualified Max Gross, straight into the finals, the championship slipped from Booze’s grasp and into Blankenship’s, but Mens wasn’t going to do his pal any favors, and gave him a fair fight to the finish in the last round, running 8.708 to Blankenship’s 8.755 and earning his first win of the year.

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5.0 Magazine Real Street was going down to the wire, with Tim Matherly and Bruce Hemminger once again locked in a fight to the end to see who’d be wearing the number one on their windshield next year. Matherly took the early lead, taking top qualifying honors with a 9.596, but Hemminger was right behind, a 9.614 earning him second slot in the nine-car field. It wouldn’t be Matherly’s weekend, though – a dropped valve in his first-round single lead to a pit thrash to get it fixed, but it turned out to be all in vain when Matherly came across the scales five pounds light against Jim Pickel in the second round. Pickel, making his first NMRA Real Street appearance, couldn’t make the call against Hemminger, and that turn of the wheel essentially sealed the championship. The finals paired Hemminger against fifth-qualified Kevin Scott, and Scott’s 9.9X pace wasn’t going to cut it against Hemminger’s 9.644 at 139, giving the man who always seems to have that number two on his windshield his fourth win in four races, and the right to finally wear the coveted digit in 2009.

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Tremec Pure Street drew its biggest field this season at the Finals, with no fewer than thirteen cars in the lanes on Sunday, led by Ryan Hecox at 10.182. Rocky Mason clocked in second at 10.228, and Brad Meadows was third with a 10.264. Of the three, Hecox would fall first on Sunday, going down on a redlight against Amy Sherwin in round two. Mason was next, an off-pace 13-second run sending Brandon Alsept to the finals in his stead. Only Meadows would end up in the final round, squaring off against Alsept. With reactions an even hundredth apart, the race was decided down-track, and Meadows’ 10.291 won the battle against Alsept’s 10.333, though Alsept won the war, taking first place in the 2008 championship chase.

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ACT Factory Stock has had its share of drama this season, and Bowling Green was no exception; the provisional ladder on Saturday afternoon held 14 names, but after the tech inspection dust had settled, a baker’s dozen were left on the final sheet. Top of the list? None other than Tommy Godfrey, running 11.099 at 120.46, followed (though distantly) by Justin Burcham at 11.359 and John Leslie, Jr. with an 11.386. With the better part of three tenths on the field, Godfrey ran the table in eliminations, earning the first round single, then dispatching Alan Cann and Matt Amrine in a convincing fashion. The last Factory Stock race of the year put him up against Jay Dold, and despite a .088-to-.128 holeshotting from Dold, Godfrey simply had too much for second place, and crossed the line first by three tenths, running 11.175 to Dold’s 11.534.

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It took a triple-ought light in ROUSH Performance Modular Muscle qualifying to earn Jason Epstein the top spot, with double-oh-somethings going to El Smith, Reggie Burnette, Sr., Zak Harty, and Donnie Bowles as well. In total, 21 cars contested the class at the finals, and after four rounds, only Brad Elander and Reggie Burnette, Jr. were still standing. Thanks to a slower dial, Burnette got the green first, and pulled a big holeshot, clocking a .050 reaction time to Elander’s .157, and held the lead all the way to the stripe, running 11.270 on his 11.10 dial to Elander’s 10.592-on-10.35 and taking his second event win of the season.

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Steeda Open Comp was chock-full of entries, with thirty cars on the list, and OG Open Comper Stacy Estel at the top of the heap with a .004 light in qualifying. Never one for half-measures, Estel ground through four rounds of tough competition to arrive in the finals, where he’d face off against Damon Sea. With a three-second offset, Estel got the tree first and nailed a .013, while Sea was off with a .083 to chase him down. Reaction time would be the deciding factor, with Estel winning with a 12.370 on his 12.34, and Sea clocking a 9.436 on his 9.40 dial.

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Detroit Locker Truck & Lightning has been enjoying a surge in popularity this year, as evidenced by the 18 trucks in the lanes at Bowling Green. Mike Motycka laid down the law early with a perfect light straight off the trailer, meaning that Paul Gamino’s triple zero in the second round of quals would only be good enough for second, and Jeff Hines’ embarrassingly slow .002 would relegate him to third. With qualifying out of the way, Motycka mowed through the field to the finals, where he’d face fellow heavy hitter Gary Windsor. With a marginally slower dial-in, Motycka would get the ambers first, and left with a .018 light, while Windsor pushed it too hard and got a red for the effort, fouling out into second place with a -.052.

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JDM Engineering Super Stang had its best turnout of the abbreviated three-event season, with 22 cars entered at the World Finals. Four rounds of racing took the gaggle of racers down to just two – Bobby Barrick, and Larry Russell, Jr., who had won every round of SST he’d ever entered so far. That streak ended in Bowling Green, with Barrick pulling a slight holeshot, then running 13.470 on a 13.43 index, while Russell broke out trying to catch him, going under with a 14.785 on a 14.79.

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A record 81 cars entered Hedman Hedders True Street, presented by Muscle Mustangs & Fast Fords, but after the attrition of the 30-mile street cruise and three back to back passes, only 44 remained standing. Michael Newton had the best three-round average, running 9.324, 9.269, and 9.471 to average 9.355 and earn the title “King of Kentucky”, while EJ Wiliams upheld the honor of all Tennesseans with his runner-up average of 9.676, and a best pass of 9.351.