Racing in cool weather on a national-event caliber track almost always makes for great racing. Maybe that's why the pits were filled to the point of overflowing at the second stop of the NMCA Super Series 2002 tour. Break-through performances, pretty girls, new cars, national records, and even more pretty cars were in plentiful supply to make this an event to remember.
EFI Eliminator is quickly becoming one of the more popular classes on the tour. Running on a 13.50 index, Robert Boyden's '96 Pontiac led a field of 20 cars in qualifying in EFI by running just .03 second off the mark. Stefan Destito's street-driven Trans Am with 396 inches of stroked nitrous power was the quickest and fastest car in the category with a 9.76-second e.t. at 136.79 mph. Boyden wasn't one to be intimidated, however, as he ran close enough to his index to make it all the way to the final round to face Ski Humphrey's '94 Mustang. While Boyden left first in the championship finale, it was way too soon as he tripped the red light to give Humphrey the win. Look for this late-model street car class to continue growing.
Dana Beaty and Ed Grabinger, who qualified their Mustangs together in ninth and tenth positions in Street Eliminator, mowed their way through the field to face each other in the finals, which was won by Beaty. Damon Kuhn and Bobby McNair repeated that feat in Nostalgia Muscle Car by qualifying sixth and seventh and then meeting in the finals, as well. Kuhn's Mopar became the winner after McNair had a foul start in his '68 Mustang.
Some of the biggest surprises happened in NMCA's drag radial class, here called Traction Advantage. After former champ Troy Pirez became the first driver in NMCA history to dip into the 8-second zone at the season's first event, three other drivers joined that club at Atlanta. Dave Rudisell took his 409-cid stroker motor with Cleveland heads to the head of the class with an 8.91 at 154.65 mph to become the quickest man ever on drag radials. That distinction didn't last long, however, when Pirez uncorked an unheard of 8.74-second e.t. in the first round of eliminations. While Pirez lost in the next round, the crowd was still on its feet to see what other surprises this group of magicians could pull out of their hat. Victor Spires obliged the crowd by streaking to an astonishing 8.69-second e.t. at 156.26 mph, which left fans shaking their heads in disbelief. While Spires may have fired the "shot heard 'round the world" on that run, he was easy prey for Robbie Devane who left him with a .128-second holeshot while coasting to an 8.83 to 9.00-second win in the final round . The performances of this group of cars and drivers resulted in some Internet smack talk that left many looking forward to the next event.
The action in NMCA's Street classes showed that a lot of former class champions are going to have their hands full if they hope to repeat in 2002. Limited Street saw defending champ Bob Joysey only qualify in the middle of the pack and then lose in the first round of eliminations. Former champ Mike Modeste had his share of woes in the first round also when his car blew up on the starting line. In the end, it was Aaron Stapleton winning over Mike Libecap who was making his second final round appearance in two events. Hot Street was won by Rick Moroso and his C5 Corvette, and it looks like he will not be denied a championship this year. EZ Street was a bare-knuckles match of cars, nitrous, and pure driving skill. Phil Hines, who finished second in points last year, showed he intends to have a say so in the 2002 championship by picking up dramatically from the season's first event. Hines qualified first and never ran slower than an 8.54 during eliminations before beating Bob Curran in the finals. In Real Street, Bruce Lagory's early-model 'Cuda dominated the field again by qualifying number one and then winning the class over Ron Ramsey.
Super Modified, which has one of the widest varieties of cars in any of the NMCA Super Series classes, saw West Palm Beach winner Jim Huber bow out in the semifinal round. With the 2001 champion out of the way, Michigan driver Ted Pelech made short work of Canadian Emidio Catalano with a 7.76 to 8.08 final round victory.
NMCA's top 10.5-inch tire class, which was dominated by Matt & Jay Scranton's '00 turbo Mustang last year, looks like a lot of the competition has caught up during the off-season. Former NSCA event winner Chris Collins led qualifying with a career best 7.50 at 184.45 mph with the Scrantons running just a tick behind in second. Mike Yedgarian's nitrous Trans Am ran a surprising 7.59/179.30 for third with former NSCA champ Jimmy Blackmon and Elias Delatorre rounding out the Top Five in Super Street. Collins took out Blackmon in the semifinals while Matt Scranton slipped past Mike Yedgarian. In the finals, the Scrantons turned up the wick by turning a 7.47 to defeat Collins off the pace 8.21-second e.t.
The finals in Nostalgia Super Stock, which has long been dominated by a horde of mid-'60s Mopars, offered a different look at Atlanta with a classic Ford versus Chevy battle. Brian Merrick's '64 Galaxie won that battle with a 10.54/126.77 after Jim Pidgeon's Impala broke out. In Pro Nostalgia, Brian Booze's 9.05-second conquest over Paul Adams showed how close this class is to becoming an 8-second eliminator.
NMCA's other professional-level classes provided stunning performances, as well. In Nostalgia Pro Street, Dale Pittman and Darrell Thomas qualified neck-and-neck with a 7.58- and 7.59-second e.t.'s, respectively. Both drivers plowed through the field like dreadnoughts before meeting in the finals, which was won by Pittman, 7.57 to 7.58. Although Pittman left Atlanta with the event win and a new national record, it was the boys from Detroit city who went home with the early season points lead since Thomas hasn't missed a final round all year.
In Pro Outlaw, Lawrence Conley used all the traction the racing surface could offer in streaking to a 6.60/209.33-number-one qualifying position. Jason Collins and former series champ Jeff Miller rounded out the top three qualifiers. Eliminations were memorable in every way as Conley, Collins, Miller, Marc Dantoni, and Chuck Samuel all ran in the 6.60s enroute to winning their first round match-ups. Conley improved to a 6.55 at 212.29 mph to dust off Marc Dantoni while Jason Collins singled to make the final round. In one of the strangest finals in recent memory, Conley red-lighted and got out of the throttle immediately only to watch Collins cross the centerline and crash in what should have been an easy victory. Since Collins' foul was the worse of the two infractions, Conley was declared the winner.
The finals in Pro Street saw Tony Gentile take inconspicuous '69 Camaro from the number-one qualifying position into the finals to face number-two qualifier Hank Hill in his '96 T-Bird. Hill, who had lost to Annette Summer earlier in the day in the rained-out West Palm Beach finals, wasn't going to be denied in this race. Gentile took a slight lead off the starting line only to see Hill blaze by him on the way to a solid 6.73 to 9.31 victory.