The southern pine barrens of New Jersey are hardly what you envision when you think of that state. You won't find Tony Soprano popping a cap into anybody's skull near Atco-you'd swear you were somewhere in rural Pennsylvania if you were dumped off there blindfolded. As someone who's raced at Atco Raceway many times before, I can say that Atco is "da bomb." A combination of sea-level air, a tailwind, a downhill run, and being nestled amongst thousands of oxygen-producing pines, Atco Raceway is the stuff e.t. dreams are made of.

As NMCA class racers prepared for the 1st Annual Kook's Custom Headers Nationals on June 6, they were surely rubbing their hands in anticipation. A new concrete surface had been laid down the previous fall, and had been sufficiently broken in to produce earth-moving launches. But Mother Nature had other plans in store.

A cruel heat wave swept over the East Coast, producing record temperatures and excruciating humidity. No living thing remained unscathed from nature's ravages. As racers made their way to the staging lanes, hopes for low e.t.'s were dashed. Crews worked overtime to dial down the power in hopes of gaining purchase on the hot, oily starting line. With clutches softened, nitrous pills dropped down, and turbo wastegates cranked wide open, there was at least one positive benefit: Engine and powertrain breakage was remarkably absent from the NMCA's Atco event.

The oppressive conditions, however, took an equal toll on all racers, which provided a small measure of comfort for those chasing points. The real race would not be on the track, but in the pits. First on the agenda: kill the power. Second: find some traction, and fast. The guys who do that first and best will come out winners.

If you haven't attended a National Muscle Car Association event in a while, we think you'd be pleasantly surprised. This marks the NMCA's 20th anniversary, and its dedication to preserving the rich history and tradition of muscle car drag racing. Even the Atco heat couldn't keep thousands of fans and racers from enjoying the variety that epitomizes an NMCA event. Besides the NMCA's regular 10 head's-up and index drag racing classes, the Atco race also featured a late-model EFI index eliminator (Eaton Posi Late-Model EFI), LSX Shootout, Ford Modular Madness Shootout, and the first-ever NMCA Late-Model Hemi Shootout. Of course, there was plenty of action in the Tremec True Street Shootout, which incorporates a 30-mile street cruise, then three back-to-back passes.

Spectators could watch the intense racing on track, or cool off in the manufacturers' midway looking at speed goodies. And now at all NMCA races-including Atco-is a laid-back car show for those who want to get involved in the NMCA without risking breakage on the track. Who knows, maybe the NMCA car show is the first baby step toward getting that classic down the track!

Beauty And The Beast
You don't see many 8-second '70 AMXs, and you see even fewer of them driven and worked on by attractive females, but that's exactly the story line behind Ann and Steve Erb's Gold Lime Metallic AMX. Ann drives the AMC in COMP Cams Pro Stock, and has blasted off a best e.t. of 8.88/152. A Barry Allen-built 435-inch AMC mill with Indy block, heads, and intake feeds a JW Powerglide and a Dana 60 loaded with 4.88 cogs. After seeing the AMX hoist the wheels, we made a beeline for the pits to check it out. We made the same mistake a lot of guys do, and went straight up to Steve Erb to ask our questions. He just pointed at Ann and said, "Why don't you just ask her? She's the one driving it."

John Langer For President!
COMP Cams Pro Stock is full of nice guys, and on the weekend of the Atco race, no one was nicer than John Langer, an engineer from Philadelphia. John's '69 Trans Am clone has a Bischoff-built 525-inch Pontiac based on an AllPontiac block and heads. (We're guessing Bischoff made at least one phone call to Jon Kaase to get some details!) John's Poncho did find grip- as our photo shows-but was unable to make the finals. And the nice guy part: On Saturday evening, John threw a big party in his pit area. He catered a cheese steak stand from Philly to come out and serve all comers- even his competitors. The grub was great, too. Thanks, John.

The Queen Of True Street
We leave you this month with 29-year-old Melissa Elswick, of Chesterfield, VA. She's a full-time mom of two boys (Trevor, 7; Dylan, 11), and she also happens to be the registrar of Tremec True Street. If you run True Street this year, chances are you'll get to meet this wacky, fun young lady. Melissa is also a racer. She's currently building an Outlaw 5.0 car for NMRA competition.