Once upon a time, a sport called drag racing was invented, in which hooligans with hot street cars got organized and took the activity off the road and into a safer venue. Those heady early days were full of discovery and wonderment, as regular guys continuously broke boundaries and captivated audiences with their creativity and driving skill. But recent years have seen the waning of pro drag racing, as the cars have become less like street cars and more like spaceships on a mission to Mars. And while there will always be an audience for nitro-breathing fuelers, the meat-and-potatoes muscle car lover can't be blamed if he chooses to spend his racing dollar where he can see the same kind of cars that are in his garage.

You'll be happy to know that the guys at Promedia-the organization that owns and operates the National Muscle Car Association (NMCA) and the National Mustang Racers Association (NMRA)-haven't forgotten their drag racing roots, or the spirit that started it all. They own and drive the same kind of cars that you do, and they like to race 'em, too.

The NMCA and the NMRA are normally run as two separate series during the year. Muscle car guys and late-model Mustang guys don't share that much in common, except they like their street cars fast, and they're competitive. For most of the year Promedia keeps the ol' Zippo lighter away from the dynamite in one corner, and the TNT in the other corner, but at Joliet's Route 66 Raceway once a year each July, it's time for a little fireworks!

Over the years as the Promedia staff has fine-tuned the racing rules for its NMCA and NMRA classes (23 in all!), they've done a good job of maintaining parity between their organizations. That opens the door for them to hold their annual Super Bowl of Drag Racing in Joliet, Illinois, where classic muscle cars and late-model Mustangs can go head-to-head for serious crowd-pleasing action.

This past July 17-20, we took in the action at Chicago's premier drag facility, and had a blast. Although somewhat hampered by rain, the extended four-day itinerary allowed for plenty of flexibility, and everybody got their game on. All the fan favorite heads-up classes were represented, with power adders, straight motors, 10.5-inch tires, radials, budget power adders, nostalgia, and every street freak's fave-True Street. Open Comp is also quickly becoming a popular alternative to bracket racing. A car show, a large manufacturer's midway, and a swap meet were also on hand to keep fans interested. Here are some highlights from the Super Bowl Of Street Legal Drag Racing sponsored by Motive Gear and Nitto Tires.

Butch Kemp's Pro Stocker
COMP Cams Pro Stock is very similar in spirit to the early days of NHRA Pro Stock-stock bodies, stock interiors, stock suspensions, and lots of innovation. Butch Kemp's '67 Nova caught our eye with its clean lines and stunning 8-second performance (it's run a best of 8.55/158, and holds the COMP Cams Pro Stock record). The Uratchko-built 419ci small-block is a pretty typical race piece, except for the Mopar 7420 intake, which Butch tells us is used by all the fast guys in Pro Stock. The class rules call for a bolt-on cast manifold, and it just so happens that the Mopar 7420 intake is a great fit for the CFE RR320 heads on Butch's Chevy. Don't like the idea of a Mopar part on a Chevy? Then don't read this: Butch uses a Proflite three-speed trans, which is basically a beefed and built 727 Torqueflite with 904 internals. It's not a cheap trans to buy (they run about $6,000), but they are as strong as a max-effort Turbo 400, but with a whole lot less parasitic power loss. In a naturally aspirated class like Pro Stock where every last horsepower matters, that can be the difference between winning and losing. The vibe of Butch's Nova is all street, with a stock-as-humanly-possible interior, right down to the stock steering wheel. "A lot of guys make fun of me for using the stock steering wheel," says Butch, "but I really like it."

Ex-NASCAR Engines For Sale!
While combing through the pit area, we ran into Don Bowles, who runs a 2006 Mustang in NMRA's Open Comp class. Don Bowles has been racing for decades, and has worked with Jack Roush since 1972, and continues to develop products for Roush for their retail program. When we first saw Don's orange '06 GT, we assumed it was just another late-model Mustang, until we dug deeper.

It turns out that Bowles' hot rod is running a used Roush NASCAR powerplant, straight out of Carl Edwards' Sprint Cup operation. What's even more interesting is that with the Roush/Fenway Racing operation's five NASCAR teams, there is an abundance of slightly used engines flooding the marketplace with no place to go. (All the engines changed for the 2008 season-making the 2007 engines obsolete.) It's a veritable cornucopia of power just waiting to be tapped.