After a long winter, the Ford drag racing world was ready for spring to break. Racers flocked to Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Florida for the first major Blue Oval battle of the season — the NMRA Spring Break Shootout.
The action hit its stride on Friday March 2 with the first round of qualifying in all the classes and final qualifying in the Cobra Jet Showdown, in which a bundle of factory-prepped drag snakes battle for supremacy. The CJ racers would move into eliminations on Saturday, while the rest of the classes would run two more qualifiers before heading into eliminations on Sunday.
There were several 2018 Mustangs on the property making hits, including Willie Diaz of MAK Performance, who was piloting the first 9-second second-gen S550. He was battling some gremlins in qualifying, but hopes to run quicker thanks to a few updates to the combo.
We were on hand to grab some photos of the action, which you can check out below, while our friends at Speed Video are delivering the instant action right to your screen. To watch all the racing as it happens, be sure to tune into the livestream right here.
Friday saw some crazy wheelstands. Carlos Sobrino (left) barely kept it off the wall, while Sai Li (middle) and Bryan Gardner (right) were both trying to see just how high their cars could go.
* Only the Cobra Jet Showdown qualifying finalized on Friday. There are two more rounds for the other classes on Saturday.
Bart Tobener’s Renegade powertrain is largely untouched since last season, but he worked on leaving his Fox mentality behind and finding better weight balance in his S550. It seemed to work, as he topped the first qualifying sheet thanks to a 7.35-second blast.
Fresh off multiple four-digit dyno pulls with VMP Performance’s Gen 3 TVS blower, Justin and Rebecca Starkey were running the new blower on her Coyote-powered racer.
Five rounds of close racing came down to a battle between Rod Heltzel and Ken Miele. It looked like the race was over at the beginning as Rod lumbered off the starting line, but Ken Miele ran a bit too quick (8.70 on and 8.74 dial-in) handing the win to the unique, orange CJ piloted by Rod.
The racing gods looked favorably on Bradenton Motorsports Park as the NMRA season opener rolled into its final qualifying rounds on Saturday. A cool morning gave way to a clear and sunny day that could have been snapped for a Chamber of Commerce brochure.
A beautiful day brought the crowds out in droves as nearly every inch of the track was covered in race cars, show cars, and spectators. It also brought out a crazy number of True Street machines. In fact, the 152 cars was a record number for the ever-popular class, so fans of these streetable racers were treated to a lot of on-track action.
Over 150 cars showed up to run the gauntlet known as True Street. A 30-minute street cruise followed by three back-to-back passes is a tough task, but cars capable of running sevens and slower put on quite a show.
Around the street cars, most classes took their final two qualifying hits to lock in the ladders for Sunday’s eliminations. One class was racing for real on Saturday, as the Cobra Jet Showdown went into eliminations and decided a winner. It’s a nice treat to have some meaningful passes before the last day of the race.
It wasn’t all racing either. The car show was packed with a wide variety of show machines, from the latest Mustangs to some really cool classics. In all, it was a great day celebrating Blue Oval machinery.
With just a handful of passes on his fresh Coyote Stock engine, Darin Hendricks was running in a familiar place at the top of the qualifying sheet thanks to a blistering 10.14 rip. While the engines must be stock, the cars around them have become quite advanced to squeeze as much performance out of Ford’s 5.0-liter as possible.
The only group to rival True Street at the season opener was the car show. It was packed with cars of all years and models. We found a few really cool rides in the mix, including a future feature car or two.
Andy Manson was on a mission at Bradenton. His supercharged small-block was consistently running the quickest times in Street Outlaw and down the elimination stretch he pushed it into record territory with a blistering 4.31 at 171.26 mph to take out Manny Buginga, who got the jump at the tree (.034 vs. .084) but didn’t have the steam to hold Andy off at the stripe.
The weather continued to shine on the track Sunday as sunny skies and reasonable temperatures combined to set the stage for a great day of racing action. All the quick times run in qualifying were nice, but these were the money rounds.
In fact, there were some record-worthy times run in eliminations, but the quickest cars were not always the ones that went rounds. That’s, of course, why they run the races and run them they did. Some battles were won at the tree and some were won by a push past to the stripe, but all the racing was competitive, which is just what you want to see at the start of the season.
While Haley James (left) came into Coyote Modified completion with a tested combo, featuring a new converter, Tommy Annunziata was fighting a few gremlins early in the weekend. He pulled it together to run to the finals, where he faced Haley’s consistent, Hellion-boosted Fox. Tommy got the jump, but Haley took the win at the top end.
With cars performing this well right out of the gate, it looks like it will be another impressive year of Blue Oval racing. Fortunately, we won’t have to wait too long before the action picks back up again. Plus, even more race cars should be finished or further along in their tuning programs when NMRA season rolls in to Commerce, Georgia, for the All-Star Nationals run in conjunction with the NMCA. Be sure to check out Speed Video for all the live action.
Some of the most exciting passes of the weekend took place in Coyote Stock, where Darin Hendricks and Carlos Sobrino were flying, running bottom 10s. However, it was an upstart, young Tyler Eichorn (left), who ran consistently in the 10.20-10.30 range to work his way through the competitive field. In the end, he faced Clair Stewart, who travelled a similar path. Clair left first, but Tyler pulled ahead to take the win.
Double duty didn’t slow down Justin Jordan. Not only was he running his own recently updated 2014 Mustang, be he was racing a customer’s car as well. In his class of choice, the Turbo Coyote Shootout, Justin ran the low e.t. of 7.27, the highest MPH at 193.42 and he ran the table to take the win, besting Christian Morillo in the finals by nearly a half second (7.50 vs. 7.90).
The new Limited Street class had a strong showing in Bradenton, and Kelly Shotwell (left) did some dominating of his own. He too ran the quickest e.t. and top MPH and qualified in the top spot with an 8.61 at 158 MPH pass. As the only car in the eights, his SN95 cut through the field and faced off with NMRA stalwart Kent Nine in the finals. Kent chopped down the tree, but his 11.39 was no match for Kelly’s 8.83 rip.