There’s no denying that Martin Connelley is a threat in NMRA ProCharger Modified Street and DXP235 Drag Radial.
He has wheeled to wins in both classes in the Mustang owned by Eddie and Maggie McCarty, and he has proven that he’s on top of his game, whether with his previous combination consisting of a BES-built 363 cubic-inch 8.2 deck Ford engine topped with Trick Flow High Port heads and enhanced by nitrous, or his current combination consisting of a BES-built 363 cubic-inch 8.2 deck Ford engine topped with Trick Flow High Port heads and enhanced by a belt-driven ProCharger D-1X.
“We had tried nitrous and carburetors and had success with them, so last December, we decided it was time to try a ProCharger and a Haltech engine management system and see if we could have even more success,” said Connelley. “Then, we started the process of switching over.”
That process, in addition to hiring BES to build the new engine, involved partnering with Daniel Bradley to perform the fabrication work for a new intercooler and to install new hoses and fittings from Redhorse Performance, among other things, for the car which has a chassis upgraded by Tin Soldiers Race Cars and rolls on an 8.8 rear-end, TRZ Motorsports suspension components and Menscer Motorsports-massaged shocks.
To back the new BES-built engine, Connelley chose an RPM Transmissions-built Powerglide and a ProTorque converter, and Eric Gash was ready to tune the combination on the dyno while Eric Mitchell was ready to tune it at the track.
“The car was still a nitrous car in December, and by January 30, we had it on the dyno as a blower car,” said Connelley. “We had hundreds of hours into the project, but we didn’t want to tell anyone what we were doing because we wanted it to be a big secret.”
It was indeed a big secret until he arrived at the 11th Annual Scoggin Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE in early April at Atlanta Dragway and rolled out of the trailer the car wearing ProCharger graphics on it.
It was the Kentuckian’s first time competing in the NMRA series, and he dove into the ProCharger Modified Street category, cruised to an 8.10 to qualify in the fourth spot and an even quicker 7.89 to finish as the runner-up.
“We had literally decided hours before the race that we were going to go that weekend,” said Connelley, with a laugh. “We couldn’t help ourselves. We wanted to go racing, even though it was going to be a different series, class and combination, and even though we had never run the quarter-mile in the car before.”
Upon returning home from the event, Connelley swapped his RPM Transmissions-built Powerglide with an RPM Transmissions-built Turbo 400, and paired it with a tighter ProTorque converter.
He followed that with a 7.72 to set the pace in qualifying and an 8.01 to earn a trip to the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle at the Inaugural NMRA Ford Gateway Rumble presented by HPJ Performance in mid-May at Gateway Motorsports Park in Illinois.
Now, Connelley, who’s in the third spot in NMRA ProCharger Modified Street points — and who holds the current record in NMRA ProCharger Modified Street with a 7.72 in the quarter-mile and the current record in DXP235 Drag Radial with a 5.01 in the eighth-mile — will give it everything he has to move up in points at the 19th Annual NMRA Ford Motorsport Nationals, June 27-30 at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania.
“I really like the class and running NMRA,” said Connelley, who, in addition to Eric Gash and Eric Mitchell, has help from his wife, Michelle Connelley, Cory Brooks and Dalton Winfield. “We had a great time at both of the events we have gone to so far, and we’re looking forward to the race at Maple Grove and the rest of the NMRA races this year.”