Despite the fact that she was in the driver’s seat of a borrowed 1985 Mustang, Sondra Leslie laid down a best of 10.63 while wheelstanding her way to a fourth-place finish in NMRA Richmond Gear Factory Stock points last year.
But rather than return the car to its owner, Derek Craft, after those admirable accomplishments, she purchased it from him, and began making plans to prepare it for NMRA Steeda Limited Street, a new heads-up class designed for small-block Ford, Modular and Coyote combinations with single power-adders in 1954 and newer Ford-bodied vehicles.
“I had been talking about switching classes for a couple of years, and when the NMRA announced at the end of last year that they would be debuting the Steeda Limited Street class, I was very interested,” said Leslie. “So, we sat down, looked at all of the rules, ran some numbers and decided that we could afford this class, and then we purchased the car and took possession of it at the last race of the season last fall.”
The plotting and planning began the moment they had the car back home in Indiana, and the first decision Leslie made was to continue using her very capable Coyote engine.
With a friend keeping her company, she made the 24-hour drive in February to deliver her engine to Tim Eichhorn of MPR Racing Engines in Florida to be finessed.
“We hired Tim (Eichhorn) to go through the engine and completely redo it to maximize it for the Limited Street class, so it’s fair to say that it’s definitely not Factory Stock-legal anymore,” said Leslie, with a laugh. “He sleeved the block, gave it new rods and pistons, ported the 2015 Coyote heads and installed custom cams. He did a ton of work to it, and Bret Barber ported the Boss 302 intake.”
For added muscle, she decided that the engine would be fronted by a Vortech V-2-H/D Ti supercharger.
“I reached out to a bunch of people at various companies, and one of them was Lance Keck of Vortech,” said Leslie. “He was very helpful and supportive, and we were more than happy to welcome Vortech aboard.”
After consulting with Ronnie Reynolds and Eric Holliday of Justin’s Performance Center, she chose a new JPC-massaged Turbo 400 transmission to pair with an Ultimate Converter Concepts converter. She hired Lee Winkleman from PSI Racing to install into the car the entire powerplant, as well as a new Strange Engineering fabricated 9-inch rear-end and an upgraded fuel system, and to fabricate forward-facing headers and fender-exit side exhaust using materials provided by Wolfe Racecraft and a chute mount. Her car will roll on Mickey Thompson Pro Drag Radials.
“I gave Lee (Winkleman) a laundry list of things to do, and at one point, I literally gave him a box of parts and said ‘Here you go,’ and he was not happy with me, but he has nailed it,” said Leslie. “In fact, if he hadn’t taken this on, the car would be nowhere near done.”
Leslie, who said the car should be ready for its date with the dyno within the next few days, will rely on her longtime tuner, Ken Bjonnes, to design a tune on whichever engine management system they end up selecting.
“While we’re not sure which aftermarket engine management system we’ll use yet, I’m 100-percent confident that Ken (Bjonnes) can tune with anything, and he’s an expert with Coyote and blower combinations,” said Leslie, who had help finding parts from her brother-in-law, NMRA VP Racing Fuels Street Outlaw and NMCA Vortech Street Outlaw standout John Urist of Hellion Turbo, and NMRA Edelbrock Renegade and NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street hot-shoe Bart Tobener of Race Part Solutions.
After her combination is dialed in, Leslie will head to the 18th Annual CJ Pony Parts NMRA Ford Motorsport Nationals, May 3-6 at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania.
“This thing is going to be badass, and I wouldn’t be able to do it without the help of my family, especially my parents, John and Barb, and my brother Johnny,” said Leslie. “They are just as excited as I am to get the car out, but in addition to that, I think Johnny is glad that I left Factory Stock and won’t be able to beat up on him anymore.”
Catch the quick-witted Leslie and her fellow NMRA racers at the event or via a live stream broadcast by SpeedVideo with support from presenting sponsor Edelbrock, along with E3 Spark Plugs, Champion Cooling, TCI, US Gear, and Flying A Motorsports.
(Photos courtesy of NMCA and Sondra Leslie)