2018 NMCA Bluegrass Nationals Coverage From Bowling Green

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Dan Rensch (left) collected the LSX True Street crown last night with a host of 7-second laps from his, while Jeff Knox won the overall True Street title with a 7.861-second average.

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Middlebury, Vermont’s Gardner Stone qualified seventh with an 8.23 from his Chuck Watson-prepared 2016 Cobra Jet. Stone, a hall of fame tractor puller, began drag racing in 1964 and competed through the mid-1970s before switching gears to other forms of racing, including stock cars. Stone will tell you, “I’ll race a bullfrog if you put an engine on it.” In 2013, Stone had the opportunity to acquire a Cobra Jet, which ignited his return to drag racing. He then purchased the ’16 model and has been chasing the NMCA Factory Super Cars tour the last two seasons. Stone is confident he has the car to run at the front of the pack, but is chasing some power issues early in the run that’s kept his “Widowmaker VI” from performing to its potential.

Crew chiefs Rick and Nick Bruder (pictured) would like nothing more than to continue their recent success here at Beech Bend with Shawn Ayers and Fletcher Cox and the “Golddust” Mustang. Rich set the X275 world on its ear here less than a month ago with a stunning 4.29-second world record pass.

We've taken a step back in time this weekend at the Bluegrass Nationals. In addition to the return of Pat Musi's familiar Pro Street Firebird, longtime racer and chassis builder Gary Rohe is making his first NMCA start in nearly 12 years -- and his first time at an event in any capacity in seven years -- with his iconic 1980 Ford Mustang. Now clad with big meats out back, the once-time Xtreme Street car is running in Nitrous Pro Street. Rohe has largely competed in local series like the OSCA in recent years, making changes to the chassis over time at his Lawrenceburg, Indiana shop. The powerplant is a 642-inch big-block with a single carburetor in nitrous. The drivetrain, Rohe notes, is the very same unit that engine builder Tony Bischoff ran in his Oldsmobile Achieva in Super Street back in the early 2000s.

Need more nostalgia? Oswego, Illinois Tony Orts is making his first NMCA start in a number of years this weekend, as well, behind the wheel of his familiar checkered 1968 Firebird. Orts went bracket and index racing for a few years for a change of pace, but says, "it was incredibly boring, so we had to go heads-up racing again." The Firebird is virtually a new car under its shell, with updated chassis work from nose to tail completed this winter to compliment the 440-inch small-block Chevrolet from Precision Engine. Orts qualified 12th with a 5.17.

Bowling Green local Jessie Coulter has soaked up the glory thus far this weekend in his ’91 Camaro, qualifying atop both the Real Street Shootout and Xtreme Street fields at 4.791. Coulter won the Shootout last night, collecting $1,000 and an LSX Bowtie engine block for his efforts.

Kentucky’s own Richard Deaver had a white-knuckle moment in the opening round of Xtreme Street opposite of Tim Knieriem, when something in the drivetrain ignited near the finish line, erupting into a full-fledged, Funny Car-like inferno. Deaver was visibly fighting to get the car stopped in a hurry, sashaying side-to-side as he matted the brakes to get out before the cockpit could get any warmer. Deaver jumped from the car as it continued to burn in the shutdown area. The safety crew was quick to get the fire extinguished, but not before considerable body and electronics damage was done to the passenger side and cockpit of the Mustang. Deaver says he got nicked by the flames, but checked out okay and was observing the damage when we stopped by.

James Lawrence torched a piston in his opening round defeat of Mark Woodruff in Radial Wars, causing the blow-by tubes to blow off and oil the racetrack and every nook and cranny of the engine compartment of the car. The crew, with the help of several volunteers, immediately began thrashing to change engines. Given just 90 minutes by the NMCA to turn the car around to face Marty Stinnett in the final, this group is in an race against time to swap in the engine, change out intakes and injectors, and get the car set up for the money round.

Jason Hamstra and team have made it look easy this weekend, carding a record 3.72 in testing and a 3.69 on Friday night to qualify No. 1 before sitting out Saturday’s rounds to save parts. Hamstra moved on to round two with a 3.74.

Canton, Georgia’s Robert Killian campaigns this gorgeous ’69 Dodge Dart GTS in Nostalgia Super Stock’s C/FX category. This car, impressively, has never been anything but a racecar — its original owner purchased the car, removed what items didn’t need to be there for racing purposes, and campaigned it, mostly in bracket races for much of its life. Killian bought the car three years ago largely in the fashion you see it here, with a 440-inch Wedge with a couple of four-barrels on top for power. Killian added the ’68 Hemi ‘Cuda-style hood scoop and repaired of a couple of minor body flaws since acquiring it. All of the original equipment was provided with the sale, and even after the owner’s passing, his wife has still kept tabs on its success under Killian.

Daniel Pharris ended Shawn Ayers’ unbeaten streak in Street Outlaw in the final round, driving away from the tire-chattering Golddust Fox body to a winning 4.35 to Ayers’ trailing 4.58.

(Left) Jason Hamstra made his first mistake all weekend in the semifinals or Pro Mod and it cost him -- Hamstra was dead-late against Jackie Slone and the Michigan stole one, earning a trip into the final by a sizable 3.87 to 3.75 count. (Right) Don Walsh, Jr. and Craig Sullivan got up close and personal in their semifinal bout as they both drifted toward the centerline near the 100-foot mark. Sullivan was forced to lift while Walsh slapped the loud-pedal and motored on down to a 4.31-second victory.

James Lawrence and the gang were rewarded for their efforts in the heat and humidity this afternoon to change and engine, as the C7 Corvette streaked away from a tire-spinning Marty Stinnett in the Radial Wars finale to take his second victory of the season in 4.05-seconds.

Don Walsh, Jr. may have come into the Pro Mod final as the favorite, but we don't race 'em on paper. Walsh and Jackie Slone were dead-even out of the gate, but Walsh's turbocharged Camaro made a violent move near the top-end and he had to lift, allowing Slone to drive away for the title.

Scott Libersher added another victory to his resume this weekend in Factory Super Cars, besting Chuck Watson in a stellar Ford-Chevrolet final round.

In an all-Firebird affair, Dwight Ausmus benefited from top qualifier David Theisen’s foul start to score an 8.148-second victory in N/A 10.5.

Jessie Coulter completed his perfect weekend here at Bowling Green, scoring the Xtreme Street title to go along with his victory last night in the Real
Street Shootout. Coulter went low for the weekend in the final at 4.76.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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