Spearheaded by John Sears, creator of the wildly popular X275 series that’s developed a cult following over the years, the Vortech Superchargers Ultra Street Shootout series has gained tremendous momentum during its 2020 season and is poised to be the next big thing in small-tire drag radial racing. Racers have embraced the class ,which focuses on parity between various single power-adder combinations, stock-style suspension setups, and competitive heads-up racing that’s attainable at a lower cost of entry than other quick categories.
“Ultra Street Shootout is for racers who want tight competition without needing to have a whole lot,” shared Sears. “You can run a Fox body Mustang or third-gen Camaro with a 540-inch bracket motor or stock-block LS, add a plate or a fogger, or a turbo/blower to the LS, and get the car to be more consistent to build towards being a frontrunner while having fun.”
As the year worked its way to a close, the Ultra Street championship chase was a close battle between Brian Keep and Kirt Sanders. Keep held the advantage by 44 points, but either man had a solid chance at winning it all at the 49th Snowbird Outlaw Nationals Jet Jam Night of Fire at Florida’s Bradenton Motorsports Park over the weekend of December 4-6, 2020, which served as the stage for the final showdown.
After the first round of qualifying had been completed, it was Mark Rogers at the top of the list with a 4.545 at 153.96 mph hit while Keep went 4.619 at 149.90 for third and Sanders was in eighth with his 4.673 at 152.81 mph trip.
By the end of the third session, though, Sanders and his ’93 Mustang known fondly as “Tina” had taken over the lead with a huge jump up to a 4.510 at 155.74 mph. He just barely missed out on resetting the elapsed time record for the class but made progress to close the gap in points in the process.
Sanders’s car is the perfect example of doing a lot with a little when it comes to Ultra Street. Built about four years ago, the rough and raggedy red Fox Body utilizes a nitrous-injected big-block Chevy engine and a Powerglide transmission. “We loaded it up with everything we had and didn’t think it would be that fast, but the stars aligned and it surprised us,” laughed Sanders. “It put us in a good position for the championship with the bonus points.”
Rogers, who runs a Work-turbocharged setup with his Customs by Bigun-built ’03 Mustang Cobra with the famed Peter Harrell of Harrell Engine & Dyno managing the Holley EFI’s tune up, had slipped into second once the order was finalized. Rogers also relies on a Proformance racing transmission, Greg Slack torque converter, Tiger Quick Change rear end, TBM brakes, and Macfab beadlocks to keep his radial rubber secured.
Conversely, Keep’s combination consists of a ProCharger supercharged 427-inch small-block Chevy engine from Hameetman Racing Engines in a fourth gen ’98 Camaro built by NRC Motorsports. Stuffed full of Line to Line Coatings-treated Diamond pistons wrapped in Total Seal rings and sit atop R&R Racing connecting rods, the bullet is backed by a Turbo 400 from RPM Transmissions with an Ultimate Converter Concepts converter. Although he had some unexpected mechanical trouble early on, he held strong in fourth when he improved to 4.577 at 150.97 mph while rolling on Mickey Thompson-wrapped RC Components wheels.
The father and son team of driver Bill Gregan and tuner Tyler Gregan recently changed their ’90 Mustang over to use ProCharger power and, while they’re realizing it isn’t quite as easy as it seems, they’ve been making steady progress. Gregan’s name was fifth on the list for qualifying with a 4.583 at 153.84 mph blast.
First running in NMRA Edelbrock Renegade earlier in the season, Jason Spina’s gorgeous gray ’90 Mustang holds a ProCharged 427-inch Bennett Racing Engines showpiece between its framerails, along with a Powerglide transmission. He runnered-up at both the Orlando World Street Nationals and No Mercy events earlier in the year, and qualified sixth at the Snowbirds race with a 4.611 at 152.71 mph time slip.
Next in line was Walter Drakeford from Real Speed Racing who occupied the number seven spot when he posted a 4.612 at 153.30 mph pass on the scoreboards. He also had recently changed to a gear-driven ProCharger F-1A-94 and, after only his fifth pass with the new blower, later dipped into the 4.50-second zone.
Longtime Mustang racer Mike Dez was on the property to manage Chuck Bartholme’s Fox body Mustang for the weekend and Bartholme ranked ninth in the order on a 4.653 at 153.68 mph effort. “We run a 430-inch small-block Ford with a Vortech supercharger, and this is a brand new motor for us,” stated Dez, who admittedly struggled the first two days of testing leading up to the main event. “We got it figured out, though. This class is super competitive and John [Sears] has everything in check for ultra-competitive racing. It makes us have to work both on the cars and on the driving to be more consistent.”
Stephen Barnett qualified tenth in Ultra Street with a ’91 Mustang he bought from Shawn Pevlor a few years back. “It was a nitrous car, but we converted it to a ProCharger,” explained Barnett, who usually races in Limited 275 but drove 18 hours from his home in Texas to run in Ultra Street for the first time. “It’s a fantastic class with a bunch of great racers.”
From first to last, the entire 11-car field was separated by less than three-tenths of a second.
Round one of eliminations entitled Sanders to a ladder bye, while Drakeford advanced over Spina and Rogers defeated the number eleven qualifier, Brad Schehr. Barnett took down Mike Freeman, and Gregan did the same to Troy Pirez Jr. Rogers, whose 4.526 at 154.90 mph was a new personal best, put Schehr back on the trailer and Bartholme also earned a new personal best of 4.628 at 154.63 mph, but it was Keep who got the win in the pairing.
The overall 2020 Ultra Street championship title came down the crucial second round of eliminations – if Sanders advanced, it would be his. If not, Keep would claim the honors. Tensions were high as the men prepared to give it all they had, but a dreaded red light for Sanders meant Keep would walk away the winner, even though he ultimately lost his own match against Barnett. Rogers turned the win light on his lane, and was rewarded with a bye in the semi-finals to ensure his place in the last round of the night against Drakeford, who moved on over Barnett in the semis, as well.
With the championship locked up, the overall event winner still had to be determined. Rogers lined up against Drakeford under the lights on Sunday night and the men anxiously awaited the green light to signal their start. When it illuminated, they both left the line in a hurry but it was Rogers who made it to the stripe first to take his first-ever Ultra Street event win.
“I can’t thank my sponsors and supporters enough for their help in making this happen,” said Rogers. “We worked hard all weekend and the car performed flawlessly. This class is a blast to race with, it’s like a family, and finally getting the win was well worth the wait.”
Although he didn’t win the race itself, Keep was still thrilled with how his season played out. Having won not one but two championships – the 2020 Vortech Superchargers Ultra Street honors as well as the NMRA Edelbrock Xtreme Street title – was more than he ever could have imagined.
“We had a good season. It wasn’t great, but it was consistent. We only won one race but went to the semi-finals several times and got the points at the right places at the right times,” said the man whose small victories added up to a huge success with a slim margin of only five points. “I had never won a championship before, and the last two years against Joel [Greathouse] were so close… this is absolutely amazing. Ultra Street is one of the best classes in radial racing, period.”
Tight racing, an intense points battle, affordable entry, crossover with NMRA and NMCA classes, and parity amongst the power adders have positioned Ultra Street to enjoy explosive growth over the coming years.
“This weekend alone, we had a nitrous big-block as the number one qualifier. The internet was hollering nitrous this and nitrous that and they’re given so much leeway that turbos and ProChargers can’t compete,” noted Sears, “but we had a turbo versus ProCharger final round, and the turbo won! That’s why we put ‘em in the beams and race and don’t worry about keyboards.”
The Vortech Superchargers Ultra Street Shootout’s diehard drivers will be back for another great season of racing, starting with the U.S. Street Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park on January 29-31, 2021. Keep will be looking to defend his title, and has a whole new engine ready and waiting for those who dare to line up against him – and there certainly will be plenty more as the big buzz in the pits all weekend at the Snowbird Outlaw Nationals centered on how many new Ultra Street cars are already being built for next year.