The winter was longer and colder than usual here in central PA and at CJ Pony Parts. Everyone on the Gotta Have Builds team was anxiously awaiting the warmer weather, which we knew was going to bring us to the first local NMRA race at the Maryland International Raceway (MIR) in southern Maryland. Bill and Rick jumped at the chance to race CJ's two 2013 Mustang GTs, Gotta Have It Race and Gotta Have It Street, in the NMRA’s Roush Super Stang class.
On Friday morning, May 3, Bill and Rick started the typical three hour ride to MIR in Maryland, which took over five hours that day, thanks to traffic and construction. They hauled Gotta Have It Race on the trailer and drove Gotta Have It Street to the event. Once they arrived at the track, they met up and pitted with longtime friend and racer Bob Cochran and the 1948 Ford Flatbed Truck that he races in the Detroit Locker Truck and Lightning class. The Gotta Have Builds team also shared a pit area with CJ Pony Parts' friend/customer Bob Schaeffer and his turbo V6 Mustang. Bill and Rick quickly prepped the cars and went through registration and tech to get ready to race.
At 3 p.m. on Friday afternoon, the lanes opened for a test-n-tune session. Both Bill and Rick wanted to get a handful of test runs in so they could practice on the .500 pro tree. Rick needed all the practice that he could get, as he didn’t manage to make a single clean pass until Bill reminded him to turn off traction control. After a few more passes during test and tune, Rick’s best reaction time was just a .132 and Gotta Have It Street's best time was 13.03 @ 111.24 MPH. Bill only made a couple of passes and was having some issues dialing in the car on the radial tires required by the class. With his best test and tune pass of 11.43 @ 121.42 with a 1.41 reaction time, it was time for qualifying.
First round of qualifying was on Friday night and started at 7 p.m. Once late afternoon came around, the temperature and DA started dropping and was making for some fast passes. Rick finally had a nice clean pass and Gotta Have It Street went 12.68 @112.18 MPH. Rick even cut a decent light with a .077 off the line. Bill and Gotta Have It Race ran an almost identical 11.44 @ 121.28 MPH with a .078 reaction time, which was not as fast as we have been running; however, it was consistent, which is how you go rounds in SST.
The second and third rounds of qualifying didn’t start until Saturday afternoon. Rick and Gotta Have It Street’s best pass was a 12.50 @ 112.87 MPH with a .094 light. That was the highest MPH ever for Gotta Have It Street and only .01 from its best ever time. The previous bests were set with the much lighter Racestar Dark Star drag wheels, so 12.50 @ 112.87 is very impressive for a car that had a race weight of over 4000lbs with an Eibach coilover road race suspension, huge Ford Racing SVTPP wheels and massive SSBC brakes and only a JLT intake, SCT XCAL3 tuner and Roush exhaust helping it make more power.
In the second and third rounds of qualifying, Bill was fighting clutch issues with Gotta Have It Race. The radial tires require a different launch than a slick; for example, when you dump the clutch, they tend to spin. The second qualifier was a 11.73 at only 117.02 MPH, which was way off what it had been running before. The low MPH was an issue. Bill decided to cool the clutch way off and add a little air to the back tires for the third qualifier. Bill had a .085 light and the changes worked as Gotta Have It Race ran another 11.43 @ 120.08 and was dialed in for Sunday's eliminations.
The first round of eliminations for the Roush Super Stang class started bright and early Sunday morning, at 9 a.m. Rick decided on a 12.70 dial-in for Gotta Have It Street, while Bill went with an 11.50 dial-in on Gotta Have It Race. Both dial-ins were slower than each car's best runs, but Bill and Rick wanted to leave a little bit of margin for error. If they made it past the first round, the remainder of the eliminations were to be during the middle of the afternoon, meaning it would be warmer and the track would be slower. The morning air was cool and crisp and many other competitors had been breaking out and running under their dial-ins.
Rick and Gotta Have It Street were first up and paired against Larry Firestone, who finished 5th in last year’s championship. Rick got the advantage at the starting line with a .061 reaction time compared to Larry’s .099. Rick led the race through the finish line and both racers broke out running faster than their dial-in. Larry was closer to his dail-in with a 11.471 on his 11.50, while Rick ran a 12.644 on his 12.70 dail-in. This gave the win to Larry by the very small .0275 second margin.
Bill and Gotta Have It Race were only a few cars behind Rick, and he was lined up against Marco Ponce Jr. who finished 4th in points in 2012. Bill and Marco have a friendly rivalry between our 2013 GHIR and his 2012 Real Deal Boss; our car has been quicker down the quarter mile, but Marco beat us last time we ran heads up. Bill dialed-in an 11.50 to Marco’s 11.53, so it was all but a heads up race. Marco got the starting line advantage with a .053 to Bills .129 light. However, Bill made up the ground immediately, and both cars went down the track door handle to door handle. Going through the traps, both drivers lifted but Marco let off a little sooner running 11.56 on his 11.53 dial-in at only 120 mph instead of his usual 125. Bill broke out with an firstname.lastname@example.org, a little slower than the 121-122 it was running in similar air.
Both Bill and Rick were consistent but choosing the right dial is what makes SST so tough. We had a great weekend with lots of customers coming up to see the cars and check out some of the modifications they saw us do in our videos. There are still several NMRA races left in the season, so hopefully we get a chance to go out and avenge our first round losses!