BRADENTON, Fla. – The four-car ROUSH® drag racing team started the 2008 NMRA season with a strong showing in the Sunday, March 9 elimination rounds at Bradenton (Fla.) Motorsports Park, but it didn’t always look like it. In fact, during the pre-race shake-down runs on Thursday and Friday, three of the cars struggled with major mechanical issues.
The ROUSH® quartet was led by Susan Roush-McClenaghan who took her car to the finals of the ROUSH® Modular Muscle class, the second time in her career she has advanced to the trophy dash. Unfortunately, her car ran a 10.49 in the finals, faster than her 10.51 breakout, so she walked away from Florida as the runner-up but very high in the point standings.
"This really is a terrific way to start the season," Susan said following the finals. "You always want to go to the finals and win, but making it this far is a major boost in the points and for our team confidence. Our crew guys worked really hard this weekend. They continually thrashed on all the cars and kept us in the races."
The road to the finals wasn’t an easy one for Susan as she paired up in the first round against Roxanne Shepherd, the 2007 champion. However, a 10.53 run against a 10.51 breakout was enough to put the champion on the trailer. Prior to the qualifying rounds, the crew discovered that the engine wasn’t running properly on Susan’s Mustang and had to swap to the backup.
Susan’s husband, Dale McClenaghan, ran his 1962 Ford Falcon into the semi-finals, the deepest he has gone in his NMRA drag racing career. In the offseason, the team installed a new 589 cubic inch, 1013 horsepower ROUSH engine in his ride, and the powerplant change paid off. The engine, nicknamed "Big Thunder," powered Dale to a career best run of 8.76-seconds at 155.01-mph in the second round of eliminations.
Donnie Bowles made it to the second round, and had his 2005 ROUSH® Mustang running very consistent elapsed times. He was forced to sit out the first round of qualifying with a broken dampner, but once that was resolved his elapsed times were consistently within .01-seconds of his career best of 10.06.
Don Bowles, the team patriarch, was the lone member of the ROUSH® drag team who experienced terminal mechanical woes. During the testing runs the crew discovered that the experimental engine he is working on with Ford had cracked the block and the oil was mixing with the water. They drained and replaced the fluids, made one qualifying pass at 9.3 seconds, and felt that it would be fine to lineup in the first round of eliminations. However, when no fluid leaks were observed the decision was made to attempt a second qualifying run on Saturday morning which proved disastrous.
Don launched the car and, essentially, went nowhere. The car coasted to half-track and sat with a fatal engine failure. Unfortunately, being a developmental Ford motor, spare parts were not readily available so Don’s weekend was finished without making a single elimination pass where the points are doled out.
Luckily, not scoring points in this season-opener will not affect Don’s chase for the 2008 championship. The NMRA rules allow the points from the lowest two events to be dropped so he won’t take a hit from this event.
The four cars carry sponsorship from ROUSH® Performance, Valvoline, Simply Wow and Battery Brain. The next event on the NMRA schedule will take place on April 4-6 at Silver Dollar Raceway in Reynolds, Ga.
of Tampa, Fla., furthered the ROUSH® presence at the racetrack with a midway exhibit that included a ROUSH Trak PakTM, a Drag PakTM, Stage 3TM and 428RTM Mustangs. The four cars received plenty of attention from the fans as they wandered among the displays between the rounds.
Based in Livonia, Mich., "The Art of Performance Engineering" takes place at ROUSH&#reg Performance. To get a look behind the scenes at what goes on at ROUSH&#reg and how the vehicles are designed, manufactured and produced logon to . In addition to the Stage 1TM, Stage 2TM and Stage 3TM Ford Mustang and F-150 styling, handling and performance upgrades, a complete line of performance parts and crate engines are offered. For more information see your local ROUSH&#reg dealer, visit or telephone toll-free (800) 59-ROUSH.