ROUSH®/Valvoline Post-Race Report - NMRA Drag Racing Series @ Atco Raceway
ATCO, N.J. - The ROUSH® Drag Racing Team traveled to the East Coast, and New Jersey’s fabled Atco Raceway for the second stop on the NMRA’s Ford Drag Racing Series tour. Though the weather outlook heading into the weekend was spotty, the stars aligned for the Sunday, May 17 elimination rounds, and the event was run to completion.
During the offseason, team patriarch Don Bowles located a clean 1972 Ford Maverick body and dropped it off at the ROUSH® Fabrication facility in Livonia, Michigan. At the ROUSH® skunkworks, the shell was transformed into a state-of-the-art 25.5 SFI-certified chassis, complete with all of the bells and whistles that Bowles would need to compete in his new class, Hot Street. This is the pinnacle of naturally-aspirated small-block Ford performance, and Bowles relies on ROUSH® Competition Engines-built power to guide his trips down the dragstrip. The craftsmanship that went into the construction of this car must be seen to be believed, and Bowles set out to run in one of the NMRA’s most competitive classes.
In the season-opener back in March, Bowles anvanced to the semifinal round in a largely untested car, and he was naturally excited to get back on the track this past weekend in New Jersey. After some struggles during the qualifying sessions, the team discovered the tires were rubbing the edge of the wheel wells ever-so-slightly on the big end of the track, causing a slight loss of ET. Back in the pits, minor surgery was performed on the rear quarter panels, and they entered Sunday with high hopes.
In the first round of competition, Bowles faced off against Hot Street newcomer Richard Preiser and earned an easy win, running an 8.72 at 152.50 mph to Preiser’s 9.11 at 150.11 mph. This brought Don into the second round, where he ran into longtime class participant Bob Hanlon. Don had his hands full, as Hanlon is known for his driving prowess. As the tree dropped, Hanlon went up, and up, and up, standing the car on the bumper and ending his weekend, and sending Don into the final round against 2008 class champion Robbie Blankenship. As the pair took the tree, Don uncorked his decades of racing experience, taking the battle on the tree and running the car out the back door to a new personal best of 8.66 at 153.40 mph, easily winning over Blankenship’s shutdown 10.46 pass. Bowles was ecstatic in the winner’s circle, as all of the hard work that the team has put into sorting out the operation of the new car paid off in spades at this race.
Susan Roush-McClenaghan had a great season-opening race in Florida, but didn’t fare as well in New Jersey. She qualified eighth, just behind teammate Donnie Bowles, but once eliminations started, the car wouldn’t perform as expected. With her qualifying time, her dial-in became a 10.50, but the car fell off, all the way to a 10.69 in the first round, causing her to lose against Mark Frazin. However, that enabled her to enter the NMRA’s bracket race in Bracket Two, giving the team a chance to try to track down the gremlins. As the bracket race wore on, the team didn’t find the source of the problem, but did end up going four rounds against some of the best Ford bracket racers in New Jersey. Susan explained, "We looked at all of the data acquisition, and couldn’t find anything that looked out of place. The engine and transmission seemed to be operating properly, so we’re going to take the car back to Michigan and see what we can find before the next race. We’ll be ready."
Teammate Donnie Bowles, driving his 2005 ROUSH® Stage 3™ Mustang, qualified with the exact same reaction time as Susan, but took the seventh qualifying position because he earned it earlier in the qualifying rounds. In the first round, Donnie came up against Massachusetts racer David Shea, running his 2007 Shelby GT500. However, since Donnie had qualified during the heat of the day on Saturday, his dial-in was a 10.51. On Sunday during eliminations, the weather had cooled considerably, and the resulting change in conditions threw him for a loop, as he chased Shea through the traps and broke out, running a 9.91 and ending his weekend prematurely.
The ROUSH® Drag Team carries sponsorship from 3M, Valvoline, Mickey Thompson and ROUSH® Performance. The next event on the NMRA schedule will take place June 12-13, 2009 at Milan Dragway in Milan, Michigan.
Based in Livonia, Mich., "The Art of Performance Engineering" takes place at ROUSH® Performance. To get a look behind the scenes at what goes on at ROUSH® and how the vehicles are designed, manufactured and produced logon to www.ROUSHtv.com. In addition to the array of 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® dealer, visit www.ROUSHperformance.com or telephone toll-free (800) 59-ROUSH.