Street Cars Gone Bad

June 9th, 2011

Text and Photos by Rod Short

NMCA and NMRA Racers Are now a Long Way From What Street Legal Racing Used to Be

While there are a lot of different flavors of drag racing for public consumption, there’s one common denominator: People like cars that they can identify with. Yes, people will still watch the fastest and quickest vehicles on the track, especially if you throw in some noise, flames and smoke. Yet from the beginning, fans have had a special affinity for the cars that they grew up with, drove at one time or still have in their driveway. Drag racing started with hot-rodded street cars about 60 years ago, and they are still a favorite today.

Two groups that draw heavily from that passion are the National Mustang Racing Association (NMRA) and the National Muscle Car Association (NMCA). Originally formed by a group of performance enthusiasts to capitalize on the popularity and growth of street car racing, ProMedia LLC was the organization behind the fledgling NMRA, which hosted three events in 1999. Later they expanded with the Pro Edelbrock series, which inherited the NMCA name in 2005. As with any lucrative sports venture, there were territorial battles with other organizations as each fought to gain supremacy.

NMCA Nostalgia Super Stock is a heads-up index class that always provides a wealth of stories. Doug Duell, who also races NHRA Stock with a late model Challenger, won his second consecutive NMCA title last year behind the wheel of his late dad’s ‘65 Plymouth wagon. Duell also makes occasional appearances with this car in the Chrysler Classic Series in the Max Wedge class.

As the economic recession continued into 2010, the NMCA and NMRA discovered that they were last major players standing. Sure, there are still other groups operating, but by and large the NMCA/NMRA has proved to have one of the best marketing organizations in drag racing, which is a very important ingredient for survival these days. The Fastest Street Car events at Memphis, the World Ford Challenge, and even the Orlando Street Car Nationals have all been successful one-race programs in the past; but in the end, the organization of the NMCA/NMRA street car series has had a longer lasting impact on the sport.

In 2010, Ford was in search of a venue to debut its new ‘10 Mustang. They found a great spot in NMRA’s Real Street class where Tim Matherly of MV Performance turned this pony car into a nine-second race car, which is still true to its street machine roots. Matherly won the class championship in 2010, while showcasing an entire catalog of Ford Racing parts.

Success hasn’t been without its challenges. While the ADRL and PINKS have often gotten the nod for their own innovative programs and business models, the NMCA/NMRA has also garnered recognition in its own way. Consolidating schedules, running joint events and developing special brand-specific races within a race, such as the LSX Shootout, the Late Model Hemi Shootout and the Hot Rod Drags, kept the brand alive.

With the leadership of the NMCA/NMRA, street car racing today has morphed into a program that includes index and bracket racing, along with its traditional heads-up format. In 2010, they hosted 17 events around the country. They also provided a venue for the occasional racer/fan, while bringing in corporate support and providing a place for tomorrow’s stars to develop their skills.

Street cars and the events that are tailored to them aren’t what they used to be, but they are still a viable–and an attractive–alternative to the largest organizations in the sport. Long may they run!

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