2019 TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout Bowling Green NMRA

2019 TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout Bowling Green NMRA
Photos by Evan Smith

NMRA True Street is one of the most fun classes in drag racing today. It embodies the spirit of street-legal Ford performance and offers enthusiasts the chance to compete in a safe and exciting environment.Winners are crowned in a variety of performance levels. And twice a year, True Street racers get the chance to show their stuff in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.

The TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout is a true test of performance for those choosing three pedals, with fantastic prizes and bragging rights at stake. In order to be eligible to run in the Shootout, a True Street competitor must have a street-style manual transmission (face-plated and pro-shifted are allowed). The second TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout of 2019 was held September 28-29 at the NMRA World Finals in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

The eight quickest drivers received a special Shootout plaque, a custom TREMEC jacket and a spot on the ladder for the Shootout eliminations. Up for grabs was a brand-new McLeod Racing RXT Twin Disc Clutch and Flywheel (valued at approximately $1,300), plus an engraved award presented in the Aerospace Components Winners Circle. The runner-up prize was a $500 McLeod Racing product certificate and custom plaque.

A total of 35 manual-transmission–equipped Fords competed in True Street at the 2019 NMRA World Finals. The Top 8 was a mix of late-model body styles, from four-eyed Foxes to boosted Shelby Stallions. Jeff Smith took the top spot with his familiar Competition Orange 2004 SVT Cobra that he calls “The Pumpkin.” Hot on his heels was Mile Niehaus in his 1986 GT. Niehaus made the quickest pass (9.380), but fell off in his other two attempts due to a faulty CO2 tank that ran his boost controller and wastegate. The failure killed his first and third runs, which hurt his average. The third position was held by Skyler Hardy, who averaged 10.898 in his 1992 LX hatchback.

The race consisted of three rounds of competition, with a handicapped start given to the slower car and with no breakout rule. So, in effect, it was a first-to-the-finish-line affair. Niehaus got things going, running 9.44 to defeat Hardy’s 10.65 effort. Clint Derango’s 2014 GT topped Paul Rosner’s 2012 Boss 302 (11.15 to 11.30), and Jeff Cottrill drove his 2007 Shelby GT500 to victory over Jeff Johnson’s 2014 GT (10.313 to 11.40). Trevor Thorne was handed a win with his 1987 Mustang after Smith was disqualified for running 9.89/140 mph without a 9-second approved roll cage.

In the semifinals, Derango ran 11.35 on his 11.87 handicap to win a tight race against Cottrill (who ran 11.55 on his 11.03). In the next pair, Niehaus ran 9.75 at 154 mph to sneak past Thorne’s Fox body, which ran .06 over his 11.10 handicap. This set up the Fox vs. S197 final between Niehaus and Derango.

With the McLeod Racing RXT Twin Disc Clutch and Flywheel on the line, Niehaus and Derango heated the tires and staged their Mustangs. Derango launched first, with Niehaus going green behind him. Derango had a slight reaction-time advantage, but the twin-turbo horsepower and Niehaus’s skill rowing his TREMEC T-56 was too much to handle. “I felt confident going into the race,” said Niehaus. “My car normally runs low 9s in True Street, but it had a 10.83 handicap because my CO2 tank didn’t work on the first run, then ran out on the second run, so I had a bad third run and a soft average,” said the racer from Columbus, Ohio.

“I had my car fixed for eliminations, so the race format favored me. It was a matter of just driving the car, not getting too aggressive and not screwing it up with a dump mistake like a red light,” he added.

Niehaus and Derango launched with green lights, and the factory-looking white GT passed Derango’s red supercharged GT by half-track. Niehaus blasted to a 9.68 at 154 mph to claim his first-ever TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout win.

“I’ve won True Street and I have two runner-up finishes in True Street and in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout in 2016 here in Bowling Green,” said Neihaus. “So this felt like a welcomed relief. I’ve been trying to win and all kinds of stuff happened. It was awesome going down track and catching him, knowing I was going to win for once. I was at a loss for words and it didn’t seem real; a surreal feeling. And I have to thank Chad Roberts from On3 Performance for the awesome 67mm turbos and Brian Turner from Dyno Tune Motorsports in Columbus for tuning the car. Right now it makes roughly 1,031 rear-wheel horsepower with 21 psi and burning E85. I also have to thank my girlfriend, Abby Lundberg, for all her support.

“It’s so easy to drive, too,” Neihaus added. “The current clutch is an RXT 1200 from McLeod and it’s hooked to a TREMEC T-56 and I love it. I ended up buying a Magnum two years ago and it’s flawless. It’s like you’re driving a stock car. I’ve been beating this for two years and it shifts so nice.”

Niehaus has run an all-time best of 8.99 at 166.5 mph in the GT, which he’s owned since 2000. Plans call for refining the current setup and possibly face-plating the transmission for even quicker shifting. “I’ll keep running NMRA True Street and would love to race the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout in Bradenton and in Bowling Green in 2020, especially if they go back to the heads-up format. It’s awesome that TREMEC puts on these events, and we plan to keep supporting them.”

Qualifying (three-run average)

1. Jeff Smith, 2004 SVT Cobra, 10.243

2. Mike Niehaus, 1986 GT, 10.830

3. Skyler Hardy, 1992 LX, 10.898

4. Jeff Cottrill, 2007 Shelby GT500, 11.036

5. Trevor Thorne, 1987 Mustang, 11.106

6. Paul Rosner, 2012 Boss 302, 11.629

7. Clint Derango, 2014 GT, 11.874

8. Jeff Johnson, 2014 GT, 11.898

TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout Finals

Driver/Hometown/Car/Reaction Time/Handicap/ET/MPH

Winner: Mike Niehaus, Columbus, OH, 1986 GT, .414, 10.83, 9.681/154.85 mph

Runner-up: Clint Derango, Farmer City, IL, 2014 GT, .342, 11.87, 11.473/122.58 mph

2019 TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout Bowling Green NMRA
Mike Niehaus gives chase to Clint Derango in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout finale. It was Niehaus’s day, as he passed Derango and ran 9.68/154 mph for the win.
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Mike Kidd of TREMEC presents Niehaus with the 2019 Stick Shift Shootout winner’s award. He also received a brand-new McLeod Racing RXT Twin Disc Clutch and Flywheel (valued at approximately $1,300).
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Jeff Smith (near lane) was the low qualifier; he ran 9.89 in round one, but unfortunately did not have an approved roll cage for running quicker than 9.99, so he was disqualified.
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Derango (far lane) bested Paul Rosner (11.15 to 11.30).
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In this Fox-body showdown, Niehaus topped Skyler Hardy (9.44 to 10.65).
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Smith in his SVT Cobra.
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Derango in his 2014 GT.
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Niehaus packs the parachute on his 1986 GT.
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Niehaus heats the slicks before the final round.
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Trevor Thorne in his 1987 LX.
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Cottrill was all smiles in his 2007 Shelby GT500.
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Johnson in his 2014 GT.
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Hardy looking serious in his 1992 LX.
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Derango and Niehaus shook hands before the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout finals.
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Niehaus relies on a 331-cube, Boss-based engine with twin On 3 Performance turbos. The small-block generates more than 1,000 rear-wheel horsepower!
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Niehaus uses a TREMEC T-56 in his winning Fox-body Mustang.
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Runner-up Derango uses a Roush blower on his 11-second 5.0 Coyote Mustang.

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