The latest TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout took Norwalk, Ohio, by storm June 9-12, 2022, during the NMRA Ford Performance Nationals at the Summit Motorsports Park.
Three times a year in Bradenton, Florida; Norwalk, Ohio; and Bowling Green, Kentucky, Ford enthusiasts have the chance to compete in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. The shootout is a specialty event within TorqStorm Superchargers True Street that’s designed to be an all-out race for street-legal Ford owners who run a manual transmission.
Rules to enter are simple: competitors must first complete the 30-mile street drive that is part of the True Street class competition and then make a trio of quarter-mile passes. The officials select the quickest 8 drivers to compete in the shootout. The top 8 are randomly paired for the first of three rounds of eliminations using a handicapped start, but with no breakout, so the first racer to the finish line wins the race.
The transmission must be an H-pattern shifted manual transmission. It can have race-oriented modifications such as face-plating or pro-shifted gears. It must be hand-operated (shifted) via a single shift handle.
Every TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout qualifier receives custom TREMEC awards, including a commemorative jacket. The big prize, however, is a McLeod Racing RXT Twin-Disc clutch with flywheel with an approximate value of $1,300. The runner-up scores a $500 McLeod Racing product certificate.
The Norwalk event started without a hitch with over 70 racers in TorqStorm Superchargers True Street and 28 of them being manual-transmission Fords. Poor weather was reported for Sunday (which never came), so event officials decided to hold the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout Saturday.
With True Street wrapped up, the top 8 racers were announced during the True Street awards ceremony. The top qualifying spot went to Curtis Pontones of Circleville, Ohio, who averaged 11.409 with his 2014 Mustang GT. Hot on his heels was Brick, New Jersey’s Scott Triolo who clocked an 11.46 average in his Fox Body GT, and in the third spot was Dennis Osworth of La Salle, Michigan, at 11.48 in a 2008 Mustang. The remaining five qualifiers were Tim Casto (11.77); Jason Epstein (11.81); Steve Hansen (12.07); Chris Rusch (12.09); and Mike Neihaus (12.14).
When the True Street eliminations wrapped up, the call was made and the top 8 qualifiers headed up for the shootout. In the first round, TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout veterans Mike Niehaus and Tim Casto squared off with Niehous taking the win. Jason Epstein defeated Chris Rusch; Dennis Osworth beat Steve Hansen and Scott Triolo took out Curtis Pantones.
Round two came fast and Triolo ran 11.43 to best Niehous’ 12.89 and Epstein ran 11.42 to barely get by Osworth. This set up the final between Triolo and Epstein.
With the light fading over Summit Motorsports Park, the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout finalists heated the tires and staged on the line. Epstein had a four tenth handicapped start and he launched first with a green light. Triolo was a touch quicker on the tree and his Mustang GT was off and running. Triolo squeezed the nitrous on his Coyote-swapped Fox Body Mustang, which allowed him to pass Epstein and run 10.85 at 132 mph for the win. Epstein ran 11.110 at 121 mph, his best of the weekend, but it wasn’t enough.
“I usually do the NMRA races in Florida, Kentucky and Ohio,” said Triolo, “But this is only my second TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout and I’m so excited to have won the race! I’ve had this Mustang for so long and years ago I gutted the entire engine bay and installed a Gen 2 Coyote from Tasca Ford with a controls pack and a Boss 302 alternator. I converted the brakes and steering to hydraboost with a steering rack from a 1996 Cobra and I left the Tremec 3550 in the car.” He said.
“Eventually I went with a TREMEC Magnum 6-speed from Hanlon Motorsports with the 2.97 First gear. I added a Quick Time bellhousing and a McLeod RXT, which is the best clutch of the three I tried. I went with Strange 35-spline axles and a Strange carrier in the axle. I had the engine tuned by Kevin Hand from Wicked Motorsports out of Toms River, New Jersey, and I’m using UPR upper and lower control arms, Viking Performance Warrior dampers, and a Team Z K-member,” Triolo explained.
“This was my second shootout, both being in Ohio, and last year I went out in the first round. I was so excited to get past the first round and making the final was a bonus, but of course at that point you want to win. It felt amazing going into the final. The whole event was a great experience and I ran against Jason Epstein in the final. He’s a super nice guy and was happy to be there, just like I was. I was very nervous because I wanted to win the shootout, that’s the whole reason for racing and competing. I had tunnel vision for the final and when I passed him it was like a whole new realm. I was screaming in the car yelling for joy. With Mike Jovanis winning True Street it was amazing and to have both Baer Brakes cars in the Winner’s Circle.”
“Honestly, the TREMEC Magnum is the best transmission I’ve ever used. Hanlon Motorsports beefed it up and I also use the Hanlon short-throw shifter. It’s amazing,” he said. “I can’t thank TREMEC enough for all the great product and the support, and I’m really happy to be involved. I also want to thank Mike Jovanis, Tom Van Tasel, Kevin Hand, Brian Friedentag, Brian Larsen, as well as Viking Performance, Baer Brakes, UPR Products and my dad Santo, who’s no longer here, but would be so proud.”