Drag Racing Action from the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout

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Photography by Evan J. Smith

Twice a year, Ford drivers lay it on the line in the ultra-competitive TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. This special event is run in conjunction with NMRA and offers racers with a manual transmission a chance to compete for more than $2,000 in cash and prizes, including McLeod products.

This year’s fall TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout was part of the NMRA All-Ford World Finals at the Beach Bend Raceway on October 1-4, 2020. NMRA and TREMEC make it easy to compete. All that’s needed is a street-legal Ford and a manual transmission. The gearbox must be an H-pattern–type transmission and cannot be shifted using solenoids or other means of automation.

Qualifying takes place during the NMRA True Street racing. With that, racers must pass technical inspection, then participate in a 30-mile road cruise. Following the cruise, participants make three back-to-back-to-back quarter-mile passes. The top eight racers with a manual transmission qualify for the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout based on their three-run True Street average, so all-out performance and consistency are paramount. Since the spirit of the class is based around street cars, the cruise and trio of runs must be done without lifting the hood, refueling or tuning the engine.

Racers hit the sticky Beech Bend Raceway and TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout previous winner, Mike Niehaus, grabbed the top spot after achieving a 9.637-second average (which was also quick enough for 6th overall in True Street). Niehaus was followed closely by Jason Robitailla 1997 Cobra(9.792) and Bob Myers, who averaged 10.078 with his four-cylinder turbo-powered 1984 Mercury Capri.

Rounding out the quick eight were Nicholas Shortridge (10.16/2003 Cobra), Johnnie Kinter (10.371/1988 Mustang GT), Jeff McCool (10.425/1981 Mustang Coupe), Tim Casto (10.544/1993 Mustang LX) and Skyler Hardy (10.629/1992 Mustang).

TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout racers run as part of the main NMRA All-Ford World Finals, taking center stage along with some of the best heads-up racers in the country.

Myers’s popular four-cylinder Merc went against McCool’s clean, Coyote-swapped coupe. The V8 driver left first, but Myers chased him down, running 10.07 for the win. No. 2 qualifier Robitaille then ran 9.59 at 132 mph to defeat Kinter, who clicked off 10.51 at 129 mph. Top qualifier Niehaus was up next and clocked 9.52 at 161 mph to handle Hardy’s 10.47 at 134 mph. The final match of the round saw No. 7 qualifier Casto blast off 10.54 at 136 mph to upset Shortridge, who ran 10.96 at only 99 mph.

In the semifinals, Niehaus took a starting-line advantage and ran the quickest pass of the event, 9.26 at 162.94 mph, which beat Robitaille’s 9.76/151-mph effort. Casto rowed the gears to 10.35 at 136 mph and held off the 10.09 second charge of Myers. This set up a Fox-body finale in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.

Casto launched first (due to the handicapped start), but Niehaus got the starting-line reaction-time advantage and poured the coals to his white GT. Niehaus was on the move, chasing down Casto and his LX, but the GT driver had trouble at the top end and had to get out of the throttle. This allowed Casto to drive off to a 10.27 at 136 mph, while Niehaus coasted to 11.07 at 102 mph.

For his win, Casto went home with a McLeod RTX clutch and flywheel kit, along with $500 and a custom acrylic award presented in the Aerospace Components Winners Circle. Niehaus pocketed a $500 McLeod Racing product certificate and custom plaque.

Do you have a fast stick-shift Ford? The 2021 TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout is shaping up for the upcoming NMRA season opener in Bradenton, Florida, next year. Stay tuned for details about TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout events.

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To the victor go the spoils, and in this case, Tim Casto took home a McLeod RTX clutch and flywheel, plus $500 for winning the 2020 TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout title with his TREMEC-equipped Mustang LX. In addition, he was presented with an award in the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle. All eight qualifiers received TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout jackets and hats.
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Prior to competition, the eight finalists were paired in the staging lanes with their mounts ready to go.
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Casto got the jump in Round 1, defeating Nicholas Shortridge.
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Mike Niehaus was the top qualifier with his boosted and TREMEC-shifted GT. Amazingly, his Four-eyed Fox has run 8.75 in the quarter-mile – and it’s street-legal!
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Niehaus took out Skyler Hardy in the opening round.
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Bob Myers handled Jeff McCool in the opening frame.
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Jason Robitaille (far lane) got past Johnnie Kinter to make the final four.
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Casto’s LX uses a Precision Turbo on a 302 along with a TREMEC transmission and McLeod RTX clutch to run solid 10s.
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We saw some unique ways for shifting those manual TREMEC gearboxes.
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There’s fantastic camaraderie between the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout competitors.
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The final came down to Casto (near lane) and the top qualifier, Niehaus. Unfortunately, Niehaus ran into problems, handing the win to Casto.
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Mike Niehaus
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Tim Casto
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Jason Robitaille
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Bob Myers
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Nicholas Shortridge
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Johnnie Kinter
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Skyler Hardy
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Jeff McCool

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