Story and Photos by Evan J. Smith
It took many years and a lot testing and tuning, but Bob Myers of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, finally captured his first TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout championship with his turbo 1984 Mercury Capri. It happened during a wild weekend of drag racing – and weather – at the 2021 Holley NMRA World Finals & Holley Ford Festival at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, which was held from September 30-October 3. It was the final TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout of the season, and it was far from typical.
The TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout is a special eliminator designated for racers competing in the QA1 True Street class. It’s the event for street-legal manual-transmission cars, and it gives racers the chance to compete in an all-out drag racing elimination for prizes and bragging rights.
Each TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout begins with competitors running in True Street, which requires a 30-mile drive and three back-to-back runs to set an average elapsed time (e.t.). The quickest eight manual-transmission cars then qualify to compete in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. The eight are randomly paired prior to each round and the racers compete with a staggered start based on their True Street average. However, this is no bracket race; there is no breakout on the top-end, allowing racers to stay wide-open and not hold back at the finish line. The final top eight racers paired for competition take to the track on the last day of the event for three rounds of exciting racing, which is normally held on a Sunday.
But this event was condensed to two days due to the prediction of poor weather, making Friday qualifying and Saturday eliminations. Saturday started off beautiful, but then had a rain delay, cutting the 100-plus True Street cars to just two runs. With the track lights glowing bright, the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout top eight rolled to the lanes for eliminations. Each racer would run off his two-run average, which acted as the handicap; however, there was no breakout, so first one to the stripe was the winner.
Each of the top eight qualifiers receives a custom TREMEC award, and the top prizes are a McLeod Racing RXT twin-disc clutch with flywheel and the opportunity to drive a NASCAR race car through the NASCAR Racing Experience, and a $500 McLeod Racing product certificate for the runner-up.
Trevor Thorne in his 1987 Mustang ran against the young Ashton Hughes in his 2016 all-motor Mustang GT. Hughes, who lives in nearby Smiths Grove, Kentucky, was on an 11.31 index and got the jump off the line. He ran 11.97 at only 101 mph and was unable to hold off Thorne, who powered to a 10.49 at 132 mph for the win. TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout winner in Norwalk, Ohio, in June, was Jeff McCool, who went up against Johnnie Kinter in a cool 1967 Fairlane. Despite a late reaction time, McCool was able to get the win, running 10.18 at 138 mph to cover Kinter’s 11.04 at 123 mph.
Next up was newcomer Andrew Lukanov in his 2003 SVT Cobra. In the other lane was Skyler Hardy in his familiar 1992 Mustang. The handicapped start and better light went to Lukanov and he never looked back, running 10.56 to defeat Hardy’s 11.18 at 131 mph. In the last race, Myers drove his turbo 1984 Capri to a win over 2020 Bowling Green winner Tim Casto. Myers gave up .200 on the Tree, but he had the power to run 10.73 at 135 mph to best Casto.
In round two, Lukanov ran a consistent 10.52 at 130 mph to get past Thorne, who fell off a bit to 10.83 at 130 mph. Next up was a great match between McCool and Myers. McCool had the quicker light and drove his awesome nitrous-injected, Coyote-swapped 1981 Mustang coupe to 10.76, but it wasn’t enough to hold off Myers, who delivered a quick 10.16 at 135 mph to earn a spot in the final.
Due to that weather concern, the racers had to finish up on Saturday night, so they were asked to hot lap, with only a 15-minute turnaround. This presented an extra challenge, but no one complained. Myers and Lukanov retuned as quickly as they could to settle the score.
Having had many opportunities slip away, Myers was ready to go. He heated the tires in his Capri and inched to the line. Lukanov, of Richmond, Kentucky, was also hyped for the race. With a 10.70 index, Lukanov got to leave first, but was tardy on the Tree. Myers jumped on his green, producing a .083 light (best of the race) and poured the coals to his boosted Merc. Myers rammed the gears, passing Lukanov en route to 10.11 at 137 mph, which was the quickest run of the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout and enough to capture his first win in the class.
“I’m really happy to win this race. It’s the reason we come to these things. We go to the NMRA events with the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootouts, and we try and put on a show and it’s really great to win,” Myers said. “The race was in my favor because on the second True Street pass, I blew the tires off and I ended up with a 12-second pass. My first pass was a 10.02 and I was going for the 10.00-class win, but the second pass I went 12.20 and had an 11.22 average with a 10-second car. So, I had to leave on everybody and get them on performance,” he added.
“The guy in the final with the Cobra, Andrew Lukanov, I don’t really know him, but he’s a great guy,” Myers said. “He ran flat-out, but I had that starting-line advantage. When I crossed the line, there was a lot of screaming in the car. I couldn’t wait to get back and see my wife and my son. I knew they’d be cheering, too.”