Story and Photos by Evan J. Smith
As his name implies, Jeff McCool was cool in Norwalk, Ohio, as he rowed his manual-transmission–equipped 1981 Coyote-swapped Ford Mustang to his second TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout win at the NMRA Ford Performance Nationals June 10-13 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
The TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout is a special additional race for manual-transmission cars competing in the QA1 True Street class at select NMRA Ford National events. The TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout gives racers a chance to strut their stuff on the track.
The turn out at this event was fantastic, and there were more than 25 racers gunning for the eight available spots in this TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. Up for grabs was a McLeod Racing RXT Twin-Disc Clutch with flywheel (valued at approximately $1,300) for the winner, while the runner-up would score a $500 McLeod Racing product certificate. And each of the eight final competitors received a participation plaque from TREMEC.
Tyler Garlock produced the best performance with a 3-run average of 9.79, but he was unable to make the call for the first round. This put Bob Myers in the top spot with his 1984 turbo-four Mercury Capri that averaged 10.27. Myers was followed by 2020 Bowling Green winner Tim Casto (10.59), McCool (10.94), Dannie Addair (11.17), Scott Miller (11.21), Patrick Cathan (11.60) and Scott Triolo (11.68). Unfortunately, Addair missed the Sunday morning driver meeting, so he was disqualified. And with that, Eric McNutt and Tyler Thornburg were added as alternates.
“The TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout rules are simple,” said Mike Galimi of NMRA. “Racers must use a street-type manual transmission only, but the transmission can include race-oriented modifications such as ‘face-plated’ or ‘pro-shifted’ gears. It must be hand-operated via a single shift handle. Transmissions with multiple levers and/or air/electronic/hydraulic actuation are not permitted. The top eight cars are randomly paired and the racers compete with a staggered start based on their True Street qualifying average.” But this is no bracket race, as there is no breakout on the top-end, allowing racers to stay wide-open and not hold back at the finish line.
The top eight racers paired for competition at this event took to the track Sunday morning with three rounds of exciting racing. In Round 1, McCool handled Thornburg, running 10.14 at 137 mph (his best run of the event) to Thornburg’s 11.69. Meanwhile, Cathan defeated Miller, and Myers drove his four-cylinder Capri to a 10.27-second e.t. win when McNutt redlighted. In the last match, Casto’s 10.18 at 138 mph topped Triolo, who ran 11.45.
In Round 2, McCool used a huge holeshot and 10.70 e.t. to top Cathan, who ran 11.33, while Casto also took a starting-line advantage and converted his 10.47 (10.59 index) into a win over Myers’s 10.10 (10.27 index) effort.
This set up the Casto vs. McCool finale. As a side note, both drivers were running Mustang LX coupes, and each has one TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout win under his belt (McCool’s first was in 2018 at Bowling Green). Casto returned with his trusty 302 turbo small-block combo backed with a 6-speed TREMEC Magnum, and McCool was using a 5.0L Coyote on nitrous with a Jerico 4-speed transmission.
Due to his slower 10.94 handicap (remember, there is no breakout in effect), McCool went first and got away with a respectable .049 reaction time. Casto, who was on a 10.59 handicap, dumped the clutch with a .160 light and the chase was on. McCool never faltered, producing a quick 10.20 at 136 mph, which was enough to hold off Casto, who ran 10.01 at 138 mph.
“This is one of my favorite events of the year,” said McCool. “It’s my second win and it’s exciting every time. This is a true street-car event, and what’s nice is that any one of the top eight can win.
For the past several years, there have been two Stick Shift Shootouts each year, but for 2021, TREMEC and NMRA added an additional event during this race in Norwalk. The next and final event will be at the NMRA World Final & Holley Ford Festival, held in Bowling Green, Kentucky September 30 – October 3.