Tim Casto Wins His First Ever TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout

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Photography by Evan J. Smith

Tim Casto barely made it to Bowling Green, Kentucky, for the NMRA All-Ford World Finals and to patriciate in the 2020 TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. He worked late the night before the event to swap ignitions just to get the car running. Then, during one of his test passes, Casto hit fluid near the top end of the track and spun the Electric Red 1993 Mustang LX in a wild 360. Using creative driving, he managed to miss both concrete walls.

Shaken—but not stirred—the Mason, West Virginia, racer regrouped and returned to make his first clean pass. “I came to Bowling Green just to run the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout,” Casto told us. “I tried in 2018, and it didn’t go well. But the guys from Holley helped with the tuning and I made enough progress to launch and get down track.

“I finally was on a good run, so I couldn’t believe it when I spun during a test pass. I was late to the lanes and hustling to get ready. It was right as I shifted into Third gear, I was going about 105 mph and did a 360 across the track. Somehow, I kept it off the walls,” he added. “I didn’t know what was wrong, but I checked everything and couldn’t find leaks of any kind. I later learned fluid was already on the track.”

“I went back up for my next time trial and I figured if I was uncomfortable, I’d lift. Everything felt good, but I still lifted in Fourth gear just to be safe,” Casto explained.

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TREMEC’s Mike Kidd presented Tim Casto with his trophies for winning the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout in Bowling Green, Kentucky, in October 2020.

“This car means a lot to me,” he said. “I bought it three years ago from a friend and it’s for my grandson to drive when he’s 16; he’s 9 now. It was mostly original when I got it, but had a set of Weld wheels. I knew I’d dig into the car once I bought it. I even bought the On 3 Performance turbo kit about 4 years ago, hoping I’d get the chance to put on there.

“I have a 1995 Cobra, but never drove Fox-body Mustangs much, so I was excited to get this project going. I sold the stock engine out of the car and went with another stock block with Ford Performance X303 heads, “B” cam and Edelbrock Victor EFI intake. It’s like a Ford Racing crate engine,” he added. “Then I added the On 3 turbo kit, with a Precision Turbo 76/75 turbo, 75 mm throttle body and Holley Dominator EFI. On E85, and at Big 3 Racing in Hinckley, Ohio, it made 650 rear-wheel horsepower and 680 rear-wheel lb-ft of torque on 17 lbs of boost. I also went with a flex-fuel sensor, so I can run 93-octane gasoline or E85.”

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Casto’s 1993 Ford Mustang LX is powered by a trusty 302 small-block with a Precision Turbo 76/75 turbocharger and other parts from Ford Performance, Holley and McLeod. The mill makes 650 rear-wheel horsepower and can run low 10s in the quarter-mile.

The small-block is backed by a McLeod RXT clutch and TREMEC Magnum 6-speed transmission. “I was running a TREMEC TKO 600, but my buddy and fellow True Street competitor Mike Niehaus recommended the Magnum. I drove his 1986 Ford GT recently and was hooked.”

Without even one full pass under his belt, Casto made the mandatory 30-mile True Street cruise and dove head first into the trio of qualifying passes. His first was 10.62 and it only got better from there. He ripped off 10.52 and then closed out with 10.48 to average 10.544, enough to secure the No. 7 qualifying spot in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.

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Casto handled Mike Niehaus in the final with his best-ever pass: 10.27/136 mph.

Casto started the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout by defeating Nicholas Shortridge with 10.54 at 136 mph, then beat the quick four-cylinder turbo 1984 Mercury Capri belonging to Bob Myers to earn a bid in the final round of the shootout. There, he matched up with Niehaus, who was flying with his TREMEC-equipped, boosted GT.

“I know Mike’s Mustang is quick – it’s an 8.70 car – so I figured I’d have to get him on the Tree. But he ended up getting me on the Tree, and I expected him to rip to the win. Surprisingly, he had trouble down track. I just ran my path and was wide open as hard as I could go. I looked over and saw him back there and knew I had him.” Casto legged it out to 10.27 at 136.81 mph, his quickest pass of the event.

“It was a crazy moment,” exclaimed Casto. “I went to NMRA just to get some passes on the car and to hopefully qualify for the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. I ended up in the final – and I beat Mike, who is always tough! It was so rewarding, because my sister was also at the track and she’s never seen me race. Unfortunately, my wife Jacki and my daughter Ciji couldn’t make it.

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Casto scored an NMRA Victor trophy, a plaque from TREMEC and almost $2,000 in cash and prizes, including a McLeod RXT clutch and flywheel and a $500 bonus!

“It was amazing how it all came together,” said Casto. “The Magnum shifts are smooth and precise – that transmission goes in on every gear change and it’s fast and reliable. Once we started to figure out the best launch, it planted me in the seat and the 60-times started coming down. I knew if I hit my shift points, I had a chance. My 60-foot got better with each pass in True Street and I was more confident shifting my TREMEC.”

Casto runs a Team Z Motorsports suspension, tubular K-member, Strange Engineering struts and Viking Performance double-adjustable rear shocks. The LX retains the factory 8.8-inch rear with Moser Engineering internals and 3.73 gears, and traction is enhanced with Hoosier 28×10.5 tires.

“I had so much fun and I can’t wait to run the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout next year. I may swap the 302 for a 347 that I have on an engine stand. I’d try to run 8s with that. But it’s a street car, and I don’t know if I want to go to that point. Either way, I’ll be back with the LX or one of my other Mustangs in the future.”

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