TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout Storms the Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout

Stick Shift Shootout Bradenton 2020
Photography by Evan Smith

For the 26th year, Ford racers invaded Bradenton Motorsports Park in Bradenton, Florida, for the Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout. This drag race is the season-opener for the popular Holley NMRA Ford Nationals Series, drawing participants from as far away as California and Canada. And we are proud that one of the spotlight events at this annual event is the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.

True Street is one of the most popular NMRA classes and twice a year in Bradenton and Bowling Green, Kentucky, TREMEC offers enthusiasts the chance to compete in its Stick Shift Shootout. This is a heads-up race for the top eight quickest manual-transmission–equipped vehicles in the True Street class.

Each qualifier at the 2020 Shootout, held February 27 through March 1, 2020, received custom TREMEC awards, including a plaque and jacket. The winner of the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout received a McLeod Racing RXT Twin-Disc clutch with flywheel (approx. $1,300 value), while the runner-up received a $500 McLeod Racing product certificate.

In order to be eligible to compete in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout, a racer must complete the 30-mile drive to demonstrate streetability and three back-to-back runs down the dragstrip. The car must be equipped with a street-type manual transmission but it can be modified with race-modifications such as face-plated or pro-shifted gears. The transmission must be hand operated via a single shift handle. Transmissions with multiple levers or air/electronic/hydraulic actuation are not permitted.

The eight cars that qualified for this year’s TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout were randomly paired in the lanes and the racers competed with a staggered start based on their True Street average. With no breakout in effect, racers stayed wide-open and did not hold back at the finish line.

Round 1 saw some titanic matchups, with Anthony Heard defeating Peter Martinez; Jeff Smith besting Steve Shrader; James Burch getting past Andrew Kelly; and Rafael Gonzalez beating Harrison Cumbie. The Second round was full of upsets, as James Burch ran further under his index to beat No. 1 qualifier Heard, and Gonzalez took out the quicker-qualified Smith.

This set up the final between Gonzalez’s supercharged Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 and Burch’s nitrous-gulping 2018 Ford Mustang GT. Gonzalez got the jump at the light and rowed the gears in his TREMEC 6-speed to an 11.10 at only 109 mph to best the 12.06 effort of Burch.

“This is the first time I competed in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout in my 2007 Shelby,” said Gonzalez. “My combination is basically a stock long-block with 2013 supercharger, 2.4-inch pulley, Ford Performance twin 65mm throttle body with a 120mm PMAS air intake and a 10 percent underdrive crank pulley. I also run Kooks headers with a full 3-inch exhaust and MagnaFlow mufflers. I’m running a McLeod RXT 1000 clutch with a lightened steel flywheel and a MGW Gen 2 shifter on the stock TREMEC TR-6060 6-speed. The setup works really well; in fact, I ran 10.23 at 133 mph during the semifinals of the race, which is my quickest-ever pass.”

Gonzalez added, “I was pretty confident this weekend. I really like the format because everyone has an opportunity to win. I was just thankfully no one caught me,” he said with a smile. “It was exciting going into the finals. It was the first round where my competitor left first, and it was really close, right down to the finish line. This was my first time winning and it was so nice to do it at NMRA. I’m going to try hard to come back and win the Stick Shift Shootout later this year in Bowling Green.” Gonzalez thanked Levin Motorsports, Alex Martinez of Certified Transmission, his mentor Yandro Ulloa and his fiancée, Kelli Stephens, for all her support.

TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout Qualifying

1. Anthony Heard                            9.665

2. Steve Shrader                             10.113

3. Jeff Smith                                     10.119

4. Harrison Cumbie                         10.132

5. Rafael Gonzalez                         10.521

6. Peter Martinez                             10.625

7. Andrew Kelly                               11.115

8. James Burch                               11.502

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Along with a Top Qualifier plaque and jacket, Rafael Gonzalez took home a McLeod Racing RXT Twin-Disc clutch with flywheel valued at approximately $1,300 and an NMRA trophy for his overall win at the 2020 TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.
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Gonzalez poses with Mike Kidd of TREMEC after winning his first-ever TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.
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Runner-up James Burch waits with his family in the staging lanes prior to first round of competition in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.
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In this round, Burch (near lane) took Andrew Kelly for the win.
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TREMEC’s Kidd (center) presents participation plaques and TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout jackets to the field of racers.
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Previous TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout winner Anthony Heard (far lane) gave chase to Peter Martinez in the first round and was able to get past the silver Mustang GT for the win.
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No. 3 qualifier Jeff Smith had a nice showing with his orange Ford Mustang SVT Cobra. Smith is also a multi-winner of the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.
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Gonzalez (near lane) began his march for the title by beating Harrison Cumbie in the first round.
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Cumbie’s orange Mustang LX was a big hit with the Ford fanatics.
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Martinez averaged 10.62 to claim the 6th spot on the qualifying sheet.
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Andrew Kelly slipped into the show with an 11.11 average.
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Steve Shrader qualified Second with a quick 10.113 elapsed time.
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Despite gaining a nice holeshot, Kelly (near lane) couldn’t hold off the charge of Burch.

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