What it Takes to Win the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout

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Photography by Evan Smith

Rafael Gonzalez rolled into Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida for the 2020 Nitto Tire NMRA Spring Break Shootout with the hope of running well and qualifying for the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. This was his first time competing in the event, so his focus was on making clean passes and getting the most out of his mildly modified 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500.

After completing the obligatory 30-mile True Street cruise and making a trio of passes, Rafael found himself with a 10.521-second average and, more importantly, secured a spot in the coveted TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout.

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Rafael Gonzalez dropped his best-ever elapsed time at the recent TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout in Bradenton, Florida. He rowed his way to a 10.23 at 133 mph and is looking to get in the 9s!

“I got the car in November 2015, and it was basically stock. It had a cold-air intake and that’s all. I made a few passes and it ran 12.40s at 115 mph, so I started modifying it to make it quicker. I went at it little by little. I installed the newer 2.3L TVS blower from the 2013-2014 GT500 along with an ATI 10 percent under-driven crank pulley and a 2.4-inch upper pulley. I also went with the 65mm Ford Performance Parts throttle body and a 120mm mass airflow sensor.”

Rafael’s sharp-looking Vista Blue GT500 ran 11s with the modifications, but soon after, he craved more power and quicker elapsed times. He installed ID1000 injectors, a Kenne Bell Boost-A-Pump and twin DeatschWerks fuel pumps, plus switched from 93 octane to E85 fuel. He also traded the stock exhaust for Kooks long-tube headers and 3-inch X-pipe along with MagnaFlow mufflers. The combination makes a respectable and reliable 740 rear-wheel horsepower with equal torque.

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Rafael’s 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT500 is much closer to stock than his competitors would like to admit, a testament to how potent the GT500 was from the factory.

With the extra power, Rafael realized his Shelby Mustang would need more than just a set of Mickey Thompson 275 Radial Pro drag tires for traction. He added BMR Suspension S197 drag springs at each corner, along with a BMR panhard bar, double-adjustable Viking Performance shocks in the rear, Strange Engineering single-adjustable struts in the front and a UPR Products anti-roll bar to keep the body square on launch.

“I was pretty confident going into the NMRA weekend,” said Rafael. “I was happy to qualify for the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout, and even though I didn’t have the fastest car, the format gave everyone an opportunity to win.”

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The 5.4L Triton V8 has been pumped up with a 2013-2014 Shelby GT500 supercharger, Converting to run on E85 fuel and a few bolt-ons enable it to produces 740 horsepower at the wheels.

Rafael used quick reflexes on the line to gain a starting-line advantage in every round, ultimately taking the win over James Burch. In fact, Rafael rowed his factory TREMEC TR-6060 6-speed to a best-ever elapsed time of 10.23 at 133 mph during eliminations. That’s quick for a 3,940lb street-driven Mustang.

“The TREMEC transmission is fantastic. It’s the stock 6-speed that came in the car, and other than a fluid change, it has been great for over four years of racing. I’m probably going to get a Magnum XL eventually,” he said. Rafael also uses a McLeod RTX 1000 with a lightened steel flywheel with a stock transmission and gears are manipulated with an MGW Gen 2 shifter.

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A MGW Gen 2 shifter allows Rafael to make quick gear changes in the factory TREMEC TR-6060 6-speed. His plan is to upgrade to a TREMEC Magnum XL in the future.

“I was just thankful no one caught me,” Rafael said. “The race was exciting. The final came right down to the finish line, so it was a race the whole way. This was my first time winning an event and it was so nice to do it at NMRA and in the TREMEC Stick Shift Shootout. I’m going to try hard to come back and win this shootout again later this year in Bowling Green, Kentucky.”

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Rafael set up his GT500 to run hard on the street or quarter-mile. It features a healthy power upgrade, drag suspension and great-looking Weld wheels.
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The interior of the GT500 is mostly stock, except for a Kirkey race seat on the driver’s side, a harness bar and five-point safety harness.

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