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After Catastrophic Damage, Martin Connelley Back in Action

Posted By: Mary Lendzion
Written by Mary Lendzion
Photos courtesy of Connelley Racing
As the 2023 NMRA VP Racing Lubricants Renegade champion, NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street champion and NMRA Driver of the Year, Martin Connelley could tell a lot of stories about his success.
But he doesn’t.
Instead, he tells stories of his upbringing and how his grandfather, John Russell, would sit in the barn he built in the 1970s in Salyersville, Kentucky, at the crack of dawn and alone with his thoughts.
Fast forward four decades, and Connelley sits in the same barn and does the same thing at the same time of day.
Then he goes to work as a UPS driver, and returns to the barn, which has a garage built by his father, Marty, to work on his race cars and other people’s race cars as part of Connelley Racing. His performance on track, and his customers’ performance on track, showcase his skills, and that is a good thing, as he is not boastful. Not even a little bit.
Both fortunately and unfortunately, Connelley has spent many hours in the barn the past few months, as the multi-time champion experienced a mechanical failure that destroyed the new BES Racing-built small-block Ford owned by Connelley’s friend, Jason Martin, while he was racing his Mustang at the 30th Annual NMRA Spring Break Shootout and Saturday Thrill Festival in February of 2024 at Gainesville Raceway in Florida, and he has been working on a new engine and taking in as much work as he can to pay for it.

“The engine damage was so catastrophic that we were not able to identify what caused it,” said Connelley, of the engine which was built on a Shelby aluminum block and wore Trick Flow High Port heads and a Trick Flow intake. “It was a huge blowup, and Eddie McCarty, Jason Martin and I spent a lot of time gathering all of the parts we needed to have Tony Bischoff build another engine.”
It is a 363 cubic-inch small-block Ford with a Shelby aluminum block, Ross pistons, GRP rods, a slightly bigger Callie’s crank than the previous crank, another set of Trick Flow High Port heads and an Edelbrock intake enhanced by Tony Bischoff. Additionally, the new engine is sporting new fuel rails from Aeromotive and a new crank trigger from Joe Oplawski of Hyperaktive Performance Solutions.
On Roger Conley’s recommendation, Connelley sent his 76 Harts turbo back to Harts to be inspected to be sure it was not compromised during the mechanical failure. Fortunately, it was not.

“While we were at it, we installed a new set of TRZ billet aluminum spindles, new TBM brakes and HD clamps by Vibrant Performance on the cold side,” said Connelley, who relies on Eric Gash of Barely Able and Eric Mitchell to put together the perfect tune with a Haltech Nexus R5 VCU, and an RPM Transmission TH400 and ProTorque converter to put all that power to the ground. “It takes a lot of people and companies to make this happen. I’m thankful for the continued support from my wife, Michelle, son, John Martin, daughter, Izzy, dad, Marty, who helps me every day, Eric Mitchell, Dalton Winfield, Ron Winfield, Cory Brooks, Jason Waterman, Brent Daniel, Terry Wilson, Eric Gash of Barely Able Racing, Jason Martin, Tony Bischoff of BES Racing and Rodney Massengale of RPM Transmission, among others.
With continued commitment, Connelley plans to test at a track rental at Ohio Valley Dragway soon and then return to racing action at the 22nd Annual Scoggin Dickey NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem, May 30-June 2, 2024 at Beech Bend Raceway in his home state of Kentucky.
“I’m a little anxious because we felt so defeated after all of this happened in Florida, we didn’t know how the rebuild was going to go and we don’t have everything sorted out yet, but here we are,” said Connelley. “We are fighting to get back out there despite having a big hump to get over, and we are focused on making good strides.”

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