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Connelley Comes Out Swinging with New Turbo Combination

Posted By: Mary Lendzion
Written by Mary Lendzion
Photos by NMRA/NMCA Staff
Martin Connelley is a driver.
On weekdays, he is behind the wheel of his UPS delivery truck, and he is thinking about productivity and performance on the route.
On weekends, he is behind the wheel of his Mustang, and he is thinking about consistency and competitiveness on the racetrack.
Connelley’s work ethic serves him well whether he is on or off the clock, and in 2023, it helped him earn the NMRA VP Racing Lubricants Renegade championship, NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street championship and NMRA Driver of the Year title.
His Mustang, which he owns with his wife, Michelle, was running wickedly well all year with a big-block Ford owned by Terry Wilson and built by BES Racing Engines, Nitrous Express Fogger System by Fast Lane Nitrous, TH400 by RPM Transmission and a ProTorque converter, but the Salyersville, Kentucky resident and his talented team are prepared to push themselves even further in 2024.
“We had been talking about our next step for a little while, and because we had run Terry Wilson’s engine for a couple seasons, we decided to challenge ourselves with a new combination for 2024,” said Connelley.
That new combination consists of a small-block Ford owned by Connelley’s longtime friend, Jason Martin, and built by BES Racing Engines on a Shelby aluminum block. It is topped with Trick Flow High Port heads and a Trick Flow intake.

Connelley, who had a turbo combination back in 2017, decided to pair this engine with a Harts 76mm turbo, and he fabricated the kit for the turbo at Connelley Racing, which is located in the barn on his property.
“Because our car has had a lot of different combinations, from big-blocks to small-blocks, I had the engine plates that I needed, so it wasn’t too hard to get the new engine in there, but we still put a lot of work into other aspects of this project,” said Connelley. “Truth be told, we had more than 300 hours into this swap.”
Connelley fabricated the hot side for the turbo and headers using Vibrant Performance materials, as well as wastegates and blowoff valves from TurboSmart. He had input from Tin Soldiers Race Cars.
Red Horse Performance helped him with plumbing components, and Connelley installed an Aeromotive mechanical fuel pump to accommodate a move from gasoline to VP Racing Fuels M1, and a new set of TBM brakes.
“The plumbing was a bigger challenge than we anticipated,” said Connelley. “Fitting everything into the car and working with what we had, including an old nose from when the car was a blower combination, took a lot of work. We also had to get bigger fuel lines on the car. I really did not think it was going to be as involved as it was.”
Connelley backed the engine with Martin’s TH400 by RPM Transmission and a ProTorque converter, and added new aluminum spindles from TRZ Motorsports and shocks and struts from Menscer Motorsports.
Eric Gash of Barely Able and Eric Mitchell handle tuning with a Haltech Nexus R5 VCU, and when Connelley and his team were confident he had a competition-ready race car, they headed to Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida to make some test passes before pulling into the 30th Annual NMRA Spring Break Shootout and Saturday Thrill Festival, February 22-25, 2024 at Gainesville Raceway in Florida.

“Testing at Bradenton was a challenge because we were working with a new combination, and we struggled, but we also saw some promise and we had something to look forward to ” said Connelley. “We were feeling pretty good when we left Bradenton and headed to Gainesville.”
At the highly anticipated event, Connelley made swapping combinations look easy by ripping off a 4.96 to qualify in the third spot. He picked up to a 4.72 to win the first round of eliminations, but unfortunately, experienced a mechanical failure in the second round of eliminations which prevented him from advancing.
“I think we had a car that could have won the race had we not had a mechanical failure,” said Connelley, who has steady support from his wife, Michelle, son, John Martin, daughter, Izzy, 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. “We really like this new combination, and like anything else, we just have to get it sorted out. The maintenance between rounds, the burnout, the staging, the launch and down track experience are completely different between our nitrous combination and this turbo combination, but I love the challenge. I just love it.”
Connelley and his team hope to have the mechanical failure taken care of in time for the 16th Annual NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by Sipple's Speed & Performance, April 11-24, 2024 at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina, and his many fans hope so, too.

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