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Hot ‘Stang Tom Manfred And His Mustang Have Blasted To The Front Of The Pack In Drag Racing At Raceway Park

Dropping by Tom Manfred’s place? Bring earplugs.

Because Manfred’s favorite toy isn’t a laserdisc player, it’s not a Pentium PC. It’s a red-hot earthquake machine.

He starts up his muscle-bound baby, an ‘81 Mustang, and its roar rips the air wide open. The driveway tries to retreat from beneath.

“My neighbors love me,” the Liberty Lake man jokes after shutting the car down, onlookers’ ears still ringing.

But Manfred, 48, does most of his super-sonic damage on the drag strip. He’s ranked second in Spokane Raceway Park’s pro eliminator bracket. And Sunday he’ll burn rubber in an attempt to win the American Hot Rod Association World Finals at the park.

He wants to win, yeah. But the Burlington-Northern engineer mostly just loves the sound, the rumble and the smell of drag racing.

“The best part is the launch,” Manfred says, voice picking up speed. “When this car leaves the start, it just shoves my head against the seat.”

Racing is a hobby Manfred rediscovered three years ago.

He bought his first car, a brand-new Plymouth Roadrunner, back in ‘68. “We always had fast cars in high school, it was a great time to live,” Manfred says. “I’m glad I grew up in that era.”

That’s when he discovered racing. But four daughters later, he gave it up. “Race stuff is expensive,” he says. “It’s unbelievable.”

When three of his daughters grew up and moved out, Manfred decided he could afford the strip again. He told his wife, Valerie, he wanted to build a race car.

“I had never been to a drag race,” she says, laughing. “We went from the fairway to the raceway.”

They don’t play golf anymore. Everyone in the family is hooked on nitro instead. Mom and 15-year-old daughter, Angie, are crew chiefs. Dad is the pilot. Angie may even start racing once she gets her driver’s license.

But she won’t be driving Manfred’s ‘Stang. The glossy-red rocket is his pride and joy.

He bought it for $600; it had a blown engine. Since then, he’s spent $15,000 to $20,000 on the car.

First, he gutted the interior. “You try to get it as light as you possibly can,” Manfred says. Then he dropped in a huge V-8 under the hood, did some body work and added a huge hood scoop to make sure the engine gets enough air.

He added 14-inch-wide rear tires, and his own “Quarterhorse” graphic, a stallion on wheels. The name refers to the quarter-mile stretch his Mustang is fast becoming the master of.

No matter what happens this weekend at the World Finals, final Spokane Raceway standings will be determined by season points at the end of September. Manfred is now just 15 points behind first-place Steve Johanson of Coulee City.

“It’s tight,” Johanson says.”That’s exactly one round, so it’s close.”

But there’s no hard feelings, both say.

“He’s a good friend of mine,” Manfred says. “… off the race track.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo