A busy off-season and a particularly frenzied final week is about to be all worth it for Steve Matusek and the Elite Motorsports Pro Mod team.
The veteran will debut his new turbocharged Mustang at this weekend’s 50th annual NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville Raceway, but it is not the typical new car debut. Matusek and the impressive brain trust around him, a group that includes tuner Shane Tecklenburg, Justin Elkes and Modern Racing and the Elite Motorsports contingent, have gone radically different in bringing this new car to life.
From wiring to electronics to technology, everything about Matusek’s 25th anniversary Aeromotive Mustang is outside-the-box and he is excited to bring it to life in Gainesville.
“This group is just unbelievable,” Matusek said. “It’s a very methodical, very neural group. We’re there to learn and we have a methodical approach. We want to figure the car out, what’s different about it and how to manage it.”
The group is still getting to know one another, but everyone has meshed incredibly well already, even as the team worked at a frenetic pace to bring the Mustang to life this week.
Elkes estimates his team worked more than 100 hours in the past week to complete the car, putting the finishing touches on it before it arrived for testing in Valdosta this week. Matusek tested for two days before heading to Gainesville, but even in hectic conditions, everything went remarkably well.
“It’s really been amazing to see it all come together,” Elkes said. “The first run, everything worked great and Steve went right down the track. The car made some nice runs and I think we’ve got a competitive car right off the trailer.”
It’s the first turbo car Elkes and Modern Racing have built, but Matusek was thoroughly impressed, not only with the appearance but also how the car operates.
Tecklenburg’s expertise with electronics and making tuning calls has already been evident as well. Even with the Mustang having less than 10 trips to the starting line heading to Gainesville, Tecklenburg believes the team has put in enough work to have an impact at the Gatornationals.
“It’s been an out of this world process,” Tecklenburg said. “It’s a chance in a million to work with all these industry leaders. It’s a unique situation where everyone has mutual respect for everyone else.
“In reality, all of our procedures aren’t in place. We’ve got high expectations, but we’re also realistic. Our plan is to improve and be recognized that the way we’re going about racing is different than the way it’s traditionally done.”
That means Matusek and his team want to be clear leaders when it comes to cutting-edge components on the car.
It’s flowed together well, evidenced by the immediate success in testing, and Matusek said it goes far deeper than the eye-catching wrap on the Mustang.
“I love the way it looks, but even more than that, it’s the technology and thought process that went into this car,” Matusek said. “There’s some genius at work here and a lot of thinking outside the box.”
Getting to take a different direction immediately piqued Elkes’ interest and the way he’s wired the car has been drastically different than most Pro Mod cars. But that was the goal all along and Elkes was simply pleased he had a driver and a team like Elite Motorsports that bought into the concept.
“Steve gave us a platform to do what we think is correct and we all just mesh really well,” Elkes said. “We built the car with the parts and pieces we thought it should have. It’s pressure, but it’s also been very rewarding. The dynamic of this team is amazing and it’s only going to get stronger.”
It gives Matusek plenty of confidence heading into Gainesville, where he will be joined by an Elite Motorsports Pro Mod group that also includes Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin.
Combined, it’s an impressive trio and Matusek isn’t holding anything back when it comes to possibilities this weekend at the historic 50th Gatornationals.
“My expectations are to win the race,” Matusek said. “It’s not the experience we have with this car, but this car is the culmination of the experience within the team. I can tell you this, everyone is doing their job and the chemistry is unbelievable. I have a lot of fond memories of Gainesville and, to me, there’s magic in the air here.”