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Gary Rohe's 1980 Ford Mustang - Gary Rohe: Cheatin' S.O.B.?

By , Photography by , Scott Killeen

There are two types of racers: those who consider Gary Rohe a friend and those who think he's cheating. There may even be some gray area in between. Considering the guy's record, it's tough to believe that he's on the up-and-up.

Gary's been the NMCA EZ Street champion three years in a row. He won every race he entered in 1997, and he's won more NMCA races than anyone. The Harlem Globetrotters lose more often than this guy. Not only that, but his scrappy little '80 Mustang was the first EZ Street car in the 8s and the first to 150 mph. Heck, he even beat out big NMCA names like Outlaw Street racers Rod Saboury and Bruce Kimmen to take home the first-ever Car Craft All-Star trophy for an NMCA class racer.

So the guy's a huge hero, right? Not really. The NMCA still makes him pit in the south 40-not on the pavement with the Pro Street and Super Street egos. He doesn't sign many autographs or sell lots of T-shirts. Gary's pretty much a regular dude-a 24-year-old machine-shop grunt from Indiana who races a beater Mustang that was his very first car. He's lucky to work at Bischoff Engine Service (BES), which is also his engine builder, but his salary is about the same as a chump Car Craft staffer, so he ain't getting rich any time soon. If he doesn't win races then he doesn't get contingency money and he can't afford to race. So he guesses he'd better win.

We guessed that he was pretty likely to win at the big-momma street-car race: Memphis. The '98 event was a continuation of seven years of hype surrounding what has become the country's biggest street-car shootout. It's where Hot Rod started this whole thing and where Flowmaster names its Top 10 Fastest Street Cars in America. At Memphis you find the fastest cars, the biggest whiners, and the most media.

But behind all the Pro blah-blah ballyhoo is the backbone of little-guy racers like Gary Rohe. That's why we lived with Gary and his crew for three solid days to see what Memphis is really like from a participant's point of view.

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