Imagine a street car class that has 50 contestants and competes in races all over the country, and the season championship comes down to a highly charged final round at the last race of the season. That's what NMCA's Vortech Xtreme Street gave the fans last year--and it looks to be even better in 2009.

How can we say that? Several reasons. For starters, true 10.5 racing has become today's standard bearer for street car racing. With the cost of performance of Pro Street and Outlaw 10.5 cars now reaching the stratosphere, true 10.5 racing is still within the reach of a lot of racers. Second, NMCA has aggressively acted to restrain cost and performance by keeping a tight rein on the rules so cars in the 8.00 to 8.20 e.t. range can have a shot at the championship. Third and perhaps the most important of all, NMCA has the best marketing organization in sportsman drag racing today. The association promotes itself well and draws good crowds, and it makes heroes of its racers, which is what potential sponsors want to see. It's a class to see and to be seen in, which is why Xtreme Street is such a vital part of the race scene today.

OK, so what are the basic rules? Intended for stock-appearing American production vehicles made since 1950, Xtreme Street is a heads-up eliminator for cars with a stock-type chassis with framerails. Rear tires are limited to 10.6-inch-wide slicks. Wheelie bars are not allowed. Gasoline-powered nitrous and supercharged small- and big-block engine combinations are allowed up to 565 ci. There are no turbochargers in the class. Various weight breaks help to equalize the competition between the various engine combinations and body styles. The pairings at each event are based on an NHRA Sportsman ladder, with a heads-up start on Pro .400 tree.

"It's a heck of a lot of fun to watch and drive in," said Bob Curran, who has been in the class since its inception. "The rules are pretty fair where they stand, and they're straightforward. You're limited by the tire size and no wheelie bars, so making gobs of power doesn't necessarily put you in the Winner's Circle. You need to be able to manage the power throughout the entire run."

What do these folks race? Pretty much a cross-section of both classic and late-model muscle cars ranging from early-model Camaros and Novas to later-model Mustangs and GTOs. Chevys have been well represented at every stop on the tour, as the cars from local tracks often compete in the class whenever the NMCA tour makes a stop nearby. Even last year's champion also made the quickest and fastest run in the history of the class in a Mustang--with a big-block Chevy under the hood!

As far as engine combinations go, the rulebook offers a variety of possibilities for racers. Most recently, big-block nitrous Chevys were the engines of choice as evidenced by 11 of the 17 entries at the season-ending event that had these. Subsequent rule changes during the off season have taken some of the advantages away on this combination. In 2009 these cars have to begin the season at a whopping 3,575 pounds. While off-season Internet chatter seemed to think that the pendulum may have swung over to favor small-block nitrous and centrifugal blower combinations, NMCA will look at how the situation plays itself out on the track before making any midseason rule adjustments.

If past seasons are an indicator of what we can look forward to in NMCA Xtreme Street, count on seeing and reading about some of the best racing in the country. It's still the best damn class in drag racing!