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Drag Racing Story of the Day!

Injected Nitro Front Motor Diggers in NHRA Comp:
You Call That Low Buck?

By Ron Johnson

We haven't had any race related controversy within the last couple of weeks, so here goes the match into the gasoline.

The question as I understand it is: "Why couldn't NHRA add an unblown nitro class (AF/ND) to Comp Eliminator, so guys who want to race on nitro, but remain "low-buck" have a place to run?" Note, I said "low-buck," not "no-buck." The "low-buck" here doesn't mean a $10,000 car on an open trailer towed with a station wagon. My "low-buck" definition means someone with a relatively new chassis, 200-225 inch wheelbase, a very good motor, certainly not cast iron, a chassis-engine combo that will meet minimum weight (for example, for A/ND that is 1440 pounds with a 400 inch motor, driver in the car), and then some so ballast can be added where needed. It also means having a covered trailer and a good tow vehicle (dually or Suburban, etc.) and enough money to have a spare tranny, a couple of spare converters, a good computer system on the car and a pretty current computer in the trailer and three-four guys who will be committed to crew the car every race. The car should be able to run 6.75 off the trailer.

Unless anyone has the above to go "low-buck" racing in NHRA Comp Eliminator, I feel there's no point to even attempting to run in that category, in the unlikely event it were created.

The reason is, as soon as a new class opens up, guys like the Gaerte-Olson team (Circus City Flyer) will build cars for the class because they think they may be able to get an advantage over the other Comp Eliminator classes. And now with Pro Stock truck a Comp Eliminator class, some of the guys who have been running them, like maybe Jeg Coughlin's kids and others, may well jump over too. I have heard that Grumpy got something like $87,500 apiece for Pro Stock Truck motors and you had to buy two, for total of $175.000. This is not kid stuff.

These guys, by and large, could give two hoots about Nostalgia racing, per se. They will probably only run Nostalgia events as tune-up sessions for their NHRA events. They will spend money like water to be competitive and before long the index for the class will be so low that an average "low buck" racer, as described above, won't even be able to qualify much less compete. This has already happened in A/ND.

For those who don't know me (that's almost the entire universe), I currently run a Nostalgia Junior Fueler (alcohol fuel) at Goodguys West Coast events and the CHRR, plus this year we will run some of Jerry Hutchcroft's Pro-Nitro series events. In another lifetime, back in Minnesota, I ran a Top Fuel car from 1965 to 1967. It was called the "Big Wheel" and we won a few and lost a few. 

I have looked at the A/ND class, and my car is running pretty good now. We're about a tenth off the quickest cars, Parks or Wayne or whoever. But Frank Parks has lowered the index already to the point where the index is about equal to our best ever E.T. of 7:36. Sure, you can run somewhat above the index to qualify, but only if there isn't a full field of cars running closer to their index than you are to yours. I am pretty sure we could qualify at a Divisional, but I am not sure we could qualify at a National event right now. I guess sometimes you have to run under the index to qualify. And now, Frank Parks (Neil and Parks) thinks he can get his car into the teens. I bet Gaerte-Olson think the same thing. By the way, if Gaerte's name sounds familiar, it's because he builds the strongest sprint car motors in the country, and that's what a Junior Fueler motor is, a Sprint car motor.

If a new AF/ND class were established, by fall of the first year (if it were a car similar to A/ND except for the Nitro fuel), the index would probably be about 6:50. That means a "low-buck" car might as well stay home.

What would it take to compete? I have built a new motor within the last year, from scratch, so I have some experience with prices. Dart Iron Eagle block, Pro Action 23 degree heads, Crower extra fine crank, titanium rods, shaft rockers, Jesel belt drive, Hilborn 2 3/4 magnesium injectors. To duplicate my motor with average good deals would cost more than $25,000. A Nitro motor would probably be more. A good Powerglide (I have a new Mike's/Dedenbear on the floor in the garage) will cost more than $2500.00. Converters are about $1,000 and you need at least one spare. If it were a direct drive, between a Titanium Can and a multi-disc slipper clutch, you could probably double that. A light rear end with Carbon Fiber Brakes is at least $4,000. A good computer (on board) is $5500, if you could find a used one with enough capability, probably about $4,000. Right, it takes a very light, correctly built car to perform as will be needed. I suppose Tuttle would build one like he built for Olson for maybe, what, $12,000-15,000 if the rear end were not in the price and without the magnesium full body, with just an aluminum shorty. Wheels and tires will be $2,000. Without considering any extra parts, trailer, or anything, you're talking $50,000 for the car, a basic car.

When I heard that Bill Wayne got $50,000 for his 2001 car complete with spare engine and spare tranny, my first thought was "Man, how did he get that much for the car?" Then I thought it over in view of what I know things cost today, and I realized that for a car that has run 7:24 and almost 185 mph, that's a BARGAIN. Oh, you say he crashed the car at the last race? Yeah, I know, he was racing us. But they either have or will rebuild the car so it is just like it was before the crash. Laurie Watts said she saw the guy (Dean Carter) who bought the Wayne car at Phoenix recently, giving driving instructions to the new owner of their (Carter) old car.

Then, consider that to run a nitro car hard as it will go will cost at least $1500-2,000 per weekend of racing. I figure it costs me close to $1,000. My fuel bill is $30 and we never break anything. We qualified an average of fifth for the season and took home about $100 per race.

All that said, go ahead and try to get NHRA to make such a class. Just don't figure on making a career out of racing in the class with a car that is not the absolute best money can buy, cause it ain't gonna happen. At least there'll be some cars you can identify with running in Comp Eliminator. 

Big (done put my money where my mouth is and ain't there yet) Yohns

Ron Johnson


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