Michael Galimi
September 14, 2016

If you would’ve told Mike Jovanis or myself a year ago that we would be driving a 1,400hp turbo Mustang through the Midwest, I think both of us would’ve laughed at you. But it’s true, we wrapped up Day 2 of 5 for Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week and we remain in competition. We have navigated, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully, over 500 miles in what is the halfway point of an estimated 1,000-mile journey to test man and machine.

We began at National Trails Raceway on Monday before embarking on a 234-mile winding trip through Ohio to arrive at Summit Motorsports Park for Tuesday’s fun. We did nudge the odometer slightly past the scheduled route distance when we got off the beaten path thanks to a map reading mistake. But we arrived in Norwalk unscathed, which can’t be said for an estimated 50 cars that have dropped out after 355 cars checked in for the competition.

Overnight Jovanis worked on the boost control strategy with the folks at Haltech to make sure our turbocharged power is ready for action. For those who don’t know, Haltech is based in Australia with a satellite office in Kentucky. The unique arrangement allows the Haltech tech line to be routed to Australia afterhours since their time zone is 12 hours ahead of us. Jovanis was sitting in the car—at midnight—with his WiFi hotspot and a laptop connected to the Haltech Elite 2500 engine management system. The Australian engineers were working remotely going over the data logs and driver feedback regarding Day One’s stellar 8.32 at 168 mph performance.

And like that, Mike Jovanis was gone as he stopped the clocks in just 8.194 at 171.12 mph. Photo by Dom Damato

Six o’clock in the morning came quickly and we hustled to Summit Motorsports Park where we found out that we had to report to the impound yard. Normally that sounds like a bad thing, however in our case it was a badge of honor. Drag Week officials require the top three cars that run quicker than 8.50 to enter the impound lot. They like to keep competitors under a watchful eye as the rules clearly state that only two people are allowed to work on the car. We gladly took our spot and made the swap from street to race trim.

We have a great routine for the street/race conversion after doing it for three days. The utility trailer is disconnected and rolled back. The tow hitch is unbolted and the parachute is swapped out it in the same location, using the same hardware. The tire pressure is lowered since we run the same Mickey Thompson ET Street Radials on the street and track. The pump gas is drained the night before and replaced with VP Racing Fuels C16 so we don’t have to do that in the morning. Jovanis suits up and we head off to the staging lanes. Once in the lanes there are three tasks to complete—parachute pin removal, C02 bottle opened (for wastegate control), and tire pressure dropped from 25 psi down to 17 psi.

The short setup time, compared to some of the others in the impound yard, allowed us to get to the lanes quickly. We were about the 20th pair to get a lick of the high-quality track conditions at Summit Motorsports Park. With crisp air, a sharpened boost control strategy, and a stellar track, Jovanis unleashed an awesome 8.194 at 171.12 mph! Satisfied, we quickly hustled back to the pits to go from race mode to street trim. Chute off, hitch on, pump gas swapped back, tune selection knob for that pump gas gets flipped, pump up the tires, and attach the trailer—sounds daunting but it’s a routine at this point. We collected our pals Alex Corella and Willie Lujan after they made a second hit, running in the 8.60s, which puts them close to the top of their category. And lastly, we discovered new friends for the road tours and despite driving a Chevy Caprice, Jeremy and his dad Rodney are truly the epitome of the Drag Week spirit.

Better safe than sorry—as Jovanis inspected the car he noticed the battery cables were a little close to the turbo exhaust. The solution was to cut a piece off the starter’s heat shield, an easy fix to give us peace of mind!

The road trip was much easier on Day Two with a less complicated turn list, which was extremely accurate this time around and devoid of any detours. The 259-mile ride took us through three states in order to deliver us to US131 Dragway, located in Martin, Michigan. The road tours avoid any major highways but we had some long runs through some absolutely gorgeous parts of the country. With the engine purring while cruising 60-65 mph, windows down, and the nice views, it is easy to get lost in your thoughts and really enjoy the time spent with friends and away from the daily grind.

Logging fuel mileage was on our To-Do list after we made some guesstimates on Day One. I also threw out the question on my Facebook page on what people thought the MPG would be on a 1,400hp Mustang that had just gone 8.194 at 171.12 mph while towing a utility trailer, luggage, and an estimated gross vehicle weight of 4,000 pounds (including driver and passenger). Using miles-driven divided by the gallons used to fill the tank, with the pump running until it clicked, our calculations worked out to be a stellar 14.1 mpg. We checked it several times and while we didn’t have the downhill glides like Day One, the roads also didn’t climb up, either.

I have gotten some questions about the type of fuel system underneath Jovanis’ monster; to feed gasoline to an engine producing 1,400hp it needs to have a high-volume electric pump. He runs a Weldon D2035A fuel pump and the trick to keeping it running well on the street is one of the company’s fuel pump controllers. It reduces voltage to the Weldon pump in order to keep heat down, which is a major killer of fuel pumps. The feed line is a rather large AN-10 while the return, using a Weldon regulator, is sized at AN-8. Jovanis also employs a fuel filter before and after the fuel pump, which he freshened up before our journey. The fuel tank is a Behind Bars Race Cars tank that fits in the factory location, has a bottom sump to help feed the pump, and also has provisions to use the factory filler neck and a fuel level sensor. And Jovanis was quick to remind me of the tank being properly baffled for optimum performance on and off track.

We picked up an additional crew for cruising, Jeremy and Rodney roll in style with a mid-80s Chevy Caprice. They went with the whole ‘80s theme and totally pulled it off.

As for results, the fine folks at HotRod.com were nice enough to post them on their website just in time to get them for this update. Our 8.194 today combined with the 8.325 from Day One puts our two-day average at 8.2595. Right now we are sitting second in the Super Street Small-Block Power Adder class, however that could change in 24 hours. My longtime friend Jay Meager of Real Street is breathing down our neck in a customer’s Toyota Supra. They started slow on Monday when they ran 8.624, but today the car blasted off to a 7.987 at an unreal 178 mph. That puts Meager’s average at 8.3055, a tick behind us but they have the capabilities of bumping us back to third. The class leader is uncatchable for us; Clark Rosenstengel is leading the category with a mind-numbing 7.827.

The rankings are fun to track, however, our goal is to finish the week and go A-to-B on the dragstrip, because after that, what happens in the standings will happen. We don’t have the power to chase after those cars, so our strategy is to maintain consistency and don’t do something foolish trying to run after two very quick cars.

Our cup-holder situation is grim, there is no extra time to go shopping so we improvised by stuffing a water bottle in the roll cage.

The dawn of day three is nearly upon us as I type this, and with a little bit of good luck, you can read about how it all went down at this time tomorrow.

PS: We still don’t have cup-holders but cramming a bottle of water into a nook of the roll-cage works perfectly.

We like Summit Motorsports Park, even though we did not get ice cream!