Michael Galimi
September 12, 2017

After two solid test runs on Sunday, Mike Jovanis and Alex Corella were prepared to assault the first of five days of competition in Hot Rod Drag Week, powered by Dodge and presented by Gear Vendors Overdrive. To get right to it, Corella whistled his way to an 8.512 at 164 mph, pushing him to a provisional third place out of 51 entries. The Miami-Dade firefighter competes in Street Race Small-Block Power Adder, where contestants cannot run quicker than 8.50. Jovanis on the other hand isn’t limited in the ET department and he clicked off an 8.007 at 174 mph in Super Street Small-Block Power Adder. That puts him third in a class of nearly 30 racers, which is filled mostly with LS-powered vehicles and he has one of the few Ford-powered entries.

Alex Corella ran 8.512 right out of the gate with his Lujan Motorsports Mustang, which features a 308ci engine with a Bullseye Power 83mm turbocharger. The first leg of the 1,000-mile journey was a paltry 267-mile cruise with a mix of local towns and open roads.

For those just checking in, Drag Week is a week long competition where racers visit a dragstrip every day and drive approximately 250 to 300 miles between tracks. The catch is that the cars have to be driven to each location under its own power and you can only use parts and pieces you bring along. A small trailer is allowed in order to carry spare parts and tools. By the end of the week, the racers will have visited four tracks, organized in a loop, and end up where they started. This year the race kicked off at Cordova International Raceway and then moved down to Gateway Motorsports Park for day two, which is outside of St. Louis. Total street miles accumulated over the four driving days is 1,000 miles as the competitors will head back into Illinois for the third day and Wisconsin for fourth. They loop around to Cordova for the fifth and final day of racing.

Corella and Jovanis left Cordova International Raceway with a 267-mile journey in front of them, with their sites set on a hotel in Collinsville, IL. The Hot Rod staff masterfully crafted a route that brought them down backcountry roads and only allowed a minimal amount of time on interstate highways. There are two checkpoints where racers need to get a picture of their car in front of a special location to prove you did the route.

To get both cars street ready, Corella has a simple approach while Jovanis has a little more complicated one due to the trailer. But both cars made it flawlessly through the first leg of the four-day road trip that will add up to roughly 1,000 miles by the end of the week.

With both cars solidly in the eights and Jovanis tickling with the sevens, what does it take to get the cars road worthy? For Corella, he takes a simple approach to the street cruise. He packs the parachute immediately following the run and puts a safety pin in the release cable. He also airs up the Mickey Thompson ET Street R radial tires, which check in at 275/60R15 and those go from a 17-psi race pressure to 28-psi on the street. Next on the list of mods is to go full loose on the AFCO rear shocks. It prevents the tires from rubbing on the stock wheel tubs with the tools, luggage, and passenger in the car. The Mustang runs on E85 fuel, so he tops off with 93-octane gasoline on his way out of the gate. The Pro EFI fuel injection system has a fuel sensor that manipulates the tune to compensate for the changing fuel.

There is no trailer as he squeezes everything into the trunk of his notchback. A bag of common tools, an air pump that plugs into the cigarette lighter, and an extra set of spark plugs are stuffed in it. Of course those parts and pieces are laid out in his pit spot when he runs on track.

Hot Rod Magazine officials construct a map to test the street worthiness of the vehicles. Checkpoints are set up to ensure the competitors are completing the prescribed course. Racers must take a photo in front of a special location and must show proof the next day when they turn in their time slip.

Jovanis’ street conversion is a bit more complicated but it kicks off with the same ritual of re-packing the parachute. Once that is secure, the parachute comes off the chassis mount and a trailer hitch replaces it. The VP Racing Fuels C16 is drained back into one of the jugs and replaced with pump gas. The Haltech Elite 2500 engine management has a knob mounted on the dashboard that allows Jovanis to switch between ten tune-ups, setting 1 is for pump gas while the next four are race-spec tunes with various levels of boost curve aggressiveness. The following five are blank but are available if more tune-ups are needed. The race-spec tunes allow Jovanis to make a quick decision on the starting line with changing track conditions by softening the leave on slick tracks or throw everything at it on a tight one. Once the trailer hitch is on and the fuel is swapped over, the small enclosed trailer is attached and the setup is ready to roll down the highway.

Both cars performed admirably on the cruise with three stops for gasoline, two scheduled breaks to go over each Mustang to ensure everything looked okay under the hood, and two checkpoints. From start to finish, the 267-mile adventure took just over six hours to complete. Tomorrow you will read about the team’s exploits at Gateway Motorsports Park. The weather conditions will be in the 70s, a little warmer than what they ran in Cordova but with more data to go over, Corella and Jovanis are looking to maintain their positions in their categories. Drag Week is as much about surviving all five days as it is going fast.

There is a balance to both aspects and the 1,000-mile cruise usually throws a wrench into the best laid plans. See ya tomorrow with result and a look into how Jovanis and Corella keep their Mustangs tuned up for action.

The Jovanis Mustang is a bit loud inside with the muffler exiting under the passenger seat but the ride isn’t bad for a 1,400hp car that just ran 8.00 at 174 mph. But with rough mid-western roads and the harsh racing suspension, the car developed a few rattles. The exhaust had to be tightened up when we got to the hotel. But one quick fix was a rattle in the shifter to which your author used a pen to lock down the vibration.
While Jovanis chose a trailer to tote his tools, spares, and maintenance equipment, others have chosen a bumper-mounted basket that is like what hunters use to carry dead carcasses. Here is Cal Hayward, the leader in Super Street Small-Block Power Adder, as he chose this method to carry his gear. He ran 7.66 on day one to lead the pack and his co-pilot is Pro 5.0 legend and the head honcho at Bullseye Power, “Wild Bill” Devine.
A long day on the road was capped off with a few cold beverages and Jovanis changing the oil in the hotel parking lot. The hotel is filled with Drag Week competitors who congregate outside to tell stories from the road and enjoy the evening.