Michael Galimi
September 11, 2017

This week Hot Rod Magazine Drag Week, powered by Dodge and presented by Gear Vendors Overdrive, celebrates its 13th season of competition. It has attracted worldwide attention with an abundance of international and domestic competitors. The five-day competition, which always goes down in the opening weeks of September, begins on Sunday for tech-in followed by class run-offs on Monday through Friday.

By the end of the week, competitors will have traveled 1,000 miles, visited four tracks in a loop and finish where they started for the fifth and final day. Broken down into dozens of categories, the racers are ranked by a cumulative average derived from their best quarter-mile pass on each day.

For those who may remember, last year we covered the day-to-day adventures of eight-time NMRA True Street champion Mike Jovanis, as he competed with his low 8-second ride. The New Jersey racer completed the week in his 1,400hp Fox-body Mustang with an 8.18 average, settling in as the runner-up in Super Street Power Adder Small-Block and scored a 15th overall ranking. Your author rode shotgun, getting the full experience of the hardships in merely surviving, both physically and mechanically, the most grueling street car drag racing in the world.

This year, we are back in action and are following the exploits of Miami-Dade fire fighter Alex Corella. He and his girlfriend, Christina High, left behind the worry and stress of Hurricane Irma as they pulled out of Florida early to make the trip north to Cordova International Raceway (Cordova, IL), the first stop for this year’s Drag Week. He brought along his red 1993 Mustang LX notchback, affectionately known as Ginger Red. Built by Lujan Motorsports, the car relies on a turbocharged 308ci engine. A Pro EFI engine management, tuned by Errol, keeps the car running smooth on the street and track. The best times have been in the 8.30s at 165 mph, but as you will read, he has backed off the boost to keep the car slower than 8.50.

Corella is entered in Street Race Small-Block Power Adder, the cars aren’t allowed a funny car style cage nor can a competitor run quicker than 8.50, essentially making it an index category. Racers cannot turn in a time slip quicker than 8.50, making it a true 8.50 average. That has forced Corella to lower the boost from his Bullseye Power 83mm turbocharger to under 20 psi in order to accomplish that task. The Street Race class also requires true stock suspension, not a triangulated four-link with un-parallel control arms and coilover racing shocks like some Radial competitions; Corella runs AFCO adjustable shocks.

That setup plants a pair of Mickey Thompson ET Street R 275/60R15 drag radials. The final major rule is the engine must displace less than 430ci. Corella’s 8.2-inch deck 302 is obviously far under that threshold, while other competitors with LS engines are pushing right up against the limit in order to run 8.50s.

Corella finished third in his class in 2016 and his test hit on Sunday proved he could be a contender in 2017. After a lengthy and thorough tech-in process, Corella’s first and only test pass resulted in an 8.54 at 160 mph. He consulted with Willie Lujan, the car’s builder, by phone, to go over the tuning strategy and make last minute adjustments. They decided there was no need to beat on the car and feel confident the buggy is ready for Monday’s kick-off.

Check back later on www.Mustang-360.com for a recap of the upcoming Day One, showing Corella’s progressing on track as well as the estimated 300-mile drive to Gateway Motorsports Park.

Right out of the gate, the baseline tune-up in the Pro EFI proved to be a good one with an 8.54 at 160 mph result. Alex Corella is competing in Street Race Small-Block Power Adder, which prohibits any runs under 8.50. His goal on Monday, which is day one for the competition, is to run as close to 8.50 as possible before loading up and making the 300-mile drive to Gateway Motorsports Park, outside of St. Louis.
Traveling buddy Mike Jovanis (blue Mustang) and Alex Corella wait in line for the lengthy technical inspection process that verifies safety equipment is in place and up-to-date, the street legal equipment functions properly, and the correct category is selected.
Lujan Motorsports built the coupe and added a 308ci small-block Ford with Trick Flow Twisted Wedge heads, custom solid-roller camshaft, a Bullseye 83mm turbocharger, air-to-water intercooler, and it all runs on E85 fuel. The Pro EFI handles all facets of the 308ci engine, including the boost curve.
Alex Corella phoned a friend, in this case it was Willie Lujan of Lujan Motorsports in Miami, Florida. They went over the data and determined the cooler morning air verse Sunday’s warmer climate should allow Corella to run a little quicker but still remain above the 8.50 limit.
Ginger Red, as it has become known, is pristine inside and out, so it was no surprise that Corella and Christina High quickly added red tape to keep rubber off the body.
Mike Jovanis, who we followed last year, made an easy checkout pass of 8.11 at 167 mph. He competes in a different category, which isn’t limited by ET. His turbocharged 347 had been a best of 7.89 at 175 mph during testing in New Jersey. Jovanis made some adjustments in the Haltech Elite 2500 ECU, advancing the boost curve and keeping the target air/fuel ratio dead-on, in preparation for Monday.