Evan J. Smith
February 16, 2018

As we enter 2018, Ford fans are revved up and ready to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Cobra Jet Mustang. Cobra Jet’s history dates back to 1968 where it first made its mark at the season-opening NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, California. It was in Pomona where Al Joniec drove a Cobra Jet Mustang to victory in Super Stock and ever since that day, CJ Mustangs have held a special place in the hearts of enthusiasts.

Ford returned to the NHRA Winternationals in 2009 with an all-new Cobra Jet Mustang and dreams of repeating the win four decades after it had won in 1968. Brent Hajek prepared four new CJ Mustangs for the event, and amazingly, John Calvert drove one of them to victory, winning Stock Eliminator in a car painted to honor Joniec’s 1968 CJ. Clearly, the NHRA Winternationals is a special place for Ford fans and the Cobra Jet.

Stands were packed for action at the 58th Annual NHRA Winternationals.
Brent Hajek (left) brought out his four 2008 Cobra Jets that ran at the 2009 Winternatinals. That year marked the 40-year anniversary of the CJ and is was made extra special when John Calvert (holding the trophy) won Stock Eliminator in Hajek’s Cobra Jet that was painted to honor Al Joniec’s winning 1968 CJ. Hajek and Calvert reenacted the winning moment at this year’s Winternationals.
Bob Tasca III made his return to NHRA competition in his Motorcraft-backed fuel coupe. Tasca III qualified 14th running 3.98 at 321 mph.

Last weekend, Team Mustang360 retuned to Pomona for the 58th running of the NHRA Winternationals, and we were pleased to see a slew Cobra Jets, both old and new, tearing up the famous quarter-mile. A stroll through the pits revealed many of the cars and stars of the sport, including original factory race-prepped Cobra Jet Mustangs from the ’60s and the 2000s.

The quickest Ford at Pomona was driven by Bob Tasca III, who made the show in his Motorcraft Funny Car. Bob lost in the opening frame, but his team is brand new and he was optimistic about his performance. Meanwhile, the sportsman ranks was filled with all types of production Fords, from the aforementioned Cobra Jets to big-block Fairlanes, Thunderbirds, Falcons, and a variety of Mustangs.

Rodger Comstock had a fantastic weekend with his 2016 Cobra Jet. The Florida-based racer qualified 3rd in Super Stock, running 8.66, he took home the Edelbrock Never Rest Performance award and also lasted five rounds in competition.
Chris Whitney was rowing gears in his1967 B/Stock 427-powered Fairlane. Whitney ran a best of 10.32 but bowed out early in competition.
Don Keen had his popular 1965 Mustang running 10.60s in Super Stock.

One of the more interesting Fords was the Super Stock 1998 SVT Cobra of Mike O’Keefe, which was powered by an all-motor 5.0 Coyote that ran 10.14 at 131 mph. This is a new combo for O’Keefe, who told us it should be in the 9s very soon. Drag racing veteran John Calvert and his sons were on track with a pair of modern CJs running strong in Stock. Brent handled the driving of the 2014 CJ, while John drove the 2016 model and Johnny Calvert served as crew chief. We also spotted the husband-and-wife team of Rodger and Karen Comstock, who came all the way from Florida to run their 2014 and 2016 Cobra Jets. Both Mustangs ran strong and Rodger even took home the Edelbrock Never Rest Performance award.

Keeping the classics alive were Richie Pauley and Jeff Lindstrom who had their early CJs flying. In addition, there was a host of muscle Mustangs and fast Fords in the variety of classes offered by NHRA. We love classic Ford iron and the Winternationals didn’t disappoint. Robert Pond was running 9s with his 1964 T-Bolt, Don Keen was flying into the 10s with his 289 Super Stocker, Fred Moreno had his 1969 Stang going wheels up and Chris Whitney has us drooling over his flawless 1967 427 four-speed Fairlane.

Four days of perfect weather at the NHRA Winternationals kept us plenty busy. We hustled between the media center, the starting line, and the pits all weekend. Overall, we walked over 19 miles but it was worth every step.

NHRA’s Hot Rod Junction had all types of drag cars and hot rods on display. Fans got a special treat with Brent Hajek’s four 2008 Cobra Jets along with John Calvert’s 1968 CJ.
Here’s 1968 Super Stock winner Al Joniec’s signature on the dash of Hajek’s 2009-winning CJ.
B.J. Graham drove her 1975 Mustang to the top qualifying spot in Stock Eliminator after she ran 13.28 on a 14.40 index.

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