5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
2007 Shelby GT500 - Survival Of The Fastest - Hot Rod Drag Week
Hot Rod's Street/Strip Mega-Trip Puts Man And Mustang To The Ultimate Test
We're sure many of you agree that stout performance (i.e., lots of horsepower) probably ranks as Numero Uno on most 'Stangbangers' lists of Top 5-or maybe even Top 3-must-have qualities for street/strip Ponies. Of course, when it comes to putting Mustangs on the dragstrip, "the quicker (a 'Stang covers the quarter-mile), the better" tends to be a unanimous sentiment among the really hard-core members of the 'Stang Nation. And with this being the case, we're seeing more and more "street" Mustangs packing upward of 700 strip-ready, back-tire horsepower nowadays, clicking off 9-second e.t.'s with little effort.
As evidenced by the large number of 'Stangs that turn out for the NMRA's True Street class at nearly every event on the tour, 'Stangbangers dig creating and owning real-world Ponies that fly, but don't need a trailer to be carried to-and-fro or a parts-laden support car following closely behind it, just in case. In True Street, the Mustangs must have valid registration and insurance, the drivers must have valid licenses, and both must complete a lengthy street-cruise, then survive three, back-to-back dragstrip passes-without opening hoods, changing tires, or making any adjustments whatsoever.
Our first introduction to Hot Rod magazine's Drag Week came in 2004 when the magazine's editors announced their concept of a street-driving/drag-racing endurance contest for high-powered vehicles that, in our opinion, would be the most-difficult test of street/strip cars that anyone had ever experienced. Naturally we wanted in on this type of challenge, as we thought that it smacked of being a perfect opportunity to show the world what an ultimate street/strip Mustang is all about. And with that idea motivating us, we went about building our T-top '86 notchback in an effort to meet the challenge head on.
Drag Week is a test that centers on driving your car to and from five different dragstrips over the course of five days, racing the car at each track. Now, before you go saying, "where's the challenge in that," you need to understand that Drag Week covers nearly 1,083 miles (not including the quarter-mile track blasts ... and however many driving-while-lost miles are amassed during the tour) of rural roads, towns, small highways, and major freeways, and participants are strictly prohibited from towing their cars from track-to-track. Also understand that Drag Week contestants can't have friends following closely behind carrying parts, tools, or other items that are needed for making it through the week, and oftentimes, drivers are jockeying cars with 1,500-plus ponies to the event.
A car competing in Drag Week-be it a Mustang or some other ride-has to be built right in order to successfully complete the test; and its driver (and passenger, for that matter) has to have not only the physical stamina to make it through five grueling days and nights of driving, navigating, loading and unloading racing equipment (from the trunk or a tag-along trailer, which are permitted), racing for a low e.t., and maintaining an e.t. average, but he also has to have the rock-solid mental state to keep pushing when things aren't going well, or especially when his exhausted body is screaming halt. Keeping an even keel during Drag Week really is critical to going the distance.
We had high hopes and great intentions of taking our T-top coupe out on the inaugural Drag Week tour in 2005, but unfortunately, we didn't complete the build in time to make it happen. As a consolation for missing the event with our own 'Stang, Associate Editor Mike Johnson rode along with Justin Burcham that first year, and Uncle Robin Lawrence documented the trip in his spanking-new '05 the following year.
While we still haven't had our own entry in Drag Week, we once again had an opportunity to get a firsthand look at what the event is all about, this time by your tech editor intercepting the tour in progress to ride with (and race vicariously through) Paul and Ronda Svinicki of Paul's High Performance and former NMRA Factory Stock racer Jeff Schmell. I traveled with Drag Week from Montgomery Motorsports Park in Montgomery, Alabama, to the last two stops at Memphis Motorsports Park in Tennessee and Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Paul and Jeff took on the street/strip journey with a pair of Shelby GT500s, finishing First and Second in Drag Week's Small-Block with Power Adder class.
While I didn't keep a minute-by-minute diary of my life on the road with Drag Week, the following photos and captions relate the experience, and give you a little more insight on how Paul ruled the road and the track with his awesome Shelby. Drag Week definitely is a great event to experience if you have the time, the money (Paul got it done on approximately $1,847.56 in total expenses), the heart, and the car. A badass leather jacket and gifts from the event's sponsors are the only prize for the winner of each class (runner-ups are awarded plaques), but none of those items come close to the feeling of pride and satisfaction that comes from surviving Drag Week.
On The Road
The road was long for everyone. We heard war stories of participants actually driving a solo competitor's on-the-ragged-edge "street" car for a few hours overnight, just so the exhausted driver could sleep without falling hopelessly behind. Running at night in cooler temps was one of the tactics used by drivers with cars that had no chance of making it in daytime heat. A few cars bowed out due to breakage.
Our biggest mechanical problem came with Jeff Schmell's 'Stang, which had an out-of-balance driveshaft that rattled incessantly for the entire trip, but never broke (Jeff still made Runner-Up in the Small-Block with Power Adder class). For me, the road also was a lot of fun. I joined Paul and Ronda Svinicki and Jeff midway through Drag Week, and alternated riding in the second seats of Paul's '07 Shelby GT500 and Jeff's '08 model from Wednesday to Saturday.
Drag Week's cruise tour is no joke and as real-world as it gets, just like the stuff we all experience each day. The roads aren't always good, bad drivers are everywhere (good brakes are a must for Drag Week cars), and the show doesn't stop because the weather isn't to our liking.
The 2008 event started on September 8 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and meandered more than 1,080 miles to Alabama International Dragway (Steele, Alabama), Montgomery Motorsports Park (Montgomery, Alabama), Memphis Motorsports Park (Memphis, Tennessee), and then back to Bowling Green for the finals on September 13.
I definitely enjoyed the ride and seeing a part of the country that I really hadn't experienced despite all of the trips I've made in the last four years.
On The Dragstrip
At each track, Drag Week racers are allowed to make as many passes as they need to record a low e.t. Our operation was smooth and efficient, as Paul and Ronda quickly established a good routine for getting unloaded, set up, and ready to race. We usually were finished and back on the road by noon after nailing the number in two or three passes.
Mustangs Of Drag Week
There are 11 different classes in Drag Week which are largely populated with Brand X rides: Unlimited, Pro Street Naturally Aspirated, Pro Street with Power Adder, Modified Naturally Aspirated, Modified with Power Adder, Small-Block Naturally Aspirated, Small-Block with Power Adder, Big-Block Naturally Aspirated, Big-Block with Power Adder, Diesel, and Daily Driver.
The late-model Mustang contingent (five 'Stangs total) held things down in the Small-Block with Power Adder and Daily Driver classes. We'd love to see the numbers grow, so consider bringing your street/strip Pony out to Drag Week in 2009. We're still on a strong mission to have a 'Stang of our own in the field at some point.
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