Mike Ficacci
June 18, 2008
Project Stocker launches wheels-up at Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey.

In the drag-racing world, there's a great separation between Bracket racing and heads-up racing. While many Bracket racers are concerned with speed and performance, running consistently on an index or dial-in is the name of the game. Heads-up racing also requires consistency, but the focus is on all-out performance, leaving nothing on the table.

NHRA Stock Eliminator, as well as Super Stock, are two categories that offer both bracket and heads-up competition, all with one set of rules. Stock and Super Stock ladders are based on qualifying position, which requires that a racer go under his or her index. The further under you are, the better you qualify. As for eliminations, there are two types. At many events there are Class eliminations, in which racers compete within their own class using a heads-up format. Then, the entire qualified field runs in the bracket-style eliminator. However, should you come up against a racer in your own class during Bracket eliminations, the race is heads-up!

Thanks to a holeshot, author Evan Smith was able to hold off the hard-charging '73 Camaro of Steve Ficacci Jr. to take home the Sunoco Junior Stock win with an e.t. of 10.80 to Ficacci's 10.74.

For the last 15 years, MM&FF has campaigned Project Stocker, our '87 LX 5.0-turned '93 Cobra in NHRA Stock, and with it we've set numerous NHRA national records and have scored over 15 class wins. We've also captured a bracket win or two along the way.

Just two weeks ago, we competed at the legendary Island Dragway in Great Meadows, New Jersey, where we scored yet another win--our second in the Sunoco Junior Stock ranks. For the past two years, we've competed in this new class called Junior Stock (yes, they ran Jr. Stock in the '60s), which pits NHRA-legal Stocker racers who want to compete heads-up (with a Pro-Tree), against each other using the 11.0-pound-per-NHRA-rated-horsepower weight break. (Each combination carries an NHRA horsepower rating, so you multiply the rating by 11.0 and add 170 pounds for the driver, to come up with the minimum weight.) The '93 Cobra was factory rated at 235 but is NHRA rated at 252, so my car must weight 2,940 pounds with driver.

Project Stocker is powered by a Kuntz & Company 302 engine and backed by a McLeod clutch and a G-Force Racing Transmissions five-speed gearbox. Work is performed at JDM Engineering, and tuning is done by Smith and Jimmy LaRocca using a Dynojet Chassis dyno.

Despite some hot weather, we qualified our Ford in the number-one spot with a 10.81 at 121 mph and then made it to the money round. Ironically, the final match came down to your author and Steve Ficacci Jr., who happens to be the brother of our newest team member--well, sort of. A few months ago, Steve's younger brother, Mike Ficacci, was hired as associate editor on our sister magazine Super Chevy. Ficacci was wheeling his very quick '73 Camaro, equipped with a Ficacci Racing Engine's 350 engine that's backed by a four-speed.

Heads-up racing brings with it a whole different dynamic. Of course, anyone can win, but once the Tree goes green and the cars are off, you either have the power or you don't. This time, when the Pro lights fell, I got the jump--and it was a good thing, too. I instantly pulled about a car length out of the gate and started rowing the G-Force five-speed for all it was worth. From the corner of my left eye, I knew I was ahead, but the deal was far from sealed.

Island Dragway is a quaint little track located far at the top of New Jersey.

Once in high gear, the Camaro was reeling me in, big time. What was once three-quarters of a car lead was nary a fender, then a bumper. He was coming on strong, and I was pressing hard on the accelerator. Thankfully, with inches to spare, we reached the 1,320 mark. And with that, my beacon came on, and victory was mine. My 10.80 at 122.23 held off his 10.74 at 123.67--by a mere 0.008 second! I was elated and pumped my fist all the way to the scale and then to fuel check. It also avenged my loss to Mike Ficacci, when he beat my wife's Mustang GT a few months back with his new Pontiac G8 GT.

Frankly, I was amazed by the awesome performance from Mr. Ficacci's Camaro. Watching him close the gap of almost a full car length was disheartening. And while I reveled briefly in my glory, I now have to get back to the drawing board and find some more power from my Kuntz & Company engine. Our next Junior Stock race is coming up, and I want be ready.