Donald Farr
Former Editor, Mustang Monthly
February 12, 2009
Photos By: The Mustang Monthly Archives, Courtesy NHRA

John Calvert, driving a 40th Anniversary '08 Mustang FR500CJ Cobra Jet, duplicated the success of the original '68 Cobra Jet when he won the AA Stock Eliminator class at the 2009 NHRA Winternationals.

In 1968, drag racing legend Al Joniec drove a '68 Cobra Jet Mustang to victory at Pomona in the NHRA Winternationals in the CJ's competition debut.

"I couldn't be happier for Brent Hajek and John Calvert, who have taken the car that we designed and created a championship race car in just six weeks," said Brian Wolfe, Director of Ford North America Motorsports. "I am especially happy that John was able to drive the Al Joniec tribute car that won in 1968 to a victory in 2009. It is an unbelievable debut for the Cobra Jet.

"I couldn't be prouder of the team who got the car together, and a lot of credit needs to go to the group at Ford Racing who developed the Cobra Jet and once again developed a race car that, like the Mustang FR500C, won in its initial outing."

Al Joniec, shown here racing against Hubert Platt's CJ-powered Mustang at the '68 Winternationals, won the event in the Cobra Jet's first-ever outing.

"I am really excited and pleased at the result," said Calvert. "The thing I am most pleased about is that Ford Racing thought about this project and reached out to the grassroots level of racing. This wasn't an easy race weekend; in fact, I would say it was difficult. The weather certainly created some consistency issues, especially with an iffy track. Still, the Cobra Jet ran very well in the elimination rounds and we were able to bring home the trophy."

Driving for Oklahoma-based Brent Hajek Motorsports, Calvert piloted the Cobra Jet through a chaotic opening weekend that stretched over six days due to rain delays. Calvert, a former world champion (1991 Stock) and a three-time NHRA Winternationals champion, normally runs a '68 Cobra Jet. He agreed to drive the Hajek '08 entry in Stock Eliminator at the Winternationals.

"How cool is this? It was like a storybook ending that was meant to be," said Hajek, who entered four Cobra Jet Mustangs at Pomona. "It is our first time entering a national event and we won! This program was always about paying tribute and respect to the drivers from'68 who started the legend of the Cobra Jet. This was about upholding their honor and everyone involved with this project deserves a great deal of credit.

"The people at Ford Racing did an awesome job building these cars, and my guys deserve credit for getting the CJ's race-ready in an unbelievably short amount of time. And credit also goes to the drivers, especially John Calvert, who brought this all the way home. I am so proud of this group and I hope the legends from '68 - Al Joniec, Gas Ronda, Hubert Platt, and Randy Ritchey - are proud of us."

For decades, the Mustang has been the preeminent car in many forms of motorsports, including drag racing. Adding to the rich and successful racing history of Ford's iconic pony car, the '08 Cobra Jet Mustang is a factory-built race car that is NHRA-legal and ready for the drag strip. It is the first purpose-built race car from Ford for drag racing since the original Cobra Jet Mustang.

The original Cobra Jet Mustang was conceived by drag racing legend Bob Tasca, the competition-oriented Ford dealer in Rhode Island who at the time operated one of Ford's most successful retail operations. Tasca looked to the Ford parts shelf when he wanted to upgrade the engines on some of the Mustangs that he was selling and came up with the KR-8 conversion package for his performance customers.

Henry Ford II announced that Ford would put together several of the Tasca 428-powered Mustangs for drag teams competing in the 1968 Winternationals, where two of the Mustangs made it into the finals and Al Joniec went on to win the Super Stock championship. After the car's success at Winternationals, Ford announced that it would be producing the 428 Cobra Jet engine.

The '08 Cobra Jet Mustang joins Ford Racing's stable of championship-capable customer Mustangs: the Mustang FR500S, the Mustang FR500C, and the Mustang FR500GT. All are turn-key cars available via the Ford Racing Performance Parts catalog and through Ford dealers.

The FR500 series of Mustangs are race-ready cars, designed by Ford Racing engineers for performance-conscious customers, that can be rolled right off of a truck and win in competition.