Bret Kepner
February 26, 2014

Photos courtesy of Watson Racing

One year ago, Watson Racing teamed with drag racing veteran Chris Holbrook to produce the quickest and fastest production car in history. In the team’s first event, Holbrook’s supercharged 2013 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet clocked a record 8.504 seconds at 160.68 miles per hour and, later in the season, emerged victorious at the National Hot Rod Association’s (NHRA) oldest and most prestigious event, the 59th annual U.S. Nationals, in Indianapolis, Indiana.

For 2014, however, Watson and Holbrook will embark on a mission to win even more races, while making a bold statement about the team’s capabilities. Using a new 2014 CJ to compete in the NHRA’s Super Stock Eliminator, the Detroit-area duo will debut a completely new powertrain combination. The Watson-built Ford will utilize a Holbrook-built supercharged 5.0L Ford Coyote engine coupled to a five-speed manual transmission.

“This is uncharted territory for the Coyote engine,” said John Phillips, the Business Development Manager for Watson Racing, “and it’s a whole new arena for Chris Holbrook. We proved the potential of Watson Racing’s chassis components and construction technique with the incredible results provided by Chris last season.”

As a division of Watson Engineering, a global producer of products for a myriad of mechanical applications, Watson Racing manufactures a variety of competition components and offers construction and chassis services for all types of automobiles. Watson Racing enjoys a close relationship with the Ford Motor Company, which allows it to specialize in late-model Ford Mustangs for many forms of racing.

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“We’ve already completed the car,” explained Phillips, “and it incorporates a lot of new ideas which, quite frankly, are going to surprise a lot of people. We have some of the most inventive talent in the business working at Watson and everybody here was a part of this project. Chris will drive the car and his Chris Holbrook Racing Engines shop will supply the horsepower, but with the supercharged Coyote and the manual transmission, it’s a whole new ball game for him, too.”

A winner in Top Sportsman Eliminator at his first national event and a world champion in Pro Stock Eliminator only a few years later, Holbrook’s rapid rise to fame in drag racing can be attributed to his father, the late Carl Holbrook, who earned countless victories at the wheel of Ford products. Decades ago, Carl Holbrook developed a relationship with Chuck Watson, Sr., the founder of Watson Engineering, who now operates both Watson Engineering and Watson Racing with his son, Chuck II.

For Chris Holbrook, the ’14 Mustang represents an entirely new approach to Super Stock drag racing. “I guess you could say we’re going to do this the hard way,” mused Holbrook from his Livonia, Michigan, shop. “It would be very easy to simply build a supercharged Cobra Jet and try to become the quickest and fastest team in the history of Super Stock. Those cars are already very close to the 7-second zone and they’re nearing 170 miles per hour in NHRA quarter-mile racing. Ford really wants to showcase the new Coyote engine, though, and, after looking at everything involved in the project including what Watson Racing can do with the car and what Holbrook Racing Engines can do with the drivetrain, we decided it was worth the effort.”

Holbrook continued, “The Cobra Jet platform has a lot going for it in Super Stock Eliminator. The Coyote is a completely unproven combination in the faster classes. It is smaller in displacement; it’s only 302 cubic inches compared to the older 330 cubic-inch Cobra Jet, the Coyote has a lower compression ratio, (9.8:1 as opposed to the 5.4’s 10.5:1), and the Coyote Mustang weighs more, (3,250 pounds versus 3,000 pounds for the older Cobra Jet). Most importantly, we’re going to use the smaller 2.9-liter supercharger instead of the 4.0-liter blower on the Super Cobra Jets. Then, there’s that manual transmission thing,” he added.

Currently, none of the 165-mph supercharged Cobra Jets use a manual transmission in Super Stock. The automatic transmissions employed by the Fords are the epitome of power delivery technology. However, Holbrook admits, “We’re going to use a Liberty five-speed clutchless transmission, which we feel can pull even more horsepower out of the Coyote. The Liberty is a fantastic product but it’s going to put a lot more pressure on the driver simply because every shift will need to be perfect.”

The initial schedule for the new machine includes a week of testing in Florida prior to the Super Stock Mustang’s debut at the 20th annual season-opening NMRA Spring Break Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park (Bradenton, Florida), which will, once again, host the Cobra Jet Showdown—at which Holbrook clocked his still-unbeaten 8.50/160.68 blast in 2013.

Ironically, Watson Racing just announced it will be the title sponsor for the Showdown in 2014. Phillips noted, “We worked with the NMRA’s Steve Wolcott to not only support the many racers who compete in this ‘no-holds-barred’ program, but to expose a lot of fans to Watson Racing, in general.” For Holbrook, competing in his sponsor’s car at his sponsor’s race will just be more pressure.

“I made the decision to race both the new Watson Super Stocker and my own Varsity Ford/Watson Racing 2013 Mustang Cobra Jet Stocker throughout the entire 2014 season,” said Holbrook. “In fact, I’ll be hauling both cars in a new InTech trailer. We’ll spend the week testing our new Mickey Thompson tires and tuning the Big Stuff III fuel injection on both Mustangs. After that, I’ll be trying to win the race. That’s a lot of pressure for the season’s first week of competition.”

The race will also be the first of the year for the newest member of the Watson Racing team, 2012 NMRA Rookie of the Year Valerie Clements, who will debut a new Watson-built Renegade Eliminator Mustang later in 2014. After the NMRA Spring Break event, Holbrook will head to the NHRA’s 45th annual Amalie Oil Gatornationals in Gainesville, Florida where he will again compete with both Mustangs. The new Coyote CJ will be the first entry ever in the new SS/BB class, while his familiar silver AAA/SA Varsity Ford /Watson Mustang will be shooting for a second straight victory in the Factory Stock Showdown category.

“Winning the Factory Stock Showdown title at the U.S. Nationals at Indy was a dream come true. It was the culmination of a lot of work by my staff at Holbrook Racing Engines and by the team at Watson Racing. This project is going to be something special. It’s a huge challenge but, if we can make it work like we think we can, it’s going to be a major statement about what this new Ford Coyote can do. We have a chance to really open some eyes. We already have the World’s Quickest and Fastest Stocker but how cool would it be to own the records for both Stock and Super Stock? I think that’s what driving us all to make this thing succeed.”