James Lawrence
January 1, 2000
Contributers: James Lawrence

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Pro 5.0 was created out of necessity. By 1990, guys were pushing the 5.0 Mustang to incredible elapsed times, and they demanded to race each other on the same track and at the same time. Fun Ford Weekend (FFW) heard their requests and designed a class for back-halved Mustangs with small-block Fords, and pretty much everything else goes. The rules have changed little over the years, but the sophistication of today's Pro 5.0 car boggles the mind. As of this writing, the record sits in the 7-second zone, courtesy of Doug Mangrum's 7.99 blast. For 1998, FFW is a 10-race series, offering what no other Ford show does-- a national title that represents dedication, devotion, and dominance over every Mustang in the country. That's why so many people are in shock when they find out that the class' points-leader is only 17 years-old.

Meet Kenny Markwich, and his dad Gary, from Gainesville, Florida. Gary has been a devoted bracket racer for years, and he raised his family on a steady diet of drag racing every Saturday night. But, he got tired of the delay boxes and electronics that have made bracket racing such a specialized sport. When it got to the point where he started having to slow his Ford Maverick down just to stay away from the electronic dragsters--well, he'd had just about enough.

Fortunately, Gary had started construction of an '85 Mustang in December 1993. Chassis Dynamics, also of Florida, had worked on Markwich's cars before, and they were happy to build the latest family truckster. A complete 12-point chrome-moly chassis was constructed, with X-braces at the doors and extra pipes going through the firewall to the front shock towers. A complete four-link rear suspension with tubs replaced the back of the car, and a Ford 9-inch with Aerospace Components brakes was hung into position. It holds a Strange spool, Moser axles, and 4.56 gears. The slicks are 31x10.5W M/Ts that measure 11.2 inches wide. HAL DR5 shocks and 150-pound springs are used in the back, while up front, Moroso drag springs work with 90/10 Lakewood struts.

When the Mustang's shell got back to the Markwich ranch, it was completely transformed with pieces from a '90 LX. A neighbor wanted to get into painting cars, but he needed help building a paint booth. The next morning Gary and Kenny were slinging hammer and nail in a trade for the beautiful '92 maroon color that the Mustang received. Once assembled, it was time for a motor and transmission.

Gary had assembled a nice stash of high performance engine pieces, and he took them to Kim Ryan Performance in Jackson, Florida, to be assembled. Starting with a 9.2-inch-deck, SVO 351 block, they added an SVO 3.750-inch stroke crank, GRP aluminum rods, and pop-up Ross pistons for a little more than 13:1 compression and 377 ci of displacement. The lightweight rotating assembly allows the motor to rev quickly to its 8,600-rpm shift point. The heads are the tried and true TFS Street Heats that were ported by Champion Racing Heads of Palm Coast, Florida, to flow 330 cfm on the intake and 240-plus cfm on the exhaust at .700-inch lift. The valves are titanium (2.08-inches) on the intake and stainless steel (1.625-inches) on the exhaust. They chose a complete set of Jesel 1.625:1 rockers to withstand the big rpm.

As for the cam, Gary suggests that heavy nitrous users do what he did-- let the experts at a reputable cam company pick the cam for you using the complete specs on your application. The Markwichs settled on an Ultradyne roller with just over .700 lift and lots of duration. Pro Mustang headers dump into a 4-inch exhaust with Dynomax mufflers. A CSI water pump, MSD 7AL ignition, Griffin radiator, and mid-plate for the engine are other goodies that help the cause. A Carb Shop Dominator flowing 1,170 cfm sits on top of a Victor Jr. intake designed for a 9.5-inch-deck block, chosen so that it could be "squeezed up without welding the top of each runner." A 2-inch Dominator flange has been welded on top of the intake, and Champion Racing Heads also equalized each runner so no trick jetting was required with the nitrous to address a hot or cold cylinder.

Ah, the nitrous. Magic happens when those big NOS solenoids open and the rev-happy small-block is treated to the sauce. A pass begins when a 300 to 350hp NOS Fogger system is tripped at the release of the trans brake. Then, at Kenny's discretion, a 200 to 250hp plate system is activated, usually just before the front tires touch down. An NOS progressive controller has been tried, but they haven't found the right setup. For now, they're intent on running 500 to 600 hp of spray at the touch of a button. Sick!

As for the transmission, a C4 was used at the first couple of races this year. But First gear was used up instantly, and the Low gear made the car want to stand on the bumper. So, a two-speed Powerglide from Godley Performance was installed, with a Cheetah shifter that Kenny raves over.

While the construction of this car was underway, Kenny was competing on a national level in the Junior Dragster ranks. He amassed more than 27 trophies, countless accomplishments, and quite a reputation for being hot on the tree. So, when the day came to decide who was going to drive the Pro 5.0 car, Gary had no problem relying on the talents of his youngest son. Gary did drive the car first, but he did so only to get the suspension dialed-in and to make sure the thing would stop. When Kenny got in, his first pass was a 9.97, and he quickly got his NHRA Competition License.

Kenny's not one to talk too much about the family Mustang. He likes to let his actions and wins do all of the talking. But, he did tell us that the key to winning in Pro 5.0 is to "cut a good light and just stick to your game plan." So far, that philosophy has paid off with a best pass of 8.39 at 165 mph (1.26 short-time) and the national points lead. While the Markwichs have invested over $45,000 in their Mustang, they don't regret it a bit. Gary tells us that "this is an expensive car that was built to win." With help from John Gullet, Brent Fraiser, and Richard Johnson, look for this father-and-son team to be winning for a long time.