Michael Johnson Associate Editor
August 1, 2004
Photos By: Steve Turner

The popularity of Drag Radial racing has reached an all-time high. Our own Dr. Jamie Meyer refers to the NMRA's BFGoodrich Drag Radial class as mini-Outlaw, with its cast of big-name drivers and high-powered entries. Drag Radial racers are running mid-eights in NMRA trim, a mere second off even the most seasoned Super Street Outlaw racers. Take any of the top five NMRA Drag Radial cars and slap a set of 10.5-inch slicks on them, and they'll be right in the thick of Super Street Outlaw. They may not run sevens right off the bat, but low eights aren't out of the question.

One NMRA racer who knows the view from both sides of the tread is Dave Hopper. Dave started out with an '89 convertible that he built for True Street-type competition. Later, after outgrowing the car, he built a '90 LX Titanium hatch wearing true 10.5-inch slicks, which he raced in NMRA Super Street Outlaw. By the fall of 2002, Dave was ready to go in yet another direction, so the Titanium hatch was sold as a roller and the engine was parted out. In exchange for some labor on another car, Dave received the '91 coupe you see here.

No, it wasn't in its current condition when he became the owner, but apart from some busted-up bumper covers, the car was spotless. Dave even drove it home-well, the coupe made it halfway before needing a lift the rest of the way to the house. The car was an original Deep Jewel green, but since it's a '91 it had the black moldings, and Dave had to replace a couple damaged panels. Good thing he's a paint and body man. He then repainted the car in its original color, making the moldings body color as well. Seven months later, he'd completed the underside of the car, the engine compartment, the wiring, the cage, and the engine.

"Once completed, the car was ready to take to the '03 World Ford Challenge [WFC6] for its first race," Dave says. "With a new combination and a new car, we experienced severe tire shake and broke an axle." That happened in qualifying, but by Sunday's eliminations Dave and the crew fixed the car, and in its debut it ran 9.40s. Of course, 9.40s weren't good enough at WFC6, so Dave had to wait awhile to see the car's full potential. He had to wait even longer since he skipped the Texas race, and the NMRA Motorsport Nationals were cancelled due to rain just a few weeks after WFC6.

At the July '03 NMRA Ford Nationals at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois, "We weren't sure what we were in for," Dave says. Although he thought the car was ready, he was having trouble with the FAST engine-management unit. He borrowed a spare FAST box from Super Street Outlaw racer Mark Van Meter,and engine builder/tuner Steve Petty threw in a quick tune. Dave acknowledges that Mark's generosity and Steve's killer tune-up allowed him to be the first NMRA Drag Radial racer in the 8.50s, and to go on to win his first NMRA Drag Radial race.

At the NMRA Atco race, Dave qualified with an 8.95 at 161 mph and made it to the semifinal round before runner-up Phillip Clemmons put him out of com-petition. At the '03 NMRA World Finals, Dave once again qualified strong and went rounds. This time he made it all the way to the finals to face the NMRA Drag Radial king, Chris Little. But Chris backfired in the lights, handing Dave his second NMRA BFGoodrich victory in 2003. Dave ended up finishing Fourth in points in 2003. The 8.59 he recorded at Joliet stood the rest of the year as the record in NMRA BFGoodrich Drag Radial.

For 2004, Dave had the engine freshened up by Petit Racing Engines. At the first NMRA race at Bradenton, he added a Precision Turbo and Engines 82mm turbocharger, replacing the 78mm turbo he ran in 2003. He didn't run a boost controller with the 78mm turbo on the car as he thought it would be outlawed-it's not allowed on the supercharged cars in the NMRA Drag Radial class. He thought for sure it would soon be illegal on the turbo cars as well. And, he could make the car run quite well without it. But with the 82mm turbo, Dave has resigned himself to add a boost controller as his Auto Meter datalogger shows this turbo goes from 5 pounds of boost to 25 pounds of boost in less than a second. That kind of power surge is detrimental to keeping the drag radials planted out of the gate.

At Bradenton, the larger turbo made too much power too soon, making it difficult for Dave to get a clean pass down the track. Yes, we know, it's a good problem to have, but had he been able to get some traction, we're sure he would've run better than the 9.05 in qualifying. Even so, he still made it into the semifinal round.

That challenge to get the car down the track is what Dave likes about Drag Radial racing-trying to get, and keep, the hook necessary to keep his coupe hopping down the track at a blistering pace.

Block Dart 351 Windsor
Bore 4.030
Stroke 3.500
Displacement 357 ci
Rotating Assembly Scat billet crankshaft, Oliver billet rods, JE pistons,
Hellfire piston rings
Cam Bennett Racing
Heads Trick Flow Street Heats (high ports) ported by {{{Fox}}} Lake Power Products,
2.08/1.625 valves, Crower rockers, Manley triple valvesprings, Crane solid-roller lifters
Intake Edelbrock Super Victor
(converted to EFI)
Throttle Body Accufab 90mm
Power Adder Precision Turbo and Engines 82mm single-turbo w/water-to-air
Fuel System Weldon 2035 fuel pump
and 2040 regulator, custom fuel rails,
Bosch 160-lb/hr injectors
Exhaust Performance Fabrication and
Engineering custom headers,
DynoMax Bullet mufflers
Transmission Joel’s on Joy–built
Powerglide, JW Performance
Transmissions bellhousing,
Neal Chance converter,
Hurst shifter
Rearend 8.8, Mark Williams spool, Moser
35-spline axles, 3.73 gears
Engine Management FAST
Ignition MSD Digital 7
Gauges Auto Meter
K-Member UPR chrome-moly tubular
Control Arms UPR tubular
Springs UPR coilovers
Struts Strange adjustable
Caster/Camber HP Motorsport
Brakes Aerospace Components
Wheels Bogart Drag Star 15x3.5
Tires Mickey Thompson Drag
Springs Stock
Shocks Strange adjustable
Traction Devices Team Z Motorsports adjustable upper control arms, UPR double-adjustable lower control arms,
Mid South antiroll bar, UPR spherical bushings
Brakes Aerospace Components
Wheels Bogart Drag Star 15x9.5
Tires BFGoodrich 325/50
Chassis Stiffening Hopper Tech
chrome-moly cage and through-the-floor
subframe connectors