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1998 Mustang Drag Car - It's A Bott Time!
Heads-Up Drag Racing Serves As A Quick Understudy For This 907HP Ford Mustang Street Bandit Future Pro Stocker
Horse Sense: Like your author, Dan Bott Jr. earned his NHRA Competition License at Frank Hawley's Drag School. It's the only way to go to get professional training in the sport of drag racing. We would both recommend Mr. Hawley's NHRA school to anyone looking to go fast safely.
We talk about "Ford families" all the time around here. There are countless examples of fathers teaching their sons the art of Mustang crafting and drag racing. Perhaps we are too quick to make that leap of faith when it comes to true impact of the family in the sport of heads-up Ford drag racing. But, in this case, we think you'll agree that the Bott family has not only been true to their Blue Oval heritage, but they've also added an incredible amount of history to the sport of Ford drag racing as well.
With a story like this, you have to begin with Dad. In this case, Dan Bott, who was born in Southern California just in time to grow up around the likes of Don Prudhomme and Keith Black as they were cutting their teeth on homegrown hot rods. Dan actually landed himself a job as the official track photographer at Lions' Drag Strip in Wilmington, California. That led to a job at Popular Hot Rodding as an associate editor in 1968-ah, at the height of the first musclecar era. With access to every factory supercar ever built, Dan, who was raised in a Ford family, decided that a '70 Mercury Cyclone would be the perfect device to tear up NHRA's F/SA class. The car took him to the F/SA class record. A '71 Mercury Comet packing a Ford Racing Boss 302 took Dan into the high-10-second range at speeds of more than 130 mph.
Professional pressures and the need to take care of his family forced Dan to leave the limelight of magazine project-car testing and heads-up drag racing just as he was readying himself for the rigors of NHRA Pro Stock in 1972. He looks back on those times fondly and makes an immediate link to some of the modern heads-up classes offered at today's Ford-only sanctioning bodies. "[That Comet was] similar to the Street Bandit class in FFW today, except we could run two four-barrel carbs. We ran a stick-shift transmission, 5.13:1 gears, 28x10.5-inch slicks, and 8,500 rpm through the lights. We didn't have rev limiters-only a tach-and I power-shifted each gear. It was a blast!"
With so much firsthand knowledge of the time period, we asked Dan if he could explain the origins of Pro Stock racing-a class that so many of today's heads-up Ford drag racers are looking to as a future career in the sport. Here's what he told us.
"The Pro Stock class was really a spin-off of Super Stock and perhaps, in some way, of the AFX factory group of racers. The racers from FX racing who didn't move on to Funny Car racing wanted something more than what Super Stock had to offer. Pro Stock was really a more no-holds-barred class for frustrated Super Stock racers. The changes came fast and frequent. The cars built in '72-'73 were much like the Street Bandit or Hot Street cars of all-Ford racing today. The main difference in the engine area is the single carb to the dual carbs of that era.
"As for the cars, there are many similarities of then and now, except they could run much less weight-about 2,400 pounds then to about 2,800 pounds with equivalent engine sizes. Most engine sizes then were 351 and no automatics. To get the weight down, the bodies of the car would be acid-dipped to etch the metal panels thinner, then the inside of the panels would get shot with foam to add back the strength. There was no chassis certification during those early days, at least not for cars running in the mid-to-low 9s and 150 mph plus."
Enter Dan Bott Jr. (or D.R. as his family refers to him). Schooled in the way of fast Fords by his father, there was no question where his passion for cars was headed. With the relationship between Hot Street/Street Bandit and Pro Stock so clear, the family set out to build a serious race car for their newest driver. While they worked on getting a chassis and drivetrain ready, D.R. worked on his driving game by attending Frank Hawley's drag school with this Fox-bodied backup car. Some 75 passes with the backup car, with lots of pointers from his dad, and D.R. was ready to step into the driver seat of the family's new Street Bandit racer.
Dan had Tom Yancer Race Cars build a certified chassis with a ladder-bar suspension into the coupe, which is based on a '98 Mustang. The brightly colored Mustang wears a Cervini's body kit, a Yancer wing, and a fiberglass Rick Jones hood with scoop. Meanwhile, Jimmy Kuntz screwed together a high-revving, 440-inch small-block that wears a set of Edelbrock Victor heads, an Edelbrock Super Victor intake, and a stout, solid-roller Comp Cams camshaft. Making 907 hp on an engine dyno, the big small-block has already allowed D.R. to run 8.60s at more than 157 mph.
In 2005, D.R. ran more than half of the FFW schedule, making it to the finals at six events with a lone victory in the challenging Street Bandit class. For this effort, he finished second in points, but Matt Jones (the decisive champion for 2005) has made it tough for anyone with goals of winning a Street Bandit championship. Still, at only 22 years of age, D.R. has a bright future in front of him. And, with a great teacher like his dad, we're sure that this family tradition is just starting.
"As far as a racing career, that is not an objective at this point. We want to have fun as a father/son team. I just finished college and I'm now working in my father's investment management practice with an opportunity to take over the business a few years from now. That being said, I have learned never to say "never" to anything. We plan to race the current car a few more seasons, then we'll see where this all takes us," Dan Jr. said. "We could move up a level, maybe even Pro Stock, but no plans as of yet. I would like to try some road racing in a Mustang and maybe that could unfold over the next couple of years. Right now, I am having fun running this race car with my dad and would love to win a championship, driving my '04 Cobra, playing ice hockey, and studying for my Charter Financial Analyst designation, which is a three-year process."