Paul Rosner
April 19, 2007

Horse Sense: The ProCharger F1-R is one hot ticket in the drag-racing arenas where it's legal. This unit was referred to by the competitors as the "Stick Blower" because Jimmy LaRocca won his title with it in a class predominately ruled by automatics. Jimmy and Jeff LaFerriere set records with the piece in its three years of faithful service. Jeff said the tech-inspection department from one of the heads-up sanction bodies made them tear the unit apart in a field in the middle of a hot Florida day, and that's the only reason it failed. Ultra-tight tolerances between the impellers and housing demand all internal work be done in temperature-controlled clean rooms.

Richard "Stretch" Gray got the pirates' gold fever and gave up his commercial tuna-fishing career to chase the lost wreck of the world's first discovered pirate ship, the Whydah. In 1982, he crewed with Barry Clifford's team of divers who discovered the ship and its buried treasures. It contained the cargo of 52 pillaged ships when it sank off the coast of Cape Cod in 1717. Stretch spent 10 years treasure hunting before entering a semi-retirement to toy with buying and selling performance cars to earn a few extra bucks to chase what he really treasured: racing.

The Wilson Manifolds elbow, Edelbrock Super Victor intake, and Brodix Track 1 heads are a package deal from Kuntz for proper port match and flow optimization. The timing belt from Danny Bee and crank trigger from Innovators West are favored by many racers for accurate and concise valve timing. The absence of a timing cover is also the norm; this offers a quick visual of the actual camshaft-to-crankshaft timing. Keeping tabs on the temperature of the combustion chambers via EGT sensors in each header pipe is crucial to monitoring how the engine reacts to tuning changes.

Richard and his wife, Mary, kept busy raising two boys, who put him through the rigors of motocross racing until they were old enough to drive. Eventually, their youngest son, Sean, began eyeing many of the cars that passed through the lot, and an '02 Lightning caught his attention. Sean got first dibs on the supercharged hot rod, and with only five days before the FFW race in Epping, he rushed to LaFerriere Racing to get a handful of goodies installed. Sean and Richard each raced the truck in separate classes that weekend and had a blast. Most importantly, they took the Blue Oval bait-hook, line, and sinker.

One night, while visiting the LaFerriere Racing shop to plot the next Lightning upgrade, they noticed a beautiful red '94 Mustang Cobra race car getting a new rear gearset. The Grays proclaimed their admiration of the car and how nice it would be to own such a ride. Mike Freedman, the owner, answered sarcastically, "If you like it so much, you can buy it." They bought the Cobra, and it turned out to be the buried treasure Stretch had been looking for-a project the whole family could get involved in.

Speaking of buried treasures, this particular Cobra is one. Jimmy LaRocca piloted the Freedman flier to the '02 NMRA Renegade championship, destroying the competition and record books in the process.

The record for the class was 9.0 in 2002, and switching to today's Drag Radial required a lot of changes to the chassis and drivetrain, and the addition of an intercooler created quite a bit of new fabrication.

The Gray family racing team (from left to right): James and Sean Gray, Matt Johnson, Richard "Stretch" and Mary Gray, and Eric LaFerriere. Tuner/driver Eric set the bar in the NMRA BFGoodrich Drag Radial class by recording an 8.18 quarter-mile e.t., establishing the record at their first race.

Stretch and Mary agreed they would be orchestrating a top-notch, championship-worthy build from the beginning. LaFerriere Racing has a reputation for building some of the fastest cars in the New England area, so Jeff LaFerriere and his crew were an easy choice to head the project.

Today's Drag Radial class teeters on the edge of the 7-second barrier, so the old 9-second chassis needed serious upgrades. The guys at DMC Racing have built many of the quickest door-slammers from the Boston area, notably Manny Buginga's NMRA championship-winning Outlaw ride. The shop's upgrades included a Wolfe Racecraft stock rear suspension setup and a Koni-highlighted Anthony Jones front end. Meeting SFI-25.5 specs was a must if they were to participate the whole year, especially with expectations of bolting on the slicks to run the crossover Extreme Street class of the NMCA. Likewise, the beefed-up 8.8-inch Moser spool and 35-spline axles would easily stand up to the rigors of possible 7-second e.t.'s, and Wilwood brakes at all four corners could produce the sufficient whoa.

A safe chassis that's ready to hook is only so good without big power. To reach that goal, ABT Machine in Holliston, Pennsylvania, handled the engine work. They stroked the cross-drilled and nitrided Cola crankshaft to take full advantage of the longer MGP connecting rods to attain the 352ci target. Of course, as with all of the most successful race teams, the Comp Cams specs are a secret, but the fact that the valvetrain is attached to a set of Brodix Track 1 heads treated to Kuntz & Company's best CNC port job is up for public knowledge. The ABT air pump has the complete 8.2-deck Edelbrock Super Victor intake and Wilson Manifolds' elbow-matched combination from Kuntz.

Team Gray tapped ProCharger's tech ace Jim Summers for blower support. When adding boost to a combo, it takes at least 160-lb/hr nozzles to feed the outrageous power levels that can be attained with the F-1R supercharger. The Drag Radial combo relies on big power, since class-norm 1.35 60-foot times require a lot of big-end moves. Boost controllers and a bit of converter magic are the keys to a smooth transition from parked to launch. In addition, nobody knows converters like Converter Concepts. When attached to one of Freddy Brown's nearly indestructible 'Glides, the combo tames the 1,600 hp and hooks the BFGoodrich drag radials.

Of course, before one learns how to tame that type of power, one must make it. Richard dreamt of setting records and winning races, but he never expected his dreams to materialize. Jeff and his righthand man, Matt Johnson, have found the combination to a record-breaking tune, and they have mastered the Racepak datalogger to capture the parameters key to repeating their successes.

The Gray/LaFerriere Motorsports race car set the NMRA BFGoodrich Drag Radial record at its first race in the Bradenton season opener in 2006. Expect to see these guys in the Winner's Circle soon.