Mike Yoksich
November 1, 2008
Darren uses a Precision Products shifter on a Jeep 727 trans with 904 internals, built by Joel's on Joy (313) 581-6266 and adapted to fit a Ford. There's a complex valvebody that varies the pressure for each gear. The internal components are all 7075 machined-aluminum, straight-cut gears. None of the internal components share anything with the OEMs. There are two converters that Darren uses with the trans: Both are A-1 Chevy torque converters, 6,400 and 7,200 rpm. The aluminum Dynatech driveshaft sends the power back to the Ford 9-inch Strange Ultra Case with 40-spline, gun-drilled axles. With the 5.0 ring and pinion, the motor screams through the traps at 9,400 rpm.

The rocker arms are shaft-mounted, 1.8:1 Jesel rocker arms. Chris uses Jesel Lifters and Trend 1/2-inch-diameter, 4130-case-hardened pushrods to handle the abuse dished out by the custom-ground Competition cam with over 0.900 lift. You'll have to torture or bribe Chris to get more info on the cam.

The rules for Milan's All-Motor Class require a cast manifold, but they don't eliminate creativity. Chris cut the cast manifold into 24 pieces, ported it to match the Blue Thunder 4.3 cylinder heads, and welded it all back together. The phenolic spacers in the plenum and on top of the manifold increase the plenum volume and dissipate the heat. The manifold wears a sheetmetal shroud to keep prying eyes away. We can't blame Chris for trying to keep some secrets.

Less secret is the carburetor on top of the jigsaw puzzle Chris calls a manifold, rated at 1,600-cfm carb and done by Dale at CFM Carburetors. Rich McCarren at Pro Race Craft Engineering fabricated the headers featuring three steps: 2-, 2 1/8-, and 2 1/4-inch with a 4-inch collector. The mufflers are Flowmaster Outlaws.

Darren bought the R as a roller from NMRA/NMCA star Jim Blair, who already had the SFI 25.5 'cage certified to 7.50s. Darren and his friends went through the car from front to back and put money only where it would result in speed. The paint job is basic white with a black stripe-and with nicks that give it character. A lot of sweat and $80,000 was what it took to make this car run 8.36 at 161 mph.

That's why Darren is a true working-class hero; he didn't inherit a ton of money or have a rich uncle to fund his racing. Darren runs a small landscaping business and keeps his overhead low and productivity high. Raising their two kids, John and Julie, alongside his wife, Gail, who works at JNL Industrial, they're one of those great families that make drag racing such a cool sport. Building and maintaining a race program on this level while taking care of your family is almost impossible in Michigan's current economy. With the auto companies laying off so much of the workforce, Darren is proof that you can do it yourself.

The grass will grow and Darren will race. Those are two sure bets.