Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatured Vehicles
2003 Ford Mustang Cobra - Repeat Contender
Consistency, patience, and dedication bring Chip Havemann to the winner's circle year after year. Now we take a look inside his newest ride.
This is Chip Havemann's new car. It's one bad, small-tire Stang packin' 449 cubes of twin-turbocharged Windsor power capable of running bottom 7s. It goes as straight as a Texas highway thanks to the incredibly tuned 25.2-certified chassis and is as clean as a sterilized operating room. This '03 Cobra has every trick piece a 10.5 racer would want, and it's as current as anyone could build it. The Neal-headed small-block mill is built around familiar Ford technology, and there's a FAST XFI controlling the 160-pound injectors. Best e.t. so far is a 7.08 at 209.5 mph, but in Chip's case, the man is as interesting as the machine.
For well over a decade, Chip and his family have traveled all across the country to pursue his passion of drag racing. He did so for some time in his former car, the popular blue and orange notch. It all started in 1992 when he attended his first Fun Ford Weekend race and ran in what was called Street 5.0 (the precursor to Street Outlaw). With the help of Mark Harwell and Corky Bell, Chip and his turbocharged LX found the top of the qualifying ladders. Needless to say, he found heads-up racing so profound that he dedicated the next 14 years of his life to playing in the Mustang scene, having run in Street Renegade, and more recently, in Street Outlaw. He's a veteran, shall we say, and while many of us were sitting at our desks looking at magazines (or building them, in our case), Chip was dragging his LX thousands of miles to walk the walk.
During normal business hours, Chip is a personal injury attorney, so the safety-conscious fellow spends most of his days defending the rights of hard-working folks like you and me. He knows what risks are involved in everything from crossing the street to laying down gas pipes in your neighborhood (which makes his penchant for racing at 200-plus mph quite ironic, but who are we to preach?). In addition to being Mr. Goodguy, the San Antonio, Texas-based racer has a wheel repair company called www.straightwheels.com that turns around dam-aged alloys to customers in like-new condition. With just about every new sports and luxury car rolling on high-priced Dubs and 22s, it makes great business sense. And what better way to pay for race expenses than to service the needs of other automotive enthusiasts? That's enough about how he makes his money-let's talk about how he spends it.
On any given Sunday, Chip can be found at a dragstrip working, sweating, and driving his Outlaw machine. Some think what he does is a total leisure sport. While that is true to a certain extent (we've seen him make ice cream and burgers), he sees it another way. "I spend tens of thousands of dollars traveling all over the country because I like the people we race with," he says. "I like the coverage that the magazines provide, and I like to work hard. The races are like mini-vacations with a bunch of work thrown in. I honestly don't know how other racers do it. I have the benefit of taking my family to every race and offsetting some of the expenses by selling Stang Gear (the family-owned apparel business) items. I also have the benefit of having a dad who can fabricate anything. He is retired so he has the time and desire to maintain the rig, the car, and everything in between. But, to have a successful race team, you have to have great equipment, a great work ethic, and the desire to be competitive.
Chip makes it sound easy, but he's been down the road enough times to tell it like it is. To a few, it's more about staying in it, being true to yourself and your cause, and being a dedicated Mustang racer. Chip's thoughts are pretty much in line with what we've witnessed over the years. We've seen guys put in all of their efforts for a year or two, but quickly lose sight of their goals, not to mention their budget. A ship without a destination is destined to be lost. So when we asked Chip why he thinks some racers come and go, he said, "Sometimes I see folks leave because they don't have realistic goals. For 2002, I set goals of running a seven-second pass, winning one race, and going 180 mph. Those goals were realistic. Building a new car and then trying to win a championship the first year out is a daunting task, and is a little unrealistic. Nonetheless, others quit because they don't' budget enough to keep the operation going. Building the car is the first step. Breakage is considered part of the equation, and many times, takes as much financially as does the building process.
He says getting in isn't the hardest part, it's staying in that's the most difficult. "You have to start with a solid foundation. I've seen tons of folks go out and build or buy a competitive car, race it for 5 or 10 races, and then disappear into the sunset, only to have the car land in someone else's hands a couple of years later. In order to attend every race and do well year after year, you have to choose a class or approach that works for you financially as well for your knowledge base. Anyone can build an Outlaw car. But to do it properly, you can't cut corners on the equipment or maintenance, which must be within your financial abilities. Next, if you build the car, you need to have a certain amount of knowledge to make the equipment work properly so that you get the desired result. If you can't tune your own car, you probably don't have any business trying to run a car in one of the faster classes-if you want to be successful."
So, what does it take to be a winner in 2006? We confronted Chip with this question, and he said, "I've set a goal of running a six-second pass this year. I think there are around five folks who have done it so far, and we need to be there this year. I'd also like to win four or five races and do well at the Orlando World Street Nationals. I've toyed with the idea of selling my car and acquiring a tube-chassis Pro Stock-style car with either a turbo or a mountain motor combination. However, it goes back to what we are capable of, and my operation does not have the experience or knowledge to tune a clutch or that kind of chassis right now, so I would expect we will stay where we are for at least another year."
Obviously, it takes more than just buckets of cash to get a race operation going. It takes good people from all corners of life to make it happen. From family to friends, Chip has developed a network of people that help him at any given notice. More importantly, he's won the respect of those around him with his persistence and dedication so that most anyone would bend over backwards to give him a hand.
"I've been fortunate to have had a lot of help over the years," Chip says. "However, two people really stand out, and that is my dad and my wife. Both of them have been to nearly every race I've attended for the last 12 years. Dad puts at least double the time that I do into the construction and maintenance of the equipment, so I have to thank him. My wife has put up with this racing thing for such a long time and has been so supportive that I could not and would not go racing without her. I have also had the unconditional support of Kotzur Racing Engines, Trans King Transmissions, Stang Gear, Bell Intercoolers, Murillo Motorsports, Performance Fuel Systems, Mustang Parts Specialties, ProCharger, Automotive Specialties and more recently, John Urist, and Steve Petty. I could not go racing without them. Lastly, part of the reason why we do what we do is to gain the attention of the media to include fine publications such as this one, so thanks for the hard work and noticing our efforts." No problem, Chip.
Needless to say, Chip has rattled off just about everyone who's pitched in over the years, but we're sure he may have forgotten a couple of names. It's not easy keeping an operation like his going, but he has been such a staple to the scene that we feel confident he'll be there for us to watch, admire, and respect for a bunch more years.