Michael Galimi
January 1, 2009

The year was 1998 when a young college kid and his buddies loaded a borrowed motor home with a 9-second Mustang LX, and headed East from New Mexico for Spring Break in sunny Florida. The only things standing in the way of attending their first Mustang drag race were 2,000 miles and near-empty wallets, but it didn't deter their desire to go racing and party for a week. While the sites and sounds of college parties captured two of the three amigos, the ringleader would become obsessed with the racing portion of the adventure. During that amazing trip to Florida, John Urist was hooked, and he has since dedicated his life to racing and the Mustang hobby. Amazingly, John was runner-up in Street Outlaw during the MM&FF/FFW Spring Break Shootout, and he ran three more FFW events in 1998. A year later he shifted to NMRA Super Street Outlaw competition, where can still be found today.

John Urist had Behind Bars Race Cars build him a '93 Mustang LX for the '08 racing season. He has already run 7.40 at 193 mph, won three NMRA events, scored a victory at World Street Challenge, and is on the verge of winning his fourth NMRA title.

Over a decade has passed, yet John's passion for racing and winning rages on. Today, that kid from New Mexico has grown to become one of the most prominent racers in street-legal drag racing, a gargantuan task, considering each time he rolls out he comes East some 2,000 miles.

Upon college graduation, he formed Urist Racing and that eventually led to Hellion Power Systems-his company that designs and sells turbocharger systems for Mustangs.

Racing is a large part of his way of life. The New Mexico runner has won three NMRA championships, and as of this writing, he is in the hunt for a fourth one. John has taken his racing to a new level with backing from a variety of major companies, such as Nitto Tires. "I couldn't do this without Nitto's support as well as many other companies," says John. He spends his off-weekends testing and consulting on a new racing slick program for the popular tire company. His weekdays consist of running Hellion and designing new products for the Mustang aftermarket.

Motivation comes from a 420ci engine with ProCharger F3R blower (35 psi), Edelbrock SC1 heads by Kuntz and Company, Arias Pistons, GRP rods, Sonny Bryant crankshaft, Weldon fuel system, and Wilson Manifolds. The blower is mounted specially beside the engine in order to run a shorter Kevlar belt. The smaller belt soaks up less horsepower, thus providing John with a power advantage over his competitors who run traditionally mounted superchargers with long belts.

Thanks to his success and hard work, John has become the guy to beat in NMRA's wild small-tire freak show. But when on top, the other racers work harder to try and knock him off. He knows that, and to keep everyone chasing, a new plan was designed for 2008. That plan was to park his championship-winning New Edge Stang for a sleeker Fox-body. Underhood, the ProCharger-blown small-block Ford is tops in class with horsepower near the 2,000 range. John recognized that his '01 Mustang GT needed upgrading, despite having most of the tricks and parts needed to run in the 7.40s. Built in the winter of 2001, the old car went through a metamorphosis of modifications to keep up with the SFI and performance requirements of Super Street Outlaw. Unfortunately, it came time to part with his faithful servant.

A phone call to Behind Bars Race Cars (BBRC)-a shop that has worked with Team Hellion on many occasions-hatched a plan to add a new Mustang to the New Mexican's stable. John learned a lot of tricks over the years and the new/old car would incorporate many changes to keep up with the maintenance, durability, and performance of the current small-tire wars in the NMRA. John provided us with insight to the construction and goals of the project. "We built this car to be easy to work on, as these machines require a lot of maintenance in between rounds and events. A new rear ladder bar system was also designed to help apply the big power we are making with the ProCharger-blown engine."

The decision to build a new Mustang, unfortunately, came in November 2007 right after the SEMA Show. John and his pal Chris "Noodles" Hemmeter of BBRC began planning, sketching, and ordering parts nearly immediately due to the NMRA season opener in March. John wanted to showcase the new ride at the first race of the year. Above all else, Behind Bars Race Cars had to secretly build the coupe in order to "surprise attack" the field in Florida. A '93 Mustang LX coupe was found from a local friend and it was perfect for this project.

A carbon fiber nose and hood were fitted to the mostly stock appearing body. Get past the sponsorship lettering and this car could pass for a street-legal ride.

First on the list for the coupe was its ability to effectively apply big horsepower to the track. A SFI 25.2 spec cage was welded into place but the location of the main hoop and support bars was critical. Each time Noodles cut and welded a bar it was done with a specific strategy for rigidity and safety. Once the 'cage was locked in, the shop's attention turned to the rear suspension. NMRA Super Street Outlaw rules call for a ladder bar or stock-style rear suspension. Running stock suspension was out of the question, so a pair of custom-built ladder bars were secured to the custom Fab-9 housing and then attached to the chassis. A wishbone was utilized, a rarity in this type of application. "It is not as critical to the operation as many would believe. We have the wishbone on the green LX, our second SSO ride that is backed by Hellion. It runs well, so Noodles wanted to add a wishbone to this car too," comments the three-time champion.

The front suspension is straight forward, as NMRA rules don't allow for much else than stock replacement type components. A BBRC tubular front K-member and A-arms were bolted to the chassis in the stock location. John relies on adjustable Santuff struts to help control weight transfer on launch. The Santuff struts have special valves internally, designed for small-tire racing. His rear shocks are sourced from Afco and feature double adjustable rates. The driver sits in a Kirkey aluminum seat and the interior was kept sparse to save weight. The rear wheeltubs have been replaced with mini-tubs and sheetmetal replaces the trunk area. The interior is finished in a fireproof carpet. On the outside, a carbon fiber trunk, Racecraft wing, and carbon fiber nose and cowl hood are the only modifications. The smaller body, when compared to his '01 Mustang race car, provides an aerodynamic advantage. "I estimate we are gaining a few mph over our other race car thanks to being a much smaller body," comments John.

Aside from great sponsors, John was quick to thank his crew. John (left) is flanked by his guys; Mike King, Mike Rousch, and Nate Philips. Not pictured are Melanie Philips, Steve and Ann Urist, Darryl Bassani, Dwayne James, Brandon Reed, Jeff Yochim, Craig Berry, Gil Berry, Brian Berry, and Mike and Tammy Abdalla.

Underhood, a small-block Ford is the flavor, and his bullet produces nearly 2,000 hp. A Fontana aluminum 9.5-inch deck engine block has been bored and machined by Kuntz and Company. The savvy racer handles the engine building and he dropped in a 3.9-inch stroke Bryant crankshaft. Connecting the crank to the Arias pistons is the job of GRP aluminum rods. Compression ratio is pegged at 8.5:1 due to the 35 psi of boost generated by a ProCharger F3R supercharger. Final displacement comes to the party at 420ci. This year, Edelbrock released its new SC1 canted valve cylinder heads and John was one of the first to get a set. He sent them directly to Kuntz to be carved out specifically for his supercharged engine. The valves are titanium with the intake measuring 2.10-inches and the exhaust valves at 1.60-inches. The camshaft is a custom Comp unit of unknown dimensions. All he would admit to was that the cam was huge and the specs are pretty surprising for a supercharged combination. John's engine relies on Jesel rocker arms, lifters, and super thick pushrods to actuate the valves under such intense cylinder pressures and high lift demands. An Edelbrock intake was massaged heavily by Wilson Manifolds and also includes two sets of 160 psi fuel injectors. Yep, the engine requires so much fuel that it needs 16 fuel injectors. They are supplied high-octane VP fuel via two electric Weldon fuel pumps. The headers are custom built by Hellion using Bassani piping. The headers use v-band clamps in certain parts of the tube, which enable the team to remove the headers in a moment's notice for engine maintenance.

Experience and consistency are key ingredients to John's winning ways. Best 60-foot time thus far has been an insane 1.19-on 28x10.5-inch slicks.

The new engine and chassis were completed in near record time, and John and Brandon Reed spent many sleepless nights mating the new bullet with its new home. In just three months, a turnkey race car was built and ready for NMRA action. Its debut was something legends are made of-John made a trip to the winner's circle against some of the best in the business! It was a bold move to roll out a brand new Mustang, but one that proved to be successful.

Having won the first race surprised some of his colleagues, but it shouldn't be based on his track record. John wasn't the quickest and fastest at Bradenton and he is all too familiar with that position. "I won my first championship by not being the fastest but the most consistent racer," he touts. He qualified with a 7.58 at 189 mph with a soft tune up as he dialed in the chassis. On race day, he simply ran the same each round and collected the winner's trophy and the cash.

The new car did need some fine-tuning, and after nearly a season of testing and racing, John found his stride. The red coupe delivered the Nitto team to victory at World Street Challenge in Pro Street Outlaw. John also rode the ProCharger-blown ride to a career best run of 7.40 at 193 mph. That was accomplished with a 1.19 60-foot clocking, on 28x10.5-inch slicks. The tires check in at that measurement-these aren't the fake 10.5 tires with 'W' markings. John has also collected two more class victories for a total of three SSO wins this season in NMRA action.

After seven seasons of racing on his previous race car, John plans to do a lot more NMRA and True 10.5 racing-much to the dismay of his competitors.