Evan J. Smith
January 19, 2015

Heads-up racing is never easy. No matter the class, top contenders push the limits, exploring all possible (read: legal) modifications.

Winning often requires years of testing to maximize performance, a budget to find horsepower, and the time to actually attend races. It’s hard enough to get started, harder yet to lead the pack. And that doesn’t account for dealing with engine builders and rule changes and replacing worn-out parts. But hey, that’s just heads-up racing, right?

Well, thanks to the NMRA and Ford Racing, it doesn’t have to be that way. Enter Strange Engineering Coyote Stock, the latest rage on the NMRA scene. Unlike any other class in drag racing, Coyote Stock racers use a production-style Ford 5.0L Coyote engines from Ford Racing that are sealed when they leave the factory. Cost is essentially the same for the engines, and each racer has the same power.

Successful Coyote Stock racers pair a production engine with a hard-hooking Ford. This is Mike Wahsington’s high-flying Cobra. Washington has wheeled his way to a best of 10.38 at 129 in competition. Running outside the NMRA, he ran 9.94 at 134 with 300 pounds removed from the 3,000-pound legal weight.
For just over $7,000 you can purchase a sealed Coyote Stock crate engine and go heads-up racing in the NMRA.

Since 2011, Ford’s 5.0L Coyote has created an industry buzz, and the NMRA’s Coyote Stock class is living proof that simplicity in drag racing rules the roost. We’ve seen bumper-dragging wheelies, insane side-by-side runs, and growth at every event. The show is part modern muscle, part throwback gear-jamming goodness—and pure adrenaline-pumping fun.

“I started looking at doing a sealed-engine program a while back, but it wasn’t practical until the Coyote came out,” said Jesse Kershaw of Ford Racing. At the same time, the NMRA was looking to build a class utilizing a standardized engine to reduce costs and create close racing.

“Actually, Ken Bjonnes and Steve Gifford were running NMRA Pure Street with modular engines when the modular engine was still finding its place,” said Mike Galimi, editor of the NMRA’s Race Pages. “They thought, instead of constantly modifying the engine to keep up with ever-changing rules, why not have a sealed engine? They approached the NMRA who loved the idea. The next step was getting Ford involved. Jesse Kershaw made the whole thing happen.”

With the basic rules on the table, the class was officially given a name. The first event was held at the 2012 NMRA Spring Break Shootout season opener in Bradenton, Florida. There were two racers, Joe Charles and Joe Guertin. Charles won that first race and then appeared in six finals (of seven events). He won four races in the inaugural year and took the championship.

Despite kicking off with just two cars, Coyote Stock had an effect on more than just Charles and Guertin. “I never raced a head-up class,” said two-time Coyote Stock champion Shane Stymiest, who was a spectator and saw Charles and Guertin battle it out. “I raced a couple of my Mustangs back in Pennsylvania, I heard about the class, and in March 2012 I was down in Bradenton watching and I told my buddy, ‘I’m going for it.’ It offers the most bang for your buck.”

Affordability is a key factor in building a class. And while heads-up racing in a national series is not cheap, every racer knows he’ll buy one engine, it will last a long time, and it will be equal in performance. There’s no hoping your engine makes enough horsepower or that your engine builder did the job right. “It’s a 420hp production engine with a pump-gas tune, and we limit engine speed to 7,700 rpm,” stated Kershaw, “so they should essentially last a lifetime.”

Two-time champ Shane Stymiest heats the tires in his Booze Brothers–backed LX.
Current record holder and 2012 class champ, Joe Charles, hikes the skinnies at Bowling Green.
To ensure that the engines run equally, the NMRA tech department flashes each racer’s computer during every event.
The sealed engines come with this special washer (arrow) that covers critical engine bolts. If tampered with, the engine will be deemed illegal by the NMRA technical staff.

Yes, it’s a production engine, but production doesn’t mean slow. Typical performance has been in the mid-10s, with the fastest cars running 10.30s at 130 mph! Recently, Joe Charles set the national record at 10.29 at 130 mph.

Achieving such impressive performance takes an understanding of clutch and suspension, and it helps if you’re packing mad quick-shiftin’ skills. “This class forces you to become the best possible driver,” said the 2012 C/S class champion and current NMRA record holder, Joe Charles. “I thought I could drive a stick. I was mistaken. Shane, [Bruce] Hemminger, Tim [Matherly] . . . those guys can shift.”

Realistically, a six-point roll bar and a few other basic safety items will get you in the game. Fox-body Mustangs are clearly the popular choice, but we’ve seen SN95 and S197 Stangs, and even a Maverick, in competition. The NMRA makes it easy by posting the entire rulebook at nmradigital.com.

Here’s what you want to know. Vehicles meet the 3,000-pound minimum weight (with driver). They must ride on slicks no larger than 28x10 inches (although many racers use short 26-inchers for enhanced gearing off the line). The spec fuel is VP C-10. Transmissions choices are limited to a C4 for the auto set, while those who like to row can use a Tremec TKO or T5 five-speed. Sticks have proven to be dominant. Of course the cars use stock-style suspensions that are tuned for serious traction.

“It’s the baddest class ever,” exclaimed longtime NMRA competitor Mike Washington. “I was spending too much money in Factory Stock. I was spending $6,000 on a rebuild to find more power, you are talking about $1,000 for a cam! In Coyote Stock, I’m going faster, on slicks, which I like, for less money. And there’s more exposure, Ford is behind it and there are multiple NMRA world champions in the class.”

Coyote Stock is all about wheels-up, gear-banging action. 6) This is a real driver’s class. Most Coyote Stock racers use either a Tremec T5 or TKO. Quick shifting can give a driver a performance advantage. 7) Drew Lyons’ LX is a popular runner thanks to its high-flying antics. 8) Stymiest qualifies against Joe Marini, who runs this sweet 2011 GT. While Marini’s GT came with a 5.0 Coyote, he must run the “sealed” crate engine from Ford Racing. It’s the only way to prove the engine will be legal for competition. 6 7 8
This is a real driver’s class. Most Coyote Stock racers use either a Tremec T5 or TKO. Quick shifting can give a driver a performance advantage.
Drew Lyons’ LX is a popular runner thanks to its high-flying antics.

Those champions include Carlos Sobrino in FS, Darin Hendricks in PS, Mike Washington in FS, and Charles and Stymiest.

How does the NMRA define a “sealed” engine? “We remove critical bolts in the engine and then install a special washer that, in turn, covers the bolts and seals them,” said Kershaw. “So, you have to destroy the covers, or seals, to remove a bolt.”

The seals are even serialized to the engine to prevent tampering. The NMRA tech department inspects these seals at every event.

According to Rick Riccardi of Downs Ford Racing, cost of an engine kit, which includes the engine (PN M-6007-M-50S), Controls Pack (M-6017A-504V), Alternator Kit (M-8600-M50BALT), and Cobra Jet toner ring (M-12A227-CJ13), is $7,750.00 shipped to your door. The engine alone retails for $7,390, but we’ve heard of racers getting them cheaper.

“I know what it’s like to get started racing,” said Riccardi, “so I do what I can to help the racers, to help Ford Racing, and to see the class grow.”

Kershaw said that 50-60 sealed Coyote Stock engines have been sold, and Galimi added that over 30 racers have registered and raced in the class. The recently held NMRA World Finals in Bowing Green, Kentucky, had the largest field ever with 18 participants.

In addition to using the same engine, each car runs the same computers and a specific Ford Racing tune that is flashed into the computer of each car at every event—sometimes before each run. Clearly the NMRA is doing its part to ensure a fair playing field. “I see the class growing,” said Galimi. “It’s not about stick versus auto, or rules changing. It’s about refining your car and driving it.”

“Anyone who races knows it takes a lot to be successful,” said Stymiest. “My first win came in Bowing Green in 2012, right after I switched from an auto to a G-Force Racing Transmissions stick. I was fortunate. I learned a lot from Charlie Booze Jr., and I get help from American Racing Headers and G-Force. And if Charlie wasn’t in my corner I wouldn’t have that. It was awesome to win, especially when I was just hoping to be competitive. And now I have six wins and two championships.”

Savy racers are exploiting those “racer tricks” to gain an edge in traction and speed, but unlike many other classes, the variance in performance between entry-level racers and the top runners is not extreme. Virtually anyone can go some rounds with the basics, get involved, and have fun while learning.

“Cubic dollars are not necessarily going to win you a race,” said Joe Charles. “The emphasis is on chassis, driving, and tuning to get everything out of the car.”

Stymiest qualifies against Joe Marini, who runs this sweet 2011 GT. While Marini’s GT came with a 5.0 Coyote, he must run the “sealed” crate engine from Ford Racing. It’s the only way to prove the engine will be legal for competition.
Mike Bowen isn’t afraid, and he shows that it doesn’t take a Fox Stang to run Coyote Stock.
ormer Factory Stock champ Carlos Sobrino made the jump to Coyote Stock with his tricky Joker Mustang. Sobrino is looking for big things in 2015.
One popular C/S machine belongs to Darin Hendricks. The teal 1993 Cobra is a favorite of this author.
Shane Stymiest has two championships and will be back to defend in 2015. He’s also gunning for the national record.