Muscle Mustangs & Fast FordsFeatures
Charlie Westcott: Former Chevy & Mopar Racer Goes All In With Ford Pro Stocker
Westcott vs. The World
Don’t tell Charlie Westcott he can’t do something. This tenacious racer will work 24/7 and use all the means at his disposal to prove you wrong as he puts his competitor in the next lane on the trailer. The 43-year-old drag racer from Parma, Michigan, shows unwavering determination and grit going full throttle into any project he set his mind to.
When word circulated among the NHRA Sportsman Racers at the end of 2014 race season that Westcott and his father were parking their HEMI Super Stockers to campaign a Pro Stock Ford Mustang, a sigh of relief could be heard coming from the Mopar camp in the pits, soon followed by puzzled looks and disbelief. For years the Westcotts had put the hurt on fellow Chrysler HEMI racers competing in the Mopar HEMI Challenge held at the NHRA U.S. Nationals for over a decade. The father-and-son team claimed five victories at Indy alone and continued to rack up more wins at other HEMI Shootouts across the country with their camouflaged Barracudas.
This was justice for Charlie Westcott, as some Mopar engine builders and racers claimed that “no Chevy guy could make a HEMI fast!” Well, that was all Westcott needed to hear and he was up to the task. For years he was a Chevy racer going back to his high school days when he began racing a 1969 small-block Camaro that he and his dad built. Westcott rowed the four-speed machine to low 11 second e.t.’s at Milan Dragway. His dad was a big influence on him, but he never pushed him into drag racing. Quite the contrary—he used to tell him when he was young that racing was too expensive. Determined, young Westcott saved his money and bought a Super Stocker. His dad bought the hauler, and the two got started.
With a shop full of NHRA Super Stock class win Wallys, Mopar HEMI Challenge photo checks, and boxes of winner’s circle hats, Westcott was ready for the next challenge in his racing career. In addition to dominating the class, he also has an engine building and parts business that supplied HEMI engines for racers. “The HEMI engine is old news to me,” he says. “There are still people that live for that, but those engines are so bad. In Super Stock configuration, they are at or near their limit of performance-to-explosion ratio. This Ford Pro Stock motor is a real engine, and I can focus on making horsepower and not fixing broken parts.”
Westcott still does some Mopar HEMI work for a few customers, but it is trailing off as racers retire or, as Westcott says, “get something new that doesn’t blow up.”
That, along with other factors, drove Westcott to the Ford camp for the first time. He procured Ford Mustang Pro Stocker built by Jerry Haas and originally raced by Jim Cunningham. “I like the looks of the Mustang. I almost bought one just to drive around the street but decided to put that money towards a race car,” says Westcott.
Another reason why Westcott jumped into Pro Stock with both feet is his love of the class. He says, “Pro Stock is the coolest class out there to me no matter what some of the media thinks. What motivates me is the challenge, and the class gives me a new canvass to paint on.”
So if you’re the only guy Ford in the highly competitive Pro Stock class where the difference between winning and losing is one one-thousandths of a second, what do you do to stay competitive? It can be difficult, but according to Westcott it is no different running any other engine combinations. “There’s no challenges to racing a Ford in Pro Stock. One thing that is different in my mind is that it’s kind of a buffer to my learning curve. I have no intentions of going to the top of the qualifying sheet, but I do feel like I can get to the middle, with a lot of work, testing, building parts, etc.”
While Ford Performance is “officially” out of the NHRA professional classes, it does support the Cobra Jet racers in Stock and Super Stock through contingency and minor parts deals. Ford Performance did approach Charlie about helping him with a few things, but in the end, it’s still up to Westcott and his dad to get the Mustang down the track. “My problem is I have limited people to bounce ideas off,” he says. “I have met a couple folks that I can trust, but it’s not like anyone can or will give me the magic recipe.”
Another thing that motivates Westcott is the support he gets from his wife, Melissa, along with his father and other family members. He also gets many shout-outs from fans and fellow racers. It’s a good thing but he has always been cautious, as he feels that some of them have unrealistic expectations of him. “The reception in the pits among other Pro Stock racers has been good. Many of the guys have been cool, but I do see the smirks when the car runs bad from certain drivers,” notes Westcott.
So far, his Mustang has run a best time of 6.76 at 204 mph. When he started running the car in 2015, NHRA Pro Stockers were sucking air and gas through carburetors. Lucky for him, he wasn’t too immersed with high-end Dominators and sheetmetal intakes. Westcott’s learning curve on the NHRA mandated that the Holley EFI system be quick, and he is beginning to surpass the dyno numbers when the 500ci Ford motor is running carbs.
Westcott feels Pro Stock offers a level playing field among the door-slammer classes, as all the racers basically have the same tools to work with. He did take on the project knowing full well he’d be starting from scratch, but if history is any indication of his passion, commitment, skills, and determination, his Mustang will be competitive—and not just a novelty in Pro Stock.