Dale Amy
February 1, 2005

Doesn't it sound like fun to see how fast a street Mustang could go on DOT-approved drag radial tires? The concept alone was simple enough when Dwayne "Big Daddy" Gutridge invented the class of heads-up Drag Radial drag racing just a few short years ago.

In that time, the Drag Radial class has grown from a few 11-second street cars to throngs of 9-second and 8-second street-capable Mustangs that duke it out across the country each year to determine who has the baddest street Mustang of them all. At the NMRA, it is a regular occurrence to find more than 20 of these cars with wild nitrous, turbocharger, or supercharger combinations.

This is the story of one of the elite cars-a Drag Radial car that has survived the wars and come out on top. It is the story of Frank "Chip" Provenza, a home builder from Maryland, and his 8.30/170-mph street-freak machine.

"I got the car in 1994," Chip says. "I gutted it and made it a race car right from day one! I started off like everyone else-doing this the wrong way and slowly. The first combo was a stock block, a B-cam, World Products heads (ported by myself), a GT-40 intake, and a Vortech R-Trim supercharger. The car ran a 9.91 at 140 mph with a C4 transmission. The next step was to go faster, so I got an A-4 block, a Scat billet crank-which I am still using today-Eagle rods, and Ross pistons. I changed blowers to a J-Trim and added a box upper. I was rewarded with a best of 9.01 at 158 mph. This was my first experience with the DFI Gen-6.

"Once again, I wanted to go faster, so I changed to Trick Flow 'R' heads and an XX-trim Vortech. The car went a best of 8.80 at 161 mph-not what I was hoping for, but I discovered chassis problems and converter issues. Then, after chasing my tail for a while and really having no class to run in except Outlaw, I was convinced by Chris Little to change the combo to fit Drag Radial. So I went back to the World heads and a Novi 2000. Then I was plagued with head-gasket problems. I switched to an R302 block, Trick Flow High Port heads, and a Vortech Igloo. My best pass with that combo was 8.91 at 160 mph. After the rule change last year in NMRA Drag Radial, I switched to an X-Trim and an inside-the-car intercooler, and I've gone as fast as an 8.32 e.t. at 170 mph."

Using that same combination, Chip was able to cut down one nasty field of D/R boys at the Columbus, Ohio, event and come out with the event win. That win brought him one step closer to the top of what had been the Chris Little show for the last two years and the Phil Clemmons show for 2004. But, since Ohio, Chip has struggled with a mysterious "miss"-a dreaded ailment that all racers seem to go through. With some of these combinations, it can just be an anomaly that hits once every other trip down the track. For Chip, it was a high-gear, high-rpm miss that just kept getting worse.

Chip's miss had been dealt with by trying to tune it using the ACCEL Gen VII and swapping valvesprings. It finally came to-well-a head at a recent PRO race where Chip was competing in the Xtreme Street class. The miss became real bad and caused some detonation in one of the cylinders. Chip wiped out eight pistons, a cylinder head, and the crank! That's where things sat when we talked to him about this feature story. He was thrashing to get parts in and together before the battle royale at Bowling Green.

After BG, Chip isn't quite sure what he'll end up racing. He loves D/R, but the new Xtreme Street class at PRO has several top D/R and bottom SSO guys looking that way. "It's easier, more consistent," Chip says of XS, a class that allows a full drag slick. "I just don't have as many blown runs on the slick. Of course, everyone had their car built for Outlaw, but they were always half a second ahead of me. I liked the radial [tire], but at a certain point-except for Phil [Clemmons]-it becomes inconsistent because you spin something, and the run is blown. A radial is safer. If the car spins, it goes straight with no sway. A slick will push the car. Maybe I'm too timid on the slick [laughs]. It's been four years since I tried them!"

How, specifically, do these guys vary their driving style? We put that question to Chip to see how he controls 1,200-1,400 hp on street tires. First of all, you never go full throttle in one of these cars off the starting line. Chip estimates that on a good track, he has the gas matted by 80 feet out. Once prestaged, he begins power braking the car. He'll leave his right foot in that position throughout the staging and launching procedure. Once he bumps into the beams, he activates the transbrake and releases it on green (well, amber on a Pro Tree or you're late). Again, Chip will hold his right foot at part throttle until the car picks up some momentum. Once planted, it's planted for good.

"The really bad thing that you can run into with one of these [Drag Radial] cars is tire shake," Chip says. "I try to drive through it as best I can. Usually, if it's real bad, I'll short shift the car, engage high gear, and it'll settle down. However, sometimes that makes it worse!"

The development of the Drag Radial class and its racers continues. We've seen it go from little more than a street race to the realm of consistent mid-eight-second race cars today. Chip is a huge part of that movement as he battles the likes of Phil Clemmons, Dave Hopper, Trace Meyer, and dozens of other teams of D/R racers. With dedicated, talented racers such as these, the future of D/R looks to be around for a long time. How fast is your Drag Radial car?

Block R302
Displacement 3 31 (4.030-in bore x 3.250-in stroke)
Cylinder Heads New-style Trick Flow
High-Port ported by Total Engine Airflow
Camshaft Comp Cams (less
than 0.700-in lift)
Intake Manifold Edelbrock Super Victor
Throttle Body Accufab 90mm
Power Adder
Vortech X-Trim (20-22 psi)
Exhaust Kooks 2-in primary
long-tube headers; Flowmaster mufflers
Fuel System Weldon 2035 fuel pump;
Aeroquip lines; Edelbrock fuel rails; FRPP 160-lb/hr injectors; Weldon fuel-pressure
Transmission JW/Neil Racing
Transmissions; Dynamic converter
Rearend 8.8-in {{{Ford}}}; Moser spool;
Moser 33-spline axles

Engine Management ACCEL Gen VII
Ignition Crane ignition and coil;
Moroso Ultra 40s plug wires; NGK
spark plugs
Gauges Auto Meter

Front Suspension
K-Member Woolford Brothers
A-Arms Woolford Brothers
Springs Coilovers
Struts Lakewood
Wheels Bogart
Tires M/T
Brakes Aerospace
Rear Suspension
Springs Stock
Shocks QA1 adjustable
Traction Devices Right foot
Wheels Bogart
Tires BFGoodrich Drag Radial *(325 mm)
Brakes Aerospace
Chassis Stiffening Woolford Brothers
Chassis subframe connectors and rollcage