K.J. Jones
March 21, 2008
Photos By: Ali Mansour, Jason Gonderman
PINKS All Out's creator and host, Rich Christensen, uses his signature arm drop starting technique and sends a hatchback 'Stang down the 1,320. Through the entire course of a long, hot day of taping endless pairs of race cars, Rich throws down each and every arm drop with the same enthusiasm and intensity that comes across on the show.

Horse Sense: This just in: Included in this report are rearwheel horsepower/torque numbers for the Big Terry's-built, Paxton-blown 350ci small-block that now motivates our project 'Stang. At the outset of the project, we hoped the big-bore stroker and supercharger would make 650 rwhp. While the engine's performance with race fuel and a hastily made tune for PINKS All Out gave us the pleasant surprise of being more than we anticipated, a post PINKS and more in-depth tuning and dyno session with "Harv" of HMS Performance [(562) 907-7834] left us speechless when 811 horses and 700 lb-ft of torque at 21 psi of boost were recorded at our T-top notchback's back tires. Stay tuned for further developments on this fantastic news.

If you've been keeping track of all things associated with our '86 T-top coupe 'Stang (we know many of you have been diligently following the project and we appreciate all of the positive e-mails and comments we've received), last month we told you all about our successful thrash effort to fully resuscitate the coupe's blown (and we don't mean supercharged) engine, in time to attend a major event that was fast approaching.

Although we've done some track testing, participating in something big with the T-top coupe has long been a desire. Our original intent was to take the 'Stang to Hot Rod's Drag Week in 2006. Unfortunately, time got the best of us and we missed out on attending that event. Schedule conflicts prevented us from giving Drag Week a go in 2007.

Our intent was to leave on Thursday and position ourselves to be among the first racers to enter The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday morning. Unfortunately, we didn't leave Los Angeles until Friday morning, and were greeted at the track in the afternoon by this mile-long line of fellow contestants.

So, when we received word that the All Out version of the wildly popular PINKS reality-television program (www.speedtv.com/pinks) was going to be taped at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, we set our sights and efforts on making sure our California-based Mustang would be there.

In the spinoff broadcast, PINKS All Out, the show's creator and host, Rich Christensen, takes his brand of heads-up racing to the next level, as racers flock to dragstrips all over the country to compete for big money, prizes, and best-of-the-best bragging rights that last a lifetime.

While getting to PINKS All Out was a must for us, we also wanted to join the growing fraternity of NMRA racers such as Justin Burcham, Ron Cullember, Troy Hrdlicka, Bobby Sisco, and others who have given PINKS All Out a try. Ron actually made it to the final round of an All-Out event, but lost when his 'Stang's rearend let go.

Before we go any further and contrary to what might be conventional thought, we need to make an important point clear to you all: In our opinion, the 10-grand payout to the winner is not the main reason why PINKS All Out is so popular. Sure, like everyone else, we went to Vegas hoping we would be selected in the Top 16, and of course we were unable to shake the never-ending fantasy of winning it all. While neither of those things happened, our overall experience, the hundreds of smiles we saw, and the positive comments we heard from nearly everyone we came in contact with made it clear that the most important contributor to PINKS All Out's success is the fact that it's probably the most fun a person can have at a drag race.

We relive highlights through the following photos and captions. We encourage you to enter your 'Stang, when PINKS All Out comes to a dragstrip near you.

Tech is one of the most interesting aspects of PINKS All Out. Basically, tech inspection as we know it, which includes a thorough check of the car for its compliance with NHRA's safety regulations, was non-existent. The final round of administrative processing was considered tech inspection for PINKS All Out: Las Vegas. We presented a completed and signed tech card-although our coupe was never looked at-to the folks at the tent. After signing six pages of release forms that we're certain have wording to cover the folks that produce PINKS All Out for the event's lack of formal tech inspection, a Polaroid photo of car and driver was taken, and we were all set to race.

For those of you who aren't familiar with PINKS All Out, it's a for-money derivative of PINKS, the show in which racers put their cars on the line-competitors square off against each other in a best-three-out-of-five drag-race contest for pink slips-that airs each week on the SPEED network. Vehicle titles are signed over to the show at the start of the event, and the winner assumes ownership of the loser's car at the end.

Unlike the original PINKS event, PINKS All Out is a runoff between a field of 16 cars that in two rounds of qualifying seem to be the most closely matched based on e.t.'s that are within one-tenth (or closer) of each other. For the first round, cars are run in groups of 50, with the first hit run on a 0.400 pro Tree and a timeslip is presented at the end. The second timed run is started by an arm-drop from host Rich Christensen; timeslips aren't provided for that one. As it's television we're talking about, a car's and a driver's on-camera appearance also has at least a small impact on the selection process.

The e.t. range for each event is unknown until after qualifying has ended, which is why all-out racing is a must for each competitor. The idea is to weed out the sandbaggers and go with a group of cars that will consistently run the number and make for four rounds of close, exciting, heads-up races.

The top 16 racers are paired and run heads up, and winners receive $1,000 for advancing. E.t.'s are first verified by the casting director, Nate Pritchett, and his brother, Adam, using each racer's qualifying e.t.'s to ensure games aren't being played. Unfortunately, there's no consolation round for the losers.

Stakes get higher once the field is cut to eight racers. Just before each pair runs, racers are asked if they would like to bet some or all or none of their $1,000 winnings. Round winners keep the wagered money, as well as whatever he keeps in his pocket if he doesn't risk the full amount. For the Las Vegas event, drivers agreed prior to the runoff that the wagers would stand at $1,000 for each round.

The final eliminator is a best-two-out-of-three affair (engines are required to stay running throughout the finals), that's stacked with excitement and drama. In the end, one lucky racer goes home with $10,000 cash. NAPA also sweetens the pot with a cache of mechanic's tools worth about $8,000.

Our nemeses Murphy and his law struck again immediately after our burnout for the first qualifying pass. When the engine in our coupe stalled and wouldn't refire, track personnel pushed us off to the side, where we investigated the problem.

The project car has been a hit at car shows and a total blast to cruise on the street since its completion, but being able to bomb our Fox Rod down the 1,320 on Hot Rod's Drag Week has also been one of our primary intentions for our rejuvenated rare 'Stang. As many of you know by now, Drag Week hasn't happened for us for the past two years.So, as the hard reality that we probably won't ever attend Drag Week becomes more clear, we're now pursuing opportunities for racing the coupe that are in a closer proximity to the Los Angeles area. In all honesty, with the round-trip tow between our project car's Southern California home base and the Midwest start point for Drag Week, and then the five days of the event itself, pursuing the venture actually requires three consecutive weeks on the road, which is more time than we can afford to devote to one event.

As we detailed in "Full-Throttle Meltdown" (Jan. '08, p. 88), Extreme Automotive of Canoga Park, California, and Big Terry's Engine Shop of Simi Valley, California, were the two main forces behind our push to get to PINKS All Out. Thanks to their efforts and the great support from several companies that got us parts, fuel, and everything else we needed in a hurry, we made it to Las Vegas-despite being plagued by several problems of varying magnitude. We got there a day later than we wanted to arrive, but we got there nonetheless.

Upon learning there would be upward of 400 cars on the property at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, all vying for a chance to compete in a Top-16, single-elimination battle under the stars for 10 Grand, we initially thought PINKS All Out would be a mess. To the contrary, what we quickly realized and came to appreciate about PINKS All Out is the fact that organization is the production's strong point. While some of the lines we waited in after arriving at the track (Will Call, Tech/Registration) were fairly long, most of the process went smoothly, and staff members were dialed in with answers to most of the "where-do-I-go/what-do-I-do" questions and issues that participants had.

Don't for one moment think that PINKS All Out is fake. Yes, it is reality TV, which we all know usually seems far from being real. While making the show does involve occasional delays, as is normal for any TV production, the racing action at PINKS All Out is definitely the real deal and it's recorded as it happens. Producers aren't asking, "Hey, can you do that burnout over again for us-smokier this time?" or "Why don't you let the other guy win this one, OK?" There's nothing bogus like that, which is a fact that put us somewhat at ease about being involved.

Although the Weld AlumaStar II and Mickey Thompson ET Street Radial 17-inch wheel and tire combination we've used for drag racing has been a crowd favorite, we believe improved traction for our T-top coupe will be achieved by switching to 15-inch wheels and tires.

The change to first-gen AlumaStars, ET Street, and ET Front drag tires was made just before we left for Las Vegas and proved to be a move in the right direction: We saw our project car's 60-foot e.t. drop to a 1.594 from a previous best of 1.866 with the larger rolling stock.

We're certain the short times will continue to get better as we work on improving other aspects of the launch.

We strapped a 54-gallon drum of VP Racing Fuel's Motorsport 109E race gas down in the bed of the dually to ensure there's no doubt we'll have plenty of go juice to go rounds at PINKS All Out: Las Vegas.

Remember: Lean is mean. A full tank of the good stuff (we're using VP Racing Fuel's Motorsport 109E) or an adjustment or two on our XFI tune would've probably made the difference between detonating and not detonating and averting the disaster that led to our two weeks of thrash madness prior to PINKS All Out.

Race fuel's much-ballyhooed high-octane rating refers to a fuel company's rating for the level at which the fuel resists detonation. Most enthusiasts are familiar with pump octane numbers, which are the numbers on the yellow decal on the gas pump at local stations. The figure represents the average of the fuel's Motor Octane Numbers and Research Octane Numbers.

The MON test method most accurately simulates racing conditions. We found out the hard way that the 91-octane gas in our project car's tank was fine for the cruising and light-boost blasts we made around town, but it was nowhere near capable of handling the Novi's higher boost range (above 15 psi). Detonation (aka "pinging") is to blame for destroying the 'Stang's engine.

Putting it in simple terms, the phenomenon is basically a super violent combustion explosion inside a cylinder. The explosion can cause great damage to an engine.

The smell of race gas is one of the most wonderful fragrances in the world to a gearhead. Unfortunately, even the sharpest race nut isn't capable of distinguishing what type of fuel is burning simply based on its smell. VP Racing Fuel's Motorsport 109E is easily identified by its yellow color.

The race gas we're using is a direct descendant of VP's MS 109 unleaded specialty race fuel. We went with it after speaking with VP's Jay Farnsworth about the problem we had with California's premium blend. Motorsport 109E is oxygenated with ethanol and 50-state legal-including those that restrict the use of MTBE in fuels. We decided on a 54-gallon drum to ensure we'll have a sufficient amount for future dyno testing and street/strip action.

Jay recommended MS 109E based on our intent to run high boost in the revamped stroker, and the fuel's compliance with the high-flow cats and wideband oxygen sensor in the coupe's JBA exhaust system.

MS 109E's MON is 99, and it has a 0.805 specific gravity ratio, which is the ratio between the fuel's mass and the mass of an equal volume of distilled water at 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It's the highest for all of VP's oxygenated unleaded race fuels. Race gas also has a higher cooling effect than the pump fuel we buy for predominately street-oriented Mustangs. Cooling effect is another property of fuel that wards off detonation.

According to Jay, the key to selecting the best racing gasoline for an application is going with one that's best suited for the engine, not necessarily whatever fuel has the highest octane. While increasing the octane certainly does produce more horsepower, mainly because spark advance (timing) can be increased, using too-high a grade will slow the fuel's burn rate and cause a noticeable loss of power.

The bottom line? Be sure to pay strict attention to your engine's fuel needs, especially when power adders are used. It makes no difference whether a 'Stang is built for street driving or hard-core racing, having good gas in the tank can make or-as we learned the hard way-break an engine's performance-and a wallet.

Once the engine and drivetrain were back in our coupe, we bolted the Dynapack dyno pods to the car's axles, and dialed in a proper big-boost/wide-open-throttle air/fuel ratio (11.7 at 17 psi of boost), with a lot more confidence because we're using the right fuel for the job.

Please see the dyno chart on the last page for detailed performance information.

Right before we loaded the coupe into the trailer, we plugged our laptop into its XFI braintrust. Josh Deeds of Deeds Performance in Chatsworth, California, created a good, safe tune (11.7 air/fuel at WOT) for our new bullet. With air/fuel being optimum, we put another turn on the blower belt for maximum tightness and let the Novi rip to the tune of 668 rwhp and 650 lb-ft of torque at 17 psi of boost.

Our project car was joined by a host of classic ('60s and '70s), Fox, SN-95, New Edge, and S197 Mustangs at PINKS All Out: Las Vegas.

Racers brought their best in mild and ridiculously wild engine combinations and put everything on the line in their effort to make it to the Top 16. Paul Coroneos' nitrous-injected, 11-second, V-10-powered '97 coupe-a former six-cylinder 'Stang-is one example of Mustang over-the-topness we found while cruising through the pits.

"We like to see Mustangs show up for PINKS All Out," says Casting Director Nate Pritchett. "The Fox-body 'Stangs really are the most popular musclecar of current times and represent an accurate example of our market. There's just more of 'em out there."

While a Bowtie boy ultimately ended up winning the event, we really enjoyed seeing a pair of (Ford-powered) Foxes make it to the Top 16.

At the end of qualifying for each event, Rich Christensen, brothers Nate and Adam Pritchett, Charles Hendrickson, Gavin Jerome, Kail Christensen, and newcomer Brian Bossone, gather in a private area of the tower called the "War Room" to discuss the day's on-track action, agree on the e.t. range, and select the event's Top 16 finalists.

Since we weren't selected as a Top 16 finalist, we decided to make the most of our time at PINKS All Out: Las Vegas by visiting the cast's War Room, located in a conference room in the tower at The Strip.

Inside the War Room, we caught up with Casting Director Nate Pritchett and asked him about some of the criteria used in the Top 16 selection process.

"As car guys, we always like to see fast cars go down the track. Unfortunately, it's harder to get a bigger group of fast cars. I don't want to see a bunch of Pro-Mod guys trying to go 9.90s. I'd rather see a field of slower cars with guys that are really pushing it."

The War Room is where the show comes together once qualifying has ended, as it's where Rich Christensen, Nate and his brother, Adam, and other cast members deliberate over which of the hundreds of competitors will be chosen to move on and race heads-up for the money and prizes.

"We do really battle a lot," says Nate of the heated exchanges in the War Room that are a highlight of the television program.

"Rich and I push each other. He hired me to be 'the car guy' and his sounding board, and he's the TV guy, who really didn't know very much about drag racing when he got this thing started, and he's still learning. We bounce this stuff off each other all the time and it's not always pretty, but it's always respectful. Our ultimate goal is to give the right people a shot at winning $10,000."

"At the end of the day, we're looking for the closest, fastest (quickest) group of cars we can find," says PINKS All Out's Casting Director Nate Pritchett (left). "To make a field of 16 cars, my brother and I have to identify cars that, when run all out, are within one-tenth of each other's in e.t. Once you factor reaction time into the equation, our Top 16 is usually within a couple of thousandths of a second, which makes for exciting racing at the stripe."

BaselineRebuilt Engine
RPM347 WOT/No LockupRPM347 WOT/No Lockup
POWERTORQUEPOWERTORQUEAFRBOOST
2,00847.19120.072,02715.0436.8311.92-5.22
2,12663.07151.522,12115.8837.1611.82-5.39
2,218{{{80}}}.51185.472,21216.7837.6611.61-5.5
2,324111.83245.872,31518.0938.7911.94-4.56
2,401142.69303.{{{57}}}2,46919.6439.4712.4-1.46
2,{{{505}}}228.05465.182,54020.3939.8512.52-0.45
2,603325.79639.292,69321.8840.3412.50.42
2,717330.07620.552,{{{924}}}26.5945.1512.331.19
2,816334.04605.923,15434.1653.7611.991.01
2,909337.8593.13,39444.0164.3611.541.09
3,007342.3581.433,554434.64607.1411.798.19
3,117347.87570.033,602474.86654.311.88.3
3,209352.58561.313,723487.86650.4711.598.17
3,315357.22550.43,808491.26640.4111.797.88
3,409354.4531.093,908493.01{{{626}}}.2511.757.68
N/AN/AN/A4,006495.4613.8811.697.61
N/AN/AN/A4,108496.6{{{600}}}.0511.677.58
N/AN/AN/A4,216497.11585.3611.637.55
N/AN/AN/A4,313496.41571.3811.737.54
 347 WOT w/Lockup 347 WOT w/Lockup
4,013345.39439.614,004360.46445.8111.328.57
4,115363.52451.224,132385.03461.3411.489.14
4,219373.88452.674,202400.15471.4611.539.46
4,316384.37454.824,329430.4492.3111.3810.08
4,406397.2460.444,423455.45509.8111.1510.59
4,530415.18468.074,512478.78525.3611.0511.05
4,621428.25473.34,630502.9537.8110.9811.51
4,714439.76476.514,703517.64545.0110.9211.9
4,821447.15473.694,807538.6554.7710.9612.52
4,934454.14470.084,917559.98563.8510.9413.05
5,006457.99467.315,020580.35572.4510.9413.57
5,106458.46458.645,120600.01580.2811.0914.07
5,201458.73450.485,208617586.5911.2314.57
5,327458.25439.45,334638.04592.2311.3415.2
5,{{{405}}}459.77434.465,405647.92593.511.3815.51
5,511467.92433.675,507660.51593.8311.5215.98
5,631473.57429.525,618666.21587.1712.3716.38
5,734472.65421.025,708666.72578.312.7916.59
5,813473.34415.875,808665.02566.913.2116.77
N/AN/AN/A5,907669.9561.5113.1516.45
N/AN/AN/A5,952670.27557.6112.9910.46