$10K Drag Shootout 3: Episode 4: "We NEED Four Race Cars"

$10K Drag Shootout 3: Episode 4: “We NEED Four Race Cars”

The build portion of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products has reached its midway point, and with each tick of the clock the pressure against the teams mounts in their efforts to acquire parts and get their machine up and running for the big race. 

As we’ve already documented, teams are finding it more difficult than usual to find or receive parts, with the Coronavirus effecting shipments and local junkyards not in operation, or with reduced inventory due to pandemic. Adding to the pressure, some teams are being caught  — shall we say, skirting the rules — causing them to butt up against their allotted $10,000 budgets. Team MAK, for example, was caught red-handed attempting to pass off a brand-new torque converter for an old used one off a previous build, and after the Horsepower Wars officials slapped them with a higher-than-planned price, it put them in a pickle with their cash budget. Luckily, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the competition or can’t buy parts, but it does come with a penalty.

Parts are rolling in from Summit Racing Equipment, and that's allowing everyone to get down to business.

Exceeding budget by $500 is level one, $501 to $1,000 is level two, and $1,000 to 1,500 is level three — each comes with an additional 100-pound weight penalty on top of the 3,450-pound base weight for the turbo-LS engine combination, of which all four teams are using. For a variety of reasons, though, be it fair market values higher than originally thought, or simply mismanaging their Summit Racing Equipment and cash budgets, every team looks headed toward a weight penalty in the end, so it could all even itself out when the rubber meets the road.

Each of the four teams now has an engine and is hard at work stripping them down for machine work, cleaning, and upgrading internals for the abuse they’re set to give them.

Despite all of the ongoing challenges rarely faced by teams in previous seasons, though, everyone remains confident their vehicles will be complete at the end of the 10 days. Let’s see where the teams are at and what they’re using as they drop their engines in and get their rearends and suspension systems built.

Out In Front

The gang from Philly has decided to keep its Mustang as “street” as it can, and that means they are putting the full interior back in…back seat and all!

Team Out In Front is moving along like a well-oiled machine, and its stock Gen-3 5.3-liter is being dropped into the Mustang by the fifth day. The team bored the engine .020-inches over, put the stock crank and rods back in it, added a set of MAHLE pistons, and they’re ready to go.

Out In Front bought a bare 8.8-inch housing for its build and is using a 35-spline axle kit and a C-clip eliminator and drive-wheel stud package from Moser Engineering.


Out In Front has used a full complement of BMR suspension components on its build, including rear upper (DOM adjustable) and lower control arms and a one-off prototype anti-roll bar, all bolted into the stock mounting locations, and with BMR spherical control arm bearings. The front features QA1 lower control arms, Stocker Star shocks, and coilover springs.


Professional chassis builder David Reese has worked tirelessly to put a chassis in and under Home Grown’s El Camino worthy of putting his name on, and his craftsmanship shines through the otherwise ratted-out bodywork. Reese and team leader Jim Howe, Jr., after procuring the vehicle they felt best suited to no-prep racing (thanks to its longer wheelbase), set out to assemble a likewise suitable ladder bar rear suspension.

Home Grown is using stock front A-arms, paired with QA1 Stocker Star shocks, which are stock-mount aluminum, single-adjustable, smooth-body units units intended for high-high-performance and drag racing use. These will be used in conjunction with stock, trimmed-down front springs. In the rear, QA1 coilover springs (150 lbs./in. rate, 12-inch length, 2.5-inch diameter) are paired with QA1 Stocker Stars, QA1’s adjustable shock mount kit, and an upper shock mount kit from Allstar Performance, purchase via Summit Racing.

Home Grown is ready to drop in its engine.

The ladder bar setup is bolted to the teams’ Ford 8.8-inch housing. The team has notched the frame to fit the wheel and tire, and gone a step further and fabricated mini tubs from sheets of aluminum they purchased. Although not required by NHRA rules, Reese opted to install down bars behind the roll cage to tie into the back half to strengthen and stiffen the chassis.

Home Grown has chosen to use an old, discontinued Ron’s Racing small belt-drive fuel pump for a mechanical fuel injection setup on its 6.0-liter LS with an 80mm turbo, along with a stock GM intake and throttle body.

Villain Squad

Villain Squad’s engine arriving at the build center.

After several days of scouring Southern California, Geo Ramos and Villain Squad finally secured an engine, a 5.3-liter LS sans cylinder heads. They were able to find stock 862 casting GM heads from the junkyard and were off and running on tearing it down and getting it rebuilt. The team plans to clean it up and put it back together, keeping it 100-percent stock bottom-end. They will use a Comp cam with 231/244 duration .600-inch lift, and .114-inch lobe separation angle and a set of Total Seal rings.

To help Villain Squad out, given their circumstances as a last-minute entry to the competition, the Horsepower Wars staff got together and decided to help them procure a Ford 8.8-inch housing from Hawks Motorsports that already had all the suspension attachment points for the stock-style F-body suspension from BMR. The team was only charged against their budget the fair market value of a stock housing to help level the playing field. While some have managed to make this conversion in their home shops, Hawks warned that welding the housing (especially the torque arm mount) can be especially difficult, which is why they don’t offer DIY kits. Given our time constraints and Moser goodies waiting, the fully welded, bare unit was the way to go and Hawks just happened to have one in stock.

Villain Squad was a little behind the eight-ball from the start, and the Horsepower Wars team helped them out by procuring a fresh 8.8 rearend from Hawks Motorsports to get them back in the game.

The housing will be mated up to BMR’s chrome-moly, double-adjustable lower control arms, which will help with harder launches and reduce wheel-hop. They will also use a BMR bolt-on sway bar mount kit, which features a laser-cut, CNC-formed 3/16-inch steel plate, along with a double-adjustable BMR Panhard bar.

Last but not least, they have BMR’s Xtreme Torque Arm kit, featuring a lightweight 1.25-inch chrome-moly steel tubing and heavy-duty 3/8-inch, laser cut, CNC-formed steel plate to add strength and adjustability over the stock part. It is a shorter torque arm design that comes with a tubular mount from BMR that weld to the chassis. The torque arm uses the rear factory mounting locations with heavy-duty rod ends, and the pinion angle is adjustable using a heavy-duty CNC-machined 4130 chrome-moly adjuster. The torque arm does not use the factory transmission side mount.

Villain Squad is using a whole array of BMR suspension parts on its F-body.

While Villain Squad encountered a victory in acquiring an engine and a rear end housing, it ran into another roadblock with its transmission, learning that a mistake had been made in shipping, putting its arrival on the final day of the competition — much too late to get the trans, strip it down for inspection and cleaning, and get it in the car. This forced them to turn to a plan B to have a friend drive the transmission all the way from Kansas to California.

These setbacks, combined with a bit of inter-team disfunction, has cause Villian Squad to fall days behind its peers.


MAK’s uniquely mounted turbo has turned some heads…and begged the question of how well it will work so far from the intake manifold.

Team MAK, like Out In Front, is making a lot of headway and appears they could even finish their build with hours or even a whole day to spare if they continue at the rate they’re going. 

Right out of the gate, MAK wanted to make an impression with its S-10, and it did that by mocking its turbocharger up above the roofline, just behind the cab, on the pickup truck. To the bewilderment of the other teams, MAK began welding the bracing in place and then fabricating the hot side through the rear window, right past driver Nick Taylor’s shoulder. Will it work? We’ll see come raceday.

MAK brought in its stock bottom-end 5.3-liter out of its shop car from back in Indiana for the build. With two bent rods in the engine, they chose to purchase a set of OEM rods and replace them for peace of mind, confident in the ability of the factory parts to get the job done. The engine was cleaned up, reassembled, and ready to drop in.

MAK's leaf spring setup with the QA1 MOD shocks.

MAK opted to keep the leaf spring setup in the truck. For an upgrade in strength and adjustability, they bought U-bolts and perches/sliders from Calvert Racing via Summit, along with QA1 high-travel springs. Topping it all off, their truck came with a set of QA1’s MOD shocks included (since they would not have the benefit of a full BMR rear suspension like the other teams) — these race-designed units have incredible double-adjustability, with a low-speed bleed feature, have modular valve packs that can be easily swapped to change compression and rebound characteristics, and a nitrogen-charged canister, all adding up to a big upgrade for this group.

In addition to the suspension components supplied by BMR, teams are also using BMR’s Driveshaft Safety Loop, made from 1/4-inch laser-cut CNC-formed plate steel, for added safety and NHRA-legal status. These are designed to use the OE mounting holes from the factory transmission crossmember in each of the four vehicles.

Beefing Up The Rears With Moser & Spicer

The teams have found suitably-sturdy options in the Ford 8.8 rearend housing, but those factory Ford axles aren’t really up to the task of managing 900-plus horsepower, and the last thing you want to see during a competition like this is a broken axle, or worse, a crashed racecar because of a failed axle. Moser Engineering has once again stepped in to supply the teams with its high-quality 1/5-inch diameter, 35-spline race axles, custom-tailored to the needs of each team. The axles come complete with ball bearing axle packages with 5/8-inch stud kits. To ensure safe operation, a C-clip eliminator kit has also been supplied to the teams, as well as Ford 8.8 pinion yokes.

Lastly, teams will be using Moser’s 35-spline spool designed for race applications to save weight and reduce deflection, and will tie it all together with Moser’s 356-T6 aluminum performance cover — these reduce ring gear deflection to increase the life of your gears, and weigh in at just six pounds.

Every team is using Spicer’s blue-coated U-joints, which feature a proprietary, highly-durable blue coating designed to stand up to the corrosive effects of the elements better than uncoated U-joints. While the cars may be rusty, the U-joints will most definitely not.

And to transmit the power from the driveshaft to the axles, teams will use Spicer’s SVL line of differential rings and pinions. These gears are forged from alloy steel for optimal hardness, cut with the utmost accuracy for a smooth ride, and heat-treated for extra wear resistance. The ring gear is mated to the pinion through gear lapping, which provides ideal meshing of the gearing.

Team Home Grown will run a 3.73 gear, M.A.K. a 4.10, Out In Front a 3.55, and Villain Squad a 4.10:1.

E3 Provides The Spark

The teams have been proved coils by E3 Spark Plugs — these coils are specially designed for high-performance racing applications and feature a durable housing and upgraded internals. The coil offers 15-percent higher voltage and 20-percent more energy than an OEM part, and is suited to supercharged, turbocharged, and nitrous applications.

They will also use plugs from E3, which feature its E3’s patented DiamondFIRE ground electrode. This electrode design is secured with two legs to the shell, allowing superior heat transfer and providing additional stability to the side wire in high-compression engines. E3 plug wires with high-temperature silicone boots will mate the coils to the plugs to deliver their spark into the cylinders.

PRW Flexplates & Water Pumps

The gang at PRW has supplied each of the teams with flexplates and water pumps for their rides — the former to ensure added safety for each of the cars. 

The Gold Series SFI-rated chrome-moly steel flexplate has 168-teeth and is internally balanced, and are engineered to take the punishment of high-horsepower engines. The 4mm thick centerplate provides a solid foundation for these new designs, and the ring gears are precision welded to meet SFI specifications.

The Performance Quotient High Flow aluminum water pumps, likewise intended for GM LS Gen III and IV engines, have double-welded front and rear impeller faceplates to minimize cavitation and maximize flow, and provide increased coolant flow, block pressure, and balanced delivery.

Sealing It Up With Victor Reinz

Victor Reinz has again hooked the teams up with its high quality gaskets to ensure a solid deal around their vital running gear. Its MLS (multi-layer steel) head gaskets are made from embossed stainless steel, and feature embossed beads and stoppers to increase the clamping force around critical locations for what it calls a macro-sealing.

It also supplied gaskets for the oil pans, water pumps, valve covers, headers, and intake manifolds for each of the team’s LS engines, featuring a silicone/rubber material for a quality and reliable seal. These gaskets feature multiple sealing beads, using a long-lasting molded rubber on a rigid core for easy installation.

Next week, we’ll catch up with the teams as they complete their engines and begin to wire and plumb their machines as we head into the homestretch.

Horsepower Wars Season 3 is made possible by its title sponsor Lucas Oil as well as ARPBMR Suspension, Comp Cams, Dyna-Batt, E3 Spark Plugs, Holley, Kooks Headers, Lucas Oil, MAHLE Motorsports, Moroso, Moser Engineering, NOS, PROFORM PartsPRW IndustriesQA1Ron Francis, Summit Racing, SpicerTotal Seal, Victor Reinz, Tuff Stuff Performance, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, B&M, Impact Race Products, and Weld Racing.

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About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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