If you’re building a car there’s a good chance you have a plan and certain intentions for the project — that’s how you achieve the outcome you desire. Often those plans will take a slight turn one way or the other, but then there are times when projects take a very sharp turn into unplanned territory. Tracy Grooms didn’t plan on building his 1969 Dodge Dart into a racecar, it just kind of happened.
To get the full picture of how Tracy got into drag racing, we need to rewind things a bit and start with his childhood. Tracy’s brother worked at a gas station when he was growing up and was always bringing home cars for them to work on. These were cars he purchased for next to nothing, and since they were so cheap it wasn’t a big deal for them to do anything they wanted to the vehicles.
“We would modify everything he brought home to go faster. Some of our friends raced sprint cars so we would take their old heads, cams, and other parts so we could make our own cars faster. We’d build the engine and have a nice little hot rod. We just took other people’s stuff and figured out how to make it go fast,” Tracy says.
Tracy would go on to purchase his own muscle cars and build them to his specifications at various points during his adult life. Eventually, he had to push his love for high-performance to the side so he could raise his family and build his Washington-based trucking empire. While he did all of this, Tracy dreamed of starting another project car and enjoy it someday.
After years of waiting, the time was right and Tracy was able to start another build, so he began his search for the project car he dreamed of. Tracy wanted to build a Pro Street style car that he could drive around and take to shows. One day, Tracy was scanning through a copy of Autotrader and found a 1969 Dodge Dart that grabbed his attention. After checking the car out, Tracy purchased the Dart for a mere $8,500 and brought it home. The car wasn’t in terrible shape — it was primer gray and had a 400 cubic-inch Mopar mill under the hood, and it was the perfect starting point for what he wanted to do.
Tracy had a plan for the Dart, and it was time to get to work. The first order of business was to get the chassis squared away, so it headed to Ron Pircey Racing.
“I purchased an Art Morrison chassis and took it to Ron so he could get things going. He asked me what ride height I wanted — I told him I wanted it at 6-inches in the front and 7-inches in the back. He thought I wanted to build a 4×4 since he was used to building racecars. He mounted the body to the chassis for me and I took a look at the car, that’s when I realized it needed more work. I had Ron do all of the tin work to get the car ready for me to bring it home,” Tracy explains.
With the chassis work done, Tracy shipped the Dart off to Warrens Restoration to get all of the bodywork, paint, and interior finished up. When the car was ready, Tracy picked it up and began driving it all over to different car shows.
Drag racing wasn’t on Tracy’s to-do list with the Dart, but an invitation to hit up the local track with some friends was the catalyst that changed that in a big way.
“I went to the racetrack one day with the car and this 18-year-old kid named Joey Keening beat me in a Duster. Getting beat by that kid just lit my competitive fire and pushed me to really get into drag racing more to go faster. It pissed me off when he beat me, so I had to figure out how to go faster,” Tracy cays.
And just like that, a horsepower arms race of epic proportions began. Tracy found out where Joey had his engine built and immediately made a trip to that shop to have a new mill built for the Dart. After talking with Ed Trihey about the build, Tracy commissioned him to build a monster-sized Mopar engine so he could defeat his new rival. Trihey delivered, and Tracy was able to claim victory the next time he faced off against Joey. The stage was now set for a 10-year war between Tracy and Joey where they would try to outdo each other on the track with bigger engines.
The current Trihey-built bullet that Tracy has chambered under the hood of the Dart measures 572 cubic-inches and uses a World Products aluminum block as its base. Inside the mean Mopar engine is a Callies crankshaft, Callies connecting rods, and a set of Ross pistons. A Melling oil pump and Milodon oil pan keep the engine lubricated.
On top of the wedge-style engine, you’ll find a 14:71 Littlefield supercharger providing plenty of boost and rowdy blower surge. A 727 TorqueFlite transmission and Coan torque converter are tasked with applying all the horsepower.
A very trick fuel system pumps plenty of alcohol into the engine. The injection system on top of the supercharger is fed fuel from a staging fuel cell at the front of the car. In the back, a 25-gallon fuel cell holds the majority of the fuel and uses a fuel pump from Quick Fuel to move all the alcohol forward to the staging cell. All of the fuel is ignited by an MSD Pro Billet distributor and 7AL ignition box.
The Dart still sits on the Art Morrison chassis that Ron Pircey installed over 20 years ago. The chassis has a 4-link suspension in the rear with coil-over shocks and a Ford 9-inch rear end. Up front, the Art Morrison coil-over suspension is still in place, along with a rack and pinion steering setup that’s controlled by an IDIDIT steering column. Wilwood brakes are used at each corner to bring the Dart to a stop on the street or strip.
With all the offseason changes he’s making to the car, Tracy estimates the engine will make at least 1,800 horsepower; with that kind of power, he believes the Dart should be a solid 7.60s car when turned all the way up. That’s with the Dodge weighing 3,250-pounds, thanks to the retainment of all of the OEM steel parts.
Tracy will be the first one to tell you that his friendly 10-year rivalry with Joey has been a lot of fun. It has allowed him to expand on his original plans for the Dart while still driving it on the street when he can.
“My goal is the same now as it was when I first took this car to the track — I want to go faster each pass that I make. Taking this car to the track is an absolute blast. Thanks to the Art Morrison chassis the car just drives like a dream and never does anything super crazy. My favorite part about making a pass is the launch. You can’t beat that feeling of acceleration as the car just pins you into the seat and moves out,” Tracy states.
The sensations that drag racing provides Tracy are great and keep him coming back to the track, but there’s more to it than that. Tracy has made so many new friends racing, including Joey and his father, which he still races with to this day. Some people get together with their friends to take golfing trips or go hunting, Tracy and his friends take trips together so they can go racing.
“I really enjoy spending time at the track with this great group of friends that I have. We all travel together from the same area just hang out for the weekend whenever we go racing. Going to events like the Street Car Super Nationals is a real treat for us since we just get to leave all our worries at home and do nothing but race for almost a week,” Tracy explains.
Tracy never considered drag racing as something he would do with his Dart, he wanted a fun show-car he could drive. After that one trip to the track, Tracy changed his plans for the car and wouldn’t know what to do without having racing in his life. His story shows us that drag racing is one of the best ways to bring people together so they can all share the common goal of enjoying their cars, and going as fast as possible to beat the guy in the other lane.