After more than a decade of refining his 2011 Ford Mustang, longtime racer and business owner Ryan Hargett is searching for his first 6-second, street-legal pass – and he’s already come close to doing the deed as he clicked off an impressive 7.170 at 196.08 mph trip during 2023’s Drag Week tour.
Introduced to drag racing by his father, Dennis Hargett, Hargett has been around the sport ever since he was born. In 1992, when he was 16 years old, he started running at local tracks around his hometown of Evansville, Indiana.
Over the years, Hargett honed his skills and expanded his repertoire, garnering 30 years of experience wheeling everything from bracket cars to Pro Modified monsters. “I’ve raced street cars all the way up to an 800 cubic inch, nitrous oxide-assisted Pro Mod with a clutch pedal and a Lenco transmission,” shared the NMCA Pro Street national event winner who also finished in the top 10 for NMCA season points on multiple occasions.
Together with his wife, Tammy, who has been next to his car for every pass he’s made down the dragstrip since he was 16 years old, Hargett took over his father’s Hargett Automotive Machine business in 2012. He expanded operations and rebranded to Hargett Automotive & Performance, then began offering everything from general auto repair and oil changes to chassis fabrication, custom engine builds, dyno tuning, and more.
One year before beginning the business, though, Hargett had purchased a new, Kona Blue 2011 Ford Mustang with the ultimate intention of turning it into a dedicated drag-and-drive brute. With only 5,000 miles logged on the odometer, the build began in 2016 and only took one short year until the car was ready to start earning its keep in 2017.
The chassis work, done by Tin Soldier Race Cars, yielded a potent finished product: a 25.3 SFI-certified S197 ready to rip on both the street and the strip while providing a safe, solid platform for its pilot. After the cage was finished, Hargett returned the roller to Hargett Automotive & Performance to begin installing the drivetrain.
Ford’s famous Coyote engine was selected as the starting point for what was to be an even better version of the factory’s flagship powerplant. Although Hargett built the 302 cubic inch engine himself, the platform was first prepped with expert machine work by TKM Performance.
“It’s a stock Ford Predator block that’s been sleeved and uses a stock Ford Predator crankshaft, R&R aluminum connecting rods, Diamond Pistons, and Comp cams,” noted Hargett in regards to the 11.5:1 compression ratio Coyote’s specs. He also buffeted the bottom end’s lifespan by installing a custom Boundary oil pump. “My favorite part is that it’s not an LS engine!” he exclaims.
Hargett used factory 2012 Ford Boss cylinder heads equipped with stock-size Manley valves, stock Ford rocker arms, and Manley springs and retainers, atop each bank of cylinders.
“Everything was built in-house. We built the turbo kit at Hargett Automotive & Performance and incorporated a set of HPT 78/80 turbochargers. We also did all of the wiring and plumbing,” Hargett proudly added of the work that he and his HAP team completed. “Thanks to Brent Sinclair, Kaden Sinclair, and all our great employees for their help and hard work!” he says.
With a dual fuel system needed to maximize the turbocharged Coyote’s potential and keep the car running smoothly as it transitions from tarmac to track, Hargett carefully crafted two separate arrangements.
For street driving, the factory fuel tank is called to action with triple Fore Innovations fuel pumps. However, after the Holley Dominator EFI system detects 5 pounds of boost pressure, it automatically switches the S197 over to run on a VP Racing methanol-based system using an Aeromotive mechanical fuel pump, regular, and filter all of which feeds a set of AFIS 800 pound-per-hour fuel injectors.
Once the power portion of his project was squared away, Hargett addressed the rest of the drivetrain. “We’re using a Turbo 400 from RPM Transmissions, Neal Chance bolt-together converter, M&M Transmission shifter, and a Precision Shaft Technologies carbon-fiber driveshaft,” he states.
The rearend also received a substantial dose of modification as a Strange Engineering 9-inch rearend housing was fitted with an aluminum strange differential and paired with Strange 40-spline, gun-drilled axles. Although the rear stock suspension was left unchanged, it was fortified with a set of control arms from Racecraft, Inc. and the front received AFCO front struts, and a BMR Suspension K-member and control arms.
Similarly, Hargett opted to keep as much of his Mustang intact as possible, so the factory steel body panels were all left untouched save for the trunk lid. The factory floor pans are also still in place, and light touches throughout the cockpit such as Kirkey race seats and two Holley dashes, both 12-inch and 7-inch help Hargett keep focused on the job at hand when he’s hustling down the dragstrip.
Given that his ultimate goal with his 2011 Mustang was to push it solidly into the 6-second zone, Hargett knew that being able to stop safely – so that he could stick around for his wife and his daughter, Brooke – was perhaps the most important part of the entire build. The car runs on used truck tires for street driving. “For the track, I’m using 17-inch Weld wheels on the front with Mickey Thompson tires and 15×11-inch Weld wheels on the rears with 28-inch Mickeys.”
Serving as his own tuner, Hargett has successfully competed in multiple drag-and-drive events with his Kona Blue, twin turbo, Coyote-powered Mustang over the year. In 2017, at his first-ever drag-and-drive event, Hargett nabbed a second-place finish in the Drag Week Super Street Small Block Power Adder category.
He earned a win at the 2022 Summit Racing Midwest Drags in Super Street while running both the second-quickest pass and the fastest speed of the overall event, and is currently ranked ninth of the nation’s top 100 quickest drag-and-drive cars, despite being on small tires.
In 2023, Hargett once again set the standard for drag-and-drive performance at the Summit Racing Midwest Drags. When his usual class, Super Street Small Block Power Adder, was combined with other similar categories, Hargett didn’t fret – instead, he ran in the Unlimited category.
“We had the second-quickest average overall, 7.46 at 190 mph, across eight passes at three tracks and just missed the top spot by just 0.03 seconds,” says the racer. Hargett wound up winning the Unlimited class and scored $2,000 in cash, all while setting a new personal best of 7.36 seconds in the quarter mile. “We achieved the top speed of the entire event at 194 mph, too!”
Most recently, Harget eclipsed his prior performance when he participated in the Drag Week battle of attrition around the Southeast in late September of 2023. Dropping the hammer on five runs, each in the low 7-second zone, Hargett’s quickest and fastest was 7.170 at 196.08 mph pass. The new milestone was one of the top 10 quickest drag-and-drive blasts of the entire season and helped Hargett accumulate an overall average elapsed time of 7.291 seconds and an average speed of 192.98 mph.
Ultimately, Hargett finished a half-a-second ahead of the second quickest competitor and won Drag Week’s Small Block – Power Adder category by a big margin. Incredibly, he did it all on radials and closed out the grueling week – which included nearly 1,000 miles and 21-plus hours of drive time.
“We secured awards for having the quickest Ford-powered car of the event and the quickest car with a sealed engine,” adds Hargett. His Mustang, which weighs in around 3,500 pounds, is actually quicker than his NMCA Pro Street entry from two decades prior. “We finished overall in fourth place in a field of approximately 300 formidable competitors,” he says.
Hargett set his sights on tackling the Southeast Street-N-Yeet in early November to chase the Drag-N-Drive World Champion presented by Summit Racing title for 2023. “Win or lose, we will know we gave it everything we had,” he shared before the event. Hargett actually ran two classes, Unlimited Yeet and Tiny Tire 235, coming away the runner-up in the former and winner in the latter. It was, however, not enough to top Bryant Goldstone for the Drag-N-Drive World Champion title, as he finished a close second.
Hargett’s drag-and-drive domination is the perfect example of what is possible with a well-thought-out build, a talented team, and a dose of determination. “I still want to average in the 6-second zone at 200 mph at Drag Week,” declares the man who will undoubtedly make that dream a reality in the near term with his 2011 Ford Mustang that’s all business no matter where it’s rolling.