THE FACTORY STOCK WARS X2
Suddenly it’s 1965 all Over Again
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WE OLD-TIMERS FONDLY REMEMBER THE FACTORY STOCK WARS THAT RAGED THROUGHOUT THE ’60S. Ramchargers’ Jim Thornton, Tasca Ford’s Billy Lawton, Cone Chevrolet’s Hayden Proffitt, Golden Commandos’ Al Eckstrand, Royal Pontiac’s Jim Wangers, Mickey Thompson/Butch Leal, the Dodge Boys’ Strickler and Jenkins and countless others established themselves as masters of the genre. Also, there were those incredible machines: 409 and 427 Z11 Chevys, 421 Super Duty Pontiacs, 426 Stage III wedge and
426 Hemi Plymouths and Dodges, 427 Ford Galaxies and Fairlanes, 455 Oldsmobiles, 455 Stage II Buicks, Chevelle and Camaro SS 396s and 427 COPOs.
Today, most of those cars are in the hands of private collectors, but a new breed of factory muscle car emerged in 2008, and NHRA was quick to jump on the bandwagon by presenting the School of Automotive Machinists and Technology, aka SAM TECH, with title sponsor Factory Stock Shootout Wars.
“This class has grown so quickly,” says Roy Hill, CEO of Sophia, North Carolina’s Roy Hill Drag Racing School. “With classes ranging from FS/O to FS/XX, it appeals to a youthful cross section of your average NHRA Mellow Yellow Drag Racing Series spectator, and I’m happy to say that we were on the ground floor to see it happen. The beauty of it is that a person can go down to the local Ford, Chevrolet or Dodge dealer and order a factory shootout car through their high performance parts programs and go to the races and be competitive right off the bat!”
SLAPPING IRON: MOPAR
Credit Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) Mopar Authentic Performance Parts program for introducing the first modern-day Factory Stocker. FCA Drag Pack Challenger prototypes were tested a full six months prior to their debut at the 2008 Mopar Mile High Nationals with Judy LillyGunson and “Big Daddy” Don Garlits driving. Since their introduction, the Drag Pack Dodge Challengers have not only made their mark in the Factory Stock Showdown, they have also distinguished themselves in NHRA Mello Yellow Stock and Super Stock classes as well, according to Dale Aldo, Mopar Motorsports marketing manager.
“FCA, which was formerly Chrysler Corporation, is very committed to the sportsman side of the
NHRA. Traditionally, we have supported Top Fuel and Funny Car classes—and still do—but we’ve recently enhanced our sponsorship programs to include the Mopar sportsman classes. In 2009, we officially launched our Drag Pack Dodge Challenger Program and were the first Factory Showdown car to go in the eights with a naturally aspirated car. We were the first people to win Stock Eliminator at Indy with a modern-era Drag
Pack Dodge Challenger, and now we are offering our first-ever supercharged Drag Pack package, a Whipplesupercharged iron block
354 Hemi, which driver
Jeff Turk debuted in FS/
XX at Gainesville. We are committed to provide the racers who support the NHRA Mello Yellow Factory Stock Shootout with equipment and technical support.
“We have a very strong contingency program, which includes FCA’s Drag Pack Rewards program for the Drag Pack racers—basically a points fund—and we allocate those funds at the end of the year based on how much participation was involved. Dodge also has a program that they refer to as
Dodge Top Eliminator. What they do is recognize the racer who has gone the farthest in Factory Stock, Stock and Super Stock driving an FCA product.”
At this writing, the quickest Mopar in FS/XX is Geoff Turk at 8.20-168.01.
The most dominant entry in NHRA’s 2017 Factory Stock
Wars appears to be Chevrolet Performance’s COPO Camaro.
“We are in our sixth year of production for the COPO Camaro and are having great success in NHRA Mello Yellow competition,” says Curt
Collins, manager of Chevrolet Performance, COPO and Performance Parts Licensing. “Last year, COPO won seven out of eight entered Stock Eliminator classes, as well as one of two entered Super Stock classes at last year’s Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals. In addition, COPOs won the overall Stock Eliminator championship for the second time in the last three years at the same race, and COPO was also the overall champion for Stock Eliminator. With respect to the Factory Stock Showdown, COPO won three of the four races in 2016, and with the additional [fifth] race added to the 2017 schedule, we are looking forward to another successful season.”
At this writing the quickest and fastest Chevrolet in the FS/XX class is David Barton at 8.101-169.00.
FORD COBRA JET
Since its debut in 2008, Ford has constantly refined and redefined its modern day 5.4L Eatonsupercharged Cobra Jet Mustang through ongoing performance. According to Ford Drag Racing Program Manager Mike Delahanty, “We really think the Cobra Jet reignited this whole Factory Stock revival in drag racing. In regard to the Factory Stock Showdown classes, we’re right there in terms of absolute
COPOs won the overall Stock Eliminator championship for the second time in the last three years at the same race, and COPO was also the overall champion for Stock Eliminator.
performance with the competition. The qualifying numbers between the Cobra Jet Mustangs and the COPO Camaros are head to head. The challenge right now, I believe, is getting the right balance between starting line launch [on DOT drag radials] and getting to the finish line first. With racing this close, it boils down to the driver and the tuner.”
At this writing, the quickest/fastest Ford in FS/XX is Chris Holbrook and his Cobra Jet Mustang, 8.109-168.32.
“Everyone is watching this new class,” says Hill. “These cars get the front wheels up in the air, generate a ton of excitement and, most importantly [they] identify with the fans. In my opinion, the Factory Stock Showdown cars are here to stay. They’re the up-and-coming class in the NHRA Mello Yellow Drag Racing Series.”
I still love building the old stuff. After all, it’s put us where we are today, but there’s no denying this modern technology is the wave of the future, and I want to be a part of it.
RISING FACTORY STOCK STAR DAVID BARTON
At this writing, David Barton is the current leader in NHRA Mello Yellow Factory Stock Showdown points driving Gary Wolkwitz’s
’15 and ’17 COPO Camaros. Barton, the son of Hemi King Ray Barton, won three out of four NHRA Mello Yellow Factory Stock drag races last year, and won the inaugural 2017 title at Gainesville, defeating Chuck Watson’s ’16 Cobra Jet Mustang in a classic Ford vs. Chevrolet battle. The 30-year-old engine builder was also runner-up at Charlotte.
“Competing in this class means everything to me. NHRA’s Factory Stock classes signify a whole new era in drag racing.
Our company [Ray Barton Racing Engines] was built up around drag racing and specifically around muscle cars, so it means a lot to us to do well, and when we do well, our customers do well. At the NHRA FourWide Nationals, one of our customers, Pete Gasko Jr., beat us in the finals, which proved that we offer the same engine services and components to our customers that we use on our own cars,” Barton said.
We couldn’t help but ask Barton if he was taking heat from his cronies about driving a Chevrolet after being reared in a Mopar household all of his life. “Yeah, I’m getting a little flak. I still love building the old stuff. After all, it’s put us where we are today, but there’s no denying this modern technology is the wave of the future, and I want to be a part of it.”
In light of a rumor that NHRA might possibly kill off Pro Stock, many racers, including twotime NHRA
Pro Stock World Champ Erica EndersStevens, are adding a second car and testing the Factory Stock Showdown waters.
For Mopar, Geoffrey Turk’s FS/XX Drag Pack Dodge Challenger routinely runs 8.20s at 168 and change.
At the Gainesville season opener, #2 qualifier (8.109-168.32) and top qualifying Ford was Chris Holbrook and his ’14 Cobra Jet.
Chuck Watson and his Mustang, fell to the Barton-Wolkwitz COPO in the finals of the Factory Stock Showdown season opener, hugely disappointing Ford fans.
Enders-Stevens’ teammate is sportsman standout Todd Patterson and his ’17 COPO Camaro.
At this writing, David Barton is leading the NHRA Mello Yellow Factory Stock Showdown points chase with his Gators, plus a runner-up at the Charlotte FourWide Nationals.
Barton does a little celebrating at Gainesville with car owner Wolkwitz, far right.
Powering Barton’s Gary Wolkwitz-owned ’15 COPO is a Ray Barton Racing Engines COPO SC 350 that routinely propels this car to 8.10.