Sud­denly it’s 1965 all Over Again

Drag Racer - - Contents - Bob McClurg

Text and Pho­tos by

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!”


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.


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.

—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.”

At the Gainesville sea­son opener, #2 qual­i­fier (8.109-168.32) and top qual­i­fy­ing Ford was Chris Hol­brook and his ’14 Co­bra Jet. NMRA reg­u­lar, Chuck Wat­son and his Mus­tang, fell to the Bar­ton-Wolk­witz COPO in the fi­nals of the Fac­tory Stock Show­down...

En­ders-Stevens’ team­mate is sports­man stand­out Todd Pat­ter­son and his ’17 COPO Ca­maro.

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 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.

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