$10K Drag Shootout 2 Episode 3: Building Begins

When we left off last week, the COMP Cams Dream Team was riding high after scoring a valuable victory in the Drag Race Trivia contest, but their celebration was to be short-lived. But we’ll get to that in a second.

The teams of the $10K Drag Shootout are back at it, and with their cars largely stripped of the factory parts, they are now in full-on fabrication mode as the members of each of the four squads tend to the chassis, suspension, and roll cage in their respective rides. The teams are well aware of the need to get the ride height as low as possible for proper weight transfer, and each car presents its own set of challenges — or lack thereof — in getting the rearend housing where it’s needed and making room in the wheel-wells for the Mickey Thompson 275 drag radials.

All four teams have independently chosen the Ford 8.8 rear, citing their wide availability and durability…nevermind that they’re a cheap option…which is key on a budget. Fortunately, they don’t have to rely entirely on the factory Ford parts with their rears to get them through the big race at No Mercy 10 in October.

Moser Engineering, one of drag racing’s leading manufacturers of driveline components, is providing each of the teams with custom, made-to-order axles, housing ends and its Performance Cover. Moser’s own Jeff Anderson visited the Horsepower Wars build facility and assisted each of the teams in procuring exact measurements for their needs. Those numbers were sent back to the Moser facility in Indiana and the axles and ends were machined and shipped out overnight so teams could quickly get their cars assembled. Talk about service!

Moser Engineering hooked the teams up with drag race axles, spool, housing end caps, and an aluminum rear cover for their Ford 8.8s.

Moser has supplied 8.8-inch housing ends for each team, sporting large 3.150-inch big-Ford bearing found in 9-inch housings. A set of 35-spline axles built with drag racing in mind were spec’ed for each car to ensure a reliable drivetrain that won’t result in any cars snapping or losing an axle and bowing out of competition early. The C-clip eliminators are added insurance and keep the cars NHRA-legal for their e.t. Moser also provided the teams with its Performance Covers for additional strength and rigidity to the factory 8.8 housing, and finally, included a 1350 series pinion yoke to shore up any compromises that could exist between the driveshaft and the pinion.

The Dream Team’s Jesse Adams using a fixture to center the new Moser end caps.

The new Moser axles being installed, which feature Moser's slick new anti-piracy logo cap.

The goodies didn’t end there: US Gear, which has its gears in drag-race vehicles far more powerful than those being assembled here at the $10K Drag Shootout, provided the teams with its Lightning series ring and pinion sets. While the tooth count varies by the team and its individual combination, each is using a 30-spline, standard rotation Lightning series gear.

The Lightning gears undergo what’s known as an Isotropic Superfinishing, a treatment that reaches friction and wear, increases durability, improves corrosion resistance, reduces vibration and noise, and a host of other benefits; nevermind, it give the gear a sleek, polished appearance.

The Lightning series ring and pinion from US Gear.

The Dream Team has chosen a 4.30 gear ratio to go with its turbocharged 5.3L LS combination. Enemies Everywhere, with a single turbo 6.0L LS, opted for a 4.10 gear in its 8.8. Both planned on Second gear starts with their Turbo 400. Team Midwest Mayhem is also LS-powered with a turbo, but because the team has opted for a 4.8L setup, it went to a 3.73 gear to get it out of the hole quick when using First gear in their Turbo 400. Team Bigun, meanwhile, is the outlier of the group, with its big-block nitrous combination — they’ve used 9-inch-style axles and a 3.90 gear to help kill a little torque off the line.

With rearend assembly and early engine prep underway, the teams have dove into the crop of products provided by Lucas Oil Products to assist them during the build and in applying top-grade lubrication where needed. Lucas supplied each team with its 10W-40 racing oil, semi-synthetic Automatic Transmission Fluid, Assembly Fluid, and L9 Racing Gear Oil.

As we touched on last week, safety is key for this competition, and if we left decisions on vital safety items to the teams — who are working to stretch their budgets as far as possible — they may be inclined to skimp on such items. The roll cages from Competition Engineering were provided to the teams for this reason, but Aerospace Components has also stepped in and given each of the teams a set of its drag race-specific front brake packages.

The Aerospace Components front drag brake kit provided to the teams, complete with Hawk Performance brake pads.

These Aerospace kits are four-piston heavy-duty brakes with billet aluminum calipers, a billet aluminum hub, and are available in 4-3/4 or 4-1/2-inch, five-lug patterns. They also feature 11.75-inch diameter, 0.813-inch thick drilled rotors, billet aluminum mounting brackets, and Grade 8 hardware. Not only do they stop well, but they look pretty slick, as well.

Hawk brake pads are included with the Aerospace brake kit. To shore up the rear brakes, Hawk Performance has also given the teams a set of rear pads (P/N HB580F.627) from its HPS line for the Explorer calipers. These are designed for safety, quality, and performance, with a special compound for advanced braking characteristics. They emit little dust, have high friction and torque, are gentle on rotors, and are virtually noise-free.

Hawk also provided the teams with pads for their rear brakes, so that stopping wouldn’t be of concern.

At this stage of the game, the teams are approaching the early part of their build in similar fashion. Midwest Mayhem put considerable focus on the chassis with its G-body Olds, getting the body lifted from the frame so they could work on notching the framerails to get tire clearance. At the same time, team leader Joe Hunt was toiling away on the 4.8-liter GM LS engine. Later, the body was dropped back onto the frame and work began on the roll cage.

Team Bigun burning up the phones with Summit Racing.

Enemies Everywhere is test-fitting its roll cage while working on some early engine-block machining. Team Bigun, which opted to mini-tub its Ford Granada wagon, is hard at work on cutting the factory wheel-wells out and fabricating the tubs, while engine builder Peter Harrell dives head-first into filling and prepping the Chevy big-block for machining. And the Dream Team — a bit behind at this point by most measures — is working to fabricate a subframe under its 2004 Ford Mustang for added strength and rigidity.

The teams are making a lot of great, early progress.

All the while, designated members of each squad are in the Horsepower Wars offices, burning up the Summit Racing Equipment online catalog for the parts and pieces they need to complete their rides. Summit has once again provided the teams $7,000 in gift cards and overnight shipping, allowing them to procure anything and everything they might need above and beyond the provided parts to assemble their budget builds.

Midwest Mayhem’s Joe Hunt working his magic on the team’s factory LS heads.

So where did things go wrong for the Dream Team, you might ask?

At the close of day two of the build, the teams were issued another challenge: a go-kart race, pitting four members of each team head-to-head in a relay race at a nearby track. Each member was to complete 25 laps apiece; after they complete their stint, the next driver would exit the pit and run 25 laps, until the first team tallied 100 laps.

With Jesse Adams at the controls for the opening stint, the Dream Team opened up a sizable margin over the other three teams early, with Midwest Mayhem in second and Bigun and Enemies Everywhere mired in third and fourth, a lap down to the leaders. That was, until the Dream Team’s Don Abenante violated house rules by slamming into the track barriers and later doing a donut in the middle of the course, to which the staff parked he and his team, earning them a disqualification in a challenge that they virtually had in the bag.

Team Midwest Mayhem (top left) drove to victory after the disqualification of the Dream Team at the hands of Dan Abenante (bottom right).

Tempers flared off-track as the Dream Team, well aware of the value each of these challenges presents, became embroiled in a civil war with Abenante.

Meanwhile, Midwest Mayhem, with a big lead over the other two challengers, cruised to victory. The prizes were, as the Dream Team knew, a big boost to the midwesterners efforts. The package from TCI Automotive included a TCI flexplate, a custom TCI torque converter built to the winning teams’ specifications, and a TCI Outlaw shifter.

The hardware from TCI for winning the go-kart challenge: an Outlaw shifter, a custom torque converter, and a new flexplate.

The runner-up, Team Bigun, earned a TCI Outlaw shifter, while Enemies Everywhere and the disqualified Dream Team simply got a free outing at the local go-kart track.

TCI’s Outlaw shifter is one of the most popular such items on the market, designed for use with GM Powerglide and most popular GM, Ford & Chrysler 3 and 4-speed transmissions. It features a park/neutral safety switch along with provisions for a reverse light system, with options for 3-speed reverse pattern and 4-speed forward pattern gate plates.

Next week, the teams will begin diving into their engine builds as tension and impatience build as squads get desperate for parts and the clock begins to wind down. Who’s ahead and who’s behind, and how will the disqualification of the Dream Team tonight affect their teamwork going forward? Tune in next week to find out!

A special thanks to all of the sponsors that help make the second season of $10K Drag Shootout possible, including  Summit RacingCOMP Cams, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & WheelsTCIK&N Filters, MAHLE MotorsportsDyna-BattWeld RacingCorsa PerformanceFragolaHolleyDiabloSport, NOSE3 Spark PlugsTotal SealMoser EngineeringBMR SuspensionMiller ElectricAerospace ComponentsVictor ReinzMorosoUS GearHawk PerformanceLucas OilPRW IndustriesWeld RacingVP RacingProCharger, and ARP.

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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