NHRA Stock Eliminator class racing is a game of motorized chess and you need to have a good strategy if you’re going to win. The class a racer chooses (from a selection of more than 100) to run plays a big role in how they will attack the chessboard, and the vehicle they use is how they execute their strategy. Bruce Kastle’s weapon of choice is a 1971 Mercury Cougar XR7 that he campaigns in H/SA trim.
Kastle had been racing a 1972 Ford Torino for years before his son took over the driving duties, but that didn’t mean he was ready to hang up his helmet. After a quick internet search, Kastle found the Cougar and it was located pretty close to his home.
“I actually found this car on eBay one day when looking for a Cougar to race. The older gentleman that owned it had lots of projects and was looking to downsize what he had. He was also less than 100 miles away from me, so I got to look at it before I bid on the car. The car had just been painted by a local community college, and it was a California car so it was rust-free. I brought it home and built it how I wanted to go class racing. It took about two years to finish and it’s a lot of fun to race,” Kastle explains.
The original plan was for The Torino and the Cougar to use the same 429 cubic-inch Cleveland engine, but running in E/SA was pretty hard. Kastle looked at the rulebook and decided to change the engine that would live under the hood of Cougar and move to H/SA, because it’s all about getting into the right class in Stock. A 351 cubic-inch Cleveland-based engine was built by Kastle for the move to H/SA. The engine package has been very consistent and typically runs in the mid-11-second range.
Kastle has enjoyed building his Cougar since it gives him the opportunity to use his mechanical mind and hands at the same time.
“For me, I’m a retired Lincoln/Mercury technician and amateur machinist, so Stock Eliminator racing really lets me work on all kinds of fun things. I do just about all the work on this car myself. It’s something I really enjoy, and I like to just tinker with cars. It’s fun to try different things when racing these cars and to see an experiment show results on the track,” Kastle states.
Next time you’re at an NHRA event take the time to walk through the sportsman pits and see what’s there. You never know when you’ll stumble across a really unique racing machine like Bruce Kastle’s XR7.