Some people grow up around cool cars and it sticks with them for life. Others grow out of them when life gets in the way. For Jason Wagoner, maturing simply meant choosing a different style of performance machine. With more than three decades of drag racing experience, he decided that continuing with racing called for the streetability afforded by a more modern Mustang.
It gives you a rush of adrenaline and feels amazing when it launches, packing the front wheels briefly… — Jason Wagoner
“I started racing my 1989 Mustang LX at the drag strip. It only had bolt-on parts and ran mid-12s. In 1996, I went to the Spring Break Shootout with a nitrous kit and it ran low-11s,” Wagoner says. “By the year 2000, we were running Renegade with a Lentech AOD and a Vortech getting the car into the 9.90s. This was a lot to accomplish back then. In today’s time, technology has shown our old efforts are not as fast as the new Mustangs.”
After growing up in a racing family that spent plenty of time at the drag strip, it was only natural that Wagoner would learn to love automotive competition, particularly the straight-line variety. Likewise, a fateful new addition to the family driveway cemented an appreciation for the original pony car.
“My parents bought a new Mustang in 1965. That car was a 289, three-speed with a Pony interior. It came with a traveler canoe, which I still have to this day. I fell in love with that car,” Wagoner reflects. “Later in my life, I wanted to start a Mustang shop. So, I invested in a shop because there was not one locally in Southern Indiana. We needed a shop for parts, knowledge, and good labor. I learned a great deal when I owned the shop, helped my friends make their Mustangs faster, and made several new friends on the racing circuit.”
Of course, even for the most dedicated speed freaks, the demands of everyday life can alter their automotive course. Eventually, Wagoner shelved his trusty Fox Body Mustang, which had become an unruly, turbocharged racer. He transitioned away to business interests and another form of motorsport, but eventually, the siren’s song of the 1,320 lured him back to drag racing.
Wagoner Returns To Racing
“As competition in Renegade got extremely competitive, I did not have the time to keep up with it. I also did not want to gut my genuinely nice 1993 Cobra to get to that level of competition in Renegade. I was focusing on my home-remodeling business. Plus, I got into diesel truck pulls for a couple of years,” Wagoner says. “The diesel truck pulling grew to be more than I wanted to invest in regard to money and time. I missed the drag strip and went back to racing. I decided to go back to my passion, True Street, with the idea of it being a less stressful and fun class. I am looking forward to the 2022 race season and making history with my GT500.”
We get a lot of looks going through our small town with the parachute on the back! — Jason Wagoner
As you see here, that GT500 is a 2013 example of the S197 Shelby sprayed in fetching Deep Impact Blue. It features a succinct, but effective package of upgrades highlighted by a VMP Performance Gen 2 TVS supercharger, which helps elevate engine output to 1,200 horsepower and 1,000 lb-ft of torque. This combo pushed the 4,090-pound S197 to a best elapsed time of 8.55 at 162 mph, but Wagoner hopes to drop that time down into the 8.20-second range.
“The 2013 GT500 suits this class well because it is still a street car with full interior, air conditioning, and an original dash with the stereo still working,” Wagoner said. “You can drive it anywhere with plenty of comforts, plenty of horsepower, and completes the 30-mile cruise each time.”
That cruise is but one aspect of the grueling NMRA True Street class, which tests the durability, streetability, and performance of street/strip machines. Upon surviving the cruise, these vehicles are allowed a brief respite before enduring three back-to-back quarter-mile passes without opening the hood. This environment is well suited to the velvet hammer that is the Trinity-powered Shelby.
True Street is a challenge that is alluring for many, and a stepping stone to heads-up classes for others. Wagoner climbed up and down that ladder but decided to return to his roots with the souped-up Shelby. With a BES-built 5.8-liter engine boosted by the aforementioned VMP supercharger, Wagoner’s GT500 features a select group of suspension mods from AFCO, Santuff, Strange Engineering, and UPR Products, which help it plant its 1,000 lb-ft of torque.
“It gives you a rush of adrenaline and feels amazing when it launches, briefly picking up the front wheels,” Wagoner says of the modded GT500. “It sails straight down the track and is exceptionally smooth for the entire quarter-mile.”
In addition to True Street competition, Wagoner plans to put his Shelby to the test in a new limited index class that is designed to attract fast street cars, but doesn’t require the torture test of cruising and multiple runs.
“This year with the GT500 we are interested in the new SunCoast Performance 8.60 Street Race class. We are going to try it in Bradenton, as this will be the opening race,” Wagoner says. “We will see how that goes as well as True Street. Long-term plans with the car are to keep driving it and enjoying it even into retirement.”
No matter what class he races in, make no mistake that this GT500 retains its street credibility. Having sold the acquisition to his wife as it being a “retirement car” that wouldn’t give up its streetability, the couple still enjoys driving this 8-second ride.
“We do enjoy driving the GT500 on the street. It turns several heads and gets many thumbs up!” Wagoner says. “We drive it to car shows, out to dinner, and family gatherings. We get a lot of looks going through our small town with the parachute on the back!”