Evolution Performance First To The 8s With Its 2020 GT500

Ever since Ford Motor Company brought back the GT500 platform in the late 2000s, Evolution Performance has been one of the leading shops to take the nameplate to its limits at the dragstrip, and became the first shop to break just about every elapsed time barrier in the process. The team at Evolution has done it again with their 2020 GT500, which was the first to the 9s back in January 2020.

Just over one year later (Feb. 12, 2021) Evolution’s test pilot, Dalton Winkler, wheeled the very same car to an astounding 8.97 elapsed time at 154.12 mph at Bradenton Motorsports Park in a private test session. Density altitude at the time measured 2,144 feet above sea level, which is a far cry from the typical scene at Bradenton, where it can measure in the low hundreds or even negatives. With track prep from Wade Rich, Winkler dropped the hammer and rocketed out the back door.

Photo Credit Kaylee Curran – KC Photography

We chatted with Evolution’s Fred Cook, project director, and he explained that the transmission controls built into the GT500’s 7-speed Tremec dual-clutch transmission continue to limit the car’s performance.

“We’re limited to 3,200 rpm on the launch right now because of the launch control parameters. Once we can launch it at 5,000 rpm, it’s going to fly,” said Cook. “The DA wasn’t great either. A year ago, it went 9.13 at 153 with the stock TCM; now that Jon Lund Jr. can make TCM adjustments, we’ve picked up some performance.”

But don’t think that this car is a track-only monster, as owner Nelson Whitlock drives it 60 miles round-trip to work every day.

The combination is deceptively simple, too. Kong Performance treated the stock supercharger to one of its FreakShow CNC port jobs and opened up the inlet with one of its 108mm throttle bodies to suck air in through the JLT Performance Super Big Cold Air Intake. As belt tension is critical when trying to make this much power, the drive system also has several upgraded components. SPE Motorsport’s supercharger pulley and adjustable auxiliary idler, VMP/ATI Racing’s overdrive harmonic damper, and Whipple Superchargers’ billet belt tensioner combine to keep the belt drive in harmony as the RPM rises. Whipple also delivered a new intercooler, intercooler water manifold, and auxiliary intercooler pump to help keep liquid temperatures in check.

Evolution Performance’s Steven Schechterly — the car’s builder — installed a C&R Racing PWR heat exchanger and SPE Motorsport 180-degree thermostat to complete the cooling system to keep inlet air temperatures in check, while owner Nelson Whitlock designed a custom ice tank for the fender. With the intake and cooling side of the equation figured out, he installed a set of Kooks 2-inch primary long-tube headers to pump exhaust out of the engine.  Then, Schechterly installed Injector Dynamics ID-1700-XDS fuel injectors, a Fore Innovations return fuel system, and Brisk Racing plugs to round out the engine upgrades. The whole package belts out 1,150 rear-wheel horsepower through the stock transmission.

Lastly, a BMR Suspension IRS subframe support system and Evolution Performance vertical links upgrade the rear suspension, while Wilwood front and rear brakes help stop the car while reducing unsprung weight. The GT500 — nicknamed “The Villain” for its menacing appearance — rides on a set of Bogart Racing 17-inch wheels and Mickey Thompson ET Street R tires in the rear.

Lund Jr. tunes the car, which runs on Sunoco Race Fuels E85R fuel, using HPTuners software, and Cook says the car drives like it’s stock. It performs anything but — we live in a fantastic time when a car like this can crack into the 8s without the shop ever cracking the head bolts.

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Jason Reiss

Jason draws on over 15 years of experience in the automotive publishing industry, and collaborates with many of the industry's movers and shakers to create compelling technical articles and high-quality race coverage.
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