2007 Shelby GT500 - Survival Of The Fastest - Hot Rod Drag Week
Hot Rod's Street/Strip Mega-Trip Puts Man And Mustang To The Ultimate Test
From the June, 2009 issue of 5.0 Mustang & Super Fords
By KJ Jones
Photography by KJ Jones
There's definitely a ton of...
There's definitely a ton of cool in having a 9-second '07 Shelby GT500 with a Performance Automatic Super Comp AODE transmission (just like the PA trans/Precision converter combo in our T-top coupe) that can pull a trailer down the highway at 70 mph/2,800 rpm in Overdrive. (We know the federal towing speed is 55 mph, but when you need to make time ...) With cooling help from a huge front-mounted oil cooler, the transmission ran at a stable 150 degrees for hours each day, and the transbrake launched and shifted consistently during the dragstrip passes.
We're sure many of you agree that stout performance (i.e., lots of horsepower) probably ranks as Numero Uno on most 'Stangbangers' lists of Top 5-or maybe even Top 3-must-have qualities for street/strip Ponies. Of course, when it comes to putting Mustangs on the dragstrip, "the quicker (a 'Stang covers the quarter-mile), the better" tends to be a unanimous sentiment among the really hard-core members of the 'Stang Nation. And with this being the case, we're seeing more and more "street" Mustangs packing upward of 700 strip-ready, back-tire horsepower nowadays, clicking off 9-second e.t.'s with little effort.
As evidenced by the large number of 'Stangs that turn out for the NMRA's True Street class at nearly every event on the tour, 'Stangbangers dig creating and owning real-world Ponies that fly, but don't need a trailer to be carried to-and-fro or a parts-laden support car following closely behind it, just in case. In True Street, the Mustangs must have valid registration and insurance, the drivers must have valid licenses, and both must complete a lengthy street-cruise, then survive three, back-to-back dragstrip passes-without opening hoods, changing tires, or making any adjustments whatsoever.
Our first introduction to Hot Rod magazine's Drag Week came in 2004 when the magazine's editors announced their concept of a street-driving/drag-racing endurance contest for high-powered vehicles that, in our opinion, would be the most-difficult test of street/strip cars that anyone had ever experienced. Naturally we wanted in on this type of challenge, as we thought that it smacked of being a perfect opportunity to show the world what an ultimate street/strip Mustang is all about. And with that idea motivating us, we went about building our T-top '86 notchback in an effort to meet the challenge head on.
The heart and soul of Paul...
The heart and soul of Paul Svinicki's Drag Week Shelby is this Ford Racing Performance Parts aluminum, 5.4-liter, TVS-supercharged, 605hp Aluminator engine, featuring a shot of Zex nitrous oxide for good measure. "We wanted to take out Ford's baddest, fastest road car on this deal, that's why I chose a Shelby and made just a few little changes to make it stone-dead reliable," says Paul. "Since Ford Racing now offers the complete install package (plug-and-play wiring harness) for updating Shelby GT500s and any other 'Stangs with Aluminator engines like the one we're using, and with the Aluminator being 38 pounds lighter than the stock engine, the Aluminator swap somewhat helps compensate for the additional weight we're carrying with the loaded trailer," (about 1,500-2,000 pounds).
Drag Week is a test that centers on driving your car to and from five different dragstrips over the course of five days, racing the car at each track. Now, before you go saying, "where's the challenge in that," you need to understand that Drag Week covers nearly 1,083 miles (not including the quarter-mile track blasts ... and however many driving-while-lost miles are amassed during the tour) of rural roads, towns, small highways, and major freeways, and participants are strictly prohibited from towing their cars from track-to-track. Also understand that Drag Week contestants can't have friends following closely behind carrying parts, tools, or other items that are needed for making it through the week, and oftentimes, drivers are jockeying cars with 1,500-plus ponies to the event.
A car competing in Drag Week-be it a Mustang or some other ride-has to be built right in order to successfully complete the test; and its driver (and passenger, for that matter) has to have not only the physical stamina to make it through five grueling days and nights of driving, navigating, loading and unloading racing equipment (from the trunk or a tag-along trailer, which are permitted), racing for a low e.t., and maintaining an e.t. average, but he also has to have the rock-solid mental state to keep pushing when things aren't going well, or especially when his exhausted body is screaming halt. Keeping an even keel during Drag Week really is critical to going the distance.
We had high hopes and great intentions of taking our T-top coupe out on the inaugural Drag Week tour in 2005, but unfortunately, we didn't complete the build in time to make it happen. As a consolation for missing the event with our own 'Stang, Associate Editor Mike Johnson rode along with Justin Burcham that first year, and Uncle Robin Lawrence documented the trip in his spanking-new '05 the following year.
Paul's '07 Shelby GT500 is...
Paul's '07 Shelby GT500 is a mid-10-second Swiss clock on pump gas. However, add a 100-shot of Zex nitrous oxide and 118-octane Rockett brand race fuel, and the Drag Week 'Stang quickly becomes a 9-second street/strip player (16 psi of boost from the blower). The 9-second run (9.983 at 137.06 mph) was nailed down on Drag Week's final day, when the tour returned to its starting point at Beech Bend Raceway. Ambient temperature was more than 100 late-September degrees with 36 percent humidity, and density altitude was nearly 3,700 feet. When you take all of the variables into account-especially the mileage, all-out passes, the weight of the car in race trim (4,100 pounds) and the trailer (almost 6,000 pounds)-the Drag Week Shelby GT500 definitely is a badass street/strip ride.
While we still haven't had our own entry in Drag Week, we once again had an opportunity to get a firsthand look at what the event is all about, this time by your tech editor intercepting the tour in progress to ride with (and race vicariously through) Paul and Ronda Svinicki of Paul's High Performance and former NMRA Factory Stock racer Jeff Schmell. I traveled with Drag Week from Montgomery Motorsports Park in Montgomery, Alabama, to the last two stops at Memphis Motorsports Park in Tennessee and Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky. Paul and Jeff took on the street/strip journey with a pair of Shelby GT500s, finishing First and Second in Drag Week's Small-Block with Power Adder class.
While I didn't keep a minute-by-minute diary of my life on the road with Drag Week, the following photos and captions relate the experience, and give you a little more insight on how Paul ruled the road and the track with his awesome Shelby. Drag Week definitely is a great event to experience if you have the time, the money (Paul got it done on approximately $1,847.56 in total expenses), the heart, and the car. A badass leather jacket and gifts from the event's sponsors are the only prize for the winner of each class (runner-ups are awarded plaques), but none of those items come close to the feeling of pride and satisfaction that comes from surviving Drag Week.
On The Road
The road was long for everyone. We heard war stories of participants actually driving a solo competitor's on-the-ragged-edge "street" car for a few hours overnight, just so the exhausted driver could sleep without falling hopelessly behind. Running at night in cooler temps was one of the tactics used by drivers with cars that had no chance of making it in daytime heat. A few cars bowed out due to breakage.
Tag-along trailers loaded...
Tag-along trailers loaded with tools, generators, compressors, tires, transmissions, spare parts, and more are permitted for any of the cars participating in Drag Week. Be prepared for everything is an appropriate motto for this type of endurance challenge, as both the road and the dragstrip are good at claiming mechanical victims without any warning. This is a look at some of the items inside Paul's enclosed carrier, which usually is used to tote Harleys to and fro.
Our biggest mechanical problem came with Jeff Schmell's 'Stang, which had an out-of-balance driveshaft that rattled incessantly for the entire trip, but never broke (Jeff still made Runner-Up in the Small-Block with Power Adder class). For me, the road also was a lot of fun. I joined Paul and Ronda Svinicki and Jeff midway through Drag Week, and alternated riding in the second seats of Paul's '07 Shelby GT500 and Jeff's '08 model from Wednesday to Saturday.
Drag Week's cruise tour is no joke and as real-world as it gets, just like the stuff we all experience each day. The roads aren't always good, bad drivers are everywhere (good brakes are a must for Drag Week cars), and the show doesn't stop because the weather isn't to our liking.
The 2008 event started on September 8 at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and meandered more than 1,080 miles to Alabama International Dragway (Steele, Alabama), Montgomery Motorsports Park (Montgomery, Alabama), Memphis Motorsports Park (Memphis, Tennessee), and then back to Bowling Green for the finals on September 13.
I definitely enjoyed the ride and seeing a part of the country that I really hadn't experienced despite all of the trips I've made in the last four years.
On The Dragstrip
At each track, Drag Week racers are allowed to make as many passes as they need to record a low e.t. Our operation was smooth and efficient, as Paul and Ronda quickly established a good routine for getting unloaded, set up, and ready to race. We usually were finished and back on the road by noon after nailing the number in two or three passes.
Mustangs Of Drag Week
There are 11 different classes in Drag Week which are largely populated with Brand X rides: Unlimited, Pro Street Naturally Aspirated, Pro Street with Power Adder, Modified Naturally Aspirated, Modified with Power Adder, Small-Block Naturally Aspirated, Small-Block with Power Adder, Big-Block Naturally Aspirated, Big-Block with Power Adder, Diesel, and Daily Driver.
The late-model Mustang contingent (five 'Stangs total) held things down in the Small-Block with Power Adder and Daily Driver classes. We'd love to see the numbers grow, so consider bringing your street/strip Pony out to Drag Week in 2009. We're still on a strong mission to have a 'Stang of our own in the field at some point.
See More At 50mustangandsuperfords.com
A Moser bolt-in, 9-inch rearend...
A Moser bolt-in, 9-inch rearend with 4.71 gears; complete TRZ rear suspension; BMR lightweight K-member; and core-support delete had Paul's Pony transferring weight and directing the Aluminator's 589 rwhp and 609 lb-ft of torque toward Mickey Thompson 28x10.5-15 slicks. On the 9-second pass, the 'Stang clicked off a 1.460 60-foot time, which is leaving hard for a heavyweight street machine.
The Shelby's trailer hitch...
The Shelby's trailer hitch started as a unit made for V-6 S197s. By the time the crew at Paul's High Performance finished with it, the hitch was a one-off exclusive for Shelby GT500s.
Riding for hours in Paul's...
Riding for hours in Paul's hopped-up Shelby was not as uncomfortable as one would think, thanks to the Tokiko adjustable shocks and struts installed at each corner and Nitto 18-inch Extreme Drag Radials on the rear. The GT500 still has OEM 14-inch Brembo brakes and all the stock interior pieces, including Shelby's plush seats, were reinstalled around the Skinny Kid Race Cars, certified rollcage, including the factory seatbelts. Paul had the presence of mind to have Skinny make the door bars removable for easier entry and exit when the car is in street mode. Cabin noise is also minimal thanks to the Bassani Touring mufflers that Paul installed (with long-tube headers and 3-inch, X-shaped crossover) before leaving for Drag Week. Driving 300 or 400 miles per day (our biggest one-day run was almost 600 miles) in any car will make the body ache after a while, but the cockpit of Paul's Shelby certainly wasn't as bad as the tight confines of the drag-seated, drag-suspended, more-race-configured entries we saw on the tour.
Southern hospitality was high...
Southern hospitality was high at each dragstrip on the Drag Week circuit.
Parts deliveries were made...
Parts deliveries were made almost every day during Drag Week, as the miles of cruising, and dashes for low e.t.'s took their toll on several participants' cars.
Jeff Schmell drove his '08...
Jeff Schmell drove his '08 Shelby from Michigan and finished Second in the Small-Block with Power Adder category. Jeff's GT500 is loaded with many of the bolt-ons we've covered in various tech articles (pulley, SCT tune, CAI, and more) and it clicked off steady 11-teens on drag radials.
The stop at Memphis Motorsports...
The stop at Memphis Motorsports Park was your tech editor's first time returning to the facility after 16 years. In 1992, I drove my '84 Mustang GT from New York to Memphis to witness and be a part of Hot Rod's inaugural Fastest Street Car Shootout, an event recognized as the race that started the heads-up, doorslammer, power-adder drag-racing movement.