Bad In Black: X275 Racer Rob Goss’s 2009 Dodge Challenger

At every level of drag racing, there is a certain degree of challenge and competition, and the more serious you get, the exponentially more difficult these become to reach or overcome. For Wyoming native Rob Goss, those battles have come from both internal and external forces as he’s endured the trials and tribulations of campaigning a one-of-a kind combination in one of the toughest eliminators the sport of drag racing has to offer.

Growing up, Rob was always tinkering with anything mechanical that he could take apart and re-assemble, eventually leading him to automobiles as he came of driving age. That fascination with anything with moving parts and wheels remains with him today as he bides him time in drag racing while also owning and operating his transportation company in Sheridan, Wyoming.

Rob’s endless need for speed gained steam in his teenage years with his 1976 Ford half-ton truck. Under the hood was a 428 cubic-inch mill that provided him with immense knowledge on how engines worked and how to make them faster. “When I had the truck running, I had a lot of fun racing around the area and tormenting our local law enforcement officers,” Rob says.

After high school, the car bug stayed with Goss and led to the first joint purchase with his soon-to-be wife: a 1998 5.0 Mustang. Eventually, the car was sold so his wife could have a vehicle that was better on gas for her daily commute to college. But Rob never lost his fire for going fast. It would only be a matter of time before he got back to a point in his life where he could have a fast car and go all-in with it.

Rob had his eyes on acquiring a new toy when Dodge released the Challenger in 2008, but he just wasn’t ready to pull the trigger on his new favorite car just yet.

“We had just purchased our company in January 2008 with my brother and his wife, so I wasn’t in a financial spot to be purchasing cars. All available money was put into making sure our business was able to keep the lights on, and with the recession hitting right when we bought that, it became a 24/7 task. I still kept dreaming about possibly being able to get one of the new Challengers someday,” Rob explains.

As he remained responsible and assisted his family in growing their business, some things happened that caused Rob to move forward on purchasing the Challenger and scratching that itch to go fast again.

“A couple of things happened in our family that finally drove me to say ‘Screw it. Life’s too short,’ and buy my first Challenger. One was the sudden passing of a family member and another getting very ill at an extremely young age. So with the blessing of my wife, I purchased a new 2010 SRT8 Challenger in the Spring of 2010. It even stayed stock for a month or so,” Rob says.

In short order, the Challenger gained an aftermarket supercharger, but that just wasn’t enough. During the winter, Rob spoke to Josh Schwartz at HPP and hatched a plan to crank up the power on his new Mopar. Schwartz introduced Rob to Bruce Maichle, who installed a 426 cubic-inch BES stroker motor, upgraded transmission, bigger supercharger, and new suspension.

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Rob took his upgraded Challenger to the track and started ripping off  10-second passes with the new upgrades. Making laps that quick was fun, but without a cage, the track officials requested he slow the car down. This wasn’t an option, nor was putting a roll cage in the car. “I couldn’t put a cage in the car. I hauled my kids around in it in the back seat, and no matter what people say, I don’t like cages in street cars. I wasn’t about to ruin my car,” Rob explains.

During the process of the 2010 Challenger build, Rob and Bruce became friends and had begun talking about whether or not the new Gen III Hemi could be a player in the heads-up racing world. Between not being able to race his street car and the challenge of making the Dodge platform competitive in small-tire racing, Rob’s path was clear and he began his search for a car to race.

Rob came across his new ride in September of 2012 when he discovered an ad on RacingJunk for a DragPak Challenger that was owned by fellow small-tire racer, Marty Robertson. A deal was struck and Rob had it shipped to Wyoming where he and Bruce took it racing. The Mopar ran in the low nine-second zone, which was satisfying enough at the time but not where he ultimately wanted to be performance-wise.

Rob was ready to jump into the world of heads-up racing — specifically the ultra-competitive X275 class– so some big changes needed to be made to the new Challenger. He decided to ship his Mopar off to X275 kingpin Ron Rhodes at Rhodes Custom Auto to have his shop make the car ready for radial tire warfare. BES was then contacted to build a new Gen III Hemi that could take on all the boost the ProCharger could throw at it.

The fall of 2013 rolled around, and Rob was ready to hit the track, or so he thought.

“Our first race was No Mercy 4, and we didn’t have a clue on what to do. We couldn’t even get the damn thing running good enough to do a burnout, much less race, but there we were, working all hours of the night trying. I think we showed up at the track with a crescent wrench and a screwdriver, borrowed everything we needed from one of Bruce’s friends, Frank Mewshaw, and left the race without so much as a timeslip,” Rob says of his first outing with the Challenger

So after his little adventure in Georgia, he went home to regroup and make some plans to figure the car out. Bruce was able to take the Challenger to an event at Cecil County Dragway and make enough progress with the car to head to the last NMCA race of the year. After overcoming a few obstacles at the NMCA event, Rob managed to score a 7.80 at 180 mph — the quickest and fastest pass ever by a Gen III Hemi-powered car at the time. Rob was happy to finally have the car running as intended, but he was now ready to take the Gen III Hemi platform to a whole new level.

Goss and Maichle discovered the ceiling for power the production Gen III Hemi block was designed to handle, and that was holding the team back on how hard they could push the car.

The first block I had was a Mopar Gen III aluminum block and we ended up breaking two of those. We made the switch to a stock cast block because what Mopar had done was cast the aluminum blocks in a steel mold, so the blocks weren’t very thick, and the quality of the aluminum wasn’t there. In the meantime, we started developing our own Gen III block that was a bit stronger, made of better material, and was solid without any water jackets. Those came out last year and we ran them 12 months and haven’t had any issues at all,” he shares.

The Gen III Performance block that Rob uses has been punched out to 406 cubic-inches by BES Racing Engines and features a Bryant crank, Ross pistons, and GRP connecting rods inside. The rest of the BES built Gen III Hemi engine is a closely guarded secret, but with this new engine, Rob has run in the 4.30’s in X275 trim several times, along with a trip down the quarter mile, stopping the clocks at 6.85 at over 203 mph.

The F1 ProCharger sends boost into the Hemi via a sheet metal intake and 125mm Marcella throttle body. Fuel is injected into the engine through a set of Billet Atomizer injectors via a MagnaFuel fuel pump. Nick Bruder helps with the tuning through the FuelTech ECU as the full MSD ignition system provides the spark to fire the big Hemi up. The final pieces of the driveline include a two-speed transmission from Performance Trans and a torque converter from Coan.

The Challenger’s suspension is constructed with some top-shelf parts. The Fab-9 rearend is a full floater unit from TRZ Motorsports that uses a Strange Engineering spool and axles. Brakes from The Brake Man help to slow the car down after each pass. TRZ also got the call for the front and rear control arms that use Santhuff’s struts in the front and Menscer Motorsports shocks in the rear.

Validating his hard work and financial investment, Rob’s new combination has proven itself in a big way: during Lights Out 8 at South Georgia Motorsports Park, Rob laid down a scorching 4.38-second pass at over 164 mph to qualify atop the strongest field of X275 cars in the country. More importantly, the engine was staying together, allowing Rob and his team to concentrate on on the job at hand.

Despite the class-leading numbers his Challenger has produced week in and week out, a win at one of the premier X275 events has continued to elude him. Rob has all the tools to lock in that win at the top of the X275 mountain — and will be all the more satisfying once it inevitably happens — but for him, this journey and all of the work has definitely been worth it. Being able to race and compete with the best provides its own reward.

“The competition is what is really great for me. I’ve participated in index and bracket racing out West, so the heads-up style of racing has been a welcome change where you have to be the fastest to be the best. I wasn’t sure what to expect being from Wyoming and racing with guys from the Midwest and East. I didn’t know who I would be racing with and the kind of people they were, but they’ve been great. All of the teams have great values, help each other, and are willing to give you whatever you need to keep racing, and I respect that.”

Originally, Rob built his Challenger to be the first to run in the seven-second range using the new Gen III Hemi, but someone beat him to the punch. Now, he just wants to stay competitive in the X275 shark tank and continue to get faster. He enjoys spending his time at the track and just making laps with the car now that he and Maichle have sorted out all the major issues they previously faced.

Don’t expect Rob to jump out of the X275 class anytime soon. He’s found his happy place in racing, for sure. “I don’t see myself jumping to Pro Mod or anything like that because I like the drag radial racing. I doubt I’ll go to Radial vs the World because they tear up so much stuff. We’re getting faster, and I think there will be more coming to X275 because it’s a fast class and they don’t want to struggle with the other classes out there,” Rob says.

Rob Goss jumped into the X275 class cage and has proven he belongs with the lions that compete there. Even after facing some difficult challenges learning the ropes of radial racing, Rob has found a way to win. And if the past is any indicator of the future, you can expect Rob to be a threat to park his Mopar in the winner’s circle anytime he enters a race.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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