Turbos have effectively solidified their place in the Pro Mod world. It is no longer a power source of choice just for the Pro Mod young guns, as even purists and veterans have taken the leap and proven the staying capability — and winning potential — of boosted applications.
Carl Stevens Jr., owner of Xtreme Race Cars and Xtreme Racing Engines, has been on the forefront of turbo technology since he first got behind the wheel. His work over the last 16 years has earned him two Import championships with his twin turbo V6, alcohol-powered Nissan 350Z and numerous race wins for himself and clients. He also holds the current PDRA Pro Extreme speed record, a number that has stood for over a year now at 230.01 mph.
Stevens, Jr. (left) partnered with Texan Marty Robertson to tune his screw-blown ’68 Barracuda at No Mercy 7 in South Georgia last fall.
Stevens’ passion for racing isn’t just another success story. It’s also a redemption story of sorts. Carl Stevens, Sr. was the first in the family to start a love affair with hot rods. When his daughter came along, he put his helmet aside to allow more room in the family for her hobbies. When Jr. was old enough, however, the eldest Stevens made sure to introduce him to all things cars, taking him to car shows and races. As soon as Jr. had a license, he bought a tig welder and fabricated all of his own parts to turbocharge his first car, a BMW M3. He soon began racing and this time it was Sr. who was brought along for the ride. Now the namesakes work and travel the country together tuning engines and chassis.
Carl, Jr. (left) and Sr. (center) with veteran small-tire racer and Pro Mod newcomer Terry Barkley.
“He’s my best friend,” Stevens said of his father. “I pretty much run the day to day stuff [at the shop]. Dad is involved in putting engines together, building cars, pretty much as involved as you could be. All the tuning deals we have, my dad and another employee here go with me. My dad does most all the suspension on these cars, which allows me to concentrate on engine tuning. And I take one of my engine builders here from the shop; he’s able to maintain and work on the engine, which works out good. It takes other variables out. When we take care of all those aspects we can deliver results, no questions asked.”
Despite his young age — Stevens is just 32 — he’s already built respectable businesses with clients worldwide and is widely-sought for his turbocharger expertise. He started the businesses in 2005, but focused solely on Al-Anabi cars from 2008 to 2013. Under the Al-Anabi banner, Todd Tutterow took an Xtreme Race Cars machine to the first three-second run by a legal 10.5 car. Although Stevens parted ways with Al-Anabi since, the Middle East drag racing powerhouse still fields a few cars built by Xtreme Race Cars.
Barkley made his Pro Mod debut behind the wheel of the speed record-holding Camaro formerly owned and driven by Stevens, Jr. at the Street Car Super Nationals in St. Louis last August.
Over the last three years, Stevens has developed a wide range of clients across Pro Mod and radial applications through his Xtreme businesses, and things keep growing. This year he is adding a 5,000 horsepower wheel dyno from Mainline Dyno for further research and development.
We’re looking for the ET record. We’re happy to have the mile an hour record, but we’d really like to have the ET record to go with it. – Carl Stevens, Jr.
It was in 2013 that he put together the Camaro that set the Pro Extreme record. “We’re pretty happy the record still holds to this day,” said the New Jersey native. “We’d like to re-write it ourselves, rather than have somebody else take it and have to get it back. We’re looking for the ET record. We’re happy to have the mile an hour record, but we’d really like to have the ET record to go with it.”
Stevens sold the record-setting Camaro to Terry Barkley, but quickly decided he’d have to get back behind the wheel again at some point. “When I sold my car, I considered stepping away from driving and focusing solely on tuning. I was out of the car for maybe two months and I was like, ‘Man what am I thinking? I really need to be back behind the wheel.’ It’s like a bad addiction, ya know? I can’t give up that part of it. At least not yet. I don’t need to make a full schedule, but at least every now and then it’s nice to be behind the wheel.”
Besides being a “bad addiction”, Stevens acknowledges that driving a car similar to many of his clients also gives him a “sixth sense” when tuning. He hopes to have his new Camaro out mid-season, ready to return to PDRA Pro Extreme competition. As for the Camaro sold to Terry Barkley, things went south quickly.
“We switched it from Pro Extreme setup to Pro Boost,” Stevens said of the Camaro. “We had run better than both ends of the [Pro Boost] record at the time. We were testing for the PDRA the next weekend when the wreck happened. It was pretty unfortunate. We were hoping to take both ends of that record. We only had about six passes on that car from the time he bought it until the time he crashed it.”
In the second of two difficult outings for the Stevenses last season, Robertson found himself in a precarious situation at No Mercy 7 that resulted in his beautiful Barracuda losing an engine and striking the wall, ending his weekend and his season early.
Xtreme Race Cars endured another tough run last year when new customer Marty Robertson crashed at No Mercy 7 in South Georgia. Fortunately, that car can be repaired. And now Barkley’s new car is almost complete. Both hope to run at Lights Out.
“We have a few cars coming out this year, one for Rob Sphar. Bill Lutz is going to drive it. We’re just finishing up an engine to put in Jim Bell’s car for NHRA, and fabricating the turbo system. We built him a new 526 inch Hemi. We just recently finished installing an EFI system in Todd Moyer’s car. We’ll be tuning that car in PDRA. Rick Hord’s car is here [at the shop] now also, putting an EFI system in, which is another one I’ll tune over at PDRA.”
After teaming up with Xtreme Race Cars/Engines in late 2016, Hord quickly began setting the pace for turbocharged Pro Boost competition.
“We’re really looking forward to PDRA Pro Boost because we’ll have three or four customers running there this year,” Stevens added. “Our focus is to get our customers ET and mile an hour records and hopefully a championship in Pro Boost. NHRA is a new endeavor for us, so we’re really looking for big things over there, as well. We’ll be at pretty much every NHRA and PDRA race and a couple of these other outlaw races helping our clients.”
Just a few of the many winter projects underway at Xtreme Racing Engines and Xtreme Race Cars under the watchful eye of Carl Stevens, Jr.
Besides the travel and hands-on tuning, Stevens does a fair amount of remote tuning. “I have several clients that are overseas so it’s just not feasible to fly back and forth. I’ve also done it for some clients here in the states and we’ve had really good success. I think when the car gets worked out to a point where it’s not a brand new car and you’ve got a good setup down, you can remote tune pretty well. But it’s always nicer to be there and be able to see it and have that aspect to factor in when you’re tuning it.
Father and son survey the damage to Terry Barkley’s Camaro after a high-speed accident in St. Louis. Carl, Jr. had shattered the 1/8-mile PDRA Pro Extreme record in the very same car with a clocking of 231 mph in 2015.
I think it’s a huge advantage when someone uses a company that can help them on all aspects of the race car. – Carl Stevens, Jr.
“I basically tune for all the customers we have now. When we first started racing, [tuning for our clients] was how we managed to get by. We had to learn that part of it ourselves. I think it’s a huge advantage when someone uses a company that can help them on all aspects of the race car. It’s hard on people to have a chassis guy, a suspension guy, an engine guy and then a tuner. And then trying to get them all to collaborate together to make the car work is a hard deal. We run the car, tune the car, from front to back.”
This year holds a lot of promise for Xtreme Race Cars and Xtreme Racing Engines — jumping into the high-profile world of NHRA, increasing presence at radial and outlaw events, and a serious opportunity to make waves in PDRA. One of the things Stevens is most looking forward to, however, is his new engine combination.
“We have a whole new engine combination that we’ll debut in our car and in Terry Barkley’s car,” continued Stevens, alluding to the two car team for Barkley and himself. They’ll be behind the wheel of identical 2017 Camaros this year. “It’s a 4.9 bore space Hemi. We’re trying to take the whole engine platform we have to the next level. We’re really excited to go run that deal. Terry took the leap of faith with us and jumped in with the new engine platform feet first. We suspect a lot more of our customers will be switching to it once we get it on the track. We’re hoping for big things.”