In the early days of organized Mustang drag racing, Don Walsh Jr. was there, racing alongside his father, Don Walsh Sr., chasing the dream of a drag racing championship. Fast forward a number of years to the heyday of the NMRA’s Pro 5.0 class, and there was Walsh, still in the thick of things, competing in his Skinny Kid Race Cars-built, Bennett Racing Engines-powered ProCharged Mustang. In fact, not only did Walsh and his team compete, they dominated the class for three consecutive championships. In addition to those championships, Walsh’s team also captured World Ford Challenge 6’s Pro 5.0 class – a huge win over some of the world’s greatest Ford racers.
His team also pioneered the use of the chain-driven ProCharger F-3R supercharger and are in fact the only team to be consistently successful with that setup. Because of his starting line consistency, the nickname “Mr .400” was thrust atop Walsh’s shoulders, and over the years Walsh Jr. earned the reputation for being a standout player whenever he showed up to race.
But he has been mostly out of racing over the last couple of years; once the NMRA dropped the Pro 5.0 class from its program, Walsh was essentially left with nowhere else to race. Walsh decided to bow out of Pro 5.0 when the car count was dwindling and the economy didn’t have a great outlook. Don decided his father-and-son businesses – D&D Performance and Walsh Motorsports – needed his focus through those difficult periods, so the car was just pushed into a corner. Then the Extreme 10.5-style classes started to take off, and Walsh’s home track in Milan, Michigan, created an 1/8th mile Run What You Brung class. The decision was easy for Walsh, Jr. to dust off the car, repair it, and make a few hits, which he did with success last season.
Now, however, it’s time for Walsh, Jr. and his team to take a quantum leap. Dragzine was able to scoop an interview with Walsh just hours after he made the decision to partner up with some of the top names in doorslammer drag racing today with a deal to drive a state-of-the-art Pro Mod in NHRA competition. Walsh’s longtime friendships with Harry Hruska of Precision Turbo and Engine and John Meaney of BigStuff3, and a new relationship with Brad Anderson and his team has led to this opportunity between the four to send Walsh down the quarter-mile next season behind the wheel of a 2011 Mustang built by Don Ness.
This stunning bit of news comes amid the knowledge that Walsh will be stepping away from the small-block supercharged Ford power he’s come to grow and love, and right into a Brad Anderson Hemi topped off with a pair of Precision Turbo’s latest and greatest Pro Mod turbochargers. Walsh is excited at the possibility of working with such an incredibly talented team of professionals and shared his thoughts with us.
Dragzine: Don, you left racing back in 2006 and really didn’t do much with it until you repaired the car just recently. Why the long layoff, and why the decision to come back now?
Don Walsh, Jr.: “With us in Pro 5.0, I felt like we had achieved everything that we could with the rules given to us each year, and it became a losing battle with what was done in the rules towards the end. The last year we raced Pro 5.0, we saw the rules as an uphill battle that we probably could not win, but with winning three championships I felt that it was wrong to not give it our best shot for one more year.”
We partnered up with Brad Anderson and Harry Hruska, and we’re going to run Brad’s 2011 Mustang alongside Jay Payne in a two-car team
DW, Jr.: “I’ve always said that if it made sense for us to get involved again that we would. This is the first opportunity that we’ve had where it makes sense. I feel like the team as a whole is a recipe for success, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”
“We partnered up with Brad Anderson and Harry Hruska, and we’re going to run Brad’s 2011 Mustang alongside Jay Payne in a two-car team. Jay is going to run the Camaro with a blown engine, and we’ll be running this twin-turbo car as the second half of the team. I’m sure we’ll be able to learn from both cars, and be able to use data from both cars. The car was finished last year and Jay tested it, but decided to focus on his car last year, so this car got parked. We’re bringing this car out this year with intent to run the full NHRA schedule.”
DZ: Do you think it will be a challenge for you going from a supercharged to a turbocharged car? The starting line process is very different, so do you expect any difficulty adjusting?
DW, Jr.: ” It will be different for sure, but we are working to make the package in the new car as consistent as we can on the starting line. I’ve driven other turbo cars in the past, one with an auto, one with a Liberty, so I don’t really have any concerns with getting up to speed.”
DZ: Have you been testing at all yet? When do you expect to debut the car?
DW, Jr.: ” I have not driven the car yet. We’re going to start our testing process in February wherever the weather is good. Right now the rules aren’t even out for the class yet, so we have a bunch of questions right now. The car is sitting in pieces waiting on the rules – as soon as we have those we can finish it up and get ready to go.”