Outlaw 8.5 – One Quick Leaf Spring Nova
Craig Watson of “2 Quick Nova’s” Racing is amongst a growing number of racers pursuing the small tire wars in a unique and upcoming class called Outlaw 8.5. Like other Outlaw series, the 8.5 refers to tire size and in this class an extremely small tire measuring just 26 x 8.5”. Originating in Kentucky as a low budget solution for racing, the class has grown from mild to wild in competitive ingenuity surprising both fans and fellow racers alike. Watson’s 1973 Nova appears at first look to be an average street driven car sporting a valid license plate. It has a stock front suspension, leaf springs, Caltracs, factory 10 bolt rear, and 90% of its original street equipment. This car however is tells quite another story on the race track. When the light turns green this unsuspecting Nova stands all original 3200 lbs on the bumper and disappears down the strip in a hurry.
So what makes this car different? According to Watson, it’s all about perseverance and determination. “I get a ton of fans begging to know how I get the Nova down the track so quickly on a tiny tire and stock suspension. I just tell them years of learning and tuning. There’s no magic, just hard work. Fans come to the pits looking everywhere for some trick part but there is none.” While the predominate car of choice for this class has been the Mustang, Watson said “The most interesting thing about my car is that it’s not a Mustang. It’s a stock suspension leaf spring car. My learning curve has been tuning the chassis. Not many choose to go with a leaf spring set up but I refuse to cut the car up for ladder bars. So I have had to make what I have work in order to compete.” So far Watson has run a best time of 5.43 @ 127 mph in 1/8th mile competition. The Nova is powered by a 434 cubic inch small block Chevy with a single plate of nitrous backed by a Bradco converter and powerglide transmission.
Watson got into 8.5 tire racing when it was in its infancy at Ohio Valley Dragway in Louisville. He said “We didn’t have the killer Hoosier tire back then when it all started. We really had to work to put the power down in the beginning”. Several tire manufacturers have jumped on board with the rise of interest and participation in the 8.5 class. Hoosier was first to come on board making a huge impact in traction advantage. Watson said “Without the Hoosier tire the cars would not be nearly as fast.” More recently Good Year Racing has entered the tire wars with a new 8.5 tire to compete with Hoosier.
Watson has spent 20 years working on his 73 Nova as a self taught racer and builder. “My Nova is my high school car, so I have a long history with it. I taught myself to work on all aspects of the car while transforming it from a bone-stock granny mobile into a stout street cruiser, then into a strong street/strip bruiser, and finally a dedicated heads-up race car. The Nova is a member of the family to me. It’s been around since my 17th birthday. Lots of blood, sweat, and tears have been spent on the car over the years. I taught myself to build engines, rear ends, transmissions, do minor paint and body work, tune the nitrous, and practical wiring. I have had some help and learned a good bit over the years from friends like Chris Uratchko, Nathan Stinson, John Heard of Dragstuff.com, Marv Davis, and Roger Copeland.”
Watson currently races London Dragway’s Outlaw 8.5 class and Lake Cumberland Dragway’s Outlaw Street series. Both are located in southern Kentucky. He has one runner-up and currently sits second in points in 8.5 this season. This year his goals are to win at least one race at each track, finish 2nd or better in the points in Outlaw 8.5, and run 5.39 or quicker. Next year he has set his sights on another Championship. Watson is the 2008 Outlaw 8.5 Champion of the Bounty Race Series at the I-40 Dragway in Crossville, Tennessee winning five of seven events.
Amazingly, Watson has spent most of his time in racing as a one man crew. “I get help from friends when they can take time away from their families and responsibilities. Otherwise, it’s just me. My pit crew when available consists of my wife Angella, son Timothy, and friends; Patrick Higginbotham, Kenny Smith, Dale Smith and Billy Miller. I currently get support from VP Racing Fuels, Bradco Converters, Carnivore Performance Products and Street Rod Designs.” Watson is seeking sponsorship opportunities. He plans to build a new car so he can restore his Championship 73 Nova to its original condition. Fans can learn more about Watson’s wheel standing small tire Nova and follow his personal racing blog at http://www.2quicknovas.com