When it comes to naturally-aspirated performance in the heads-up drag racing world, there are only a few classes that fans can turn to in order to satiate their desires. One of those classes is the Edelbrock Hot Street class in the NMRA – one that has seen its racers turn in incredible performances over the years. The choice to take a small-block Ford engine and wring it to within an inch of its life has been called crazy by many, but the racers who populate this class can be called other names, like innovative, dedicated, and smart. To take an engine that in its factory form put down shy of 300 horsepower at the crankshaft in many cases and turn it into a near-1000 horsepower, fuel-gobbling, air-sucking monster is a task that is not for the faint-of-heart, and Rick Riccardi III falls right into that category.
Riccardi’s 1980 Mercury Capri has been a regular player in the field for the last several seasons, but he’s been missing in action for a while. Dragzine recently had a chance to catch up with him, and he was happy to share some details of what appears to be a full-car revamp over the last year. Riccardi explained, “Everybody is asking where we’ve been, what we’ve been doing, and when are we coming back. The answers to those questions are – we’ve been working our butts off here in Jersey, changing everything that can be changed, and hell yeah we are coming back!”
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what Riccardi means by changing everything that can be changed.
According to him, he enlisted longtime crew chief Dennis Varga to buy into the program, and Varga is now co-owner of the vicious Capri. In addition, he’s added girlfriend Jenni Smurple VanHeest to the crew to help with all of the detail-oriented tasks a Hot Streeter requires. “Dennis is in charge of everything thing while I’m strapped in the seat, and Jenni is great to have with us because she fits in perfectly and helps with the things that Dennis needs,” he explained.
Now with the people in place to be successful, Riccardi moved on to the details about what’s changed in the car itself. “Bob Oster of B&B Performance Machine and Dave Jack of Dave Jack Cylinder Heads are my engine builders and they decided to officially retire the combo we have been using for the last decade. They have been working on a new combo for the Capri and refuse to quit until it does what they want it to do.” Said combination consists of a 399 cubic-inch Windsor topped off with a set of Edelbrock 7709 Victor cylinder heads ported by Jack himself. Riccardi raves about the thorough preparation Oster and Jack put into the engine combination. “There has not been one thing on this motor that hasn’t been looked at more than a hundred times to make sure that there isn’t just a little more that can be done to it. It’s been very hard for me to sit out again and just watch while everyone else is out tearing up the track but I know in the end there is a reason why, and we’re finally ready to come back,” he says.
Rossler freshened up the transmission and applied a few new tricks, while his Neal Chance bolt-together torque converter was matched to the engine’s capabilities. Even though the chassis was completely re-done just three seasons ago, chassis wizard Marc Poldino and the crew at Hell Bent Race Cars worked the Capri over to make room for a set of 29-inch tall slicks.
Riccardi also installed a brand-new Edelbrock Qwik Data logger system, and was impressed with the technical support the legendary Edelbrock team provided. He explained, “The new system is awesome – they didn’t hold anything back on it. They even went as far as giving Dennis and myself one-0n-one training with the system. How do you beat that kind of service?”
Riccardi has a new carburetor atop the mill from Dale Cubic’s CFM Carburetors, which he says Cubic spent months tweaking to get it just right for the insane fuel demands a Hot Street machine requires. He’s also very thankful for the assistance given to him by fellow racer and multi-time class champion Charlie Booze, Jr. That assistance ends when the tree drops, however. “Charlie has gone above and beyond what any other fellow racer has ever done to help us with our program, but we both know that when we meet at the starting line, it’s all business until we pass the stripe,” says Riccardi.
A lot of hard work and planning is finally starting to come together for the seasoned veteran of the class. The team has already had the engine on the dyno and been very satisfied with the results, and all indications are that they’re planning a season-ending spoiler-party in the rolling hills of Bowling Green, Kentucky at the NMRA World Finals.