$10K Drag Shootout 2: Inside The Dream Team Mustang

The COMP Cams Dream Team returned for the second season of the Horsepower Wars $10K Shootout with a fresh, new crop of talent, and while their end product is wholly their own, the team borrowed on the basic formula — a formula that nearly won the inaugural contest a year ago — to give itself a shot at the crown.

Dave Henninger is Director, Product Development for COMP Performance Group, led the contingent for 2019, as TCI Automotive’s Jeff Reed took on a consultant role after serving as last year’s team leader.

Henninger has an impressive resume as a powertrain manager for General Motors Racing along with his current role as Director of Product Development. The other finalists making the overall team created an extraordinary roster: the driver is champion drag radial racer Keith Berry, engine builder/driveline specialist Jim Styke, tuner/parts manager Jorge Ramos, and fabricator/tech specialist Don Abenante. Fabricator and technical specialist, Jesse Adams, who was part of the Dream Team a season ago, brought his invaluable experience back for an encore.

With the second Mustang platform in as many years, the team decided to also follow with a similar powerplant design: they went with a GM LS 5.3 engine core they confirmed was rebuilt with many usable components that saved them time and money.

“We decided we were going to use a 4-link on any car we got no matter what,” Henninger says. “And, we were all hoping to get the S10. I honestly think we won the Olympics; I think they made it a tie so that they could hold a runoff. They wanted to see who would take it to the next step.”

Since this was a hand-picked team and we weren’t already friends, we got together to make sure we all had the same thoughts. We had some three-hour-long conversations over the phone over what should we do and how should we do it. – Dave Henninger

The Car

Since the initial goal was to secure the Chevrolet S10, the team had a spreadsheet put together specifically for that build.

“When we got the second pick, we decided on the 2002 Mustang,” Henninger says. “We were looking at simplicity and the least amount of fabrication necessary.”

The Mustang came complete with a V6 installed, so that gave the team an entire car to dismantle compared to other car choices that were strictly rollers. “It set us back about four to five hours, and that’s not a big deal,” Henninger comments. “Since we got a complete car in hindsight, we should have saved every piece of that car for improvised fabrication, but we didn’t do that very well.”

For rear suspension movement, the tubular upper control arms were BMR Suspension components, and the lower control arms were from CX Racing. A Rhodes Race Cars 4340 chromoly anti-roll bar kit was added.

They were getting pieces out of their way and into the dumpsters as fast as they could get it apart. “By the time we realized it, we had thrown away quite a bit of usable material and component,” Henninger continues. “That was a mistake where we could have saved some money.”

The Powerplant

To reconstruct the short-block, they installed MAHLE dome pistons on top of Lunati Voodoo H-beam rods installed with a set of  Total Seal Maxseal piston rings. During disassembly, they learned the block they scored was recently rebuilt. They were able to retain the current rod and main bearings that measured to proper clearances to use on the original crankshaft. The short-block itself is treated to a quick pour of Quikrete cement secured from the local hardware store to fill the water passages to the water pump level.

A used Precision Turbo 80mm unit is the Dream Team’s choice for a power adder (88mm written on tape was team humor). It is combined with a Turbosmart race port blow-off valve and a Precision Turbo 40mm wastegate. A FAST boost control solenoid kit is mated to the Holley Multi-Point Fuel Injection ECU boost controller.

On the top end of the engine, the factory heads were inspected, and the decision was made to retain all the included valves, valve springs, locks, and retainers. The only modifications are copper cylinder head O-rings that the team installed, along with MOROSO Performance billet coil-mount valve covers.

Other engine build hardware included a COMP Cams custom grind camshaft created specifically for the turbo combination, along with COMP Cams pushrods.

Photo gallery


During final assembly, ARP fasteners were exclusively used. ARP Pro Series heads studs (#ARP 234-4344), main studs (#ARP234-5608), balancer bolt (#ARP234-2503), header bolts (#ARP534-9705), flexplate bolts (#ARP244-2901), and cam bolt kit (#ARP-244-2901). The team also utilized an ARP ring compressor specialty kit (#ARP899-8000) during the engine assembly process.

Keith Berry is a significant addition to the team, both for morale and also for his generosity.

“He didn’t take any money to travel,” Henninger says. “He doled that out to the other four guys. He helped quite a bit on the car even though he admitted that he’s not much of a mechanic. During the engine building process, he contributed significantly by washing parts or running for the ARP fasteners used.

The Dream Team utilized the Mustang factory K-member and upper/lower A-arms which were upgraded with a Energy Suspension polyurethane bushing kit. They ordered up a Summit coilover kit with twin-tube, single-adjustable struts from Strange Engineering on their Summit bucks.

To seal up the LS engine, Victor Reinz gaskets were chosen for the heads, oil pan, exhaust, water pump, and varied O-rings and exhaust seals. An ATI Performance harmonic damper is installed for safety purposes, along with a Summit Racing engine diaper (#SUM-590200).

PRW Industries supplied the 29-inch racing aluminum radiator, GM, LS Gen III IV black billet electric water pump, and 90-degree water pump outlet that will keep the turbocharged engine setup cool. A used CX racing overflow tank was found and purchased to save budget.

Power Adder, Induction, and Exhaust

“Jim Styke was great on engine building and also was a great help in fabricating,” Henninger shares. “This was another point where Berry shined as he helped grind tubing for the chassis and the turbo’s induction system.”

The entire turbo exhaust side was fabricated with Flowtech up and forward LS turbo headers and aluminized steel tubing sections (#SUM-670178), and mandrel bends (#SUM-623046) from Summit Racing.

The turbo’s charge makes it to the engine through a Summit Racing fabricated EFI intake manifold kit that also includes a 102mm throttle body and mated fuel rails.

The Mustang received a 10-point roll cage supplied by Competition Engineering. Various subframe connectors and chassis stiffening points were added from the extra roll cage tubing.

Chassis, Suspension, and Rolling Stock

Abenante helped out with some comic relief as well. “Don was fun to be with and goof around,” Henninger jokes. “He is young but is a good fabricator.”

Related to the interior, as part of their big order on their Summit Racing budget, they received a Summit brand poly highback seat (#SUM-G2100), racing harness belts (#SUM-510305), and roll bar padding (#SUM-590102).

“Ramos and Berry also dove into the chassis and suspension work by measuring the engine location,” Henninger adds. “Then Styke jumped in with Adams to fabricate the engine plates from raw aluminum stock so Adams could weld them together more quickly.”

Mickey Thompson Racing tires made up the rolling stock -- Mickey P275/60R15 ET Street Radial Pro tires put the power to the ground while 26.0/4.0-15 ET tires are on the front. They are mounted onto Vision Wheels American Muscle 571 Sport Star II black finished rims all around including 15x4 1/2-inch units on the front and 15x8-inch wheels on the rear.

For the front end, an Aerospace Components aluminum front brake kit is utilized by each team to get the cars stopped in a safe fashion. The original equipment Ford master cylinder was re-fitted with a Steeda manual brake adapter, while Hawk Performance Street HPS brake pads assist stopping by the original Ford disc brakes in the rear.

The steering system is comprised of the factory Mustang steering column and rack and pinion assembly, with a Grant Products steering wheel ordered from Summit Racing (#SUM-GRT-870).

The Mustang was treated to a vinyl wrap in the COMP Cams and Dream Team colors.

“The other teams thought the Dream Team was way behind, but we had our plan in place early,” Henninger explained. “Our rear differential was thought out, our front suspension and our engine install were on paper from the start.”

With the rear suspension, the original 8.8 Ford housing was set up with Moser Engineering axles, spool, and yoke, along with a US Gear 4:30 ratio Lightning Series ring and pinion.

The coilover springs are mounted to the rear end via a Rhodes Race Cars coil-over mounting kit and a Competition Engineering shock mount kit fabricated to the chassis. To tune the suspension movement, Summit Racing Pro pack shocks and springs kit (#SUM-15-0062) that consists of 130 lbs./inch rate springs are paired with Strange Engineering adjustable shocks.

The coilover springs are mounted to the rear end via a Rhodes Race Cars coil-over mounting kit and a Competition Engineering shock mount kit fabricated to the chassis.

Electrical, Electronics & Ignition

Speedwire Systems supplied all teams with an eight-relay electrical switch panel, relay controller, and complete race wiring kit. A MOROSO Performance battery box and on/off safety switch controlled the DynaBatt 12-volt racing battery. All instrumentation goes through a Racepak Data Systems dash routed through a Holley Performance Universal V8 Multi-Point ECU fuel injection system. The Holley Injection electronics also is combined with Bosch 160lb/hr injectors, and Victor Reinz fuel injector O-ring kits.

E3 Spark Plugs was on top of much of the ignition demands, with E3 brand LS-style ignition coils, 8.5mm spark plug wires, and E3 copper core racing spark plugs. These are controlled through the Holley Performance ECU system.


Behind the LS powerplant, a used Turbo 400 was located that included a mystery performance valve body and, with inspection, confirmed a recent rebuild. The team chose a new Super StreetFighter torque converter, Outlaw shifter, and racing flexplate, all from TCI Automotive. The team’s Summit Racing order included their brands of transmission safety blanket (#SUM-590300,) and transmission mount (#SUM-7731165).

Fuel System and Plumbing

To supply fuel, the team ordered a Holley Performance Dual 450 LPH pump module to fit within a Rhodes Race Cars aluminum fuel cell. A K&N brand 25-micron and 74-micron inline filter units are on the EFI recirculating fuel system. A Summit Racing (#SUM-220066) fuel pressure regulator controlled the fuel pressures that were fed to Summit (#SUM-227150) fuel rails.

Various Fragola Performance, Vibrant Performance, and Improved Racing Products hoses, hose ends and AN fittings were on the order sheet to Summit Racing. A Fuel Air Spark Technology MAP sensor fed info to the Holley ECU system.

Lubrication and Filters

The LS engine is filled with 10W-40 racing engine oil from Lucas Oil Products. A K&N Performance Filters Gold oil filter is relied upon, as well. The transmission received Lucas Oil semi-synthetic automatic transmission fluid, and the rear differential is filled with Lucas L9 racing gear oil.

The Dyno

Henninger and the team were pleased with their progress and knew they were on schedule, despite how it appeared.

“Though we looked like we were behind, it was because we weren’t rushing through anything,” Henninger says. “The way we executed our build was excellent, and it showed on Saturday when we ran our car on the chassis dyno.”

“The engine ran pretty much flawlessly. We knew exactly what we were going to do and we did it,” Henninger explained. “We made only one small change with the fuel system when we tuned on the dyno. Ultimately, that was the only change we made throughout our build plan.”

The Dream Team’s best dyno pull netted 854 horsepower.


In addition to time, the Dream Team was working to save money.

“I was trying to save $750, which afforded us the ignition harness and other small incidentals,” Henninger finishes. “We found money using a long list of returns. I ordered extra exhaust tubing and other raw materials, not knowing exactly how much I needed,” he says. “So we were able to return enough to find that necessary money for finishing touches.”

Overall, the Dream Team was pleased that its build was fairly straightforward. They focused on the established goals, and the dyno numbers gave the team members a sense of accomplishment going into the on-track competition. All that remains now is to see how things go for all teams on race day.

The Dream Team’s 2002 Mustang Car Specifications

Vehicle: 2002 Ford Mustang
Weight: 3,487 lbs
Electrical/wiring: Speedwire Systems – Custom 8-switch panel, 8-relay controller, wiring kit
Battery box: MOROSO Performance  – #74051
Battery: Dynabatt 12v by Performance Distributors – #5575A
Battery switch: Moroso Battery disconnect switch – #74101
Roll cage kit: Competition Engineering – #C3229
Roll bar padding: Summit Racing roll bar padding – #SUM-590102
Driveshaft loop: Competition Engineering – #C3029
Transmission crossmember: Competition Engineering steel tube – #SUM – C3600
Transmission mount: Summit Racing – #SUM – 7731165/
Seat: Summit Racing Poly Performance Seat – #SUM-G1100-1
Steering wheel: Grant Products 3-spoke – #GRT-870
Seat belts: Summit Racing – Race Harnesses – #SUM-510300
Gauges: Holley Performance – Racepak instruments
Electric parts: Push Button Trans-Brake/Nitrous/Launch Control – # SUM-890155
Plumbing: Fragola Performance Parts braided steel lines, -AN fittings
Fire system: SPA Technique

Engine block and heads:
Chevrolet 5.3L engine core. purchased used, rebuilt
Crankshaft, bearings, oil pan and oil pump:  used with engine
Pistons/compression ratio: Mahle pistons – #92P39A2
Rings: Total Seal piston ring package, 3.800 bore
Rods: Lunati – Voodoo H-beam, forged 4340 – #LUN-70361251-8
Harmonic balancer: ATI Performance damper

Cylinder heads: GM 5.3 with used engine
Camshaft: COMP Cams custom grind, race roller – #CCA-54-000-11
      Cam Specs: Duration at .050: 243/251; Lift: .581/.581; LSA 115
Lifters: used, with engine
Push Rods: COMP Cams Magnum 3/8-inch, 7.300-inch long – #SUM – CCA-7160-16
Gaskets: Victor Reinz, head gaskets, oil pan gaskets, exhaust gaskets, water pump and fuel pump gaskets
Rocker arms:  Unknown brand, with engine
Engine diaper: Summit Racing nylon diaper – #SUM-590200
Starter heat shield: Spectre Performance – #4370
Fasteners: ARP Bolts

Intake manifold, throttle body, fuel rails: Summit Racing intake manifold with 102mm throttle body, kit – #SUM-226120B-K
Fuel injection engine control unit: Holley HP universal V8 multi-point fuel injection – #SUM-550604
Fuel injectors: Bosch 160lb/hour injectors – purchased used
Air intake tubes: Spectre Performance tubes – #SPE-900102, #SPE-95990,  #SPE-9524, #SPE-9741, #SPE-9590 
Fuel pump: Holley Performance – 12-bolt flange dual 450 LPH pump – #HLY-12-147
Fuel filters: K&N Filters – 74 micron, 25 micron – #KNN-81-1002, #KNN-81-1003,
Fuel regulator: Summit Racing 4-port, 30-100 psi,  return style – #SUM-220059
Fuel cell: Rhodes Race Cars, aluminum custom series, 3-gallon – #RHC-18-0103
Ignition coils: E3
 racing ignition coils pack set – #E3-602
Ignition wires: E3 DiamondFIRE Heat-Sleeved Racing Ignition Wires – #E3-1401
Spark plugs: E3 racing spark plugs – #ETP-E3-101
Headers: Flowtech LS turbo headers, up and forward, 1 3/4-inch – #BIG-11535FLT
Exhaust tubing: Summit Racing mandrel L-bend, 90-degrees, 3-inch diameter – #SUM-670178
Exhaust v-band clamps: Summit Racing 3.5 inch – #SUM-694935

Power Adder
Turbocharger: Precision Turbo Ultimate 80mm turbo – used
Wastegate: Precision Turbo PTE mechanical, 40mm diameter – #PTU-pbo085-1505
Blow off/bypass: Turbosmart race port, adjustable – #TBS-ts-0204-1102
Boost controller solenoid kit: Fuel Air Spark Technology, 0-100 psi – #FST-301440

Engine oil: Lucas Racing high performance motor oil – #10911-1
Automatic transmission fluid: Lucas semi-synthetic sure shift – #10052-1
Rear end fluid: Lucas racing only gear oil – #LUC-10458
Engine oil: Lucas Racing high performance motor oil – #10911-1
Oil filter: K&N Performance Gold oil filter – #KNN-HP-1017

Radiator: PRW Industries racing radiator 19- x 29-inch – #PQX-5401926
Water pump: PRW Industries water pump motor and housing assembly – #PQX-4494495
water pump fitting: PRW Industries 3/4-inch NPT to AN-12 male fitting – #PQX-5292091
Radiator fitting: PRW Industries radiator fitting adapter fitting – #PQX-529241

Transmission: GM Turbo 400, used with performance valve body
Torque Converter: TCI Auto Super StreetFighter – #TCI-242122
Transmission Blanket: Summit Racing – #SUM-590300
Shifter: TCI Auto, Outlaw pistol grip – TCI-24212
Shifter mount: Team fabricated
Trans Brake Switch: Biondo Racing, Ultra-Quick switch – #SBR-TBB-DO
Flexplate: TCI Auto, 168 tooth, interanl balance – #TCI-399753
Rear end gear: U.S. Gear, Lightning Series, 3.90:1 ratio – #07-888430IFS
Rear end housing: Used Ford 8.8 housing w/factory rear brakes
Rear end cover: Spectre Performance steel, chrome
Axles, spool, axle bearings, rear end cover, drive studs: Moser 35-spline 8.8 Ford kit
Driveshaft: Summit Racing steel, 3.0 inch diameter, 1350/1350 U-joints – #SUM-730404

Front suspension: Stock K-member
Front A-arms: Factory with Energy Suspension bushings – #ENS-4-10104G
Front shocks and springs: Summit Racing coil over kit with Strange Engineering struts – #STR-S601
Front brakes: Aerospace Components – Aluminum front brake kit
Brake cylinder adapter: Steeda manual brake cylinder conversion – #SDA-555-6005
Rear shocks and springs: Summit Racing combo kit, QA1 springs, 130 lbs./inch – Strange, Engineering shocks – #SUM – 150062
Rear shock mount lower: Rhodes Race Cars Coil Over Mounting Kit – #SUM – 15-0003
Rear shock mount upper: Competition Engineering Shock Mount, Coilover Rear Kit – #SUM – C2047
Rear  control arms upper: BMR Suspension tubular – #BMR-UTCA014H
Rear  control arms lower: CX Racing, used
Rear control arm bearings: BMR Suspension, spherical bearings – #BMR-BK075
Anti-Roll Bar: Rhodes Race Cars kit – Summit order – #BMR-RHC-19-0002-24
Front brakes: Aerospace Components – Aluminum front brake kit
Rear Brakes: Stock Ford disc with Hawk Performance brake pads – #HB580F.627
Rack & pinion steering, steering column: Stock Ford
Steering wheel: Grant Challenger – #GRT-870

Front wheels: Vision Wheels, American Muscle 571 Sport Star black 15- x 4.5-inch – VSW-571-5165B0
Rear wheels: Vision Wheels, American Muscle 571 Sport Star black 15- x 8-inch – VSW-571-5465B-19
Front tires: Mickey Thompson 26.0/4.0-15 ET Front – #MTT-30071
Rear tires: Mickey Thompson P275/60R15 ET Street Radial Pro – #MTT-3754x
Tire Covers: Summit Racing, gray vinyl, suction cup – Summit order – #SUM – SUM-G1990-2


The $10K Drag Shootout: 2 is made possible with the support of a number of industry giants, including Summit RacingCOMP CamsMickey Thompson Performance Tires & WheelsTCIK&N Filters, MAHLE MotorsportsDyna-BattWeld RacingCorsa PerformanceFragolaHolleyDiabloSport, NOSE3 Spark PlugsTotal SealMoser EngineeringBMR SuspensionMiller ElectricAerospace ComponentsVictor ReinzMorosoUS GearHawk PerformanceLucas OilPRW IndustriesWeld RacingVP RacingProCharger, and ARP.

About the author

Todd Silvey

Todd has been a hardcore drag racing journalist since 1987. He is constantly on both sides of the guardwall from racing photography and editorship to drag racing cars of every shape and class.
Read My Articles

Drag Racing in your Inbox.

Build your own custom newsletter with the content you love from Dragzine, directly to your inbox, absolutely FREE!

Free WordPress Themes

We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Dragzine - Drag Racing Magazine

We'll send you the most interesting Dragzine articles, news, car features, and videos every week.

Dragzine - Drag Racing Magazine


We will safeguard your e-mail and only send content you request.

Dragzine - Drag Racing Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

Street Muscle Magazine
Hot Rods & Muscle Cars
Diesel Army
Diesel Army
Engine Labs
Engine Tech

Dragzine - Drag Racing Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Subscribe to more FREE Online Magazines!

We think you might like...

  • Streetmuscle Hot Rods & Muscle Cars
  • Diesel Army Diesel Army
  • Engine Labs Engine Tech

Dragzine - Drag Racing Magazine


Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.

Dragzine - Drag Racing Magazine

Thank you for your subscription.

Thank you for your subscription.