$10K Drags 2: Inside Midwest Mayhem’s Junkyard Dog

If there is a team that closely matches the ideals of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout, it is Midwest Mayhem. These guys, with a background in grassroots no-time and street racing, have a proven history of getting the most out of the least when it comes to building ultra-fast race cars on a budget. They have dominated the true street and no-prep racing categories throughout the center of America.

The team is comprised of Joe Hunt as the team leader along with Joey Hiykel, Chad Fegley, Brad Vasko, and Josh Walton. No description is necessary for each of their specialized skills as all have a broad background in all aspects of building fast cars.

The Car

Given the choice of cars available for this second season, Team Double-M originally had their eyes on the 2004 Mustang for its distinct chassis advantages. They inevitably scored the 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass that they affectionately named “the Junkyard Dog.”

“It was an everybody effort — everywhere as far as the overall build,” Hunt describes. “Chad took the lead on the chassis build. Everything else focusing around the drivetrain was completely a good team effort by everyone else.”

The two foremost fabrication specialists are Brad Vasko and Chad Fegley. Chad knows the G-body chassis extremely well and scoring the '79 Cutlass made them forget very quickly about their desire for the Mustang during the car selection competition.

The Powerplant

It’s worth taking an in-depth look into Midwest Mayhem’s powerplant, because it is one of the most unique setups used during these first two seasons of the $10K Drag Shootout.

The majority of teams have opted for the General Motors 5.3-liter engine base as their powerplant of choice. To this point, the GM 5.3 engine has powered four of the eight entries over these two seasons. The big-block Chevy was the starting point for another three teams. There is now one addition, as the Midwest Mayhem team has chosen to go into battle with a unique GM 4.8-liter combination.

“All of our team members have broad experience with the LS engine platform,” Hunt said. “When considering the new Horsepower Wars turbo sizing based on the 2019 $10K Drag Shootout rulebook, we knew we were going to be limited to a single 80mm cast turbo or a twin 58mm setup. We started to put our combination on paper and decided to give the nod to the 4.8 small cubic-inch engine in order to stretch that turbo a little bit further and keep the pressure in check.”

Joe Hunt Hunt explained their belief in the 4.8 as such a strong factory engine. The team has lots of experience tuning and pushing them to their limit while still using many original engine internal components. This is the first 4.8L combination to compete in the 10K Drag Shootout.

“We have maxed-out 94mm turbos before on a 4.8 engine, so we weren’t concerned about hurting the engine if we build it right,” Hunt continues. “It also is a good engine platform to spin more RPM. Once again, if the turbo is tapped out, the only thing to do to try to make more power is with more RPM.”

Their 4.8 engine combo is filled with a surprising number of stock components. Again, it’s what this team uses as a successful platform in their personal racecars. A 4.8-liter GM core uses original equipment crankshaft, rods, bearings, oiling components, and pistons. The one unique racing component added to the short-block is their use of Total Seal plasma-moly rings to seal the compression tight.

The team scored a complete 8.8-inch Ford rearend with factory disc brakes. They grafted the Mustang suspension onto the Cutlass chassis, keeping the original control arms and adding a selection of BMR Suspension, Strange Engineering, Summit Racing, and Rhodes Race Cars components.

The cylinder heads are stock cores as well that the Double-M team filled with new valvesprings, retainers, valve locks, and locators. The heads were topped off by a set of MOROSO Performance valve covers. PRW Industries supplied the fitted racing aluminum radiator, electric water pump, and related hose fittings for team Mayhem to keep their engine temps cool.

Outfitting the valvetrain, COMP Cams short-travel race hydraulic roller lifters are mated to a COMP cam with a duration at .050 of 231/271, lift of .631/.610, and 112 lobe separation. A Summit Racing single roller timing chain is utilized along with a Chevrolet Performance 58/4X timing sprocket. To seal up their combination, the team used MLS head gaskets, oil pan, intake manifold, valve cover, and exhaust manifold gaskets, all from Victor Reinz.

Coming or going, the Cutlass is more "business" on the inside than the outside. This team is highly successful at getting the most from the least.

When assembling the 4.8 engine, ARP bolts were exclusively used for the heads studs – #ARP234-4345, main studs (#ARP234-5608), balancer bolt (#ARP234-2503), header bolts (#ARP134-1102), flexplate bolts (#ARP244-2902), and transmission bellhousing bolt kit (#ARP-134-0901).

We may have played it a little too safe on the engine budget since we had about $800 we could have spent there. But, we have used this engine combo many times before with proven results. – Joe Hunt

“For our engine budget, we concentrated on the valvetrain so we could keep it stable at the high RPM that may be necessary,” Hunt adds. “Anything that we felt was 100-percent necessary for the engine, we got.”

Power Adder, Induction, and Exhaust

A big portion of Midwest Mayhem’s investment went into their new BorgWarner AirWerks Series SX400 turbocharger to fulfill their smaller engine displacement. They also scored a used 50mm blow-off valve and wastegate from eBay and purchased a Summit Racing universal intercooler – #SUM-260004.

 Feeding the fuel for the high-winding “Junkyard Dog” are the factory intake and sensors combined with a wealth of  Holley Performance hardware. A Terminator X engine management system, Holley injector wiring harness, Sniper fuel rails, and a Sniper EFI 92mm throttle body control the fuel injection. The injectors are DeatschWerks units rated at 1,000 cc/min. A Fuel Air Spark Technology (FAST) air temperature sensor delivers info to the ECM.

The exhaust side of the turbo assembly relies on the factory cast iron manifolds with Diamond Eye Performance elbows and tubing along with purchased Omaha 2.75-inch V-clamp with coupler reducers. The intake feed assembly is plumbed into the turbo utilizing Spectre Performance aluminum intake tubing.


Lucas Oil supplied all of the lube products for the teams. The Mayhem guys used 10W-40 Lucas racing engine oil, along with Lucas engine assembly fluid, and a K&N oil filter. The transmission received Lucas Oil semi-synthetic automatic transmission fluid, and the rear differential is lubricated with Lucas L9 Racing Gear Oil.

The gameplan is to utilize a shorter stroke, higher RPM 4.8 engine compared to the popular 5.3 LS engine. All teams rely on PRW Industries aluminum radiators and electric water pumps for engine cooling.

The Drivetrain

Behind the unique 4.8 engine is a GM Turbo 400 that required a complete overhaul. The team filled the core with an ATI Performance Products Compu-Flow valve body and a Summit Racing transmission rebuild kit (#SUM-705001). The team had found a deal on a used torque converter, but one of the show’s contest wins scored them a new TCI Auto custom converter. Also from TCI, the team purchased a new intermediate sprag and achieved a TCI SFI flexplate and shifter from other team competitions.

During their junkyard visit, Mayhem discovered an 8.8-inch Ford differential removed from a 2002 Mustang GT with factory disc brakes that they outfitted with Hawk Performance pads. The rearend underwent a rebuild equipping it with a U.S. Gear Lightning series 3.73 ring and pinion along with a wealth of Moser Engineering components comprising 35-spline axles, spool, axle retainer plates, and a 3/8 -inch T-Bolt kit.

As for the fuel supply, Junkyard Dog employed a used Magnafuel Products fuel pump the team found to save some bucks. The remainder of their fuel system listed on their Summit order included an RJS Racing Equipment 5-gallon fuel cell and Summit Racing brand fuel filter, pressure regulator, and fuel rail kit.

Referring to the low gear in the Turbo 400 combined with the car gear ratio, Hunt was concerned with keeping the front end down on the starting line.

“We did want to run a 3:73 gear out back to ensure we go through the traps at the 4.8 engine’s peak power,” he said. “It’s going to be aggressive on the starting line, but I think our driver, Joey Hiykel, can handle it.”

Suspension and Rolling Stock

Rally steel wheels from Vision Wheels are on the front and back. Sizes include 15- x 4-inch on the front and 15- x 8-inch on the rear. Mickey Thompson Racing tires are matched with 26.0/4.0-15 ET tires on the front, and P275/60R15 ET Street Radial Pro drive tires.

Hunt said the team didn’t do much to the front suspension. “It’s all of the stock control arms,” he said. “We put a set of MOROSO Performance Drag-Launch coil springs and Summit Racing – #SUM-G7600 mono-tube adjustable shocks in the OEM location. We fabricated some big bolts as limiters to control the A-arm movement. We know we will be competing on a highly-prepared radial-style track surface so front suspension mods wouldn’t be that important, just limiting motion would be.”

General chassis mods include the installation of Summit Racing brand mini-tubs, racing seat harness, poly highback seat, and engine diaper. Major fabrication involved the installation of a Competition Engineering supplied 10-point roll cage kit and driveshaft loop kit along with frame notching.

With the Cutlass refitted with the control arms from the Mustang rearend, the arms are overhauled using a BMR Suspension kit that includes both control arm bearings and spherical bearings. The rear is also set up with Strange Engineering double-adjustable coilover shocks and Summit Racing brand #SUM-72-12-110 coil springs. Their rear assembly was wrapped up with a Rhodes Race Cars 4130 chromoly sportsman anti-roll bar kit.

“Our design of the rear suspension also takes into account that we will be competing at the No Mercy Race in South Georgia,” Hunt added. “Opposite of little work to the front suspension, we want the rear suspension to be highly adjustable and the overall ride height of the car to be much lower. That will be what we need for that highly-prepared track.”

A lighter-weight steering assembly and column were hand-fabricated to connect between the factory steering box and stock steering wheel.

Electrical, Electronics & Ignition

Controlled by the Holley Performance Terminator X ECU, the ignition is comprised of E3 Spark Plugs, E3 brand ignition coils, and Summit Racing brand 8.5mm spark plug wires – #SUM-887830. The team utilized the starter and alternator that came with their base engine.

Speedwire Systems supplied them with their eight-relay electrical switch panel, relay controller, and complete race wiring kit. All the instrumentation lies on the Holley Terminator engine management system. MOROSO Performance battery box and on/off safety switch controlled the DynaBatt 12-volt battery.

The Dyno

Midwest Mayhem made a number of progressively stronger pulls on the dyno, upping the boost with each run before arriving at a peak horsepower output of 850.

The Midwest Mayhem team is one to watch, if only for the application of their non-typical 4.8 engine combo. And at the end of the 10-day build, they used all their 7-grand in Summit money and have approximately $700 in allotted cash remaining.

Mickey Thompson Racing tires roll on all four corners with rally steel wheels. Each team also received Aerospace components front brake kits for stopping power.

The “Junkyard Dog” Cutlass weighs in at the 3,375 lbs. minimum, which is the turbo/blower ruled minimum weight of 3,350 lbs. plus 25 lbs. tacked on.

“Even though we were technically a man short compared to the other teams of six, I knew that wasn’t going to be a factor because of the strong guys we had in our group,” Hunt finished. “On day eight, we were comfortably done with the “Junkyard Dog” and on the chassis dyno without any issues.”

Make sure you tune into the conclusion of season 2 of the $10K Drag Shootout to see how Midwest Mayhem fares against their larger cubic-inch competition. It will all come down to the final shootout fired during the Duck X Productions Lights Out 11 event in February at South Georgia Motorsports Park.

Midwest Mayhem – Junkyard Dog Car Specifications

Vehicle: 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass
Weight: 3,375 lbs
Electrical/wiring: Speedwire Systems – Custom 8-switch panel, 8-relay controller, wiring kit
Relay: Hella driving/fog light relay; mini ISO solid state – #HLA-H41773001
Battery box: MOROSO Performance  – #74051
Battery: Dynabatt 12v by Performance Distributors – #5575A
Battery switch: Moroso Battery disconnect switch – #74101
Roll cage kit: Competition Engineering – #C3233
Seat: Summit Racing poly race seats – #SUM-G2100
Seat Harness: Summit Racing race harnesses – #SUM-510305
Gauges: Holley Performance Terminator X system
Fasteners: ARP Bolts
Wheel Tubs: Summit Racing rear fenderwells – #SUM-G7908
Driveshaft loop: Competition Engineering – #C3029
Plumbing: Fragola Performance Parts braided steel lines and -AN fittings

Engine oil: Lucas Racing high performance motor oil – #10911-1
Automatic transmission fluid: Lucas semi-synthetic sure shift – #10052-1
Rearend fluid: Lucas Racing 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

Engine block:
GM LS 4.8
Crankshaft, rods, oil pan, rod/main bearings, oil pump, valley plate:  Factory 4.8 core
Pistons: Factory 4.8 core
Piston rings: Total Seal plasma-moly – #TSR-CR8794
Head bolts, studs, fasteners: ARP Bolts
Harmonic balancer: Factory 4.8 core
Exhaust Tubing: Diamond Eye Performance elbow, exhaust, 90-degrees – #DEP-529025
Plug Wires: Summit Racing street/strip, 8.5mm, straight boots- #SUM-887830
Motor Mounts: Summit Racing solid steel motor mounts – #SUM-7731156
Throttle Cable: Lokar, black, 36 in. long, LS1 – #LOK-TC-1000LS1U
Starter: Factory 4.8 core
Engine Diaper: Summit Racing engine diapers – #SUM-590200

Cylinder heads: Factory 4.8 core stock
Camshaft: COMP Cams custom grind
     Cam Specs: Duration at .050: 231/271, Lift: .631/.610, 112 LSA
Lifters: COMP Cams short travel race hydraulic – #CCA-15850-16
Pushrods: Brian Tooley Racing 7.375-inch length 3/8-inch pushrods
Rocker arms, valves: 4.8 core
Valve springs, retainers, locks, locators: Brian Tooley Racing .685-inch  lift platinum spring kit – #BTC-sk001s0560bb
Timing Chain: Summit Racing LS2 timingchains – #SME-143012
Timing Sprockets: Chevrolet Performance cam gear, 3-bolt, 58/4X – #NAL-12586481
Head gaskets: Brian Tooley Racing multilayer steel, 4.100-icnh bore, Chevrolet, LS9 – #BTC-BTR22033
Gaskets general: Victor Reinz exhaust, intake, oil cooler, valve cover gaskets
Valve Covers: Moroso billet aluminum covers – #MOR-68488

Intake: 4.8 core
Carb/throttle body:
Holley Performance Sniper  92mm throttle body – #SNE-860004-1
Engine Management System: Holley Performance Terminator X – #HLY-550-905
Engine Control Unit: Chevrolet truck, LS2, LS3 ECU
EFI injector plumbing: Fragola Performance
Air intake tubes: Spectre Performance tubes – #SPE-9499, #SPE-9724,  #SPE-9741, #SPE-9449
Fuel injectors: DeatschWerks fuel injectors, 1,000.0cc/mi – #DWK-17U0500958
Fuel regulator: Summit Racing, 4-Port, 30-100 psi, return style – #SUM-220059
Fuel pump: Magnafuel ProTuner 750 series in-line pump- used
Fuel filter: Summit Racing, 4-Port, 30-100 psi, return style – #SUM-230107
Fuel Rail Kit: Summit Racing Equipment billet aluminum, small block – #SUM-227150
Fuel Cell: RJS Racing Equipment, 5-gallon – #RJS-3000701
Spark plug wires: Summit Racing 8.5mm ignition wires – #SUM-887830
Spark plugs: E3 racing spark plugs – #ETP-E3-108
Exhaust manifolds: 4.8 cast manifolds
Exhaust tubing: Diamond Eye Performance exhaust tubing – #DEP-529025
Exhaust clamps: Omaha 2.75-inch V-clamps – #68136
Air temperature sensor: Fuel Air Spark Technology 3/8-inch NPT – #FST-307004

Power Adder
BorgWarner AirWerks Turbo, SX400, cast iron turbine housing – #BWW-177287
Intercooler: Summit Racing universal  31x12x4-inch intercooler – #SUM-260004
Blow Off/Bypass: 50mm – used
Wastegate: Used 60mm inlet, 44mm outlet
Turbocharger Oil Pan Adapter Flanges: ICT Billet GT40-GT55 billet turbo oil return – #ICB-551161

Transmission: Turbo 400 core
Transmission rebuild kit: Summit Racing automatic transmission rebuild kit – SUM-705001
Valve body: ATI Performance Compu-Flow full manual valve body w/trans brake – #ATI-403080
Transmission intermediate sprag: TCI Automotive high performance intermediate sprag – #TCI-227900
Transmission plug: TCI Automotive speedometer delete plug – #ICB-551908
Transmission gate plate: TCI Automotive 3-speed reverse plate – #TCI-618013
Transmission line adapters: ICT Billet line adapters – #AN710-06A
Torque Converter: TCI Automotive – contest team win
Shifter: TCI Automotive – contest team win
Shifter mount: team fabricated
Transmission crossmember: Competition Engineering transmission crossmember – #C3600
Flexplate: TCI Automotive – contest team win
Rear end gear: U.S. Gear, Lightning Series, 3.73:1 ratio – #UGR-07-888373ISF
Rear end housing: 2002 Mustang GT w/factory rear brakes
Axles, spool, axle bearings, rear end cover, drive studs: Moser 35-spline 8.8 Ford kit
Driveshaft: Dynamic Drivelines – used
Transmission Safety Blanket: Summit Racing transmission blanket – #SUM-590300
Wheel Spacers: Cal Custom aluminum, 1/4 in. thick, 5 x 4.50 in./5 x 4.75 in. 5 x 5.00 in. – #CAL-202373
Wheel studs: Moser Engineering drive wheel studs – #MSR-8002

Front suspension: Stock
Front shocks: Summit Racing adjustable – SUM-G7600
Front springs: MOROSO Performance, Drag-Launch, 212 lbs./in. rate – #MOR-47130
Rear shocks: Strange Engineering aluminum double adjustable coil-over shocks – #STR-S5005A
Rear springs: Summit Racing coil-over springs 110 lbs./in – #SUM-72-12-110
Spherical Bearings: BMR Steel, natural, upper rear, Ford – #BMR-BK075
Anti-Roll Bar: Rhodes Race Cars sportsman anti roll bar kit – #RHC-19-0001
Rear links: Stock Mustang with BMR Suspension control arm spherical bearings
Front brakes: Aerospace Components disc brake kit
Rear Brakes: Stock Ford disc with Hawk Performance brake pads – #HB580F.627
Steering, steering wheel: Cutlass stock
Steering column: Team fabricated

Front wheels: Vision Wheels steel rally 15- x 4-inch – VSW-55-5461
Rear wheels: Vision Wheels steel rally 15- x 8-inch – VSW-55-5804
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


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.
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