Following in the footsteps of his father, Chad Henderson, both in his career and in his hobbies, young-gun Jackson Henderson recently completed a slick new small-tire build that will carry him forward in the Ultra Street ranks.
A fifth-generation farmer, 24-year-old Jackson works alongside his father during the day at their family-owned Henderson Farms in northern Alabama. Jackson grew up shadowing Chad both on the 8,000-plus acre property and at the dragstrip. A lifelong racer, Chad is well known for successfully campaigning his Buick Grand National in Limited Drag Radial and his passion for big horsepower trickled down to his son, as well.
Jackson grew up racing in the Junior Dragster ranks, and when he turned 16, his dad gave him a 1972 Chevy Nova that he has been running in the 6.0 Index class ever since. “We thought it would be cool to have two Grand Nationals, so we bought this car [a 1987 Buick Grand National] and have been building it for the last four years,” noted Jackson, who brought the beautiful black G-body home on Friday, February 10, 2023.
During that time, the GN had been safely tucked away at Chris Terry Racing in Trinity, Alabama, where it was stripped down and reborn in all its new glory. Terry fabricated the still-to-be-officially-certified 25.2 SFI cage to be both structural and safe for Jackson, and all of the odds and ends that comprise a racecar were painstakingly taken care of, all the way down to the Stroud Safety parachute and harnesses.
Under the hood, the Henderson family opted to run a small-block, single turbo configuration, and worked with Pete Harrell at Harrell Engine & Dyno in Mooresville, North Carolina, to put together the powerplant. Based on an LS platform, the 321 cubic-inch engine was filled with Ross pistons, R&R connecting rods, a Callies crankshaft, and a “special grind from HED” cam before its Jesel rocker-filled LS7-style heads were topped with a Holley intake manifold.
The combination wasn’t complete without a power adder of some sort, so a 76mm turbocharger was supplied by Jose Zayas at Forced Inductions and plumbed in to effortlessly amp up the small-block’s capabilities.
Producing plenty of power definitely wasn’t a problem for the Buick, but the men wanted to make sure they could harness it as effectively as possible. So, a reverse pattern three-speed Turbo 400 transmission from PTC was paired with the small-block, and joined by a matching PTC converter and Precision Performance Products shifter.
Given that Chad had been in the continuous process of updating his own Grand National over the years, many of his jettisoned parts were upcycled and reused on Jackson’s.
“The whole rearend housing and center section was built by Moser, and we’re using Moser axles with a Precision Shaft Technologies (PST) driveshaft,” added Chad, who was happy to hand over his old parts for his son’s sake.
Similarly, Jackson’s Grand National also uses what his father jokingly refers to as TRZ Motorsports’ “Chad Henderson Kit” which includes all the upper and lower arms as well as a thick anti-roll bar and TRZ’s spindles in the front. Additionally, top-of-the-line Menscer Motorsports shocks and struts were bolted up to help reduce the infamous G-body shuffle and keep Jackson running straight and true.
Next, Troy Baum of RaceWires wired up the Holley EFI engine management system and installed the matching electronic components, including the Holley digital dash and trick switch panels.
Finally, Jackson’s stunning showpiece was sent to Madison, Alabama, where Eagle Collision Center sprayed the perfect coat of black. To finish off the menacing look, Mickey Thompson rubber-wrapped RC Components – which were one of the very first items purchased in the build – were polished to perfection and installed at each of the four corners where they frame the iconic shape of TBM brakes.
“We kept a lot of the small details as original as possible. The factory headlights and taillights are functional, and all the trim is from the factory, too,” shared Jackson, whose ride also retained its factory steel roof and quarter panels. “When it was finished, the car only weighed 2,400-pounds so we had to add a lot to get it to 3,050-pounds to be legal for Ultra Street.”
As every good racecar needs a good name, Jackson Christened his “The Wedding Crasher.” “The guy we bought it from as an original Grand National, it was the first car he had ever bought. He drove it to Vegas and said he got married in the car in a drive-through, Elvis-themed wedding chapel, drove home, and got divorced not long after that,” laughed Jackson of the tall tale he was told that inspired the GN’s nickname. “I’m not sure if it’s true, but it was a good story!”
Originally, Jackson had hoped to show off his Grand National at the Duck X Productions’ Lights Out 14 “Just Send It” race at South Georgia Motorsports Park on February 23-26, 2023, but a little hiccup during pre-race testing put a temporary hold on his plans.
“We took it to Alabama International Dragway in Steele on February 13 for testing with Dusty Bradford tuning it. We made six or seven passes, because that’s all we’ve had time for in between trying to get my dad’s car done, and went 4.80s with it, but wanted to make a few changes and look at some things before pushing it,” Jackson explained of how he would rather be safe than sorry, and that he would rather get comfortable with more seat time before going all out in competition.
Going from a 6.0 Index car to his Grand National that clocks 1.14-second 60-foot times is a big jump, but Jackson has handled it like a pro and is enjoying the blast that comes with quicker e.t.’s. “This is a whole other adrenaline rush,” he laughed. “I see why people are hooked on this sport and why they love it so much. It’s a feeling I just can’t describe.”
Currently, Jackson plans to do some more testing prior to returning to Steele for the Radial Outlaws Racing Series’ Bama Outlaws event on March 23-25, where both he and his “Wedding Crasher” 1987 Buick Grand National will make their Ultra Street debuts. From there, he hopes to attend as many of the Radial Outlaws races as he can alongside his father, as long as their busy farming schedule permits them to do so.
“I grew up watching my dad race and wanted to do it myself, and it’s a blessing to now be able to race with him, and beside him, and to have him watch me accomplish some of the same things he has done,” Jackson added. “Racing with him is the best thing I could ever ask for.”