If the equipment and the people involved in his program are any indication, Steve Woolley will be a household name in radial-tire racing circles in fairly short order.
Woolley, a veteran of the sport who moved up to the Pro 275 ranks this season, has debuted this shimmering new 2018 Chevrolet Corvette to the class, ands he’s quickly gotten the attention of his peers, photographers, and the media alike. The C7 is, uniquely, one of just a handful of screw-supercharged engine combinations presently competing out of the Pro Line Racing camp, an engine builder traditionally synonymous with turbochargers and centrifugal superchargers.
“I started racing back when I was 16,” says Steve, who like many, was introduced to the hobby by his father. “My dad pushed me from day one, I really had no choice. He told me to get in the car and drive, and I was good at it and we had a lot of fun and I stuck with it. I had a couple crappy cars, and we just lost everywhere…we were a serious donator.” To illustrate how far Woolley, a milling and paving contractor, has come, his earliest race car had steel road signs covering parts of the floorboard. Contrast that with this world-class build and Woolley has no doubt done well for himself. “We had a low budget and couldn’t afford the cars, so it was all dirty stuff,” he shares of his humble beginnings.
After that car, an early-model Camaro, Woolley in his late teens bought a 1966 Chevrolet Nova and transformed it in time into a 3.7-second thoroughbred. He campaigned that car first in Outlaw Big Tire competition, then Outlaw Drag Radial and later Outlaw 10.5, chalking up wins in every one of them over the course of a couple of decades.
“It was 2011 when we got hooked up with Pro Line, and they built us five different engine combinations, all turbo, but different types of engines,” Steve tells. “We started off with a small-block, then a big-block, a 481X, a Stage IV 481X, and we built the Corvette and decided to switch to the blower deal. Between Eric Dillard, and Doug Patton, Steve Petty, and Jame Miller [of PLR], whatever they say, we do, and we win races.”
Recognizing that it wouldn’t be possible to get the weight balance of the Nova right for Pro 275 racing, Woolley commissioned C&F Race Cars to build the new Corvette. Overcoming parts supply obstacles presented by the pandemic, the build was complete in a years time and debuted at the U.S. Street Nationals in January, where it promptly qualified inside the top eight (a streak he’s kept alive at all three appearances thus far in 2022).
Woolley’s machine sports a PSI C-rotor screw supercharger atop the latest model raised-cam, raised-port PLR Hemi, and sports a rather unconventional electronic and mechanical hybrid fuel injection system. The combination utilizes a a split fuel pump, with methanol delivered mechanically to the injection hat at idle, and a FuelTech FT600 ECU managing the delivery of fuel via Billet Atomizer injectors into the intake manifold when the car leaves the starting line.
“‘Just tuning-wise, it makes the cylinders a lot happier,” Steve says of the “hybrid” fuel system arrangement. “The adjustment on the fuel curve, you can really keep the motor in a happy spot. Whereas with all mechanical, it might be happy leaving the starting line but not be happy downtrack. This has an O2 sensor just like any other power adder, so it can self-adjust as it’s going down the track if it starts leaning itself out. This is valuable for helping us save parts.”
PLR’s consultant and tuner Steve Petty has assisted Woolley with getting the program up to speed, and that has paid dividends, as already noted in the early qualifying performances. The best elapsed time to date has been a 3.77 at a coasting 180 mph, confirming this car has 3.6-second potential.
“Pro Line called all the shots…they picked out the engine, the blower, the camshaft, gear ratio, everything from front to back, and it came right out and qualified in the top eight,” he says of the direct involvement of the PLR team.
Despite the outward visual beauty and craftsmanship of the machine, its the unadulterated assault on the senses that the C-rotor delivers that Woolley loves most about his prized race car.
“When you have a screw blower under your right foot, you feel like a god,” he says matter-of-factly. “Going from the turbos, which take some time to get up and going, you twinkle your toes on the pedal with this thing and it’s doing a lot of something. We’re at 127-percent over, so you’re going down the track and it’s turning 20 to 25 thousand RPM right in your face, and the whine of this thing screaming at you, you wouldn’t believe it. I had to get this new Stilo helmet because my other helmet, when I got on the transbrake, it’s so noisy that your brain is rattling and you can’t even concentrate. This new helmet has earmuffs built into it.”
“It’s way more fun to drive than the turbos,” he adds, but conversely, says “the blower is almost better wanting than having, because it’s a lot of maintenance…you’ve got to be checking bearings all the time, heads are coming off left and right, the rods don’t last long, you’re checking valve springs constantly.”
The SFI 25.2-spec double framerail chassis is cloaked in OEM Corvette panels, and all of the lights, emblems, grille, and other components are all direct from GM. The MH6 Hemi is topped off with Alan Johnson cylinder heads and intake, and an M&M three-speed Turbo 400 and non-lockup converter deliver the power rona Lazarus Race Cars 11-inch thirdmember. Menscer shocks and struts are sorted all the way around, as are Weld Racing wheels and Mickey Thompson rubber.
“It’a an awesome car, and the Corvette is really the closest car to a Pro Mod. In Pro 275, it’s got to be a stock dimension car, so we felt like this would be the best thing for the class,” he says of the decision to build the C7.
Steve gives his crew and supporters much of the credit, including his father, Ed, along with Pete Barrett, Doug Krouse, Charlie, Freddy, and Ed from C & F, as well as Eric Dillard, Doug Patton, Steve Petty, Jamie Miller, Lee White and all of the personnel from Pro Line and FuelTech who “put all the parts together and didn’t stop until everything worked.”
‘These guys [his crew], they give up their time, and they’re away from their families to make this car work.
The New York State native will compete at Cecil County Dragway in its Pro 275 series this season, and plans on returning to Georgia in the fall for No Mercy 13. He doesn’t rule out the potential for joining the Radial Outlaws points series nor the PDRA’s Pro Street division in 2023, but is squarely focused on dialing in the 275 radial combination this year.
Body: 2018 Chevrolet Corvette carbon-fiber (all factory lights, emblems, rockers and pillars)
Paint: Silver (applied by Liberty Autobody)
Chassis: C&F Race Cars
Engine: PLR 521” MH6 Hemi
Connecting Rods: MGP
Cylinder heads: AJPE MH6
Camshaft: PLR grind
Rocker Arms: AJPE
Pushrods, springs, retainers: Smith Brothers
Intake Manifold: AJPE
Oiling System: RCD
Headers/Exhaust: Gary Houghtaling
Ignition: Fuel Tech
Power Adder: C-Rotor screw
EFI/Digital Dash: FuelTech FT600
Hoses and Fittings: Fragola
Fuel System: Waterman dual pump
Fuel Injectors: Billet Atomizer
Transmission: M&M three-spec Turbo 400
Torque Converter: M&M
Rearend housing: Jerry Bickel Race Cars
Thirdmember: Lazarus 11”
Axles: Mark Williams
Brakes: Strange Engineering carbon-fiber (front & rear)
Front/rear suspension: Menscer
Front wheels: Weld
Rear wheels: Weld w/ Mac Fab beadlocks