To those largely attuned to the drag-radial racing arena, the Toyota 2JZ-powered “White Rice” Nissan 240SX is an overnight success, collecting top qualifying honors and a pair of final round appearances right out of the gate in its maiden season in the small-tire X275 eliminator. But “White Rice” is much more than its thus-far brief tenure in one of the sport’s most competitive categories — it is, in fact, an icon in Texas street and no-prep racing circles and in the import drag racing scene, providing it and its owner, Duy Bui (pronounced Doo-e Boo-e) with a devoted international following.
“I’ve been racing imports since the early 1990’s, when it all started…I’m one of the O.G. guys,” Bui begins. “I started like everyone else, with a Honda,” he follows with a laugh. “I had the fastest Honda in Texas and was doing a lot of street racing, but I found out pretty quick you can’t street-race very well with front-wheel drive. The 240 is rear-wheel drive, so I bought one in ’96 or ’97 and it was my daily driver; me and some friends built a turbo kit for it and worked our way from 13’s into the 10’s and, for a time, had the fastest 240 in the nation.”
Bui took a few years away from the sport to focus on family and his career — he’s a chiropractic doctor in Houston, Texas — but returned with a tried-and-true Toyota Supra; but he later opted not to cut up a prized Supra for a roll cage and other safety and performance upgrades necessary to go quicker and faster.
It was at that point he built what he calls “the perfect street car.” A friend had had a 1997 model 240SX sitting for over a decade, and so Bui bought it and combined the proven RWD chassis of the Nissan with the renowned capability of the Supra’s 2JZ engine into one formidable package. Ten years later, Bui has never looked back.
The Nissan — the latest of three Bui has owned in all — ran 8.80s in its early form, winning several Import Face Off events and garnering him considerable fame in import racing circles. “It had A/C, full power everything…you could drive it to the track, run 8.80s, and drive it home. But things always escalate, and in 2013 or ’14 we got serious. We got the billet block in there, because we were blowing motors up trying to make 1,500, 1,600 horsepower. The billet block changed everything, and once we got it dialed in we were making 2,000 horsepower no problem.”
Bui adds, everyone always has names for their cars, and since people call imports ricers and the car was painted white, we just went with “White Rice.”
After going over the plan with Duy he gave me the go-ahead to do as I wanted with one stipulation: the car needed to look the same from the outside as it always appeared, and maintain stock doors with power windows, glass, and so on. – Eric LaFerriere
With that combination, and following a stint in no-prep racing, Bui’s Nissan later became the quickest import radial-tire car in the world. Bui eventually crossed paths with promoter Donald Long, who suggested his team give the X275 class a whirl.
In 2019, Bui and veteran outlaw drag racing standout Eric LaFerriere were introduced to one another through mutual friend Job Spetter, Jr. at one of Long’s South Georgia radial events.
“We thought we were gonna’ go kick everyone’s ass [in X275], because we knew what kind of times we were running, but we found out how important the chassis setup was…we were either wheel-standing or spinning the tires,” Bui says. “That race is where we met Eric, and he told us we had basically a street chassis and that were were crazy for trying this with what we had.”
LaFerriere initially provided knowledge and support to Bui with another of his cars, a Mark IV Supra known as “Wasabi,” and Bui leaned on LaFerriere to help bring his 240SX up to date. With the very same 2JZ engine that powers it to this day, Bui and his team were running 6.60s at almost 215 mph to the 1/4-mile — record-setting radial-tire import numbers at the time — on what was still a factory chassis with bolt-on ladder-bar suspension upgrades, a simple roll cage that has been added to as needed, eBay control arms, and stock floorpan and firewall. Bui knew he needed something a little more purpose-built, so he sent the car from Houston, Texas to LaFerriere’s shop in Rhode Island for front suspension work…but the project spiraled when LaFerriere suggested to Bui that he cut the shell off the car and build a ground-up 25.3-spec chassis for X275-style racing. Bui, who LaFerriere says has an admirable drive to compete and succeed, wanted to try class racing in the radial-tire world, and obliged.
“After looking the car over I recommended that for what the team had in mind for the future was to cut the car to the shell and start from the ground up with a brand new chassis, 4-link rear suspension and a completely new front suspension, making it a safe, consistent platform for the team to accomplish all of its goals,” LaFerriere says. “After going over the plan with Duy he gave me the go-ahead to do as I wanted with one stipulation: the car needed to look the same from the outside as it always appeared, and maintain stock doors with power windows, glass, and so on.”
“Bui adds, “I told him he could do whatever he wanted to the inside, but it had to look like a street car…I wanted to keep all the glass, the power windows, my dash, it all had to look the same.”
LaFerriere connected with Tim at Tim Nicholson Race Cars in North Carolina, and the two combined their collective knowledge of small-tire cars and Pro Mods, respectively, and invested all of it into “White Rice.”
“We discussed what I was looking to do with ‘White Rice,’ which was basically make it the baddest small-tire X275-legal radial import car. We combined our expertise and the end result is what we have now,” LaFerriere says.
Victor Texiera from Texiera Fabrication stepped in to help with much of the final fabrication work, including the fuel tank, transmission tunnel, and other sheet metal items to get it ready for paint and assembly; RED ALERT Refinishing in Philadelphia then mixed up a secret batch of “White Rice White”…what LaFerriere calls the purest, brightest white he’s ever seen, and laid it down. Once complete, the carbon interior and tubs were installed, the car was plumbed at BMRS, and then it went back to Duy; ProSpeed Autosports finished up installing the MoTec ECU and fabricating the header and hot-side tubing, and roughly a year from when the undertaking began, the lean, mean new “White Rice” was ready to race.
When the seat came open early on, Bui tabbed LaFerriere to drive the project he’d invested so heavily in, and he wasn’t about to turn down the opportunity.
LaFerriere began racing in the late 1980s after earning his driver’s license, competing at nearby New England Dragway before getting more serious about the sport and competing at all-Ford races in the 1990s. By the 2000s, he was a challenger on the NMCA and NMRA circuits before following outlaw racing’s path to radial-tire competition. His experiences along the way, both on the racetrack and off, ultimately led to his introduction to Bui. Now, the two make up a formidable team that is destined for success in X275.
“The more involved I became with ‘White Rice’ the more I realized that it has a cult-like following in the import world. I didn’t know the ‘White Rice’ history, but the local import guys up here did, so it was cool to see their eyes get big when they’d see it. I also quickly learned to like the high-revving power that the legendary 2JZ engine makes,” LaFerriere says.
“Getting involved with a guy like Duy will motivate you to do the job 110-percent no excuses…he’s a great guy to not only work for but to race with,” LaFerriere adds.
“White Rice” has been an incredible 6.39-seconds at 227 mph in the 1/4-mile on 275 drag radials (an import radial world record, to be sure), and a very competitive 4.19 at 178 in the 1/8-mile in X275 trim. After its debut at the Hail Mary Derby in Maryland last fall, Bui and LaFerriere debuted the transformed “White Rice” in competition at the U.S. Street Nationals in Florida this spring, where LaFerriere came up just short of Rob Goss in the final round. He then advanced to his second straight final at DuckX’s Lights Out 12 in South Georgia, where a broken transmission line in the final round foiled his chance to race Ron Rhodes for the title. Two other outings have been dismal, as LaFerriere puts it, due to parts breakage — which underpins the biggest challenge he and Bui face with “White Rice”: the natural attrition of parts that results from pushing 70-plus pounds of boost through 190 cubic-inches spinning at over 10,000 rpm.
The powerplant, one of a handful Bui keeps on hand given the frequent attrition, is a factory-style inline six-cylinder 2JZ, built by Scott Herzog at Arrow Machine in Brenham, Texas. A Mazworx billet aluminum block is outfitted with a Winberg crank, GRP rods, and Ross pistons, and topped with a cast aluminum head massaged by Extreme Cylinder Heads and Head Games. A HyperTune intake is fitted with Billet Atomizer and Injector Dynamics injectors supplying the fuel to the chambers, a Precision NextGen 88mm turbo providing the charge, and MoTec coils delivering the spark to light the combustion process. All of it is controlled by a MoTec M150 ECU and ProSpeed ProDrag package (as well as a Davis Technologies Vehicle Position Sensor). A custom ProSpeed header and hot-side system, intercooler, 66mm Tial wastegates, and dual Tial blow-off valves aid in the boost-making process.
“The motor is so little, and it can turn so much RPM, that it never stops making power…it just carries it through a big, long, broad curve,” LaFerriere says. “That’s the secret behind the car. But it doesn’t make a lot of power down low — it’s kind of pathetic, actually. A lot of people point out all the things we’re given, but in the bigger picture, it’s an automatic and that little engine struggles to spool the turbo because it’s up against the converter. You have to use the nitrous…it won’t even do a burnout on its own. Using nitrous with methanol with a turbo…it’s a very volatile situation. I’ve called people in the industry that I know for advice and ask if they’ve ever done this and they tell us, ‘no, you guys are nuts.’ ”
An M&M three-speed lock-up turbo 400 transmission and converter package present the horsepower to the Strange center section with 40-spline axles — housed inside a Merillat Racing full-floater 4-link housing — and carbon-fiber brakes through a PST carbon-fiber driveshaft. The chassis sports Menscer spindle-mount struts up front and Penske shocks in the rear; Weld Racing wheels are located up front and Sanders in the rear, on Mickey Thompson front-runners and 275 Pro Drag Radials.
The engine met the John Sears-produced X275 rulebook as it was when Bui and company made the transition over from no-prep; they did, however, have to scale down from a large 102mm turbo to the aforementioned 88. LaFerriere says it’s difficult to spool the turbo, because it makes no power until it comes up on boost; the X275 rules allow the automatic combination the aforementioned nitrous oxide to aid in spooling the turbo, which is likewise hard on the engine.
“I don’t want to say it was a loophole, but it was an unexplored combination…guys hadn’t really gone after it,” LaFerriere says of the 2JZ. “It’s not easy, though — everybody thinks it’s easy, but it’s very hard. It’s very hard on parts. “
Bui, as he’s been with import racing, street, and no-prep before this, is committed to the X275 class, driven by his desire to compete and win on the biggest of stages.
“It’s a lot of work and effort for us, to even compete with these guys. We’re not used to competing with people like this…these are the best of the best, and we’re coming out of nowhere and trying to run with them,” Bui says. “There were three races in a row we should have won, but we just made some mistakes. I don’t know if they’ll let us come back next year because of our combination, but our goal is to win the X275 points championship this year.”
“It’s awesome working with Duy — I’ve been in the business for a long time, and it’s rare you run across the type of people that have the same passion for what we do,” LaFerriere says. “Duy is definitely one of those guys,…it’s nice to work with the kind of guys that have that do-whatever mentality get it done. Duy is a very motivated guy, and he aims to do the right thing all the time.”
Bui’s team is likewise equal parts driven and talented; the group includes LaFerriere ( serving as driver, crew chief, chassis setup, and power management), Chris Delgado, (tuner and MoTec “software geek”), Fabian Bell (the “make-it-happen guy”), and David Aiwasse (wiring expert). Supporters, along with those aforementioned, include Ticon Industries, Bui’s business, Lindale Healthcare, Powerhouse Racing, GSC Camshafts, Job Spetter, Jr., and Summit Racing Equipment.