It’s a rare thing in drag racing to find award-winning looks coupled with record-setting performance on the track in one package, but this season, Indiana native Brent Jones did just that with his absolutely stunning 2010 Dodge Challenger, painstakingly built by Mike Roth at MR2 Performance Race Cars and campaigned in the NHRA Super Stock division.
Jones, who works in the oil drilling equipment field by trade, commissioned Roth to construct the car more than two years ago, giving the well-known chassis builder virtual free reign to work his magic in producing a head-turning race car as much at home at a car show as it is on the race track. The result, as you can see in the images shown here, is unbelievable. After its completion, Jones debuted the car at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis to much fanfare, and rightfully garnered Best Appearing Car honors weeks later at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in St. Louis, where Jones double-dipped in the awards basket by qualifying No. 1 in the 53-car field with a 9.52, a full 1.13-seconds under his 10.65 GT/EA (GT/E Automatic) class index.
The Knox County Driller, as its been dubbed as part of a complete theme that’s evident throughout the interior and exterior of the car, began as a factory Drag Pak Challenger that Jones initially wanted to construct as a Stocker that would run on a nine-inch tire.
“When he got to the shop, he said ‘I don’t like small tires’ and I explained to him how much more it would cost and he told me “I don’t care,’” said Roth. “So we got to talking and he told me to do whatever I wanted, and that’s what I did.”
After learning of Jones’ background in oil drilling, Roth harkened back to a pulling tractor that he’d recalled from his youth known as ‘The Driller,’ and from that point, began to formulate ideas to bring an oil drilling theme to life with Jones’ Challenger as the canvas. Having always wished to construct a race car with “The Driller” for a name, the partnership with Jones presented the perfect opportunity to do so, and that, coupled with inspiration from a paint scheme used by Pro Stock racer Reid Whisnant in the early 1980’s, the project came to life, if only on paper at the time.
Said Roth, “I had that paint scheme stuck in my head, and I’d been dying for one of my customers to let me do it, and he gave me free reign to paint it however I wanted so we finally did it.”
With the basis for the build in mind, Roth got to work on the Challenger, beginning with the performance side of things in the chassis and body, before turning to the intricate details of the theme that you see here, which were never part of the original plans of either Jones or Roth.
Toward the end when we were thrashing to get it done for Indy, Brent and I would stop ourselves and just ask “is this thing real? – Mike Roth
Some of the most impressive details are found in the trunk, where Roth rolled artistic oil wells into the aluminum wheel tubs, with splashes of oil raining down from their tops. Airbrushing is also evident, including the unique touch of a flying UFO around smaller oil wells on the trunk floor. Roth also fabricated the one-off fuel cell to look like an oil drum.
In the cockpit, Roth has finished the full interior with the same color palette used in the paint scheme from the dash clear back to the rear window, complete with velvet and suede in the dash and in the seats. A unique storage compartment was built by Roth in the drivers side cross brace to hold shoe polish and other small tolls, and in the factory fuel port, Roth has placed a charging port and digital readout for the volt-meter, both of which just add to the stunning engineering that’s gone into this machine.
“Toward the end when we were thrashing to get it done for Indy, Brent and I would stop ourselves and just ask “is this thing real?’ And once we got into it this far, we couldn’t just buy floor mats for it at AutoZone or something. We really had to finish it out from front to back and that took a lot of time.”
Power comes from a 5.7L Hemi built by esteemed class racing engine builder and racer Jeff Taylor.
All told, Roth estimated he has over 4,000 man-hours invested in the build of the Knox County Driller — estimated because, as he shared with us: “I tried to start adding up the hours and I just quit at somewhere around 3,800.”
Roth went all-out on the car with little input from Jones, adding in the intricate details as they came to his mind. “[Brent] didn’t even see it before the final paint was complete and everything,” Roth told us.
The quickest run to date on the car has been a 9.50 at 141 MPH, and the No. 1 qualifying effort in St. Louis came on a de-tuned combination as both Jones and Roth were still working to dial the car in after experiencing some new car blues in the Indy debut. With one hundred extra pounds in the car, they made the switch from SS/HA at Indy to GT/EA to avoid taking a horsepower rating hit, based on the potential they believed was in the car. Despite their every efforts to slow the car down to avoid the penalty, Jones was still squarely in the 9.50’s, showing just how much steam is in the engine combination and chassis.
Roth’s pride in the build is evident as he walks you around the car showing off craftsmanship and the inner details, having put so much of his time and effort into a project that he believes is second to none. “It’s nuts — there’s a lot more detail to it than really meets the eye,” he told us.
The reserved Jones, who has quite a racing background of his own, including operating a popular southern Indiana 1/8-mile strip when he’s not racing the Challenger, summed it best by stating, “Mike just did a heck of a job with it.”
Indeed, he did, and this duo has a lot to be proud of with the Knox County Driller.