On March 8, 2018, veteran sportsman drag racer, Geoff Turk, made history by recording the first 7-second quarter-mile elapsed time ever by a factory-built Stock Eliminator car. he did so in his now-famed Blackbird Dodge Challenger Drag Pak. Turk has accomplished much since then, in racing, business, and in life. But the personal drive to go quicker and faster, and to again be a pioneer and innovator, has taken his racing efforts in a new direction.
Now, his sights are set on trailblazing the NHRA’s all-new Factory Experimental (FX) category. This week, he’s checking off the first milestone by unveiling the very first FX car to the public, at the Performance Racing Industry show in Indianapolis.
Earlier this year, Turk commissioned Darren Breaud and his team at B&B Race Cars, a noted small-tire and Stock/Super Stock chassis builder, to construct a 2021 Dodge Challenger specifically for the NHRA FX category. After working virtually around the clock at the Hohenwald, Tennessee facility, the new machine is nearing the finish line — attaining a complete enough form to show it off to the world ahead of its debut next spring.
“I’ve always enjoyed trying to do something that others haven’t yet done,” Turk says of the endeavor. “It certainly inspired me with the first go-around in heads-up racing in the factory shootout, because at the time that I entered that, the supercharged cars had been running for two years, and there were COPOs and Cobra Jets, but there weren’t any Challengers. There was a lot of appeal to be one of the first guys to take a Challenger and try to make it competitive in the Factory Stock Showdown, since no one else had figured it out.
“I wanted to prove that something that was not easy could be done, and be the first one to do it, versus copying someone else’s recipe and doing it. In my mind, there’s refinement, which is taking someone else’s innovation and optimizing it, but innovation comes when you do something no one else has been able to do. That’s real innovation. To be the guy, or the team, that figured it out, that put it together and made it happen, it’s just a much higher bar and delivers much greater satisfaction. And that’s been my whole career…to rattle the status quo, be a game changer.”
Turk, was for a time, eyeing a jump into Pro Modified ranks, but then turned his attention to the popular Ultra Street eliminator. But it was around that same point in time the conversation began inside the NHRA regarding the Factory Experimental program. For Turk, with a wealth of experience with the supercharged HEMI platform — nevermind parts, pieces, data, and know-how already in his possession — this was a natural fit, that aligned perfectly with his own personal racing ambitions.
“I put the Ultra Street car on hold to see if this program was going to develop, because if it was, I wanted to have one of the first cars to come out in the class,” he shares, adding, “The most exciting part of this is going faster than I’ve ever gone with the factory shootout car. And, there’s the coolness of a five-speed with a clutch. I’ve had a whole host of badass cars on the street, and they were all manuals, but on the track, I’ve always raced automatics.
“Driving it, making the clutch work, tuning it, it’s all going to be a different challenge…. a whole new, cool thing for a guy like me. I’m really looking forward to dumping the clutch, banging the gears, and hitting 200 mph. I don’t know how many times I’ve watched videos of guys driving manual transmission drag cars on the track and wishing I had one. It’s a lifetime achievement goal of mine to go sixes and 200 mph. I’m exchanging a lot of my wealth for this opportunity, so I’ve got to enjoy it,” he adds with a laugh.
Turk’s Challenger will feature power from what is essentially a carbon copy of the aluminum HEMI that motivated his Drag Pak — a factory-built 354 cubic-inch mill that has been overbored to 364 inches and massaged to the nth degree by famed builder Tony Bischoff at BES Racing Engines. It’s topped with a 3.0-liter Whipple supercharger. This package, which has topped out over 1,500 horsepower on the engine dyno and is capable of exceeding 10,000 rpm, pushed Turk’s 3,500-plus-pound Drag Pak into the 7.50s, and this new FX car will tip the scales nearly 1,000 pounds lighter. The end result should run mid-sixes at over 200 mph on a 33×10.5W slick tire.
The class mandates a Holley EFI engine management system and Turk will pair it with factory ignition coils for the spark with an Aeromotive fuel pump to deliver the fuel. A Holley digital display is in the dash, and a Racepak system gathers all of the data. Simpson safety equipment has been used exclusively, including on Turk’s person.
An 8-inch-disc Ram clutch (of a disc count that Turk is keeping close to the vest) and a Liberty five-speed transmission sit behind the HEMI. The power is transferred to an 11-inch Indy Gear Lazarus center section with Strange Engineering axles, and it all rides on RC Components wheels. Santhuff shocks and struts sit on all four corners and help plant the power. Breaud and his team custom-molded all of the carbon-fiber components from scratch and blended them seamlessly with the class-mandated OEM steel roof and quarter panels, creating what looks like a Dodge Challenger right off the showroom floor, save for its racy additions.
“Part of the challenge of the class, the way the rules are, you really couldn’t make anything else that existed work… it had to be built from scratch. These cars kind of fall between an X275 and a Pro 275 car,” Turk says of the new car.
Turk also says he and Breaud hope to have the Blackbird X turning the tires by middle to late February. “We need it on the track. Once we get it back from PRI, we’ve got another month or two of plumbing and wiring and turning all the knobs, to get it ready. We all hope to be down in Florida by February making runs on it.”
Mike Ware, a now semi-retired former owner of the Mopar-focused Muscle Motors in Michigan, and a longtime friend to Turk, is set to join Turk and wife, Jena, on the road, as a full-time crewman to help turn the car around between rounds. Ware will particularly be focused on servicing the clutch. “All of the work the car will need in between rounds, plus the safety factor, having another set of eyes, that cares about your life, checking that you tightened all the bolts and packed the parachute and all the things that keep you alive and safe, it’ll be fantastic to have a guy like Mike on the team. I’m used to having people around me that are smarter than me, and it’s the first time I’ll have a guy with me in the pits that’s like that.”
“This is going to be an exciting new adventure, a big hill to climb,” Turk adds. “I don’t know how many people have climbed Mount Everest now, but they keep count, and I think it’s up to tens of thousands. I wouldn’t want to go do it, but being the 10,000th guy to do it is very different from being the first guy. So I’m anxious to be one of the first guys to summit Factory Experimental, to go sixes and over 200, and play a whole new game in a whole new class. Going into it, I feel like I’m out of my element, and that’s what I like.”