$10K Drag Shootout 3: Episode 3: "Play Within the Rules"

$10K Drag Shootout 3: Episode 3: “Play Within the Rules”

As each day passes, the teams participating in season three of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products feel more pressure. The teams have been pushing forward at a feverish pace trying to get as much accomplished in the shop as possible before time runs out. Each vehicle in the build center has been stripped down to the barest of bones, and now it’s time to really buckle down and create their race cars with only a few precious days to work.

Turbo Troubles For Team MAK

There’s an old saying in racing: if you ain’t cheating, you ain’t trying, and you have to give Team MAK credit for their level of effort. The $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil is no joke when it comes to the level of competition it presents, so attempts to skirt the rules are to be expected. Team MAK’s entire approach to the turbo system of its S10 is unconventional, but it still requires a stout turbo to make the power they need to win…it just so happens the turbo they brought isn’t as it appears, though.

The turbo that Team MAK presented to the Horsepower Wars committee was outside of the specifications defined for an 80mm unit in the rulebook. Those liberal tolerances were definitely not to the committee’s liking, so they were called to task in the parts room. After review, the Horsepower Wars staff ruled that the team would need to swap to a legal exhaust housing and accept an $830 valuation. That fair market value price blasted a rather large hole in Team MAK’s budget, and was a tough pill to swallow for any team participating in the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil.

Working inside such a tight timeframe really pushes each team in assembling their vehicles, and to help make things both easier and more bulletproof, ARP has provided a whole host of its world-class fasteners. Each of the teams is provided with a full set of ARP hardware, including its Pro Series cylinder head stud kits, balancer bolt kit, header bolt, and stud kit, and bell housing bolt kit, along with access to a bin containing a whole host of bolts and fasteners to meet its additional needs.

Pandemic Parts Problems

COVID-19 has caused many problems around the globe and impacted the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil in a variety of ways — one of the biggest is parts availability. The entire aftermarket parts supply chain has been impacted by COVID-19, but the used parts market has taken an even bigger hit. With fewer options, all four teams struggled at times to find the typically-used parts needed to complete a build.

If you’re going to add boost to an engine, you need to be sure the rotating assembly is up to the task. The teams participating in the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil were given the chance to upgrade their pistons to MAHLE forged slugs. This opportunity to upgrade gave the teams the peace of mind that they could really lean on the engine without any issues. Teams were granted the opportunity to pre-order the pistons, based on the engine platform it intended to bring to the build, so that the parts would be present and ready for assembly.

Team Villain Squad, Out In Front, and Home Grown all took advantage of using pistons from MAHLE. The pistons used were all custom for the team’s engine package and based on the MAHLE’s PowerPak product line. These pistons are made from an ultra-strong 2618 alloy and feature a hard-anodized ring groove that adds strength to the top ring; this is important for a boosted application. Villain Squad’s pistons used a 12cc dome for high horsepower applications, Team Out In Front used a set of flat top pistons, and Team Home Grown’s pistons used a custom 1.5, 1.5, 3,0mm ring set.

Villain Squad Does More With Less…..For Now

Team Villain Squad walked into the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil completely behind the eight-ball in its preparations. Normally, teams have months to get a plan together and source parts, but Villain Squad had less than a week to put an entire trip together, so they didn’t have the luxury of planning a build. The team had to work with whatever they had available to make as much progress as possible each day. That will only take Villain Squad so far — at some point, they will run out of parts and time if they can’t get what’s needed to finish the Firebird.

A proper cylinder seal is critical when you’re trying to make big horsepower with boost. The teams of the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil wanted to be sure there wasn’t any horsepower escaping the cylinder bore of their engines, so they turned to Total Seal piston rings. These rings could be custom spec’d based on what piston package the team was using, allowing them to maximize the boosted potential of the mill.

The Total Seal rings used for the engine builds were AP steel ring sets. These PVD-coated rings were perfect for a turbocharged application versus a Ductile Moly ring because of their increased strength and durability. Team Home Grown used a custom set of Total Seal piston rings that feature an oil ring with higher tension, this provides improved oil control. The team went this route because stray oil droplets can cause detonation in high-boost applications, so increasing the oil control gave the team an increased tuning window.

Transmission Trickery

To keep all of the teams honest with the transmissions they have selected for the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil, an expert was brought in to tear each one down and ensure it was truly what each team claimed it was. Team Out In Front decided to use a GM Powerglide transmission in its Mustang that uses a stock case filled with a 1.80 gear set, transbrake, new clutches, and new seals with an SFI case shield. For Team Mid American Kustoms, a rebuilt TH400 was the transmission of choice that uses an upgraded forward clutch hub, direct drum, and transbrake. Villians Squad’s TH400 transmission features an aftermarket bellhousing along with a transbrake. Team Homegrown also used a TH400 transmission that had a transbrake and full manual valve body to shift the gears.

During the teardown process, some questions were raised about the integrity of the transmission that Team Out In Front used. Hopefully, this transmission doesn’t become a problem later in the build…

With all of the teams using a turbocharger as their power adder of choice and working on a limited budget, finding the right camshaft becomes even more important. The teams all elected to use camshafts from COMP Cams inside their boosted engines.

Each team took a slightly different approach with the custom COMP camshaft it selected. Team Home Grown used a cam with COMP’s HLO lobe profiles that’s known for its stability; the cam also had a low amount of overlap to help the turbo spool quicker. The custom cam that Villain Squad requested used COMP’s EHI series of lobes and featured a grind that works well with restricted turbines with a lower back-pressure exhaust side, but would allow for more RPM range. Team Out In Front’s cam was also designed to work well in a low back-pressure system and features the more aggressive LSL lobe profile. Finally, Team MAK went with a COMP camshaft that uses the new Low Shock Series lobes; these lobes are extremely stable at high RPM levels and can bring a lot of power in quickly

Home Grown Builds A Bullet

Team Homegrown didn’t want to leave anything on the table with its engine, so the team made sure to bring a beefy 6.0 LS to the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil. The plan that Jim Howe, Sr. laid out for the engine included addressing all of the typical weak points these mills have so the maximum amount of boost could be run through it.

Every team made the choice to tear down the junkyard engines they selected to make sure everything was in good working order. When it came time to assemble the engines each team used various gaskets from Victor Reinz, including the upper and lower head gaskets, and the water pump gaskets. These pieces will provide more than enough sealing power to make sure all of the fluids and exhaust gases stay inside the engines for each team. The Victor Reinz MLS head gaskets provide plenty of durability, can seal to difficult surfaces, and don’t need to be retorqued. On the exhaust gasket side, the Victor Reinz gaskets are able to withstand high temperatures, plus they seal well against the head and exhaust manifold.

RC Drag Racing Fun

The $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil is all about drag racing, and the second challenge presented to the teams stays the course. Horsepower Wars teamed up with Southern California’s Scale Drag Racing Association to put the teams head-to-head in a no-prep style drag race with 1/8-scale electric radio-controlled cars. The prize for the winner of the race was a Holley HP EFI system (PN 554-113). This ECU has a street price of $1,337.95 and is packed with great features like data logging, integrated boost control, plus individual cylinder tuning abilities. Second place would score a Holley fuel system with twin 450 LPH fuel pumps that fit inside any fuel cell (PN 12-147) valued at $544.95. The module is designed to drop into any 12-bolt flange fuel cell, has 8AN inlet and 10AN outlet ports, and adjustable pump depth, and can support up to 1,750 horsepower when used with an EFI system.

Driver selection was important in this challenge. Team Home Grown’s car would be piloted by Jim How, Jr., who admitted to the competition that he has done considerable R/C drag racing back home. Team Out In Front selected Bobby Stephenson, Team MAK went with Wesley Butler, and Team Villain Squad put Geo Ramos in the driver’s seat. After two qualifying runs, the ladder was set, with Team Out In Front paired up against Team MAK, and Team Home Grown versus Team Villain squad.

Team Home Grown crossed the centerline and was disqualified in round one, so Team Villain Squad moved on. In the other first-round matchup, Team Out In Front put Team MAK on the trailer to advance to the finale. The final round saw Team Out In Front defeat Team Villain Squad to score the Holley EFI system, saving them a chunk of money in their build budget.

Team MAK’s Sketchy Engine

Team MAK’s LS engine has certainly seen some better days with its multiple bent connecting rods and other worn parts. Those damaged parts didn’t deter Team MAK from deciding to use the engine as-is with its compromised connecting rods. Team MAK had no intention of replacing those damaged rods and even went as far as to claim the engine will make 1,000 horsepower on the chassis dyno when all is said and done.

Upgrading an engine means that there are all kinds of parts that need to be addressed. The team at Moroso stepped in to provide the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil teams with several parts, including critical oiling system components. Several of the teams took advantage of this and used Moroso oil pumps, pickup tubes, and oil pans to make sure their engines stayed lubricated. The oil pumps provide significantly more volume than a stock unit and will still work with the OEM timing cover. Moroso’s GM LS-series oil pan uses a trap door assembly designed for drag racing, an anti-slosh baffle to keep oil in the oil pick up area, and can still use the OEM dipstick.

Out In Front’s Rearend Build

Being forced to stay on a budget requires the recycling of some parts to go with new parts, so Team Out In Front made the most of their money by acquiring an 8.8-inch rearend locally out of an SN95 Mustang GT. To help the rearend deal with all of the horsepower they planned to throw at it, the team added some additional bracing and welded the axle tubes to the housing. For the rest of the rear suspension, Team Out In Front took advantage of the BMR bolt-in parts at their disposal to make sure the Mustang would stay planted to the track – this includes rear upper control arms, anti-roll bar, control arm spherical bearings, and driveshaft loop.

Since Summit Racing Equipment provides a big chunk of each team’s budget it means they’re making shipments daily to the build center. The teams are eagerly awaiting the deliveries so they can grab the parts needed to continue their builds.

Team MAK’s Torque Converter Game Backfires

Trying to outfox Lonnie Grim and the Horsepower Wars tech staff is a risky proposition…they really do their homework when you present parts for review. Team MAK tried to sneak in a Precision Industry torque converter by claiming it was heavily used, which wasn’t the truth. Lonnie knew where the part number on the torque converter was, so he called Precision to get the real story about the converter. It turns out that it was a new converter and Lonnie wasn’t too happy with Team MAK’s tomfoolery with trying to hide the torque converter’s origin.

In the next episode, we will see how this torque converter situation resolves itself, and if the teams are able to make more progress on their builds.

Horsepower Wars Season 3 is made possible by its title sponsor Lucas Oil as well as ARPBMR Suspension, Comp Cams, Dyna-Batt, E3 Spark Plugs, Holley, Kooks Headers, Lucas Oil, MAHLE Motorsports, Moroso, Moser Engineering, NOS, PROFORM PartsPRW IndustriesQA1Ron Francis, Summit Racing, SpicerTotal Seal, Victor Reinz, Tuff Stuff Performance, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, B&M, Impact Race Products, and Weld Racing.

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About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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