Racing alongside competitors of world champion pedigree utilizing engine and power adder combinations with decades of engineering and refinement to their credit, a single ProCharger stole the show — and nearly all of the cash — at this weekend’s Midwest Pro Mod Series’ $50,000-to-win Elite 16 at the Texas Motorplex.
Making its competition debut, Pro Line Racing’s in-house 1969 Chevrolet Camaro — the Ball Ground, Georgia engine builders’ first-ever house car — powered through a host of Pro Modified’s best to a final round date with Randy Merick, where only a boost leak ended the improbable run.
Except it wasn’t improbable at all … at least not after a year of unparalleled advancements by groups like Pro Line, who in less than a year’s time took the decorated centrifugal supercharger manufacturer from the outhouse to the penthouse at drag racing’s highest levels.
We went to the final round with a combination that wasn’t even supposed to be there; a ProCharger-equipped Pro Mod is not supposed to be in the final round of a $50,000-to-win Pro Mod race. – Eric Dillard
With Pro Line co-founder and veteran driver Eric Dillard at the controls, the company’s new-to-them racecar impressed with a series of 3.7- and 3.6-second runs, culminating in a new full-bodied ProCharger record 3.67 with speeds consistently in excess of 200 mph to the 1/8-mile. The weekend marked yet another milestone for ProCharger during a season in which its racers won an NMCA Radial Wars championship (James Lawrence), an NMCA Xtreme Pro Mod event (Eric Gustafson), and reset performance standards on a seemingly regular basis.
Dillard and his team have been at the forefront of ProCharger development in Pro Modified, radial-tire, and Top Dragster/Top Sportsman racing over the last year, and the decision to build and campaign the shop car was a calculated risk aimed at proving the viability and capability of the combination.
“It’s pretty cool to look back at where we started with all of this; James Lawrence [of Dragzine] came to us almost exactly a year ago and discussed the opportunity of us all working together and doing a ProCharger setup. That’s where this all got its inception, with a meeting at PRI. ProCharger was definitely onboard, and in the first six months we already had enjoyed great success with he and Shane Novak, who was doing some research and development for us with his car.”
“Around that time,” Dillard adds, “the thought crossed my mind that we needed a car we could go full-steam-ahead with to develop this program, but I’d always promised myself we wouldn’t go that route — when we’re supporting racers our motto has always been that we support our customers, we don’t want to race against them. We’ve never had a house car because we don’t want to race against our clientele, but in this instance, we’re going against the grain. We’re turbo guys at heart, but we wanted to mix things up and do something different with the ProCharger combination. I don’t want to sell somebody something that, even though we felt it could do the job, we still weren’t certain, and we didn’t have the facts or the data. I thought about it and thought about it, and felt this could be the justification to make this happen.”
Dillard located a former Jerry Bickel Race Cars-built Camaro that Johnny Cobb had briefly campaigned in Pro Extreme with a supercharged Hemi for power. A deal he couldn’t refuse was presented and six months ago the car was acquired. With a number of supporters — ProCharger, FuelTech, and Mark Micke at M&M Transmissions, to name a few — 100-percent behind the project, Pro Line moved forward with the car, assembling an all-billet Hemi to power it. They waited in line at RK Racecraft, like any other customer, to have it wired and final-prepared. The first FuelTech Total Control build Pro Line has completed, it features the entire compliment of FuelTech systems — the FT600 ECU, FTSpark and coil-near-plug setup — with engine control and monitoring, ignition, fuel injection, traction control and power management, and data acquisition all handled directly by FuelTech.
Completed just three weeks ago, the team trekked to Darlington, South Carolina for testing, where they made a number of progressive runs, including a best full-pull of 3.77 at 200. Short on time before the season culminated, they had circled the Elite 16 for their debut — in part because of the expected press coverage of the event, but also for the eight qualifying runs they’d have at their disposal to gather data and test superchargers.
“We felt good about going there. We felt like we could go some low 3.70s based on the first few runs that we made, and that if we could do that, it would be justifiable to go,” Dillard says.
We’re turbo guys at heart, but we wanted to mix things up and do something different with the ProCharger combination. I don’t want to sell somebody something that, even though we felt it could do the job, we still weren’t certain, and we didn’t have the facts or the data. – Eric Dillard
In 14 runs at Ennis, Dillard aborted just three. The Pro Line Camaro became progressively quicker and faster, both to 60- and 660-feet, dipping into the .920s and ultimately, a .913. All told, they went 3.60s on four runs, with a best of 3.679 that put them 10th in the qualified field. With ProCharger representatives on-hand with at least four of each of their large F3-140, 143, and 146 superchargers at Dillard’s disposal, they switched blowers run to run, inspecting them after each to help determine the best one for their setup. They settled on the F-3X-140. Impressively, Dillard shares, every single component they left Ennis with — the rear gear, transmission ratios, converter, stator, motor, camshaft, compression, even the tires — were the same as what they rolled out the door with on day one. “We didn’t change one part, and it just goes to show what we were able to accomplish,” he says. “We went to the final round with a combination that wasn’t even supposed to be there; a ProCharger-equipped Pro Mod is not supposed to be in the final round of a $50,000-to-win Pro Mod race. It was a statement weekend, and to dream it all up six months ago and actually go do it, it’s just awesome.”
Dillard continued, “To go out there and do what we did, in such short amount of time, is just a testament to our group and the team that we have and the people and vendors who are involved and who support us. We have a really good program right now, a good group of people, and they were able to make it happen in short order. It’s surreal, really; I thought we would do good, but go out there and run four 3.60s and go over 200 mph, to go a .913 60-foot, and go to the final round with a 100-percent new combination, it’s just incredible. We may have runnered-up, but we won the race by qualifying and going 3.60s at 200.”
Dillard insists the project, at its core, is about promoting affordability of racing at the highest levels, and the ProCharger-supercharged setup, in his eyes and that of its earliest adopters, is that its more cost-effective and easier to tune than turbochargers or nitrous oxide.
“What this combination allows you to do is take one of our tuners to go out for a race or two and get comfortable with the fuel injection and get the car ironed out, and then you can go tune it on your own,” he explains. “When you’re dealing with a blown car and how they make power, the way they need to be managed, it’s much easier than a turbo setup. There are fewer variables that come into play, and to really do a turbo combination and do it well, it takes someone that’s been doing it a long time. Tuning-wise, in regards to keeping the engine happy, it’s similar to a turbo, but now you have ‘zoomie’ headers and something hooked to the crankshaft instead of the exhaust; those two factors help control the environment a little better.”
This ProCharged PLR Hemi continues to impress us! Steve Petty is working his magic getting the Camaro to run a 3.68 at 201mph! We might get one more qualifier tonight.Posted by Pro Line Racing on Friday, November 2, 2018
With 23 runs in total on the engine, nary a single valve spring has been replaced nor have the valves been lashed; that’s because Pro Line has overbuilt the engine to such the nth degree. That, combined with an operating rpm of around 9,100, and the reliability is nearly unrivaled. “It will take so much more … we’re out there with it literally on cruise control. My plan right now is to not pull the rods out of it until we get 50 passes on it. That same engine with less boost in NHRA trim, because its a different rpm range, we put rods in at 25. Overall, it’s just going to be such a cost-effective deal, and the owner won’t have to pay a tuner or have a tuner standing over them all weekend. For the greater good of what we do, this is good for the sport — that’s why we built this car.”
An all-purpose machine by design, the Camaro is presently set up for 1/8-mile competition in a PDRA Pro Boost fashion. Dillard and company will be switching to a lockup converter over the winter and intend to open the 2019 season at the U.S. Street Nationals in Bradenton, Florida in January before bolting on 315 drag radials to contest Radial versus The World at Lights Out 10 in South Georgia. Ultimately, Dillard’s goal is prove the combination in 1/8-mile and 1/4-mile competition, as talk ramps up of a ProCharger inclusion in NHRA Pro Mod in 2020, if not sooner. Once that missions is achieved, the car will be sold.
We're going to the semis in the PLR/PROCHARGER Camaro!Posted by Pro Line Racing on Saturday, November 3, 2018
“We’ll do our best to really refine the combination, and once we do, we’ll sell the car. But I want to see it through. If the NHRA allows it next year, we’ll do Donald’s race, we’ll put it back on big tires and put a 1/4-mile gear in and go race 1/4-mile. We want to prove the NHRA deal, we want to prove the radial deal, we want to prove the 1/8-mile Pro Boost, and once we show it’s competitive in all three,” he says.
Dillard affirmed that he and his team were in communication with the NHRA over the weekend, providing information and data on the supercharger and boost levels, scaled weight, and other elements to assist in a potential inclusion in the Pro Mod program down the road.
Dillard is quick to credit a number of integral individuals and supports of the program, including tuner Steve Petty, who he says deserves a big shout-out for what he made this car do in short order, and his ability to figure out a new combination in less than 20 runs and compete at this level. As well, he noted Co-tuner Brandon Stroud, Car chief Chris Foster, Car back-half Pedro Apolito, and Videographer Bud Hodge, along with the entire staff at Pro Line Racing, ProCharger, FuelTech, M&M Transmission, RK Racecraft, Homier Fab, Brown & Miller, Woolf Aircraft, LAT Racing Oils, Billet Atomizer, Accufab, and Aeromotive.