Sometimes your quickest pass comes when you least expect it — just ask Arnaldo Rodriguez, the new import world record holder. After nearly crashing his car, Rodriguez shocked the world with an otherworldly 5.557-second pass at Maryland International Raceway to claim the mark and become the first import driver to crack into the 5.50s.
Rodriguez grew up in Puerto Rico and was part of your average family. He discovered drag racing through his uncle and was instantly hooked into what the sport offered. Rodriquez decided he wanted to practice medicine and studied to be an Orthopedic Surgeon, but he still dreamt of getting behind the wheel of a race car.
“My first car was a 1982 Volvo, which I still own today, and it wasn’t much of a race car. I told myself that after I finished studying and had the money I would build a race car of my own. I really wanted something like a Pro Stock car or a Pro Mod to race, but here in Puerto Rico we are big fans of turbos and import cars, so that’s why I ended up with this car,” Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez’s record-setting ride is a Scion FRS that was built by PMS Race Cars in Puerto Rico. Jorge Lazcano from Lazcano Racing built the 2JZ engine that features a billet block, an OEM cylinder head that has been extensively ported, and a Pro J intake. Boost comes from a single Precision turbo with tuning done by Jorge Juarbe through a Microtech EFI system.
Making such impressive power with a small-displacement engine requires a careful dance between the amount of power you try to put down and the chassis setup. Setting the record nearly didn’t happen for Rodriquez after a close call during testing when his Scion went into violent tire shake and made a big move out of the groove.
Video from xtremedragphoto
“I almost crashed the car on an earlier pass, so we took a lot of boost out of it and slowed the car to go from A to B. I said forget the record, let’s just get down the track and not crash the car due to all of the tire shake. When we did that it went right down the track without any issues. After that the car ended up running the 5.55,” Rodriguez explains.
Rodriguez’ explanation of how he set the record might sound simple, but a lot more went into making that pass happen. His team has been working hard at trying to perfect everything about their program and they have a very practical approach to making improvements.
“We are very analytical as a team and my previous best was a 5.76 at 252 and that was when the car was manually shifted by me. The switch was made to an air shifter because there’s a wide range of tuning options to improve the car’s performance we could gain. We kind of knew that the car had potential because in Puerto Rico we had made a 3.80 1/8-mile pass at 203, but we were holding a bit back there. Looking at the data we thought the car would go a low 5.59 or 5.60…we didn’t expect that 5.55 pass because of the 60-foot times,” Rodriguez says.
According to Rodriguez, there’s even more left in his Scion after looking at the data from his record-setting pass.
“On the record pass that it ran a .97 to the 60-foot mark — usually it goes a low .950. According to the data, I lifted at 5.31-seconds into the run because I missed the timing of the finish line. It went 3.69 to the 1/8-mile and the speed data tells us the car could have run close to 260-265 MPH if I would have stayed in it, and the ET would have been a 5.49 or 5.50.”
Just sitting back and enjoying the record isn’t on the schedule for Rodriguez; he plans on bringing the car back out very soon. He also doesn’t plan on just trying to spit out another 5.55 — he wants to lower the boom on the record books so he can have the speed mark, as well.
“We’re going to the Sport Compact Finals at Orlando and then we’re going to the World Cup. Depending on the weather we’re going to try and go quicker at the World Cup. The weather is going to be better and the track will be on-kill. We already have data so we will turn it up more…it’s just a matter of everything holding together,” Rodriguez says.
The next few weeks are going to be very interesting in the drag racing world — you could see the import record fall yet again at the hands of Arnaldo Rodriguez during the World Cup Finals, but for now, the drag racing world is plenty stunned with his most recent performance.