Six weeks ago, Scott Tidwell was a retired former professional drag racer and little more than a curious observer of the sport, spending the last couple of seasons supporting friend Paul Gargus with his Limited Drag Radial car. Today, he owns the quickest Pro 275 car on the planet — one that will undoubtedly be among the most feared machines in the sport’s hottest category going forward — and is even mulling a return to the driver’s seat himself.
Just five weeks before DuckX Productions’ No Mercy 11 at South Georgia Motorsports Park, Tidwell commissioned Chris Terry Racing to construct a world-class Pro 275 car, utilizing a true VIN-numbered 1969 Camaro Z28 RS he had purchased from former Outlaw 10.5 racer Jason Collins. In that impossibly-short span of time, Terry and his team rebuilt the car from one end to the other, removing and replacing every last bar in the chassis. Friends and partners of Tidwell’s were making trips near and far to secure parts, and in the projects’ final days, parts of the car were strewn across Terry’s shop and being worked on individually in order to make the bell. At 4 a.m. last Sunday morning, in the midst of DuckX’s Sweet 16 event, the car was completed, fired for the first time, and loaded in the hauler for its debut.
At the turn of the century, Tidwell competed in the NHRA’s now-defunct Pro Stock Truck category, later turning to Competition Eliminator before hanging up his helmet in 2004. In 2018, he attended No Mercy for the first time and set in motion his return.
“I started helping Paul with his car…he lives here by us and we’ve all been friends for years. They tried for a long time to get me to go and I wouldn’t. I was pretty well out of the sport until then. I had some interest in helping them get their car straightened out, so I started helping them, we did some testing, and finally got it into the 3.90s earlier this year.”
Gargus’ LDR car has become a joint venture of late between he and Tidwell — Tidwell providing the engine and drivetrain and Gargus the car itself.
“We bought this new car from Jason Collins and my original intention was to build it for the new DXP Street class,” Tidwell says. “We were going to take it to Chris’s and just make a few changes to the car, and we were considering moving Paul’s car up to Pro 275, but we couldn’t get the weight out of Paul’s car without doing a lot of work to it. But the more we looked at this car, the more it needed.”
“It was basically just a hull five weeks ago; it still had the firewall in it, but we had cut the front off, cut the back off. The only thing left in the car that’s the same is the roof and the decklid,” he adds. “It’s basically a new car build anyway you want to look at it. Some will claim it’s an old 10.5 car, and it is, but there’s nothing the same about it. But this is a real car with a GM serial number.”
“A lot of great people came through with parts to make this happen: Mark Menscer got us some shocks in record time; Mark Williams came through with a floater rear end and parts in a couple of weeks. Stuff like that is unheard-of most of the time, but I knew these people, and they knew whatever we had involvement in was going to run good, so they helped us out.”
Michael Bunton trekked to Terry’s shop and worked around Tidwell and company to wire the car at the last minute. “Everybody worked with everybody. We had a guy that works at Chris’s shop rework the front end for the supercharger inlet, and he had to do all the body work and paint it. He was doing paint work on one side of the shop, we were working on the car in the middle, and Michael was working in between where everyone could get out of his way.”
Tidwell purchased an all-billet Hemi from Pro Line Racing for power, complete with a proven F3-140 ProCharger. The electronic ecosystem comes compliments of FuelTech, including its FT600 ECU/dash and its FTSpark ignition system. An M&M three-speed Turbo 400 and lockup converter sends the power out to a Mark Williams 10-inch full floater rear end housing. Menscer Motorsports shocks and struts are on all four corners.
“We got it done Sunday morning and drove straight to South Georgia Motorsports Park and got it off the trailer and made two short passes with it,” Tidwell says.
Perhaps the cherry on top, Tidwell secured the services of world-renowned tuner and Pro Line consultant Steve Petty, significantly speeding up the learning process.
During qualifying the bright red rocket, with Gargus at the controls, ripped off a 3.750 at 200.83 mph, going .998 to 60-feet and 2.523 to half track on its way to a new world record and the number one qualifying spot in the largest Pro 275 field ever assembled.
“I would have been happy with high 3.70s…I felt for sure we could run that quick,” Tidwell says. “Honestly, the car went a mid-70 and I feel like it could go quicker. We haven’t really leaned on it yet — we don’t have our O2 and EGT sensors lined out where can really lean on it…we could, but we might hurt something. I think there’s a couple hundredths left in it and a little bit of mile-per-hour.”
At 1,400-feet density altitude and the water grains up, the air was certainly not as great during Gargus’s record run as it could have been, leading Tidwell to believe a .71 or .72 is in the cards on the right day.
Gargus advanced to the quarterfinal round of competition, running 3.81 and 3.77 in the opening two rounds, but drifted out of the groove and lost to Micke with a 3.82. Nevertheless, with a well-proven setup and an arsenal of knowledge and talent standing behind it, this real-deal Camaro is a victory waiting to happen.
The only question is whether that victory will come with Gargus or Tidwell in the driver’s seat.
“I don’t know. Everybody’s on me about that,” Tidwell says in a whimsical tone. “Chris and Petty don’t know me as a driver, so they’d be surprised if I did. I might drive it one of these days. Paul’s a great driver, but driving two separate types of cars is tough…there’s a lot going on that’s different between a turbo car and that car. All of my old buddies left me about 400 Facebook messages over the weekend wanting to know why I wasn’t driving again. I probably will, I just have a lot going on. It would probably shock a lot of people that don’t know me in that way….I might drive it a race or two just to show them why I talk so much sh-t about driving.”