NHRA Factory Stock Showdown veteran Stephen Bell is set to embark on a new racing venture in the all-new Factory X presented by Holley category, with the debut of a brand new Ford Mustang Cobra Jet that was recently completed by the team at Larry Jeffers Race Cars in Missouri. The sleek new Mustang, like Bell’s Chevrolet COPO Camaro, sports power from Greg Stanfield, who himself is also a competitor in the category, with a Chevrolet.
The Factory X Mustang’s — this one joining Chris Holbrook’s car as the only Ford’s currently competing in the category — utilize a 327 cubic inch Coyote engine. These are production-style, 90-degree V-8’s with aluminum engine blocks and cylinder heads, featuring dual overhead camshafts and four valves per cylinder, with a bore and stroke combination of 3.7-inches and 3.8-inches, respectively. They are topped with 3.0L Whipple superchargers, and this one is backed by a Liberty five-speed manual transmission with a clutch.
With prior obligations conflicting with next weekend’s NHRA Carolina Nationals, the next stop on the abbreviated four-race Factory X schedule, Bell has tapped friend and fellow Factory Stock Showdown racer Conner Statler to drive the car in its national event debut. The team plans to test next week after the Maple Grove race before heading to Charlotte. Statler, a graduate of the School of Automotive Machinists, drives a car owned by David Janac at select NHRA national events.
Bell was one of the original Factory Stock Showdown racers, and while he’s largely campaigned COPO Camaro’s, his first factory-style car was in fact a Mustang Cobra Jet. “When the factory cars started coming out, I thought, you know, this is probably me,” Bell says with a laugh. “So I bought a Cobra Jet and then got one of the first-year COPO’s. That was around the time when Greg’s Pro Stock career was winding down, and Aaron was getting started, and so the timing was really good for everybody,” Bell says.
“Greg told me when I bought that 2012 Cobra Jet, ‘man, I don’t do Fords.’ But everything evolved and I had a chance to buy a COPO, and Chevrolet and Ford have been great, but it was a better fit for Greg with the COPO,” Bell adds. “But when this new class started, I told Greg that I really like Pro Stock, but the problem with that class is that it’s just all Camaro’s, except for the Cuadra’s Mustangs with Chevrolet engines. If Factory X takes off, there will be no shortage of Chevrolets, so we’ll need help with Dodge and Ford. I personally think the Ford is a better car…it’s a little narrower and a little shorter. I just don’t think there will be as many Ford’s out there once the class gets going, so I wanted to change it up. I want to see this class really do well.”
“David Janac has been driving a Ford for the last year and a half, and it sees to make really good power I think it will be very competitive,” Bell adds of the Ford combination. “It’s just a change of pace — there’s not a lot of strategy behind it, we just want to shake it up. I think it will be healthy for this class for all three brands represented by more than just one car.”
Bell, a four-time national event winner in Factory Stock Showdown, intends to be behind the wheel at St. Louis and Las Vegas to finish the season.
Scott Brown created a special wrap for the new car, which features a 40th anniversary tribute to Bob Glidden and his 1983 Motorcraft Ford Thunderbird, that’s sure to be hit with the fans. “For the people who were around and can remember back that far, it’s really going to stir some cool memories. I think with Greg’s car with the Rod Shop theme, and this car, it’s just going to be a really cool thing to help get this class off the ground,” Bell says.
Bell adds, “the evolution of the performance of the showdown car, with the 7.50 certification, it’s getting to an end as far as what it can do. If you ask the Pro Stock guys, I think they’ll say it should replace Factory Stock Showdown. If you ask the Factory Stock Showdown guys, they’ll probably say it should replace Pro Stock. I don’t know where the class is going to go, but the cars themselves are really cool — they look like a real car, and once everyone figures out the back-half weight, and the tire, with a years worth of R&D, they’ll probably be going 6.80s at 205. So it’ll be fun to watch the performance increase rapidly. I don’t foresee it being a Camping World Series class like Pro Stock, I think it will just find its home like Pro Mod and Factory Stock Showdown, where it’s a 10 or 12 race series. NHRA does a great job showcasing the right classes and cars at the right time, but until we have 16 or 20 cars out there where it’s a real class, I don’t know what it will be.”
Greg and Aaron Stanfield will call the shots on the car, leaving the joy of driving the car — something he’s excited about, given the five-speed and a clutch — to Bell.
Bell says he plans on continuing to race in Factory Stock Showdown next year, and “will probably switch to a Ford, and we’ll run both cars at the first three or four races, see which one we’re more successful with, and potentially focus on that class.”