While rules designed to maintain competitive parity, curtail spiraling costs, and frankly, to keep the sanity of the tech inspectors, have left the NHRA professional racing categories with little in the way of innovation and one-offness these days (yes, we made that word up), ingenuity is still alive and well in the sportsman ranks. Just take Carey Bales’ unique SS/DX (Super Stock D/Experimental) 2004 Honda S2000, for example. Bales’ machine, which competes in an eliminator swamped with small block and big block domestic iron from Detroit’s “Big Three” auto manufacturers, is powered by a teeny tiny (by comparison) inline four cylinder, 2156cc, SOHC, 16-valve Honda F22 engine with a BorgWarner 80mm turbo.
You might be wondering how such a combination stacks up against a bunch of throaty V8’s, and if you aren’t already familiar with this car from our previous stories on it, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to know that Bales is actually the current all-time Super Stock elapsed time record holder with the sporty little Honda at 7.923 seconds, which was recorded during time trials at the NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis, just a stones throw from his Lebanon, Ind. home, last September.
Over the off season, with the magnitude of what he’d accomplished with that stunning performance certainly still fresh in his mind, Bales set out to find more horsepower from the F22 bullet to better his record marks in 2013. A major part of that process involved a switch to AEM Electronics’ Infinity ECU, one of their latest engine management system units that delivers state-of-the-art electronic fuel injection control technology commonly found in the top levels of motorsports. With the Infinity, combined with a few other additions, Bales reportedly found himself up nearly 75 horsepower during some low-boost dyno pulls at the same RPM from where the engine was a year ago. According to the folks at AEM, the dyno operator, not used to an engine screaming well beyond 9,000 RPM, actually dialed it back during the pull. Nonetheless, Bales and company saw some significant gains from their hard work and the addition of the Infinity ECU.
At the NHRA North Central division season opener in Indianapolis in late April, Bales qualified No. 46 in the 94-car Super Stock field with an 8.077, -0.873 under his 8.95 index. Not quite the record numbers we saw in September, but you’d better believe there’s a sleeping giant in that Honda that will be wide awake soon enough.