The Bad Bullet: Jim Howe Dishes On His New NPK Engine Package

A drag racer who’s trying to win is always going to look at the rulebook to see where they can find an advantage. It’s not always about what the rules say, sometimes it’s about what they don’t say. Jim Howe has raised some eyebrows in the No Prep Kings (NPK) universe with his new engine combination. This new engine package has found a sweet spot within the rule set and is already showing plenty of promise.

Howe’s screw-blown 1967 Camaro known as “The Gaurdian” has been powered by a Hemi-based combination for years, but this year he’s changed things up. The new engine was created by Brandon Pesz from PJS Racing and was designed to fall nicely into the gray area of the NPK ruleset that allows for a 100-pound weight break.

“The original intention of the rule was to cover a factory-style block. Well, a big-block Chevy never came with a deep-skirted Y-block or cross-bolted mains from the factory. The 481X is essentially a highly modified Hemi block with a wedge cylinder head. It’s a robust block with a Chevy head on it because the block has always been the weak point. The ruleset picks on the 481X which is a brand of engine versus a type of engine,” Howe states.

Howe contends that with today’s CNC and engineering technology, you can move head bolts, head studs, and cam tunnels around, along with putting whatever size main journal you want in a block. When you mix that with modern cylinder heads that can flow a lot of air, you run into a situation where a gray area in the rules is created.

According to Howe, his engine isn’t anything exotic, it’s just a collection of carefully curated parts that are all readily available and work well together.

“The engine that PJS Racing has built uses a cylinder head with a non-hemispherical chamber that’s based on the same bore spacing as a big-block Ford engine. This engine has Chevy, Ford, and Dodge-style parts in it. So, under the current rule set with a wedge cylinder head it’s not a 481X, and it’s not a hemispherical-headed engine either. That means it qualifies for the 100-pound weight break,” Howe explains.

Howe’s new PJS Racing-built bullet follows the rules for engine architecture to the letter, so technically it isn’t illegal. The engine was created by Howe and Pesz to draw attention to the rule and how it was written.

“Under the current rules this engine is eligible for the weight break, however, I don’t believe this engine should get a weight break. This is a big gray area in the rules that needed to be addressed and we talked about it last year. We brought it to the attention of the rule makers and came prepared this year to run inside that rule set if they weren’t to change it,” Howe says.

So, what if there’s a change in the rules when it comes to engine configurations and weight breaks? Well, Howe has another PJS Racing mill that’s a true wedge-style engine that would fit within rules, and qualify for the 100-pound weight break.

The new engine has already proven itself by powering Howe to a win at the first NPK race of the season. Howe said he plans on running the engine until the rules are changed and then he’ll move on to his other engine. Either way, it will be very interesting to see what Howe and Pesz can do with this engine this season.


About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. Brian enjoys anything loud, fast, and fun.
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