NHRA Pro Modified racing has evolved into a cutting-edge category, requiring elite-level performance to run at the front of the pack. Mike Janis is the reigning champion of the category, and he knows what it takes to be number one. The New York state native debuted his new 2019 ZL1 Camaro at the PDRA Northern Nationals that features a new Jan-Cen Racing Engines 4.900-inch bore space HEMI.
In 2018, Janis captured the NHRA Pro Modified championship after a hard-fought battle with the likes of Rickie Smith, Mike Castellana, and Steve Jackson. This year, Janis is locked in a points battle with Jackson, Jose Gonzalez, and Todd Tutterow in his quest for a repeat. Understanding that his competitors won’t be getting any slower, Janis commissioned famed chassis fabricator Wally Stroupe to build a new Camaro for Pro Mod battle.
“We picked it up back in February and the PDRA Northern Nationals was the debut event for the car since we were finally able to get it done. The car has been sitting at the shop since we’ve not had the time to get started on finishing it up. It went down the track on every pass and was within three or four-hundredths of where it needs to be. We’re really happy with the car so far and what it has shown us,” Janis says.
Janis also debuted his new 4.900-inch HEMI with the Camaro when it rolled onto the track at Dragway 42 in Ohio. This engine package was developed entirely in-house at Janis’ company, Jan-Cen Racing Engines. During the Northern Nationals, the new engine showed plenty of promise in full NHRA Pro Modified trim.
“This HEMI we developed has thicker sleeves than what is normally used, and it has a raised 70mm camshaft. A normal HEMI pushrod is over 11-inches long and the pushrods in this engine are just 8-inches long, so there’s a lot less flex. The engine leaked down at just 2-percent at this point, where a normal HEMI would be leaking down at 20- or 30-percent. It uses a Chevrolet rear flange thrust bearing with a HEMI front and rear bolt pattern on the block. We tried to make it universal so if a racer already has a standard HEMI they can bolt this right into their car,” Janis explains.
The new car has some updates and improvements compared to the current Stroupe-built Camaro that Janis campaigns. Janis wanted a car that would be a step ahead of what he currently has so there would be room to grow performance-wise.
“This car has a few changes in the design compared to the last car Stroupe built for me. He designed the rear framerails to be a lot stronger and that is paying off already since the car tracked so straight right out of the box. We’re very pleased with the car and couldn’t be happier with what Wally built for us. It’s a good feeling with a car like this that works so well its first trip to the track,” Janis says.
Even with a solid first outing, Janis doesn’t have any plans on pressing the new car and engine into NHRA-level competition yet; he wants to be sure everything is functioning as it should before he brings the car out on the NHRA Pro Mod stage.
“We’re not going to run the car at Indy — we have to prove this new engine combination and everything else will work. This body should be about two MPH faster than our current car 1969 Camaro. So far this new car is responding well to changes and shows a lot of potential. As far as running it at the NHRA race, I don’t think that will happen because I want to get at least 30-40 runs on it before it comes out there,” Janis says.
Mike Janis didn’t win multiple Pro Modified championships on accident — those titles are the result of hard work and knowing how to run a program. By taking his time to shake this new car down properly, Janis will dramatically increase his chances for success in the future. It will be interesting to see how this new engine package and car work when Janis turns it all the way up.