When Ford’s venerable Cobra Jet, which had never been a seven-anything in official competition prior to the 2019 season clicked off 7.70s with ease at the NMCA and NHRA season openers this spring — with Chevrolet’s COPO Camaro, likewise never before in the sevens right behind it — the writing was on the wall. It was simply too much, too quick, for an eliminator that lives and dies on manufacturer parity. Nevermind that, concern over 180-plus mile-per-hour speeds at 3,500-plus pounds and the 7.50 chassis certification barrier also presented further reason to contain the impressive offseason performance advancements.
The NHRA moved swiftly to address the runaway numbers that exceeded the previous national record by more than two tenths, issuing rule amendments for the Ford and Chevrolet combinations designed to reel them back in to a targeted 7.90-8.00 elapsed time range. When those adjustments did not achieve the desired result, the NHRA Tech Department moved again to handicap the blue oval and bowtie camps. Each time, the NMCA followed suit with its Factory Super Cars eliminator, but late last week, the series’ tech staff made moves to depart — if only slightly — from the NHRA Factory Stock Showdown rules structure.
“We as a sanctioning body fully agree with the NHRA that the cars got too fast over the winter. On a 9-inch tire, jumping from 170 to 180-plus is a big jump, and so our tech committee shares the NHRA’s concern on that,” says NMCA’s Rollie Miller.
On July 27th, the NHRA issued a parity adjustment for the class — the latest of a handful of amendments — increasing the supercharger pulley size on the 2019 Cobra Jet engine packages from 3.750 to 4.000-inches.
Additionally, the Dodge Challenger Drag Paks had their pulley size decreased from 3.125- to 3.000-inches in an effort to increase horsepower. The Dodge camp already, in late May, had its minimum weight adjusted from 3,575- to 3,500-pounds, eliminating the 25-pounds the Drag Paks were sacked with a year ago and then some.
Over the course of the month of May, both the COPO 350 and Cobra Jet 351 and 327 had endured further overdrive reductions, adding up to what has been reported as thousands of dollars in parts, equipment, and research and development costs for teams that are classified as sportsman.
And so the NMCA drew a line in the sand, moving away from the NHRA rules package to give its teams some relief.
“This is a choice that we made, deciding that enough changes had been made to reel it back, and we felt as a committee that we needed to give the guys a break, because four or five changes in three months was just too much,” says Miller. “So we chose not to make another a pulley change against the Ford, but give some back to the Chevy’s to gain the parity back that NHRA went the other direction with. It made sense for us to not make our guys have to go back to the dyno and make gear and transmission changes for a fifth time. It was the right choice for our business model, especially going into midseason with our upcoming Cobra Jet and COPO shootouts.”
On a 9-inch tire, jumping from 170 to 180-plus is a big jump, and so our tech committee shares the NHRA’s concern on that. – Rollie Miller, NMCA
In simple terms, the NMCA tech committee culminated in a decision to utilize the current NHRA weight and overdrive package for the Dodge Challenger, will negate the most recent adjustment to the Ford 327/3.0, and decreased both the base weight and supercharger pulley on the COPO 350/2.65. The detailed outline is as follows:
1. 2015 Dodge//Mopar Challenger Drag Pak 354 with 2.9L combination –
a. Decrease Base weight 75 lbs., from 3575 lbs. to 3500 lbs.
b. Decrease upper pulley from 3.125 to 3.000.
2. 2019 COPO Camaro 350 with 2.65L Magnuson combination –
a. Decrease Base weight 50 lbs., from 3575 lbs. to 3525 lbs.
b. Decrease upper pulley from 3.580 to 3.500.
3. 2014 – 2018 COPO Camaro 350 with 2.9L combination –
a. Decrease Base weight 75 lbs., from 3525 lbs. to 3450 lbs.
4. 2010 – 2016 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet with 2.9L combination –
a. Decrease Base weight 75 lbs., from 3525 lbs. to 3450 lbs.
5. 2019 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet 327 with 3.0L Whipple combination –
a. No Changes.
i. Base weight remains at 3575 lbs.
ii. Upper pulley remains 3.750
Miller is confident the NMCA’s adjustments are not significant enough to force racers to choose one playground or the other.
“I think right now, they’d be willing to move back and forth. The Dodge’s are no different. The Ford is an upper pulley change and that’s it — we believe that will account for about .06-.08 seconds. The Chevy will have to change the pulley and add 50-pounds to go back to NHRA. Both are mild changes, but they will effect setup. They can certainly make those changes and go race, but they’ll need to know how to make the chassis adjustments. It’s not unfeasible,” Miller explains.
Miller adds, “I don’t think this will pull cars from NHRA, but I believe it will pull cars that have bowed out lately from all the changes. There’s been eight or 10 cars that have decided five changes are enough and they’re just going to park the car for a while. By us going back a step and telling them this is what we’re going to do the rest of the year and trying to gain parity, it’s telling those racers: ‘come on out, play, we’re not going to make any more changes, let’s finish out the year and we’ll see where we are then.’ ”
Beyond parity and safety, of particular concern for the category is the 7.50 E.T. barrier, at which point the cars would exceed chassis certification. Where a full half a second remained to work with in 2018, Drew Skillman’s 7.70 earlier this year put the class a mere two-tenths out from an inevitable, class-wide adjustment to contain them above 7.50. In other words, this was all going to happen sooner or later.
“I can’t say these cars can’t certify to 6.00; some of the guys do have 6.0 chassis certs, but 75-percent of them do not, and do not want to spend that money,” Miller says. “More than that, they don’t want to cut their cars up; they’re valuable as they are, as production vehicles, and if you start hacking them up and putting more bars in there to increase the chassis certification, it decreases that value.”
The Fords’s of Drew and Bill Skillman and Bo Butner hold a commanding lead in the points on the NHRA side; Ford’s hold down the top six slots in the points with the NMCA, as Bill Skillman has a more than 600-point lead on rest of the class.