When men think about getting something nice for their wives to drive, if cost weren't an issue, a new Chrysler 300 might be the ticket. Or perhaps an optioned-out Dodge Intrepid or Durango R/T. For Judy McCormack, however, the idea of a "perfect car" was something that could race in NHRA Stock Eliminator. Wanting to race a late-model entry negated the more luxurious offerings, but this one was going to be for speed, not highway joy rides. So she and husband Jack, the founders of McCormack Motorsports, Inc., (MMI) selected a 2000 Dakota truck for their latest race toy.
"The Dakota fits the DT/SA class perfectly," she states, "The Magnum engine is excellent and it is truly Mopar's current 'hot rod.' "
Judy's no stranger to drag racing. She's been a member of "Jack's Army" of Stock class racers for years, and has made her mark at more than one event. The Dakotas that are now an integral part of the McCormack stables have proven to be serious contenders. Due to Jack's close relationship with Mopar Performance (when you call the Mopar Performance Tech Line, you're talking to his people. He also owns and manages the onsite Mopar Performance displays seen at most national events), the trucks driven by Judy and daughter Jennifer are basically "test mules" for new parts and tricks dreamed up at Mopar Performance. Those advantages pay solid dividends considering how competitive late-model Stock class racing has become. Not that Jack's given up on more notable Mopar packages-MMI presently fields a number of E-Body Hemi and 440-powered machines as well.
The idea with the latest McCormack Motorsports-owned truck wheeled by Judy was to create a competitive entry that also could be displayed as an example of what the Dakota could become. Right after getting it, one of the first things was to turn the Dakota over to PSI Motorsports, who repainted it blue and white for the show-car circuit. Competition Graphics handled the lettering and graphics. Part of the show plan was also adding the new Mopar Performance bed cover, which yielded surprising results on the track (see the accompanying story on performance tips).
As the time rolled around to hit the race tracks in spring, other changes were implemented. The truck's suspension now uses HAL front and rear shocks, along with Center Line wheels and Mickey Thompson rubber in all four corners. A 52-inch wide 831/44 rear using a Moser spool and 4.56 MP ring gear are out back to send the horsepower to the slicks. The fuel-saving but power-robbing overdrive transmission has been replaced by a Mopar 999 (904 derivative) three-speed with trick internals built by Jim's Performance Transmissions, who also provided an 8-inch converter that stalls at approximately 4500 rpm. Judy goes through the gears using a Turbo Action shifter and is able to monitor the vitals with Auto Meter gauges.
Under the hood is the 5.9 (360) Magnum engine that Bob Kammer of Kammer and Kammer Engines in Dayton, Ohio, has gently massaged for maximum Stock performance. The DT/SA category gives only minor leeway for change, so it becomes an exact science of engine building. At 9.9:1 compression, one wouldn't think it could create 380 horses, but it does. Part of this is due to the Comp Cams roller now in the center of the block, which works in conjunction with the OE lifters, rocker arms, and pushrods. Comp also provided the valve springs, while Manley and Mopar supplied the valves themselves. As per the rules, the heads were subjected to a three-angle valve job and a mild decking to the minimum allowable CC range in the combustion chambers, and little else. Hooker Super Competition headers send the exhaust out from under the floor pan, while the engine controller for this engine combination came from F.P. Electronics. A Paxton fuel pump, visually monitored by a pressure gauge mounted on the cowl, feeds the throttle body, and a combination of Mopar and MSD parts provides a hotter ignition setup.