Michigan's Doug Stewart, one of the more prolific Mopar-brand racers within NHRA's Competition Eliminator class, has exited the confines of his familiar Dodge-powered dragster and now sits behind the wheel of an engineering marvel-an '03 Dodge Stratus. Stewart made his debut last spring with the Stratus, which features numerous one-of-a-kind innovations.
"We acquired the car brand-new from a dealer's lot-it had 18 miles on it," Doug reported. "It then went directly to East Texas Race Cars where it was torn apart and reassembled. The car is really a one-off. That's because so many of the components were built specifically for this race car."
Stewart's success and recognition with the innovative new machine has come swiftly. During its first race (at Memphis in April), Stewart reset the NHRA national e.t. record for his class with an 8.41. Later that month, his team was the deserving recipient of the Best Engineered award during NHRA's Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event held at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Illinois. Stewart's C/SMA-classed car tips the scales at 2,800 pounds and features a 358 engine that was constructed by Patterson Racing in Augusta, Kansas. That motor features the latest Hemi cylinder heads that DaimlerChrysler introduced for Sportsman racing. "We have been running Patterson motors for about 15 years, and we're always happy with the power they give us," Stewart said.
The transition from his previous dragster to the Stratus has been a major adjustment for him personally. The switch was made due to a number of factors, including safety. "In the B/ED class, it seemed that I was on the edge a lot of the time because the car really moves around at speed," Stewart said. "Those dragsters are very light-only 1,400 pounds-and they have small rear tires. On some of the tracks we race at, the car really wanders-sometimes to the point of [being] ridiculous. Safety and remaining competitive were becoming real issues, so we decided to make the switch."
Stewart's racing team also includes his brother, Jimmy, who drives the team's PST/A Dakota R/T. His crew chief is Charlie Anys, also from Michigan.
Tennessee TitlesSecond-generation driver Craig Marshall earned his first career NHRA national event title on April 27, when he won in Super Stock Eliminator during NHRA's Mac Tools Thunder Valley Nationals held at Bristol, Tennessee. Craig, who hails from Ohio, is the son of Bob Marshall, winner of multiple NHRA and IHRA events. Craig won seven grueling rounds of racing and defeated a massive 113-car field driving the "Dodge Material" SS/BA '65 Coronet.
The Bristol race also featured a win by long-time Mopar-brand proponent Bob Phillips from Pennsylvania, who guided his '81 Lebaron to a win in Super Gas (8.90). Phillips' first class win in 16 years included seven round-winning lights.
West Coast Shootout (cut short)Mission Raceway's NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event in May included the 2nd Annual West Coast Super Stock Hemi Shootout, which again attracted some of the quickest SS/A cars in North America. Unfortunately for the British Columbia fan base, rain cut the action short, with only the first and second rounds of competition completed. Based on his low e.t. run of 8.68, California's Michael Ogburn was awarded the victory and the First Prize of $2,000. The super-quick Mission Raceway surface also served up what was believed to be the quickest side-by-side pairing in SS/A class history, when Jerry Jenkins beat Dave Raybourn with an 8.78 to a red-lighting 8.73 e.t.
Carolina 'CudaAdd South Carolina's Johnny Kelly as the newest name in the ranks of SS/A class racing. Kelly recently made his NHRA national-event debut driving a meticulously prepared SS/A '68 Barracuda during NHRA's Summit Racing Southern Nationals held east of Atlanta. Kelly's car, which features a chassis by Ken Keir and a motor program by Ray Barton, was impressive out of the gate.