Papa John’s Pride
In recent times, drag racing fans have witnessed some cool exhibition runs involving a car with a pretty storied past. Owned and driven by John Schnatter, chairman and CEO of Papa John’s Pizza, this 1971 Camaro Z28 has quite the history. Originally purchased by John when he was 15 years old (for $1,600) the car was sold in 1983 when Schnatter then used those funds to help stabilize his family’s pizza business and avoid bankruptcy. That move provided the cornerstone for what ultimately became such an enormously successful franchise. Then some 25 years later, after an exhausting and extensive search, Schnatter was able to find and chase down his original pride and joy—reacquiring it in 2009. Now with some 825 hp to work with, the all-gold Camaro runs in the 9.5 e.t. zone and over 140 mph. He often runs his Camaro at charity events, and frequently alongside racing sensation Leah Pritchett (whose Top Fuel dragster receives its primary sponsorship from Papa John’s Pizza).
New From the COPO Collection
Chevrolet’s direct-from-the-factory COPO Camaro options continue to take hold within drag racing, molding more and more late-model race car participation from coast to coast. One of the newest class players is veteran driver Roy Cracraft, who is based out of Mesa, Arizona. Spanning more than 20 years, Roy’s driving career has included a variety of NHRA index classes (Super Gas, Super Comp, Super Street) with GM cars as well as stints in Top Sportsman and Top Dragster. For Roy, this new season is a venture into the Super Stock class with a brand-new COPO Camaro powered by a 1,000hp 350ci engine. The car will be run as an FSS/B and mostly within the NHRA Pacific Division circuit. Roy’s COPO, which made its debut in early 2017, features the “Collectors Edition” paint scheme option available directly from Chevrolet, and is capable of running in the mid 8-second e.t. zone at nearly 160 mph. Roy’s primary sponsor is the Indicom Electric Company.
Nice Nova Nostalgia
Wildomar, California, is the hometown to a very popular 1964 Chevy Nova owned and raced by Mark Laeger. This very versatile Chevy features a great deal of owner-fabrication, including a 4130 certified chassis, four-link suspension, headers, aluminum panels, decklid, and wing. Using a 427ci Chevy engine with a 6-71 Hilborn injection system built by Hawaii Racing, this Nova makes about 950 horsepower. Mark debuted the car back in 2011 and has been active with it ever since. He can run the car as a B/Gasser within the 8.60 index used for nostalgia drag racing circuits or as an 8.90 car within NHRA’s Super Comp class. Unchained, Mark reports the car has gone 8.26 at 160 mph. Laeger’s racing team includes his wife, Susie, and crewmember Steve Welch.
Pride of Peoria
The personal passion of the husband and wife racing team of Don and Judy Lough out of Peoria, Arizona, is also a favorite of drag racing fans. Back in 2013, after about a three-year construction period, the couple debuted a truly creative 1962 Chevy Bel Air “bubbletop.” Built by Tom Yancer Race Cars (Chandler, Arizona), this super-cool Chevy features a 565ci engine program by Reher-Morrison that produces an estimated 1,015 hp. This car, which cost about $80,000 to complete, is for sure unique to the class. It has already earned some awards and special recognition, including Best Engineered at the 2015 NHRA World Finals, and deservedly so. Driven by David Ruff, the normal setup is to run in either Super Comp or Super Gas. Each season the team’s primary focus is to race Division 7 NHRA Lucas Oil events as well as select national events in that region. Team owners Don and Judy have been involved in drag racing for 30-plus years, while driver Ruff has been a race car driver since 2003.
Photos: Bruce Biegler