Super Gas Corvettes - Super Gas Class Is A Gas, Gas, Gas

Part 2: A History Of The NHRA S/G Class From 1997-2010 And A Look At Eight More Of The Most Talented Drivers In The Sport Today

Christopher R. Phillip Dec 10, 2010 0 Comment(s)
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Last month, we introduced you to the exciting world of NHRA Super Gas (S/G) drag racing and explained how the Corvette quickly became the dominant body style in the sport. Our history lesson continued with the story of Tommy Costales, a race-engine builder who earned a place in the record books by piloting an original-body '67 Sting Ray to the Super Gas World Championship in 1984. Finally, we told you about the rise of aftermarket Corvette bodies, which came to prominence when real midyear Vettes became too rare and expensive to subject to the rigors of competitive drag racing.

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This month, we pick up our history of NHRA Super Gas in 1997, when NHRA racer Jim Hughes introduced the fifth-generation Corvette to the sport.

"Aftermarket C5 bodies would not have joined the first- and second-generation Corvettes in S/G racing if it wasn't for the relationship I have with race-car builder Don Davis," Hughes recalls. "Don started building aftermarket, full-bodied C4 Corvette race cars in 1987. We called them 'door cars' because they had two doors and a roof, unlike the S/G Corvette roadsters, which you had to climb into from the top. In 1990, while driving a C4 gasser at more than 140 mph, Don realized the need for better visibility. He chose the '62 Corvette body style and built his first S/G Corvette C2 roadster for Joe Scarlata, which won NHRA Best Engineered awards twice in 1996 and Best Appearing at the O'Reilly Fall Nationals in 1999.

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"While building '27 Ford S/G roadsters in the mid-'90s, Don saw the need for a new look in the S/G class and started work on a '57 Corvette, which he knew would be more aerodynamic and better-looking than the Fords. About that time-it had to be in the spring or summer of 1997-I saw the brand-new C5 Corvette, in Torch Red, for the first time. The radical new design impressed me so much that I stopped at the closest Chevrolet dealership and got a '97 Corvette product brochure. When I showed it to Don, he agreed I had found the new look for a super aerodynamic roadster that looked fast standing still. I still remember my exact question to him: 'What would it take to make an S/G roadster with the Corvette C5 body design?'"

Davis replied, "Get me a new $40,000 Corvette for 30 days!"

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Luckily, Jim's brother, Bill Hughes, was general manager for Midway Chevrolet in Phoenix, Arizona, and was willing to order (and later take delivery of) a brand-new Torch Red '97 Corvette for himself. "With only six miles on it, he let me take it to Don for a pattern. I failed to tell Bill that his Corvette would have 600 pounds of clay and fiberglass on it to make the mold," Jim laughs.

"A star was born," he continues. "The C5 Corvette Don Davis roadster-purpose built for the S/G class-incorporated a flip-up body and a chassis design like no other. It has proven its dominance at tracks nationwide from day one."

Jim debuted the Davis S/G C5 Corvette at the 1998 IHRA World Finals at Norwalk Raceway Park (now Summit Motorsports Park) in Norwalk, Ohio, where the car was awarded Best Engineered. "The reaction from racers was fantastic," Jim remembers. "The following week we went to the NHRA U.S. Nationals-easily the biggest, most prestigious race of the year-and again, our Vette was awarded with Best Engineered, beating out 900-plus other cars."

On the 1,320-foot battlefield, the S/G C5 Corvette exceeded the team's expectations, too. "It ran 5 mph faster than any other roadster body we had tried," Jim says. "We were running 8.50s at 170 mph without throttle stops, which equates to an S/G 9.90-index run at 168 mph. This combination helped me and Kevin Kleineweber-my second driver, crew chief, and right-hand man-win nine national events, multiple divisional races, and Fourth, Third, and Second Place in three NHRA World Championships, in 2002, 2006, and 2007, respectively."

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Though Davis went back and finished the '57 Corvette roadster, it was his S/G C5 roadster and its aerodynamic ground effects, which were built to hold the car planted to the track at speeds of up to 180 mph, that changed the Corvette's history in the Super Gas class. "Over 150 Davis-built S/G C5 Corvette bodies, chassis, and turnkey race cars were sold to NHRA and IHRA-licensed racers between 1997 and 2010. The Davis C5s-especially the 9-inch-narrower version he released in 1999 or 2000-were so good that there was no demand to develop an S/G C6 Corvette," Jim says.

So what does the future hold for America's Favorite Sports Car's role in NHRA Super Gas racing? "I expect Corvettes to continue to dominate S/G," Jim forecasts. "With that said, Super Gas has always followed look and style trends. Even though the S/G C5 road-ster is still the fastest and most aerodynamic style out there, if S/G chic returns to first-generation or second-generation Corvette body styles, many racers can simply purchase an in-vogue body, install it onto their existing chassis [all recent Davis-built S/G chassis have this feature], and have a whole new-or should I say old-look."

Will the C6 Corvette ever join Super Gas racing? "Absolutely, yes," Jim says. "Don't count the C6 out of S/G for very much longer. I'm working with Don on an S/G C6 ZR1, which he personally designed and built, and which I will offer exclusively through my company, Hughes Motorsports. The secret, which we're sharing exclusively with VETTE, is that our ZR1 S/G body kits and turnkey race cars will be available in carbon-fiber (as an alternative to fiberglass), just like body panels on the production ZR1."

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Now that you're up to speed on Corvette's history and future in NHRA Super Gas racing, come along with us as we continue to honor the men and women who have propelled the car into its new Golden Age. What follows is an up-close look at eight more of the most talented S/G Corvette racers in the NHRA today, along with their observations on the sport and the car that dominates it.

To learn more about becoming an NHRA Super Gas racer, call the NHRA's national office at (626) 914-4761 or email membership@nhra.com. For more information on Hughes Motorsports' line of S/G Corvette bodies, chassis, and turnkey race cars, call Jim Hughes at (602) 989-7765.

Brian Forrester


Age: 45
Corvette: '63 Roadster
Sponsor(s): Brodix Cylinder Heads and Goodyear Competition Tire South
Years racing your Corvette: Four-and-a-half
Body/Chassis: Charlie Stewart/Undercover Motorsports
Engine brand: Aluminum BBC by Brodix
Displacement: 582 ci
Horsepower: 1,025
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 167
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): 7.50/177
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals (2009), NHRA Gatornationals (2008), NHRA Lucas Oil S/G World Championship (2008)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? I love the classic body style of the older Vettes
Other Corvettes currently owned: None

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Jim Hughes


Age: 51
Corvette: '02
Sponsor(s): Hughes Performance, Hughes Motorhome and Trailer Sales, Sunset Racecraft Racing Engines, Dart Machinery
Years racing your Corvette: Eight
Body/Chassis: Don Davis/Don Davis
Engine brand: BBC by Dart
Displacement: 582 ci
Horsepower: 1,050
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 168
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): 8.50/169
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: Multiple NHRA national and divisional wins and IHRA World Finals (2003)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? The swooping aerodynamic look of the C5
Other Corvettes currently owned: '57 S/G race car

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Jimmy Lewis


Age: 48
Corvette: '58
Sponsor(s): Wood Flowline Products, Sunset Racecraft Racing Engines, Hoosier Racing Tire, Hughes Performance, K&N Filters, and Undercover Chassis
Years racing your Corvette: Four
Body/Chassis: Suncoast/Undercover Chassis
Engine brand: BBC by Dart
Displacement: 582 ci
Horsepower: 1,060
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 170
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): 7.80/175
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: First Place, NHRA O'Reilly Spring Nationals, Houston, Texas (2008)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? My car owner, Buddy Wood, fell in love with our '58 when Kurt Damron from Undercover Chassis brought it to the track. It's the best car I've ever driven.
Other Corvettes currently owned: None

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Tommy Phillips


Age: 40
Corvette: '57
Sponsor(s): Tigerflow Systems, K&N Filters, Smiley's Racing Products
Years racing your Corvette: Three (Tommy previously raced a '63 roadster and an '02 roadster in S/G)
Body/Chassis: Don Davis/Don Davis
Engine brand: BBC by Dart
Displacement: 582 ci
Horsepower: 1,050
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 165
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): 8.05/170
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: Five national NHRA events, including Jegs Sports Nationals, Bella Rose, Louisiana (2009) and O'Reilly Nationals, Houston, Texas (2010)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? "It's cool-I love the vintage look of the old-style Vettes. They just look like race cars to me."
Other Corvettes currently owned: None

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Brad Pierce


Age: 35
Corvette: '58
Sponsor(s): Howards Cams, Mickey Thompson Tires, Competition Products
Years racing your Corvette: Eight
Body/Chassis: "The doors and back half are original Corvette fiberglass. The front half is aftermarket fiberglass from Chris Alston Chassisworks."
Engine brand: BBC by Dart
Displacement: 540 ci
Horsepower: 850
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 149.03
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): 9.07/148.90 (altitude corrected to 8.95)
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: NHRA Winternationals (2003), NHRA 50th Anniversary Winternationals (2010)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? Growing up, my dad had an original '66 Corvette that he raced in the early years of Super Gas, so when I found this car I bought it
Other Corvettes currently owned: None

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Val Torres


Age: 52
Corvette: '63 roadster
Spon-sor(s): Val Torres Construction
Years racing your Corvette: Five
Body/Chassis: Suncoast/Jerry Bickel
Engine brand: BBC by Dart
Displacement: 632 ci
Horsepower: 1,100
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 170
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): N/A
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: First Place, Jegs Sport Nationals, Fontana, California (2007); First Place, Division 7 Series, Fallon, Nevada (2007)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? I had a '74 Corvette coupe, which made me fall in love with the car
Other Corvettes currently owned: None

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Star Scott


Age: 63
Corvette: '00
Sponsor(s): Finish the Race Ministries
Years racing your Corvette: Eight
Body/Chassis: Don Davis/Don Davis
Engine brand: BBC by Dart
Displacement: 555 ci
Horsepower: 1,004
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 161
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): N/A (purpose built for index only)
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: IHRA Division 1 Champion (2004), IHRA MIR Divisional Win (2004), NHRA National Dragster Challenge Winner (2003)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? It was my favorite car from childhood, plus I love the Corvette's looks and aerodynamics
Other Corvettes currently owned: '67 Grand Sport clone with L88 motor, 700hp Supercharged '92 LT1, '94 Torch Red ZR1, 535hp Supercharged Millennium Yellow '03 Z06, Velocity Yellow '06 Z06

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Steve Williams


Age: 53
Corvette: '63 roadster
Sponsor(s): K&N Filters
Years racing your Corvette: Three (Prior to that I'd raced a '62 roadster since the early 1990s)
Body/Chassis: Worthy/Sarmento
Engine brand: BBC by Brodix
Displacement: 565 ci
Horsepower: 1,110
Best mph in S/G 9.90 index: 178
Best e.t./mph (no throttle stops): 7.38/184
Biggest win(s) in your S/G Corvette: Runner-up, NHRA Finals Pomona, California (2009); First Place, NHRA Division 7 Lucas Oil Points Meet, Bakersfield, California (2008, 2009, 2010); First Place, NHRA Division 6 Lucas Oil Points Meet, Boise, Idaho (2009, 2010)
Why did you choose the Corvette over other bodies? I bought my first Corvette at the age of 16, and they've been my favorite ever since
Other Corvettes currently owned: '62 roadster (One of my goals is to bring it back to street trim with an Art Morrison chassis under the original body)

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Part 2: A History of the NHRA Super Gas class from 1997-2010 and a look at eight more of the most talented S/G Corvette drivers...
Christopher R. Phillip Dec 10, 2010

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