The NMCA’s Chevrolet Performance Stock Class Puts The Brand X Into Excitement
by Jason Reiss on in Features
Last week we detailed the rousing success of the NMRA’s Coyote Stock class in an in-depth article. At the time of that article’s conception, we planned to include information on the NMCA’s Chevrolet Performance Stock (CP/S) class – an offshoot of Coyote Stock for Chevrolet racers – but after we began to compile the information, we realized that each class deserved its own space. We didn’t want to detract from that article, or slight our friends racing in the CP/S class who have worked so hard to get their programs up and running.
The Chevy Performance Stock class is brutally basic. From the NMCA Rulebook:
CP Stock is a naturally aspirated heads-up class designed for 1955 and newer GM (General Motors) bodied vehicles and is designed as a low cost, entry level heads-up class. CP Stock is designed around competitors using a production OEM Sealed Chevrolet Performance DR525 crate engine combined with a factory Chevrolet Performance sealed ECM and installation kit. This helps control the ever rising expenses associated with competitive heads-up drag racing and allows racers to explore other avenues to gain a performance advantage. All entries must compete on accepted suspension and at the same base weight.
The NMCA’s General Manager, Rollie Miller, is very pleased with the initial results the series has seen from the CP/S class.
“We were so thrilled with how well a sealed crate engine eliminator worked over in our Ford series that we wanted to offer something for the NMCA series as well. We collaborated with Jamie [Meyer], Curt [Collins], and Justin [Cesler] at Chevrolet Performance with the Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series so it was only fitting to approach them about this new class,” says Miller.
“The NMCA has a lot of great heads-up classes, but a few years ago, we had been actively looking for one that was a more entry-level type of category. We aren’t saying that CP/Stock is a low-budget class, but it is one of the few categories in any national sanctioning body where you can compete heads-up with a 10-second car. Additionally, our contingency program helps put money back into the race winner and runner-up finishers’ pockets and these competitors can chase a national championship.”
“We are very proud to offer a category where there is great competition that has prevented escalating engine costs, on top of great paybacks and a national championship, all with a mid-to-low 10-second car. That is unheard of anywhere else in drag racing,” finished Miller.
Haley Rounsavall and her grandpa – and biggest supporter – fellow CP/S racer Ronnie Hackelton. [NMCA Photo]
During the creation process of CP/S, the NMCA’s higher-ups collaborated with the staff at Chevrolet Performance to determine the rules package for the new class. Unlike the Coyote Stock class and its nearly-required manual transmissions, CP/S class specifies an automatic transmission. Any General Motors non-electronic transmission is permitted for competition, such as the TH350, TH400, and Powerglide. No exotic torque converters are permitted, nor are any sort of electric, pneumatic, or hydraulic shifters. The automatic transmission helps to contain costs significantly as the engines don’t stress the available race-ready transmission designs. This is directly opposite from the Coyote Stock class, where the racers are overpowering the transmissions and seeking race-ready units.
To keep the racers in line, and out of the engines, each is required to sign a contract upon entering the class. The contract mandates that the engine seals remain in place, with penalties assessed should a racer be found in violation.
As the class is a heads-up format, it – like Coyote Stock – pits the racers against each other, but also against themselves, with the big challenge coming in the form of figuring out their chassis and how it performs with the DR525 sealed engine.
Keith Vaughn’s budget-brawler Camaro.
For longtime NMCA heads-up racer Heath Shemwell, this class came down the pipeline right when he was looking to get himself back into the racing scene.
“It was attractive in the sense that I had a car sitting that would work for the class,” Shemwell says.
“The fact that you are using an engine you don’t have to maintenance – pistons, springs, head gaskets – after every race helps to keep my expenses down. I do race on a budget, and this was an opportunity to race a semi-affordable heads-up class.”
Budget also appeals to Keith Vaughn, who campaigns possibly the most budget-oriented car in the class – a 4th-generation Camaro chassis he picked up and has done all of the work on himself. Vaughn drags the Camaro, which started as a $700.00 V6-powered car, with a 12-year-old half-ton Chevy Silverado to all of the races on an open trailer. Many of his parts have been bought and paid for by wheeling and dealing, and he doesn’t have all of the whiz-bang go-fast parts some of the competition has. But that doesn’t matter too much to him, because he’s having a blast racing all over the country.
“It really is budget when compared to other heads-up classes but it’s still not as cheap as brackets or index racing. I always wanted to run heads-up, just couldn’t afford a power adder class,” says Vaughn.
“The format seems to work pretty well and allows a wide variety of cars. And the rules seem to be strict enough to keep cost lower than the Coyote Stock guys yet liberal enough for some variety. With the suspension rules allowing ladder bars and stock suspensions it opens up the class to many cars. I can’t wait to see other bodies besides 4th and 5th-Gen F-bodies.”
Vaughn has plans for a new car to provide that alternate view to the other racers in the class.
“It’s a C4 Corvette that had an engine fire. The cage is in, then over the winter I’ll work on this LS conversion. If I’m gonna be slow, I’ll at least be different.” he says.
Glenn Pushis (left) and NMRA Coyote Stock racer Drew Lyons (right). [NMCA Photo]
The class champion from the inaugural season, Glenn Pushis, is a longtime bracket racer who fell in love with outlaw-style heads up racing after competing with the OSCA in their True Street class just after the turn of the century.
“We raced with the OSCA with a 1970 Olds 442 powered by a 540 cubic-inch big-block Chevy with a 300 horsepower plate nitrous system. We could run in the 5.70’s in the eighth mile back then, which in that class was fairly competitive,” says Pushis.
Kevin Lumsden simply wanted to race heads-up.
“I’ve always thought about running Stock in NHRA, as I have a few friends that run it, but never really liked that – it’s usually just a bracket race. After watching the heads-up Coyote Stock class run at several of the events and then hearing that they were talking about doing a stock Chevrolet class, I was very interested in it and eventually decided to build a car for it,” he says.
But building a car, and running a car competitively, are two very different things. With the limited engine combinations, and relatively-few transmission choices, it comes down to managing the finer points of chassis tuning and parts selection.
“The thing that’s been the biggest challenge for me is getting the suspension on the car the way it needs to be. A lot of work goes into these cars and the suspension is a big part of the puzzle,” Lumsden explains.
Haley Rounsavall has been driving a 2010 Camaro put together by Seely’s Automotive in Arkansas as part of a two-car team with her grandfather, Ronnie Hackelton. She loves racing in CP/S; as a young racer, she’s gaining valuable experience.
“It puts the emphasis more on the driver than the car. It evens out the field and really focuses on who can figure out the little changes that the car needs in order to be the fastest. This is what got me interested in the class,” she says.
Although you’d think having to see your grandfather in the other lane might be intimidating, she says that’s not the case.
“My grandpa is my biggest supporter; even when I do something wrong he is always the first one to come and tell me that it is okay and there is always another race. In fact after I had a red light in the Chevy vs. Ford shootout, he came up to me when I was really upset and beating myself up about it and told me that I was a very talented driver, and that he would never have put me in this car if he didn’t think I could win. It means so much to me that he is always supporting me in every way possible,” she says.
Hackelton runs a 2013 Camaro purchased from Scoggin-Dickey and prepared by Shahan Performance. He’s a longtime racer who decided he wanted to go heads-up racing, and CP/S appealed to him greatly.
“The first time I heard about the CP/S class I was hooked. I have been index racing for four years and I have always loved heads up racing – this is my chance. I have watched the Coyote Stock class; if I was a Ford man I would have done this long ago,” he says.
He’s had his issues, like everyone else, telling us that his car performed great all last year, but the driver had a big learning curve to make everything work properly. The two-car team is challenged most by the ability to go testing, as the closest track to their location – Memphis – is a 100-mile ride.
The CP/S car of Glenn Pushis, 2015 class champion.
Although Glenn Pushis is not a first-timer to the world of heads-up racing, he’s challenged by the fact that he actually runs two cars in the NMCA; his CP/S car, and another, which he races in the series’ Factory Supercars class, which is dedicated to the COPO Camaro, Cobra Jet Mustang, and Drag Pak Challenger factory machines.
“We have tried to make the cars as similar in the cockpit as possible from a driver’s perspective. The shifter placement and shift light as far as the style and shift patterns are the same, but other than that, the cars are two distinctly different animals that like different things at the track to go fast. My crew chief Doug Thompson with crew members Stevie and Scott do a great job maintaining the cars between rounds and making sure we are ready to go when called. The cars are definitely different with one running in the 8.40’s at over 160MPH and the CP/S car running as fast as 10.20’s at 129MPH. It has been an interesting year trying to campaign two cars competitively and also trying to improve on my driving,” says Pushis.
New Parts Provide Better Performance
As with any race class, development finds the weak links, and with CP/S it’s been the engine management system. While the system itself has no issues, as the racers push the engines harder, they’ve realized that a higher RPM limit is necessary. To that end, Chevrolet Performance designated a new processor, which is available to race teams now; its adoption should be universal as the performance increase will make it a necessity.
“The new ECUs allow the 7,000 rpm limit, and now we have to weigh 3,200 pounds – it’s a help to everyone,” says Shemwell. “We may see as many as 10 cars in the class by the end of 2016.”
Simplicity rules – a factory-sealed LS engine dubbed the DR525 provides enough power to run deep into the 10s.
Haley Rounsavall loves the idea of the new ECU – she’s had her issues with the current configuration.
“I kill the car way more than I like to admit to. The rev limiter is a big challenge, I really have to listen to the car when I am driving to make sure that I do not hit the limiter,” she says.
Hackelton is also looking forward to the new parts. “The rev limiter was a great issue – it cost me four races before I finally won one,” he says.
The changes are also completely embraced by Pushis.
“Giving us a larger RPM window with the powerplant is incredibly helpful. This class is really a race to the 330. We try to get the cars off the line clean and accelerate the cars as quickly as we can into high gear. The 6600 rpm hard limit made for a very small window between our torque converter stall and the maximum RPM. Believe it or not, this is one of the hardest cars I have ever driven and tried to be consistent and competitive,” he says.
Lumsden and Hackelton square off earlier this year at the NMCA All Star Nationals in Georgia.
Input From The Manufacturer
Curt Collins, the Associate Manager of Chevrolet Performance, is excited about the future of CP/S racing.
“At the end of the NMCA race season in 2014, Scoggin-Dickey carried our first concept DR525 to show and get interest in a sealed Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series racing class. To date the numbers racing in the class have been relatively small, however, our sales do not reflect these numbers. One can only suspect that sealed engines sold to support a specific race class will eventually make it into the class to race. This means that the series will continue to grow. The Drag Race 525 is an outgrowth of our very successful and poplar sealed Circle Track racing with the CT525 being the sealed cousin to the sealed DR525,” says Collins.
Haley Rounsavall’s beautiful 5th-gen Camaro
As a group, the Chevrolet Performance Stock racers are excited for the future; each is excited for more racers to continue to join the class and has hopes for full fields just like the Coyote Stock racers have achieved. There have been over 20 engines sold for the class; these racers are working to get their cars completed for competition.
“They have a few years on us, but we will catch up quickly. They laid the foundation for us,” says Hackelton.
“It is a great group of people in this class and it is very competitive and humbling all at the same time,” sums up Pushis.
Only time will tell whether CP/S enjoys the same level of success as the NMRA’s Coyote Stock class has, but the racers in competition plan to give it their all. We’ll be watching!