Even after big off-season changes, Rick Hord and Carl Stevens Jr. are picking up right where they left off.
With Stevens calling the tuning shots, Hord blasted to a 5.697 at 254.14 mph in his Xtreme Racing Engines hemi-powered C7 Corvette during Friday’s first round of qualifying at the World Outlaw Nationals at Orlando Speed World Dragway.
Stevens put together a new engine combination for Hord in the off-season and based on Friday’s start, it appears things are already on track.
“We’re pretty happy with it,” said Stevens, the 2018 Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod champion. “We made a lot of changes to the car, but we were trying to find our way back into the .60s. We’ve been there before, so we knew what it would take. That was the best run we’ve had on this new combination and there’s still a lot of power left.”
The World Outlaw Nationals is the official start for many of the NHRA Pro Mod standouts as they gear up for the NHRA opener in two weeks at Gainesville. With a host of talented stars on hand in Orlando, Hord had the most impressive start as the only driver to dip into the 5.60s in qualifying.
Jose Gonzalez is currently second with a 5.739 at 253.85, while Bob Rahaim’s 5.757 at 249.81 has him third with three rounds of qualifying set on Saturday before Sunday’s eliminations.
Hord and Stevens carry plenty of momentum into 2019 after a spectacular second half of last season. Stevens won the $100,000 WSOPM in August at Bandimere Speedway, while Hord rolled to his first NHRA Pro Mod victory in October at zMAX Dragway. Hord qualified first there with a 5.681 at 258.67 and found his way back into the 5.60s on Friday with the new chassis set-up during his first official qualifying round of 2019.
“We’re kind of taking our time working our way through this tune-up,” Stevens said. “Our objective is to test some new concepts and parts we’ve been working on. Obviously we want to win, but we really want to use this as a test session before Gainesville. But we’ll take a win and No. 1 qualifier.”
The new engine combination includes a new block and cylinder heads, and Stevens also built a second engine in the off-season, which he will drop into Hord’s Corvette on Saturday during qualifying. The end goal is to have both engines, which are completely outfitted, run the same number, giving the team plenty of options throughout 2019.
“The car was a little tired and needed a couple upgrades,” Stevens said.
Fully-upgraded, Hord has big expectations this year and he has immediately shown the capability to chase a NHRA Pro Mod championship in 2019.
Following a strong 2018, there are increased eyes on Hord and Stevens heading into 2019, but the start couldn’t have gone much better on Friday.
“Rick’s done a really good job driving the car, and he always has,” Stevens said. “It’s nice as a tuner because he’ll do everything he can to get the car down the track. We had such a good 2018, but we’re just going to take it one race at a time and do the best we can.”