DI WARM UP: Hancock Knocks Radial World Out of Rotation
Before forever altering the landscape of Outlaw Drag Radial racing with a 4.093-second blast in his Pro Nitrous turned “Radial vs World” Corvette this past weekend, Jamie Hancock was best known for becoming the youngest-ever champion of a major, touring drag racing series when he won the 2007 ADRL Pro Nitrous world championship. Fast forward to the summer of 2014, though, and he’s quickly becoming a substantial figure in the small tire racing world with the aforementioned 4.09-second lap – the first-ever in the 4.0-range, as well as the quickest-ever for a nitrous-assisted radial ride.
Recently married and working as a ground equipment mechanic for a jet engine manufacturer while working toward an engineering degree, Hancock and his father, James, who also serves as his crew chief, first looked toward the Outlaw Drag Radial ranks – specifically the Donald Long-created, no rules-having Radial vs World category – as a fun and exciting new challenge, especially with PDRA Pro Nitrous quickly turning into a 3.7-second affair for bigger budget teams.
“We were just looking to do something to pass the time,” says Hancock, now 24. “We’d actually sold the Corvette to a friend, but it’d just been sitting – literally in a barn with a leaky roof – so we bought it back and put it together with some stuff we had in the shop. We had the motor from our Pro Nitrous Firebird, a 5.3-bore space 867 with four [nitrous] systems, and a Brunodrive and converter that we’d bought like five years ago. We bought a new set of wheels, slapped those small tires on there and headed to Valdosta back in February for Duck’s Lights Out IV race.”
The first few licks on a true 10.5-inch slick didn’t go as planned, so the Hancocks made the decision to give the 315-series Mickey Thompson Pro Drag Radials a shot.
“On those tracks that are prepped for radials, you basically have to run them,” says Hancock. “Second pass out on ’em we went 4.33, and that kind of set the hook.”
The Hancocks returned home after Valdosta and decided that they were going to try and make a legitimate run at this radial tire racing deal, sticking the Outlaw Street Car Reunion at Memphis International Raceway in late March on their calendar.
“We went to Memphis after having about a month off and went 4.24 right off the trailer,” Hancock recalls. “We were still sneaking up on it, making progress, but we knew we were going to have to make some more changes.”
The main change, Hancock readily admits, came in the way of a new bolt-together torque converter from BTE Racing.
“When we first came out, like I said, we were just using stuff that we had laying around,” says Hancock. “The car hadn’t been raced since 2010 and we’d pieced it together with parts from the shop. We got with the guys at BTE and that’s what picked us up big time – that new converter.”
When Hancock talks about picking up “big time”, he’s most assuredly referring to the fateful 4.093-second blast at Shady Side Dragway on June 6th, 2014. Coupled with a staggering 1.03-second 60-foot time, Hancock’s run stands as the quickest pass ever recorded on drag radials – something the Auburn, Alabama-native is quite proud of.
“All the way back to Valdosta, we really thought we could run good on this small tire, but that 4.09 was pretty amazing,” says Hancock, who will tell you that he knew it was on a run from the moment he let off the transbrake button. “It’s amazing how much power this little tire will take. Pound-for-pound, I mean, it’s truly amazing.”
Making the switch to the small tire takes a totally different approach, though, especially for some wheel speed-conscious former Pro Mod racers.
“It’s a totally different mentality,” says Hancock. “You gotta start slow, you have to creep up on it. My dad tunes race cars for a living, though, and 90-percent of the cars he works on are small tire cars, 28-, 29-inch tire cars. He knows how to run those tires. It took us a little bit of time, but once we had a baseline it was just a matter of figuring out where we could put the power – how quick can you turn it on and how to manipulate it so that you can get it on as fast as you can.”
Clearly, Hancock and company had the power on pretty quickly at Shady Side – quick enough to etch their family name in the drag racing record books for the rest of time. While widely celebrated, the big run has also come with a bit of baggage – controversy as to the weight of the Hancock’s Corvette at the time of the run at the center of the debate.
“You’re always going to have haters when you run good, but most everyone has been congratulating us and happy for us,” says Hancock. “That’s why you do this stuff – you do it out of pride. We’ve worked out butts off and we’re running good – that’s it.”
As for the matter of weight, Hancock says the car tipped the scales at 2,700-pounds – precisely the legal weight for his combination in Radial vs World competition.
“Initially, it was 2,750 [pounds],” says Hancock. “Then they changed the rules to 2,650, but added a stipulation that if you were more than two inches over stock wheelbase you had to add 50-pounds. Right now, we’re 2,700.”
Good ol’ drag racing purist Jeff Burk provides his take on modern day nitro racing.
It may not be significant to everyone, but it’s certainly worth noting that NHRA recently lowered the minimum age for Junior Dragster – reportedly to stop losing out to things like go-cart racing when it comes to youth and motorsports.
MEDIA ROUND UP:
More Jamie Hancock and his skinny tired-Corvette.
One of Hancock’s first true 10.5 hits, before the switch to the radial.
Longtime Outlaw 10.5 racer Scotty Guadagno’s absolutely serious 4.19-second lap at Shady Side.
Francis Johnson throws down a 4.21 in his radial-equipped, stock suspension Ford Mustang.
NHRA recently shared this gem on “Big Daddy’s Brainstorm“.