Yes, those are three distinct shift changes you’re hearing as three of four PSJ (Pesz-Jones-Sitton) Racing entries cover the eighth mile during this weekend’s U.S. Street Nationals at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
Father-and-son teammates Jeff and Justin Jones are running a pair of Larry Jeffers-built C7 Corvettes in Pro Mod for the U.S. Street Nats, while Jeff Sitton’s Bickel-built 2018 Camaro is outfitted with drag radials for Radials vs. the World action at Bradenton. Pesz serves as the crew chief and tuner for all three cars. His ’53 Corvette was also originally slated to run his ’53 Corvette in Radial vs. the World, though Pesz ultimately decided not to run it this weekend.
Some observers during pre-race testing this week at the historic south-Florida strip suspected there were five-speed transmissions in use, similar to what Jim and Jon Salemi have experimented with on Melanie Salemi’s PDRA Pro Boost entry. Pesz, however, says no.
“Well, it is a four-speed with a lock-up, so when that lock-up kicks in it might sound like a fourth gear change, but it’s definitely a four-speed,” he insists. “This is our own stuff. Just something we’re trying out and it’s working pretty good so far. I put it together, but it’s actually a Lenco transmission with four special gear sets and then it’s got a Ty-Drive in front of it.”
Pesz explains the advantage of adding a gear change, especially for roots-blown entries like all four PJS cars, is the ability to keep the supercharger wound up throughout each shift transition.
“You’re RPM-dependent on a blower motor because the faster the blower turns the more boost it makes, so with the four-speed you have just small drops each time it makes the gear change. So say it shifts at 10-thousand (RPM) and it only drops to 92-hundred; whereas, in a two-or three-speed it might drop to 85-hundred or so. The four-speed keeps the blower turning faster so the boost stays up, too, and that’s where you’re making your power,” he says.
After Pesz and Jeff Jones teamed up the last couple of years, Sitton joined them late last year and all four cars are now housed under one roof in Weatherford, TX, just west of Ft. Worth. Pesz also moved to Weatherford from his longtime home at The Woodlands, near Houston, and reveals it was Sitton who convinced him to strap on radials to his trusty ‘Vette for a couple races this year.
“It was originally built by Garrett for ADRL back in the day, then Jeffers updated it, so it’s real light weight, got lots of titanium bars and bolts. I ran Mid-West Pro Mod with it last year and I got the record with it there, so it’s still a real good car, and now I’ve got radials on it. It’s really been a pretty versatile car,” he says.
“Jeff, well, he’s a gambler and an odds man, so he said to me if we have two fast hot rods out there we’ll have a better chance of winning. So when he asked me what I thought of running radials, I thought, well, I don’t have a good reason not to, so let’s do it and here we are.”
Pesz has prior experience on the small tires, too, having previously driven Keith Haney’s “Enigma” Camaro on radials for much of the 2017 Mid-West Pro Mod Series season to put it in championship-winning position for Haney to finish the job at the final MWPMS race of the year.
“That was a nitrous car and it was fun,” Pesz recalls, “but I think I’ll enjoy driving the blown car more.”
Following the U.S. Street Nationals, he’ll get small-tire opportunities in February and March, when he and Sitton are confirmed entries for Radial vs. the World in promoter Donald “Duck” Long’s Lights Out 10 and Sweet 16 events at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
His days behind the wheel of a Pro Mod are far from over, though, as Pesz confirms he has a brand-new ride on the way from Larry Jeffers Race Cars in House Springs, MO, destined for quarter-mile NHRA competition.
“It’s a new chassis design similar to Justin Jones’ new Corvette that we debuted here at Bradenton, but with Jeffers’ new version of a ’68 Camaro body,” Pesz says. “I do like the older style cars, but the way Jeffers built the car he lowered the back deck so it has less drag, so it’s very aerodynamic just like the new-model Corvette or Camaro. And me and Larry are good friends so I’m running the body to help promote his new design.”
The new car is destined to enter five NHRA Pro Mod races this year with Pesz, who plans to run the entire 2020 schedule. Unfortunately, the new multi-speed transmission can’t be a part of the program, though he anticipates it soon will become commonplace elsewhere.
“I think pretty much anyone who runs a blower is going to have to go to multiple speeds. Most screw cars will have three-speeds and the roots cars will go to four-, maybe five-speeds. I think a four-speed is definitely better in the eighth mile, but from what I’ve seen, the five-speed there’s really been no gain with it,” he says.
“But in legal quarter-mile Pro Mods I for sure would run a five-speed if they let us. But NHRA limits us to three-speeds, so we’re kind of stuck there.”
Regardless, Pesz is thrilled with the potential shown in Bradenton. In testing last Saturday, Sitton ran a track record 3.70 at 202.48 mph on radials, while a couple of days later Jeff Jones went 3.72 at 203.16 on the big tires. Pesz suggests there’s a lot more to come.
“This weekend there’s a cool front coming in and there’s going to be mineshaft conditions, so we’ll be well into the .60s as long as I do a good job,” he predicts. “I’m feeling very confident.”