It’s been a dream year for Billy Harper and his IHRA Pro Mod team. Led by crew chief Dennis Radford and assistant crew chief Jim “Skid” Rowe, Harper has won two of the four IHRA events this year, and has such a commanding lead in points that it will be nearly impossible for competition to catch him.
The team debuted a Sonny’s Racing Engines 903 EFI 5.3 Wedge midway through last year. They came out this season ready to dominate and have done exactly that.
“Things have been going great thanks to our crew and crew chiefs and all the supporters like Sonny’s,” Harper said. “Everything has really come together. It’s been a dream season. This is our first full season back since 2008, which was also a dream season. Once we got the right powerplant from Sonny and sorted out some chassis issues it’s been a great season. We’re loving every minute of it.”
Not only has Harper won two events in his ’00 Viper, he reset the IHRA Pro Mod elapsed time record at the Orlando Speed World event and then proceeded to reset his own record twice over. He currently holds the record at 5.832.
This is Harper’s first full season of competition since he won it all in ADRL’s Pro Nitrous category in 2008. Since then he’s taken a step back from racing to focus on his construction business and wait for the economy to turn around. “It took us a while to get the cobwebs and dirt daubers out of everything, but it seems to be working well. We’ve got a good team and that also helps.”
In addition to Radford and Rowe the team consists of Andy Keeling, Ryan Benedict, Harper’s wife Mary and Radford’s wife Judy. Radford is quick to point out that crew chief duties are a joint effort with Rowe. “He works really hard,” Radford said of Rowe. “It’s a team. We’re both crew chiefs. The two of us work together and figure out combinations.”
Radford also piloted his own Pro Mod for many years and utilized Sonny’s power during his tenure behind the wheel, as well. “I personally started running Sonny’s engines in 2010,” he remembered. “The first race we went to in 2010 with our Sonny’s 864 carbureted engine we set the quickest run in nitrous history. We love Sonny’s. He’s been fantastic. He takes care of any repairs virtually instantly. He supplies us with any products we need for the engine. He also offers technical support.”
“I’ve known Sonny for a long time and have bought a lot of motors from him,” added Harper. “Sonny and Todd have been a great support. They’re always looking for some way to go faster. They’re just great to work with. And if we do have an issue or a parts failure, they’re quick to get us parts and help us find solutions. They’re one of the main reasons we’re going fast and our performance is consistent.”
For Harper, going fast and winning races is a bonus. The Kentucky native who once ran for governor emphasizes that his main priority is to enjoy the journey. “The most important thing is just to have fun and enjoy racing, which we do. You’ve got to have fun doing it. Our team has done that even though at Budds Creek we had a major failure. But we came back and won the race next time. That shows true character and the ability to keep winning. The records are nice, but it’s all about having fun and enjoying the people.”