<%@ Page Language="VB" %> The Smiley's Racing Products Southwest Junior Fuel Association

SWJFA Garage Scene 2015

After a season that brought dozens of 9,000 rpm passes and several personal best times, it gets down to performing the maintenance needed to field one of these high winding, ear splitting, run it as fast as it will go fuel dragsters. In order to bring in some insight to what the teams of the Southwest Junior Fuel Association have been up to this off season, they have allowed us to take a look inside their shops and observe what it takes to be competitive and consistent in the world of heads-up drag racing.

We’ll start the tour of race car shops with the reigning SWJFA champion and go right down the list of last year’s participants that responded to an interview, in the order of their finish.

Ron Ussery & Odie Coker

After last season’s Southwest Junior Fuel Association championship run, Ron Ussery wasted no time in starting to prepare his car for this year. The biggest issue for him was replacing the 1956 Chrysler hemi block he cracked on his way to the championship. Prior to this last block, which lasted about a year, Ronnie used the previous early hemi block for 26 years. Besides the replacement block, a faulty mag box was also replaced. The mag was firing cylinders at the wrong time causing sever detonation that Ronnie believes caused the block to crack. The car’s now being prepared to go out and make those 9000+rpm runs again this year.

Hemi block, cracked from cylinder through web through main bore

Running the car as hard as it takes to win a championship 2 years in a row takes many hours of hard work and maintenance. Using 61 year old heads and a 59 year old block with a long stroke crank at 9 grand means a tear down after every race. It’s either maintain it now or pay dearly for it later. But for now, Ronnie plans on creating a few more good memories with the car. Along with racing his junior fueler, he’ll also be running his Top Dragster RED car. Odie Coker will again be driving the junior fuel car this year. Odie says he can’t wait for the racing season to get started so he can go out and kick some butt! Guess we’ll just have to wait and see how that plan works out.

New short block waiting to be installed in Ron Ussery’s dragster

Charlie Smith & Ken Hawkins

With a strong finish last year in the SWJFA point’s battle and winning the Crew Chief of the Year award, Charlie Smith is just freshening up his car with a valve job and cylinder head inspection along with freshening up the transmission. Like Ronnie Ussery, Charlie fought a mag box problem throughout part of last year. It would run like gangbusters at one race then stumble at the next. It was nothing that a new mag box couldn’t fix.

Cylinder head work for Charlie Smith

Charlie feels he had a good year last year, running a tough points battle for the championship with the Ussery & Coker team right up to the final round at the final race of the season. He’ll be back again this year but is still uncertain just which races he’ll be attending. Driver Ken Hawkins will be driving Charlie’s car again but Ken will also be driving his and wife Robin’s car in Comp Eliminator. Ken and Robin have been preparing to do this for several years and with Charlie’s time and help will be making some divisional races and maybe even a national event this year. We wish them the best of luck while competing in the major league.

Ken & Robin Hawkins comp car

Ron Muncy & Steve Dunkin

The winter months have been busy for the Muncy Mafia. In addition to maintaining several different cars and engines for him and others, Ron Muncy has been taking care of business with his hard charging junior fuel car. Besides the normal maintenance of the engine, transmission and rear-end, this is the year for a new set of connecting rods. Every 2 years his car gets a new set of rods, “its cheap insurance” says Ron.

In the SWJFA series the points accumulated goes with the car. With this team, Steve Dunkin sometimes shares the driving responsibilities of the junior fuel car with Ron. These guys have been partners for a long time and they seem to make it work well. Besides, Steve is a few cupcakes lighter than Ron and that doesn’t hurt! Last year was pretty good according to Ron but just fair from Steve’s point of view. But they both want to make it through this year with a successful run at 1st place. To get them closer to that goal, there’s even been talk of a rear-end gear change. Who knows, this may just be their year.

Mike Millsap

SWJFA president Mike Millsap is looking to make his ride faster than last year. With a fresh valve job and a new camshaft in his rail, he’s looking to set another personal best. After putting new rods in the engine and freshening the Glide he’s confident the 7.30’s aren’t too far away. As a side note, the old golf cart was acting goofy so Mike and Frank now have a brand new beauty ready to be used and abused out at the track.

One of Mike’s goals last year was to win a race and while that didn’t happen, he was the #1 qualifier at Thunder Valley Raceway. His second goal was to run his car as quick here in the series as he did when he ventured to California. That mission was accomplished this past year and has fueled his drive to run consistent low 7.40’s and even dip into the 7.30’s before the end of the season. In order to get the car closer to its allowable minimum running weight for maximum performance, Mike’s been working out in the gym in an attempt to lose 10 lbs from his slightly robust figure.

Mike Buchanan

After running the majority of last year with his smaller back-up engine, Mike Buchanan has the good engine back together again and already bolted securely in the frame rails. Early last season an oiling issue raised its ugly head with the good engine but a new oil pan and oiling system are now in place to cure the problem. In addition, he and crew chief Gary Roushkolb fabricated a new belly pan containment system and are now waiting for warm weather to test. Mike let it be known that he’s glad last season is over and all he wants to do is to win at least one round this year. No doubt with the good engine he’ll do better than that if Gary has anything to do with it; and he will.

Mike Buchanan’s ready-n-waiting junior fueler with a friend

Mike had another project he worked on this off-season besides his current junior fuel car. For several years he raced junior fuel with a mid-60’s Jim Davis chassis, an ex-top fueler from the left coast named “Lou Anne”. Over the winter the chassis was reunited with a blown 392 hemi and a reverser. The cacklefest car didn’t have a reverser back in the day but Gary let it be known he wasn’t pushing it any more than he had to! All that’s left to finish up with the car is setting up the clutch and lighting off the cacklemonster for the first time.

The cacklemonster under re-construction

Tony Patterson

At the next to last race of the season this past year, Tony Patterson found himself with a damaged frame on his dragster and had to miss competing in the last race. We’re happy to report the car is out of the chassis shop and now has a clean bill of health. Towards the end of the year some transmission problems started to surface but those have also been addressed. He’s now ready to reassemble it for a run at the new season.

Repaired chassis for Tony Patterson

Last year was a great learning experience according to Tony. With a new engine from Ken Hawkins and a new fuel injection system, the car started to fly and he turned his first 7 second ET. Tony is quick to point out that it wouldn’t have happened without the help and direction of Ken and Ronnie Ussery. What they helped do with the car really brought it to life in his opinion. This year he’s looking to make a 180MPH run and make it to a final round. I hear ya Tony, aren’t we all?

Jay & Brian Briggs

The winter maintenance routine was somewhat less involved for the Jay and Brian Briggs junior fuel team. Due to some limiting factors, they were able to make just 15 passes all of last year. All the car needed over the winter was to freshen up the transmission and rear-end .

The past year presented some health issues that slowed down the father and son team. But we’re happy to report everything is now fine and they’re looking forward to the new season. They will be making as many races as they can this year that aren’t too far from home, starting the SWJFA season at Pine Valley Raceway in April. Now Jay’s vision for this year is simple; he wants to run a 7.0 @ 185mph. Look out Odie Coker, Brian may just be coming for you…

Al Mallory & Richard Brady

This winter has found little maintenance needed in the Mallory and Brady camp. With business taking much of his time and with sponsoring several other series, Al Mallory didn’t take the car out much last year.

This year he and driver Richard Brady plan to make a few races somewhere. With the same business and sponsorship commitments as last year, they’ll race as much as their time allows.

Gary Ballard

After slipping a little nitro in the tank of his dragster to speed it up at another series event last year, Gary Ballard is replacing some broken piston rings this winter. In an effort to leave the nitro at home and quicken his times where ever he races, he’s changing heads to a pair with some serious port work. Since the engine is apart, he’s also replacing the connecting rods and freshening it up.

Last year was his first full year of racing and he was happy to finish 10th in the SWJFA series. This year he’s looking forward to some junior fuel quarter mile racing as well as an eighth mile event at Ardmore. No nitro, just alcohol.

Roger Schwab

As the newest participant in the SWJFA, Roger Schwab returned to the sport of drag racing with a dragster purchased as a complete and running car. This winter he’s had the heads serviced and honed and freshened the block, along with installing a new set of tires. Since the car was originally built for a larger driver, a new brake pedal and accelerator pedal were installed in order to better fit his slightly smaller size.

Roger Schwab’s car waiting for parts

With just 7 passes last year, Roger was able to get a feel for the car and determine any changes that needed to be made. With Gary Roushkolb helping tune, he’s looking forward to improving his points finish by attending several of the series races. His goal is to finish 5 spots better this year to end up #6 in points. Then looking down the road, finishing the following year 5 additional spots better to end up #1. We’re coming for you Odie, slow but sure….

Rob Ragland

Rob Ragland has been freshening up his ride for the coming season. He raced as often as he could while staying busy assisting with the track management at Ardmore Dragway and crewing with the Blue Max funny car team.

He plans to run as often as time allows this year. If he isn’t running his car, he’s busy helping run the track and the Blue Max. We hope to see him as often as we can.

Terry & Nick Coker

Returning to the junior fuel ranks this year is Terry Coker with his digger. What’s new for this year will be the car’s driver, Nick Coker. Nick will be the 3rd generation Coker involved in drag racing. Terry is putting together an engine from parts in his shop to get him started and learning how to drive the racecar. When the learning curve has gone far enough, then he’ll put the good engine in.

Terry Coker’s shop parts engine

At the end of last season Terry tested the car and good engine with Ken Hawkins behind the wheel for a few passes. But for now, with the shop parts engine in the car, this will be a learning and building year for the father and son team who plan to race as much as they can. Keep an eye on these guys; they might evolve to be a force to be reckoned with before the end of the season. Can’t imagine Terry could stand to go to long without putting the good engine back in. Stay tuned and find out.

Wrapping It Up

The current 2015 racing schedule is posted here on the website. Mike Buchanan is continuing to work on adding additional race dates for the JWJFA so watch the schedule and the forum for any new information on dates.

The changes for the series this year include running eliminations from a sportsman ladder as opposed to last year’s drawing of cards and Hilborn Fuel Injection will now be sponsoring the “Hilborn Final Four” at every race. The semi-finalists at every race will split a bonus of $100 for earning spots in the final two rounds of eliminations.

We’d like to thank all the sponsors for their support throughout last year and this coming year. Lubrication Engineers Inc. will be with us again as the title sponsor of the series. Standing right alongside them is Hayden Enterprises Specialty Wheels, Hilborn Fuel Injection, and Champion Spark Plugs. We appreciate their support of the series and the great products they produce and that we use in our own 9000+ rpm, 180 mph hot rods. Remember, life ain’t a drag, it’s a race.

Coker Scores 2014 Championship
with Wichita Win

The final event of the 2014 Southwest Junior Fuel Association season brought the series to Kansas International Dragway in Wichita, Kansas on Saturday, October 11th. A heated points battle between Odie Coker and Ken Hawkins would be settled here this weekend and the winner would be crowned SWJFA series Champion! Coker entered the event with a three point lead over Hawkins as the call went out for the first round of qualifying to get underway.

(Ussery & Coker - Wichita Winners & 2014 Champions)

The series Championship came down to the final round of the final race of the season by the two dominating teams in 2014. In a showdown of powerhouse junior fuelers, Coker and Hawkins crept to the line to decide who would be crowned the winner in Wichita, but better yet, the Champ. Hawkins blasted off the line with a .002 reaction time but just ran out of ponies as his 7.62 at 168 mph came up just short to Coker's stellar 7.38 at 179 mph as Coker and team owner and tuner Ron Ussery celebrated a dominating performance, dominating season and well deserved Championship!

CLICK HERE for complete results!