Drag Race Report: X275 Heads-Up Drag Radial
Words: Todd Silvey; Photos: Carl Skillman & Steve Vreatt
The X275 class in the world of Outlaw Street racing is one that may not be considered the “top class” during major events, but is definitely a popular category during which the grandstands remain full to see big power funneled through ladder bar suspension and 275 drag radials.
The class was created in approximately 2008 as an effort to provide a more affordable approach compared to its fellow “small tire” radial category, Outlaw Drag Radial. Ironically, as the X275 class grew exponentially in performance (and costs) during the past few years, yet another class designed as an affordable option has spawned – Ultra Street.
A simplistic description of the current X275 rules include: Bodies from standard manufacturers utilizing stock body lines, OEM steel roof and rear quarter panels.
In the early days of the class, engine rules stipulated a small-block design with a nitrous only power-adder. A maximum cubic inch limit of 470 cubes was the rule for the day. Today, nitrous and turbo chargers are allowed with a base car weight of 2,300 pounds. There are various weight penalties based on engine options. Most events now allow up to 588c.i.
A little bit of homework is required to follow the rules necessary between cars, cubes, cylinder heads, power-adders, and track variations in the current X275 class.
The chassis for X275 are restricted to factory frame rails with OEM wheelbase, along with the car’s factory geometry in the front, with OEM or ladder bar suspension in the rear. The class also has strict rules for retaining a factory stock interior and firewall. You can find a number of sources for detailed rules online that are very uniform between many different Outlaw Street events.
We spoke to a number of dedicated X275 competitors about their take on the class and their version of competing in this version of the heads-up Outlaw Street genre of drag racing. William Blackie and Shannon Hamilton compete together from the central Georgia region. William concentrates on tuning and construction, while Shannon shares in spinning wrenches and the driving chores. Charles Hull is also from Georgia and is a dominating name when it comes to winning race results in X275 competition.
Brian Mungul hails from Nottingham, Maryland, prime X275 territory, where he is a regular “hitter.” Dean Marinis is a hardcore “match race anything” kinda guy from New York and has made a name for himself in X275.
Outline your X275 combination
Brian Mungul: “I run a 1972 Nova that I’ve had for over 10 years. It started out as a street car and slowly transformed into a 10.0 index car and then to Ultra Street, and now I’m running it in X275 this year. It has a 582c.i. big-block Chevy with single stage fogger and is Holley EFI fuel injected. I use a two-speed Powerglide from Virginia Speed Race Cars and an Ultimate converter. It is a standard ladder bar car, as per the rules.
This is my first year in X275. We ran Ultra last year with intentions to go X275 because we basically changed the entire drivetrain set-up. We ran the same engine, but introduced Holley EFI to it. We spent last year learning the car in Ultra before we introduced nitrous to the engine. This year has been a strong year for us and we’re taking steps in the right direction since adding nitrous.”
William Blackie and Shannon Hamilton: “Our car is a Fox body Mustang, and we use a 588c.i. big-block Ford with the A-heads that were ported by Philip Mogley. I built the rest of the engine, and it has around 12.5 to 1 compression. It makes a little over 1000 hp on the engine and, we’re spraying about a 700 throttle on top of it. We use a Sid Neal Powerglide with 1:58 first gear, and it has a Sheppard Race Car nine-inch with 3:90 gears in it right now. Shannon is the owner and driver, and I built the engine. Best time was 4.78 at 150 mph so far.”
Dean Marinis: “The 2000 Mustang was built as a grudge car before we decided to go race with Yellow Bullet in 2011. We slapped some radials on it, and we qualified No. 3 at the track the first time out with those on it. It’s a stock suspension with Race-craft components and Santhuff shocks. I use a big-block Chevrolet engine built by Bischoff at BES. We use Speedtech nitrous, and we’re only allowed a single kit, conventional headers, cast intake, single carburetors. We have a lot of limitations in the class, but the car is making about 1,950 hp. My car still has power windows in it, and other than the carbon fiber hood and front bumper, it’s all original steel on the car. I like the fact that I have a stock console in the car, stock dashboard, and door panels and it maintains a somewhat stock appearance.”
Charles Hull: “I have a ’92 Mustang Coupe with a Bennett Racing engine, 300c.i. with billet heads. We run everything from John Bennett. We use a Mark II two-speed transmission. In X275 trim, we run an 85mm turbo made by Precision Turbo.
We have all Racecraft rear end. There is nothing really different than anybody else’s car. We run on a 275 tire wherever we race, just for the continued experience, and have been running the class for about three years now.”
Describe X275 competition
Charles Hull: “It is very competitive and there’s always a high number for car count. The payouts are decent most of the time. They are just all over the country, and we could go to a race every other weekend. I’ve been running the class for about three years now.”
Brian Mungul: “I like the competitiveness and the camaraderie among the racers. It is a highly competitive, heads up class and just plain fun to race. I got to know the group of racers when I was running Ultra Street. I’d hang in the pits, just watching and get-ting to know them. They are a great group of guys and gals who will welcome you, support you, and are all very helpful.”
Dean Marinis: “It’s a different animal. You don’t know if the car is going to spin or if it’s going to wheelstand. It’s a 3,000-pound car on a 275/60/15 Radial, and getting it to run 1.05 60-foot and 440 at 160 is pretty respectable. It’s pretty exciting, and it drives like crazy.
People say, ‘Hey I have the same car and it’s my daily driver.’ That’s pretty cool that it looks like a mild-mannered car that peo-ple drive to work. I’ve been racing the class for about five years now.”
William Blackie: “I like the challenge of tuning the car chassis. It’s really hard for us to compete though, with the endless pocket guys. There aren’t a whole lot of guys using the big-block Ford combinations like we use.”
Shannon Hamilton: “This is just a door slammer car that’s fast and running heads-up. It’s somewhat of a budget class and I’ll leave it at that. It has gotten kind of carried away, but I still like it. Racing is my addiction. The thrill of being part of a big show is good for us. We go to these backwoods tracks, not great tracks, and the car will get down that track.”
What is it like to tune for X275?
Dean Marinis: “That’s the magic, you know. There are a lot of adjustments to the chassis, a small tire, and a lot of power in these cars. If you don’t hit the set-up right, you’re going to end up in a wheelstand or spin the tires. It’s different conditions, and you can’t just set the chassis and let’s run all day. Every lap, we make adjustments to the car and I look at weather conditions and changing gearing and suspension. Your suspension is constantly being tuned for the track you’re at and the combination you’re running.”
Shannon Hamilton: “You never know; we’ve pancaked an oil pan a couple of times when the track can’t hold it. We had been doing some testing on some slicks last year and had a good tune-up in it. I put a radial on it and went to South Georgia Motorsports Park. She hooked and stood straight up. I looked at the Racepak computer, and by the time I got on the button to the time she was back on the ground was one second flat.
My brain was quick enough that when it came up and I saw the lights, I blipped the throttle and most of the time it would come back down when I do that. This time, when I blipped the throttle it got even crazier. The next thing I heard was the back wheels spinning and we were off the ground, so it was time to abort the mission. It was a great picture, though!”
Charles Hull: “It is a very reliable set-up. We pull the valve covers and run the valves every two passes. We run a very high lift camshaft and that’s basically our maintenance program.”
William Blackie: “Those Menscer Motorsports shocks are really worth their money. We can set them and not make many changes the rest of the weekend. We had some problems with the car where we were spinning, but since we had help from Menscer, we haven’t had to touch them much and it pulls 1.11 60-foot times with a pretty soft tune-up.”
Is X275 your permanent class?
William Blackie: “We definitely are going to stick with X275, just because we want to be a big-block Ford that qualifies in X275, and we want to be in the running. We’ve had a really good season with the new combination in the car. And for us to go out and already be running 4.70s with no more test time than we’ve got on it, the car has the potential to get down in the 4.50s. 4.50s aren’t normal for every race, but 5.0s will get you in the money.
We are going to put some water injection on it and some bigger solenoids so we can get 1,000 hp on the single stage. That will make us more competitive.”
Charles Hull: “We’ll be back for X275 in the spring. We definitely have a few tricks up our sleeve and will make a few chang-es over the winter. We plan to also run all of the NMCA races next year as well, but we love X275 and all of the cars. There were 59 cars in the class last weekend, and we made it to two cars in the final.”
What is the future for X275?
Brian Mungul: “That’s a tough call, but I think it will keep getting crazier. You’re looking at some of the top running guys in the 4.40 range right now. I think it will continue to get faster as some of these guys get more comfortable with their set-ups. I’m also curious to see where the rules go — will there be more rules changes in 2017 because of how competitive the class is getting?
I perceive being around in the future, it is just a matter of where the rules go. I think they’ll stay pretty consistent across the na-tion, so as long as they do that, it just depends on your set-up. I think the blower guys may be a little more boisterous over some of the rules changes, since some of the frontrunners have been blower cars. There haven’t been as many changes for us nitrous guys.”
William Blackie: “I see the class getting bigger and a little faster. I also foresee some rules changes over the winter, but I don’t think that will slow it down at all.”
Dean Marinis: “I can see it always progressing. We’re going to always want to go faster. If we were done, it wouldn’t be fun anymore. We’re constantly picking away at it. I’m pretty excited to see where it goes.”
Shannon Hamilton: “The cost of the class is just going to keep going up and up. There have been debates on should we pull the class back to keep it a budget class. But, Ultimate Street came in to be the budget class and now X275 is going 4.70s to be competitive, so I don’t see it stopping.
Everybody is working hard, chasing power, and it’s going to give kudos to these guys who are able to get a 275 tire down the track this fast. Those guys who can accomplish that are putting in the work, the testing, and the money, and doing what they need to do.
Anybody can go out with a big tire and wheelie bars and a bunch of power and get down the track. Anybody who can do this without wheelie bars, tremendous power, and get straight down the track running 4.0 ETs on the 1/8 mile, that’s impressive.”
Hamilton tells how drag racing helped him through daughter’s tragedy
Shannon Hamilton started drag racing when he was 19 years old. After he got married and had children, trying to race a car while taking care of a family just wasn’t in the budget, so he got out of racing. He and his current wife, Alicia, were looking for something to do on a Friday night and went to Atlanta Dragway. The bug bit Shannon once again and two weeks later, they had a car. His daughter, Cecily, loved watching him race.
“She was a cheerleader, and she cheered me on while taking videos of me racing,” Shannon says. “We got into heads-up racing as time went on and started running X275.”
Then, in March 2015, the Hamilton family lost their daughter, Cecily Mcree Hamilton. She and her boyfriend died in a tragic automobile accident. Cecily had been a varsity high school cheerleader and did very well in school, with her goal to be a marine biologist. The accident hit the family hard and Shannon no longer wanted to have anything to do with drag racing.
“I was blank,” Shannon says. “I cared about nothing. As time went on, I needed to clear my head. Racing is one of those things that can just occupy your mind and keep you from going insane. William Blackie told me that I needed to move forward in life, and he pushed me to get back in the car. I brought the car back out and put her scholarship program stickers on the car, and we race to represent Bringit4Cec.org now.”
Shannon and Alicia, along with Cecily’s mother, Brandi, and stepfather Josh Poole, started the nonprofit organization to keep her legacy alive.
“Cecily had a frustration that baseball players got scholarships, and football and basketball players got scholarships, but there were not many scholarships for cheerleaders,” Shannon says. “I remembered that conversation after her accident and we said we’ll change the game and start a nonprofit organization to provide scholarships to cheerleaders.”
The organization not only contributes a portion of their proceeds to benefit teen driving programs to prevent the top causes of teenage automobile accidents, through a partnership with B.R.A.K.E.S., but they also contribute 5 percent of their net proceeds to local cheerleading programs. Within a year, they had fully funded their goal to provide scholarships to students at two local high schools and have a goal to open the process to additional schools in the area, and eventually expand to the state and the nation.
“This year would have been Cecily’s graduating,” Shannon says. “We’re giving out $30,000 in scholarships this year. So, that’s awesome. It helps us carry on her legacy by helping girls with their future who would not have been able to do so.”