When Josh Lindsey was sixteen, his dad gave him a 1970 Mustang, and then stayed by his side to help him restore it, rebuild it and return it to the roads around their Fort Worth, Texas home.
The bond they developed along the way proved to be unbreakable, and later inspired Lindsey to open J&L Performance, a business featuring the initials of his first name and his dad Lee’s first name, in the mid 1990s, and he has been helping people turn up the wick in the world of motorsports ever since.
Among them is Jacky McCarty, who drove to the NMCA Wiseco Street Outlaw championship in his Mustang in 2016, despite the fact that it was his first full year in the class filled with very competitive drivers with very competitive cars and combinations.
“Josh is very important to our program,” said McCarty. “He tunes the car, keeps us all in line for the most part, and is the closest thing to a brother that I have. Believe it or not, nine times out of ten, when we talk, it isn’t even about racing. It’s about something else going on in our lives. My son actually thinks he’s family, and what I told him a long time ago is that family has nothing to do with blood. It’s the people around you who care about you and are there to help when you need it.”
When Lindsey is not busy tuning at the track — or tuning at the dining room table — he spends time with his wife, Angel, and sons, Jaden, 15, and Conner, 13, at and around their Fort Worth, Texas home, and among their favorite activities are basketball, boating and being outdoors. Read on for more about the tuner who knows what it takes to win.
You began J&L Performance, in the mid 1990s.
Yes, and in addition to that, dad and I built a 1993 Mustang from the ground up, and we built a twin turbocharged 302-based engine for it. That was my first foray into turbocharged vehicles. Not a lot of people were building turbo combinations at that point, but I could see the writing on the wall. I raced that car competitively in Fun Ford Weekend’s True Street, and ran 8s. We converted it to a Texas True 10.5 car, which involved replacing the factory gas tank with a fuel cell and swapping street tires with slicks, and I won a championship in that in 2002. Then, I was asked to leave the series because I was outrunning everyone, but we were okay with that because we had proven our point.
Is that when you decided to go Outlaw 10.5 racing?
It is. That winter, we did a full round-tube back-half on the car and made it an Outlaw 10.5 car with the same 302-based engine, but with a large single turbo rather than the small twin turbos. We raced King of the Hill in Texas, and we were a little father-and-son team with a pickup truck and a trailer in an arena with large teams and toterhomes, but we managed to win Outlaw 10.5 events with that car. It was early on in the turbocharged game, and a lot of technology was coming out, and that’s when I really advanced in building chassis and tuning heads-up stuff. We were building our own boost controllers, we were trying other products and doing a lot of R and D along the way in an attempt to push the envelope. To be up front, you have to push the envelope.
You sold the car in 2009 to focus on helping other racers.
Yes, and I discovered that I was having just as much fun helping other racers with their cars, and I was just as passionate about it.
Do you specialize in tuning a certain combination?
I have tuned turbo, blower and nitrous combinations, but I would definitely say I specialize in turbo combinations. Part of the reason I have tuned on blower and nitrous cars is because I had been hired to do suspension on them, and the engine tune-up has to match the chassis set-up. In some case, I could see by looking at the data that someone’s tune was way off, and I told the drivers that if they would let me do this and that with the timing curve and the nitrous, we will go fast. While I have built several different kinds of cars for people, I tend to lean toward Street Outlaw and X275 stuff. I like the rules and the close competition in those categories. It’s kind of like Pro Stock for a radial racer. You get down to eight or four cars and there’s less than two hundredths of a second between them. The driver and the tuner have to be on their game. That kind of racing really interests me. I also do No Prep, No Time and Grudge cars.
Have you found that some combinations are more challenging to tune?
To do it right on any turbo, blower or nitrous combination is very tough, but turbo combinations are probably more complex. Blower combinations are easier to tune but it’s also more difficult to get the converter and transmission package right on blower combinations, and that’s key to making any of these run like they should. When it comes to engine management systems, I choose the product based on what advantage it can give me. Keep in mind, I started with systems that required a DOS computer to work, but I have used all of them, and at this time, FuelTech is what I prefer and what I use. Every feature is pretty cool, and the guys behind it and pushing it are among the smartest in the racing industry, so they’re constantly developing it further. Since I began using it, I have had 30 updates, which is good, and the thing I most like about it is the fast and precise fuel control.
You have said that you’re most passionate about tuning, but you do chassis set-ups as well.
Knowing every working component of a car allows me to be a better tuner. I actually taught myself how to do chassis set-ups out of necessity because adding power and managing power doesn’t matter if you can’t make the car stick.
What are the differences between tuning on-site and tuning remotely?
Reviewing the data after the run is pretty close to the same, but the disadvantages when you’re not at the track are relying on someone to tell you exactly what condition the track is in, and whether it’s good or not so good, relying on someone to pick a spot on the track on which to line the driver up and not being able to watch what other cars are doing. I’m really big on being able to watch what other cars are doing. For the most part, you can be successful tuning remotely, but my preference is to be there.
How did it come to be that you would tune for Jacky McCarty?
I was at an X275 race helping some customers in 2014, and Jacky was having some problems. They pulled me over to look at some of his data, and after I looked at it, I suggested that he make a gear change and a couple changes to the tune. After that, the car picked up substantially, like almost a tenth, and a week or two later, I ended up tuning remotely for him and he won. Then, he brought me on full-time. We won four X275 races in a row the next year. We were very competitive in X275, and I enjoyed it, but when some of rules changed with regards to weight, we joined NMCA Street Outlaw in 2016. We took the same car, changed the turbo and converter and started testing, and by the end of the year, we had won the 2016 NMCA Street Outlaw championship.
You have said Jacky McCarty is more like a brother to you than an employer.
I’ve been tuning for Jacky for three years now, and yes, he’s definitely more like a brother than an employer. I’m extremely blessed to be involved with him. He’s been very good to me. He respects the fact that I pack up and leave my family to come play race car, and that’s important to me.
NMCA published a story in August about the 2016 Mustang McCarty and McCarty Performance will soon debut.
The car will be a purpose-built Street Outlaw car, and it was built at McCarty Performance, and we’ve worked very hard on it. When it was time to place the rear-end housing and rear suspension brackets, I flew in and spent five days making sure it was where it should be, and when it was time to do the front suspension and mount the engine, I flew in. We have two engines for the car and it has been fitted for both engines. One is the small-block Ford that we currently run in Jacky’s Fox body Mustang, and the other is a ProLine LS engine, and whichever one is faster is the one that we will use.
You mentioned previously that you’ve tuned from some pretty unusual places.
One time, my wife and I were at the lake, pulling our kids on a tube when a customer called and said they were having a problem. We stopped in the middle of the lake, I got the laptop out, logged in and fixed their problem, and they ended up winning the race. My kids were on the tube and yelling ‘Come on. Let’s go,” and when it was all said and done, my customers asked where I was, and I laughed and told them they didn’t want to know.
Your job requires you to work around-the-clock. What inspires you to push on?
I ask myself that question a lot, and honestly, it’s because it’s my passion, and I’ve been extremely blessed to do it for a living. In addition to that, in the 20 or so years I’ve been doing this, I’ve made a lot of friends who are very important to me, and that’s a bonus.
(Interview by Mary Lendzion, with photos by Kevin DiOssi, Dr. Rudy Rouweyha and the FSC staff, in the December issue of Fastest Street Car.)