With a dragstrip just about a mile from his home in Sikeston, Missouri, Daniel Pharris was familiar with and fascinated by fast cars at an early age, and when he got his first one at the age of fifteen, his focus was on finding the winner’s circle.
It was a ’68 Chevelle that he bracket-raced, and it was followed by a ’72 Nova that he heads-up raced, and the latter was the hook that in ’06 led to a Fox body Mustang motivated by a small-block Chevy and a boatload of nitrous.
In it, he held his own in drag radial categories across the country, and had made a name for himself by the time he bought a ’95 Mustang three years later, gave it a turbo and became the first driver in the area to run 4.70s with a single turbo in front of small-block Ford while running X275.
But these days, he’s a hotshot hot-shoeing a ’95 Mustang he purchased from John Kolivas in NMCA Mickey Thompson Radial Wars, as he won the ’16 Florida and Georgia races, was the runner-up for the Kentucky race and was a semifinalist for the Indiana and Chicago races. He went into the final race of season in Ohio in contention for the class championship, and very nearly had it until he exited competition early
“Daniel is one of the most skilled drivers behind the wheel of a car capable of going over 200 mph each and every pass down the racetrack,” said Tyler Crossnoe, Pharris’ crew member and owner of Dream Team Traction Consulting. “He has won our team many rounds and events with his quick reaction response to the tree and getting holeshot advantages just about 90 percent of the time. In 2016, we welcomed a new crew chief in Josh “Squatch” Ledford and longtime friend and chassis wizard, Mark Menscer, to our team. This turned out to be one of the best moves we could have made as we started making strides in the right direction, ran a new personal best for the car and Daniel in only the ninth pass with Josh behind the laptop.”
When he’s not racing or managing his automobile salvage company 74 Auto, Pharris can be found running waves on his boat powered by a 496 cubic-inch big-block Chevy engine, and while adrenaline rushes are abundant, they aren’t comparable, he assures us, to the adrenaline rushes that come with cruising the eighth-mile in well over 200 mph. Read on for more about Pharris, who already has his sights set on shaking things up in 2017.
Your car had a lot of history when you bought it from multi-time champion John Kolivas in 2013, but you’re well on your way to making history in it, too.
When I had heard that John Kolivas was talking about selling it, I was interested, because I knew that the car was done right, and that John wouldn’t do me wrong on it. After he told me what he had to have for it, I bought it the same day. It was a rolling chassis without an engine, and I ran X275 with it in 2013 and 2014, with a small-block Ford and single turbo, and I was winning races. In fact, in 2014, I won ten of the twelve races I entered, and I was consistent, which is something I had learned the importance of from bracket racing. The class got so fast and it got to the point that we were on the same budget we would be on if we were running Radial vs. the World, so we decided to step up to Radial vs. the World, and made a number of chassis changes and upgrades to the engine, and ended up with the twin turbo set-up we have now. We put together a really competitive combination and shot right to the top.
Did you make any changes to the chassis before you began campaigning the car?
Southern Speed Racing cut most of the chassis out, added double frame rails and re-did the entire front suspension. Racecraft provided me with a big floater rear-end, rear axle and other components, and we added carbon fiber products to help us lighten the car up. Southern Speed Racing had also mounted the engine and wired the car, and they manufactured the turbo kit.
Did you feel pressure to perform as well as Kolivas did in the car when he owned it?
No, not really. We proved that it was still a winning car, and what’s interesting is that it’s still one of the more stock appearing cars with factory fenders and with stock-style suspension components. A lot of people are amazed that we’re making it work as well as we do.
Speaking of making it work as well as you do, what is the current combination?
It’s a 570 cubic-inch ProLine 481X with a Hogan’s sheetmetal intake and two 98 mm Precision turbos. I use an M&M Transmission Turbo 400 and a Pro Torque converter, and our tuner, Josh Ledford, uses FuelTech to tune. We always run the Mickey Thompson 315 drag radials, and our best so far has been a 3.89 at 210 mph. I’ll pass on giving the 60-foot time so that we can keep everyone guessing. I’m very confident in my combination, and in Josh’s ability to make sure the car goes down track, and that helps me focus on just letting go of the button before the other guy.
You gave us a taste of what you had to offer at one race in ’15, but then kept us waiting until ’16 to see you and your car in NMCA action again.
Yes. The only NMCA race we ran in ’15 was Joliet, and that was specifically to get our feel wet in the series and see if we wanted to commit to it in ’16, and it only took that one race to find out that we did. We saw the professionalism in the series, how they stayed on schedule and how they make you feel like you’re part of a family, whether there are ten cars or 600 cars, and whether you’re in a bracket class or a heads-up class. Everyone helps everyone, and everyone cooks for everyone. It’s like a huge family reunion once a month.
The word is that you’re selling your Mustang and building a new car.
Yes, I am. I actually have my Mustang for sale right now, and we are indeed building a new car. It will be a Larry Jeffers Pro Mod chassis with a 2016 Mustang body, and it will have a 540 ProLine Hemi with twin Precision turbos. We hope to have it out by the middle of fall, and maybe hit a race or two to see how the car reacts in preparation for next year. We’re actually building the car to serve two purposes, as in addition to running slicks for NMCA Xtreme Pro Mod, we’ll run drag radials for some drag radials races. We’ll pay particular attention to how the suspension is set up, as it will be different for when we run slicks versus for when we run radials. I’ve always liked Pro Mod-style cars, and there are a lot more series popping up for the big slick tire stuff, so this is a good move for me.
Do you anticipate there being a lot of similarities or a lot of differences between a drag radial car and a Pro Mod?
A lot of guys who go from a radial tire class to Pro Mod say that if you can drive a radial tire car, you can drive a Pro Mod because they’re more forgiving. Drag radials can be tricky tires, and a drag radial car won’t get down track in every condition. Every pass is literally on the edge, and that’s why many of us hire tuners because they’re good at power management and where to put power in and pull power out in order to get down track.
You continuously commend your hardworking crew.
They’re all great. My parents, Jim and Judy, are behind me one hundred percent, and they push me to do better and love seeing me succeed. Tyler Crossnoe started going to some of the bigger events with me when I had the blue car, and can read the track like no other as far as what the track will and won’t take, and that’s an advantage. He also helps me with maintenance on the car. Josh Ledford knows all about power management and engine management, and if it has anything to do with the keyboard, Josh handles it, because honestly, I wouldn’t even know how to play solitaire on the keyboard. The guys at ProLine are the top of the line, and we’ve also had help this year from Mark Menscer of Menscer Motorsports.
On the Pharris Motorsports Facebook page, you indicate that your program has grown to new heights in 2016.
Yes, it is definitely the most successful season we’ve had so far. We’ve gone fast, but more importantly we’ve gone fast consistently. We’re to the point where guys at the track see us pull in and know that we’re there to win.
Interview from the Nov. 2016 issue of Fastest Street Car