After twenty years of proving he can do more with less, especially in the displacement department, Carey Bales is moving in a different direction as he has committed to running NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod in a ’20 Ford Mustang GT350R… with a clutch!
The Honda Hero, who co-owns Race Tactics in Pittsboro, Indiana, with his brother Jason, has been racing since the late ‘90s and made a name for himself as a master of turbocharged 4-cylinder platforms. From his first 4-door Honda Accord to his infamous Honda S2000 drag car and his most current Pro Stock ‘16 Honda Accord, Bales, 41, has a laundry list of accomplishments he humbly attests to, including his recent 2018 GRS-Motorsports Modified Pro Series championship.
Unfortunately, Bales’s success came to a rapid halt in April, 2019 when he crashed at the top end of the track while racing at the Summer Nationals at Orlando Speed World.
“I had never even been in an accident on the street,” shared Bales, who struggled physically, mentally, and financially for a bit after the wreck to get back in the game. “For crashing at 190+ mph and rolling four or five times and hitting the wall, I got really lucky.”
After the incident, he knew immediately that he would rebuild, but temporarily parked his crunched Accord to come up with a game plan. Working specifically on wiring projects at Race Tactics, though, Bales started to notice a trend that got his interest.
“We recently wired a Coyote car that pretty effortlessly made 1,400 horsepower on the dyno and it really opened our eyes to those engines,” explained the man who was more familiar with smaller displacement platforms. “It’s smaller displacement for a V-8 and dual overhead cam is so similar to what we were doing already, just a bit bigger.”
After talking to some friends and colleagues, Bales decided to bite the bullet and conquer the Coyote himself. His Accord’s body had been wrecked to the point where he would need to replace it regardless of what direction he went, so choosing to go with a ’20 Mustang GT350R body to honor the Coyote’s true home didn’t complicate expenses.
Once Bales made the announcement, he was shocked to see how many people were stepping up to help him get on board.
“I went from talking about it to making a post on Facebook, and, suddenly, it’s becoming a reality,” laughed Bales, who is respected by his peers. “The accident in Orlando changed my perspective on everything, with people reaching out and supporting me.”
Although the new direction Bales will be taking for his 2020 racing season is still early in the development phases, a few things are certain–he will be going with the Coyote engine, and he most definitely will be running a clutch.
First things first, Bales will be re-using his Don Ness-built Pro Stock chassis that was his previous Honda Accord-bodied entry. He acquired the chassis in 2015 when he jokingly listed his S2000 for sale, and all the pieces fell into place to make the transactions happen within a matter of days. Bales believes things sometimes happen for a reason, and, now the Accord will continue its life as a GT350R instead.
“A couple of Ford guys have reached out to us about the engine, but we’re still in talks to determine a builder,” Bales stated of the 5.0L Coyote that will either see a single or pair of Garrett turbochargers bolted on as the power adder of choice. “A lot of rules are written for small-block V-8s, but that could be anywhere from 300 or 400+ cubic inches, so we’re excited to talk to the rule makers and see if we can get some specific for the Coyote in the Pro Mod category. Overall, our big goal is to keep it light and efficient.”
For a transmission and clutch, and power management, Bales will partner with Eric Luzinski at EZ Motorsports.
“He’s not just a tuner, he’s a manufacturer,” Bales continued of his respect for Luzinski. “The clutch is kind of a lost art… people don’t run ‘em anymore. Not because they don’t work–they do–they’re just a bit harder to get to work. But, clutches are what we know and we’re sticking to it. I’ve never even owned an auto race car–that’s all Greek to me!”
Most, if not all, of Bales’s sponsors are sticking around for his new endeavor. AEM, who has been with Bales since the beginning of his racing career, will continue to support him with an AEM Infinity system for the engine management, CD-5 dash, CAN expanders, and sensors.
Additionally, the team at NthMoto has been one of the most important pieces to his success and Bales will continue to rely on them.
“They do all of the fab work on the car and the tuning, and trackside support along with my brother,” noted Bales, who prefers to keep things simple and works to incorporate that winning strategy into his business at Race Tactics, too.
Ultimately, the decision to move to a Mustang platform was bittersweet for Bales as he doesn’t want to betray his Honda heritage, but he believes it will allow him to find continued success both as a racer and as an entrepreneur.
“It’s hard to walk away… it feels like unfinished business. But I need to roll with what’s presented, and this route should help open new areas of business for us in the domestic market,” he explained. “It’s an exciting thing to have three times more displacement than we’re used to, and to be able to show what we can do at a higher stage.”
Over the coming months, Bales will continue to develop his Pro Mod plan and finalize plans for the turbo Coyote platform.
“Our goal is to run all of the 2020 NMCA races in VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod, with some Mid-West Pro Mod Series events as well, and see what happens,” elaborated the longtime racer.
Bales is no stranger to NMCA, having ran his previous chassis car in Pro Mod a few years back, and most recently some Top Sportsman classes with the Accord.
“When we had the accident, and everything that happened leading up to it and after, well, it’s hard to say it’s coincidental when so many things have lined up to get us here.” What’s meant to be will be, and it seems the racing gods want to see Bales behind the wheel of a Pro Mod for good.