Conquer The Quarter—Chevrolet Performance developed Gen 6 Camaro drag parts and Daren Poole-Adams is putting them to the test

By Steve Turner

Photography courtesy of Daren Poole-Adams

Modern muscle cars are built to do it all and do it all well. While they deliver outstanding performance, driveability, and handling, they aren’t always geared toward straight-line performance. The power is there, but maximizing it is up to the end-user. That’s why it was so exciting when Chevrolet Performance used its Camaro SS Drag Race Development Program to engineer an upgrade package designed to help the 2016+ Camaro “conquer the quarter mile.”

“From sportsman classes to the pro ranks, Camaro has been one of the most popular cars ever to launch down the drag strip,” Jim Campbell, GM U.S. vice president of Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, said when the program was announced.

“More than simply achieving quick ETs in the Camaro, we are exploring the supporting components that help the car to go quicker with great durability,” Mark Dickens, director, Performance Variants, Parts and Motorsports Engineering, added. “We’ve tested stronger axles and chassis components aimed at improving launch and traction attributes.”

Daren Poole Poole-Adams was so excited about the fruits of the Chevrolet Performance Camaro SS Drag Race Development Program that he acquired not one, but two Hyper Blue Metallic 2018 Camaro SS from Trapp Chevrolet in Houma, Louisiana. He used both cars as test beds for the factory-developed package along with a few choice aftermarket upgrades.

While all Bow Tie enthusiasts could rightfully get excited about this news, one man in particular was overcome with joy. A Stock Eliminator racer since 1995, Daren Poole-Adams is a dyed-in-the-wool Chevy enthusiast. He’s raced Firebirds, Camaros, and these days owns several COPO Camaros, which are prepped for the drag strip right from the factory. He has set records in IHRA and won classes with the NHRA, but when he heard about this package, he instantly started planning to put it to the test on the track.

“When I first saw the teaser video of these two cars in 2016, I was taken totally by surprise. For years the Chevrolet Performance Parts catalog has left me envious of all the hardcore pieces that are available to the road-race guys. I am thrilled that they now offer parts aimed at the weekend drag racer,” Poole-Adams explained. “For almost two years I have been working with my friends at Chevrolet Performance to come up with a cool way to showcase this awesome program. This build is my spin on the concept!”

To reduce weight and make way for the installation of a roll cage, Poole-Adams removed a litany of factory parts that won’t be necessary on the 1,320. That said, he did retain enough of the factory interior that it still looks like a street car.

His spin was to purchase two identical 2018 Camaros with the 1SS package, eight-speed automatic transmissions, and magnetic ride control. With those in hand he began in earnest building up both cars with the full complement of parts developed by Chevrolet Performance along with a few select aftermarket upgrades. All the while he has a mission in mind.

“I was born in 1967, so everything that I know about the factory muscle car wars of the ’60s is what I have read. One thing that always stood out is the factory clinics that traveled the USA in the late ’60s,” Poole-Adams explained. “When this new program was announced, I immediately recognized it as an opportunity to introduce a new generation to that kind of experience. That is what I proposed to Chevrolet and that is what I will be bringing to NMCA events this year with the help of Chevrolet Performance and Scoggin Dickey Parts Center.”

Poole-Adams sourced most of the roll cage tubing from the Camaro drag racing experts at COPO Parts Direct. He called on a friend to TIG-weld the cage in.

The parts developed in the Camaro SS Drag Race Development Program include a calibration, cold-air intake, exhaust, torque converter, smaller brakes, Weld Racing wheels, rugged halfshafts, and more rigid mounts for the IRS cradle.

“This is an exciting program,” Poole-Adams said. “Chevrolet has put together a well-rounded package that enables any Camaro owner to prepare their car for consistent drag strip operation.”

That is the trick after all, as the latest Camaro carves the corners quite well right off the dealer lot. However, hooking up its potent output can be more of a challenge.

While this prior race cars were all-out efforts, Poole-Adams enjoyed putting some of the street gear back into the interior of these Camaros. Helping finish out the rear of the cabin around the roll cage, he installed this rear-seat delete kit from COPO Parts Direct.

“The LT1 makes stupid power,” Poole-Adams enthused. “The downside when going drag racing is that the chassis is geared toward road handling.”

Before he started with the mods, Poole-Adams weighed the base cars and then put them on an intense weight loss program. I removed many bits and pieces that aren’t necessary on the drag strip.

“I was surprised at how light some of the parts are,” Poole-Adams detailed. “The air bags are much lighter than expected. If it wasn’t for the cage, I wouldn’t even dream of removing them to save weight, but more weight reductions are coming.”

In addition to the roll cage, Poole-Adams added a pair of the ProCar by Scat fixed-back racing seats from COPO Parts Direct. Installed using fabricated direct-fit seat mounts using the supplied tracks, these seats provide the necessary support and safety and are built to accommodate five-point racing harnesses, which Poole-Adams also installed.

While the reduced weight will make the car quicker, it also paved the way for adding the necessary safety equipment, including a roll cage that fit within the confines of an interior that still retains many of the factory pieces.

“As we are using these as purpose-built test cars, safety is our number-one priority,” Poole-Adams said. “Secondly, I feel that you can’t make a stock-bodied car too stiff. I think installing cages was a good call. One of my COPOs was involved in a 140-mph accident last year. The driver walked away with little more than his pride hurt.”

Drag racing with an independent rear suspension is tricky from a traction standpoint, but it is also rough on the rearend parts. As with solid rears, the factory axles aren’t usually built for shockloads with sticky tires. As such, the Chevrolet Performance upgrades include the ZL1-Spec Heavy-Duty Halfshaft System. These ’shafts are each built to handle 5,000 lb-ft of torque and include all the necessary bits for installation.

To ensure he could add safety that would fit these machines perfectly, Poole-Adams turned to a company with a specific level of expertise when it comes to drag racing the latest Camaros.

“COPO Parts Direct supplied a good bit of the roll cage tubing, the racing seats, and rear-seat delete parts,” Poole-Adams said. “They have been a long-term supplier that always delivers high-quality parts.”

With safety being paramount, Poole-Adams installed a driveshaft safety loop from BMR Suspension. It ensures that in the unlikely event that ZL1-Spec Heavy-Duty driveshaft was to fail that it won’t polevault through the floorboard on the track. The ’shaft is made to withstand 4,000 lb-ft of torque, but the loop is still required for cars running 13.99 and quicker on slicks or 13.00 and quicker on street tires. This car will most certainly run quicker than that as Chevrolet Performance’s validation standards for its upgrade package resulted in 10.569 at 127.8 mph.

With the safety gear in hand Poole-Adams and friends welded in the cage, bolted in the seats using adjustable brackets, and mounted the harnessbelts using factory anchors and the roll cage cross bar.

“We started with parts from COPO Parts Direct and MPR. My buddy (and employee) Jesse Brooks helped me and did all of the TIG work. We were able to fit it without a lot of issues. As I am running the stock suspension and not the four-link, we had to make a few custom pieces,” Poole-Adams said. “The hardest part was working with the factory wiring, exhaust, drivetrain, gas tank, etc. My past projects have always been full-on race cars. Taking everything apart and putting it all back was special to say the least!”

Adding the more robust halfshafts also added a bit of weight. Thankfully the Chevrolet Performance upgrades include a smaller rear brake system, which takes the 339mm SS brakes down to 315mm to allow for rear wheels as small as 16 inches, like the Weld Racing hoops offered by Chevrolet Performance that Poole-Adams will run on this car.

With the safety gear in place, Poole-Adams began in earnest with the Chevrolet Performance upgrades — including engine, drivetrain, chassis and suspension bits. We are focusing on the suspension and chassis parts here, but we will follow up with the go-fast gear in a future issue.

“We will be testing and doing exhibition runs with all of the currently available parts plus a few aftermarket parts as needed,” Poole-Adams said.

When the cars are fully upgraded, you will see them running at select NMCA Muscle Car Nationals series events this season.

To install the Chevrolet Performance ZL1 1LE-Spec Solid Rear Cradle Mounts, Poole-Adams turned to Maxxdrive in Shelby, North Carolina. In removing the old bushings, the shop used a die grinder to thin the lip, an air chisel to remove it, and a GM tool to pull out the factory bushings. Then they installed the billet aluminum bushings from Chevrolet Performance.

“We will be working to promote this package and safe drag racing in partnership with Scoggin Dickey Parts Center and Chevrolet Performance,” Poole-Adams explained. “They will be run on a best two out of three heads-up exhibition format. We will have a guest driver in one car and good friend AJ Currie will drive the other.”

It will be definitely be fun to see how quickly these cars run, as they duke it out during those exhibition runs. Stay tuned for more on how they prepped for the battle…

We’ll have more on the powertrain mods and testing in the future, but early on Poole-Adams was pretty happy with the need for the mods base on the cars’ stock performance. “So far we have proven that these parts are needed,” Poole-Adams explained. “Our time slips to date show that the factory setup is incredibly hard to hook up…”

Drag Strip Diet

Part                                                                            Weight

Door Speakers                                                        4.8 pounds

Rear Quarter Speakers                                          6.4 pounds

Driver Lower Air Bag                                              1.8 pounds

Passenger Lower Air Bag                                     2 pounds

Seats                                                                          104 pounds

Rear Seat Upper                                                     18 pounds

Rear Seat Lower                                                      11 pounds

Seat Belts                                                                 11.2 pounds

Driver Air Bag                                                          1.6 pounds

Trunk Trim Panels                                                   11.4 pounds

Rear Quarter Sound Proofing                             3.2 pounds

Tow Hook And Holder                                          3.4 pounds

Front Floor Mats                                                     2 pounds

Track Deflector Kit                                                 1.2 pounds

Side Air Bags                                                           5.8 pounds

Dash Speakers                                                        0.8 pounds

Passenger Air Bag                                                 4.2 pounds

Coil Covers                                                              1.8 pounds

Engine Cover                                                           2.4 pounds

Camaro Engine Trim                                             1.2 pounds

Hood Liner                                                               1.6 pounds

Heater Ducts                                                           3.6 pounds

Wiper Assembly                                                     8.2 pounds

Rear Seat Brackets                                                 1.2 pounds

Under Floor Covers                                               1.4 pounds

Door Sound Deadener                                         2.2 pounds

Heater Box                                                               16.6 pounds

A/C Compressor                                                    13.6 pounds

Misc. Sound Deadener And Padding               22.8 pounds

Windshield Washer Assembly                            2.2 pounds

Plastic Covers Under The Engine Cradle         5.6 pounds

Total Reduction:                                                     276.48 pounds

Stock Weight Before Reduction/Roll Cage     3,680 pounds

Final Weight After Roll Cage:                             3,600 pounds

The Mod List

Part                                                                                                    Part Number

6.2-liter Cold Air Intake System w/ Race Filter                         84329125

American Racing Headers 1-7/8-inch Long-Tubes                CAV8-16178300LSNC†

BMR Suspension Driveshaft Safety Loop                                DSL019

Chevrolet Performance Exhaust Kit                                           84028865

High-Stall Torque Converter System                                         24290897†

ProCar by Scat Pro-Sport Seats                                                 80-1790-XX

Rear Small Brake System                                                              84396515†

Weld Racing Rear Drag Wheel                                                   88B-610SB-GM†

Weld Racing Drag Frontrunner Wheel                                     88B-1806N-GM†

ZL1 1LE-Spec Solid Rear Cradle Mounts                                  84341929†

ZL1-Spec Heavy-Duty Halfshaft System                                   84398126†

ZL1-Spec Heavy-Duty Propshaft System                                 84398125†

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