By Mary Lendzion
There are many reasons why the Dart NA 10.5 presented by Diamond Pistons category has been a fascinating fixture in the NMCA for so long.
The engines are very energetic, the drivers are very engaged and the fans are very enthusiastic. Among those drivers is TJ Strange, who continues to coax more and more horsepower from his combination.
While he has driven the wicked white Mustang which belongs to his father, Terry Strange, to a best of 8.01 and 167 mph with a 400 cubic-inch Ford which they built and topped with Edelbrock Victor heads, he wanted to go even quicker and faster. So, he and his father spent the past few years building a new engine and finished it late last year.
It’s a 406 cubic-inch Ford topped with Hammerhead Hemi heads and a Holley Hi-Ram intake for an LT Chevy, which Strange and his father modified to work for their combination, and two CFM Performance carburetors. They backed it with a Turbo 400 by RPM Transmissions.
“Our combination was working well, but we knew we were behind where we needed to be, and the Hemi heads were the inspiration for building this new engine,” said Strange. “We felt there would be a lot of potential with them, and we’ve been doing developmental work on them with Greg Brown of Hammerhead Performance Engines, and that developmental work is to maximize the design of the heads for naturally aspirated racing. We’re the first ones in the class to run them.”
Strange’s father tested the new engine at the track late last year, and pleased with the power it was putting down, the father and son team made plans to pull even more power from the engine over winter.
“One of the things we did was work with Jesel to have custom valvetrain components made for it,” said Strange. “We also changed to a different Comp cam, and worked on our heads and intake.”
With that, fellow racers and race fans welcomed Strange to his first race of 2020, the 12th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals in late June at Atlanta Dragway. There, he put an 8.14 on the board to qualify in the seventh spot, and was consistent with an 8.15 in the first round of eliminations, but had turned on the red light before that.
“Despite the red light, things went well at the race,” said Strange. “Now we just want to change some things around with the gearing in the transmission and in the rear-end because the car was not wanting to run what it should run to the 60-foot and 330-foot markers. We had previously been 1.12 in the 60-foot, and at that race, we were 1.22, so we need to make up a bunch.”
After making those changes, Strange, whose engine cranked out 1,138 horsepower at a whopping 10,000 rpm during a recent dyno session, will head to the highly anticipated Nitto Tire NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl presented by HPJ Performance, July 30-Aug. 2 at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.
There, he hopes the changes to his transmission and rear-end gearing will help him put down even more power.
“We’re really happy with the engine and the performance, and once we get the short track numbers where they should be, we’re hopeful that we should be able to run toward the front of the pack,” said Strange.