Hellion Turbo To The Front—John Urist Wins X275 in Vegas

Written By Steve Baur

Photography by Eddie Maloney

Four the last 4 years, Albuquerque, New Mexico’s John Urist has whittled away at his S550 Mustang and turbocharged Coyote powerplant, and his efforts were recently well rewarded when he drove to the winner’s circle at the 2020 Street Car Super Nationals at the Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

For Urist, whose Hellion Turbo company is arguably the longest running aftermarket turbo system manufacturer at 16 years now, the event also saw the multi-time NMRA champion record his best elapsed times in the Mustang, with a best run of 4.200 at 171 mph.

“We went to Sweet 16 and No Mercy and got lots of passes on a good track,” Urist said. “We started implementing changes at those races in early October.” He went as quick as 4.24 in the quarterfinals against Jamie Stanton, but lost the round due to Stanton’s holeshot-assisted 4.29 run. Still, Urist headed back west having seen positive performance gains.

“Then we went to Las Vegas and Kurt [Johnson] was prepping. The Strip has four lanes and two of them are radial prep. The radial lane is always tight and super flat.”

With 9 cars vying for the top spot, Urist continued driving down into the deep .20s and went on to lead qualifying with a stellar 4.22 at 171 mph. He had a bye in the first round of eliminations on Saturday and in the second round on Sunday, Urist squared off against Armen Maghdessian and simply sped away from his fellow X275 competitor, with the time slip reading 4.200 at 171.36 mph with a 1.03 60-ft time—Maghdessian’s time read 4.43.

In the third round, Urist faced number-two qualifier Rob Goss, who looked to be his toughest competition yet. Goss spun, though, while Urist charged to the finish, posting a 4.25 on the time clocks to earn his final-round appearance. There, he lined up next to Kenny Hubbard and earned the holeshot win with a 4.29 run to Hubbard’s quicker 4.25.

“The wheelie control came on,” Urist said of the Bosch ECM efforts to keep the car moving forward rather than taking off during his victory pass.

Winning a race in the highly competitive X275 category is certainly a great achievement, but perhaps even more remarkable is that it has been done with an engine combination using direct injection.

It’s the fastest Coyote-powered, stock-bodied S550 [Mustang] and the fastest direct-injected car that we know of,” Urist told us. Working with Uwe Ostman of Xtreme-DI, Urist has converted his dual-fuel (high pressure and low pressure factory EFI) to full high pressure, thereby using the high-pressure direct injection injectors in both the cylinder head and intake port locations.

“The car makes great power,” Urist said of the high-tech powerplant. “I think the rules for the class are really close, and we’re trying to keep up with the bigger engine cars.”

The 358 cubic-inch engine in Urist’s Mustang consists of an MMR billet cylinder block with Ford GT350 cylinder heads and a custom intake manifold by EIC Motorsports on top. A custom Hellion single-turbo system was fabricated and adorned with a Precision Turbo 88mm unit. The powerplant is backed by his trusty Keith Neal Powerglide transmission and ProTorque converter.

As previously mentioned, Urist has been working with Uwe Ostman at Xtreme-DI to perfect the fueling system, which is comprised of Xtreme-DI mechanical pumps with a Weldon lift pump. Ostman, a former Bosch employee with experience with road racing teams, turned Urist towards Bosch EFI modules and performs much of the tuning.

“The Bosch MS6.4 ECU we use is one of the most advanced ECUs on the planet,” Urist said. “It’s simplified quite a bit for what we need, but it is one step before electric motors. It put me back 4 years as far as races, but I think we’ll be set going forward with the technology—it’s good to challenge yourself.”

The S550 chassis has proved challenging, too, due to the width of the car’s track, as it is significantly wider than the Fox-Body and SN95-chassis Mustangs that are prevalent in the NMRA.

“It’s more difficult at an NMRA race because most of them are Fox-Body cars. It’s not impossible to beat them, but more difficult,” Urist expressed. At the Street Car Super Nationals events, Urist is generally competing against a wide variety of makes and models on-track, and that makes for a larger, and perhaps equalized groove. Urist also pointed out that Wade Hopkins from Southern Speed racing has helped him get the chassis figured out as well.

As Covid 19 restrictions prevented Urist from attending many of the races in 2020, he’s hoping things get back to normal for 2021 and is planning to unleash his Turn 14 and Steeda-sponsored Mustang at the NMRA Spring Break Shootout in March at Bradenton Motorsports Park.

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