By Mary Lendzion
Photos by Mike Davis and courtesy of Chuck Watson II
Life changed for Chuck Watson II when Chuck Watson Sr. passed away in March of this year.
In addition to being his father, he was his colleague at Watson Engineering and Watson Racing in Michigan, and a fellow NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars and NHRA Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown competitor.
Watson has managed to continue to race, and more than anything, he wanted to earn a win in NHRA Constant Aviation Factory Stock Showdown at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, June 24-27 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
“My father won in that category, at that event and that track four years ago, and I really wanted to win in his memory,” said Watson, who entered competition in the Mustang Cobra Jet owned by his friend, Jim Betz, built at Watson Racing and boasting a 327 cubic-inch 5.2L engine by Kim Mapes and topped with a 3.0 Whipple supercharger. A Turbo 400 by Joel’s on Joy helps plant power in the car, which wears Mickey Thompson drag radials and is tuned by Mapes.
Watson was off to a solid start by qualifying in the second spot with a 7.84 and 177 mph.
“There were twenty-seven racers qualifying for a sixteen-car field, and this is the first time there was an all 7-second field,” said Watson. “In addition to the stars being aligned, it takes a number of things to be able to win in this category. The driver has to be focused and on their game, the engine-builder and tuner needs to give the driver the appropriate tune and power, which Kim Mapes did, and the track needs to be able to withstand the power these cars make on nine-inch tires, which it did.”
Despite intermittent rain, Watson went on to win the first round of eliminations with a 7.89 and 176 mph against Arthur Kohn, and the second round of eliminations with a 7.85 and 176 mph against Stephen Bell. On a roll, he won the third round of eliminations with a 7.79 and 177 mph against Scott Libersher. With only 15 minutes to return to the lanes, he won the final round of eliminations with a 7.76 against Bill Skillman.
“It was a close race, but I felt pretty confident that I had gone through the traps before Bill, and when I came around the corner at the big end, and they directed me to the spot for the winner, I knew I had won,” said Watson, whose crew for the weekend included Mapes as well as Craig Spuhler, who is Betz’s crew chief. “Bill congratulated me, and my team came cheering me on. I had never wanted anything more in my life than to win this race, and it was very special. I had a number of people telling me throughout the weekend that my dad was looking down on me, and I know that he was sitting in my passenger’s seat. I hope I made him proud.”