Written by Mary Lendzion
Whether he is driving his own Mustang Cobra Jet or Jim Betz’s Mustang Cobra Jet, Chuck Watson II is well-versed on what it takes to win.
He makes sure he has a good car, combination and crew come race day, and that he is ready for the competition, the challenge and whatever comes his way in NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars.
That has served Watson well through the years, and especially this year, as the Watson Racing crackerjack has achieved a lot in the past six months in Betz’s Mustang Cobra Jet powered by 327 cubic-inch Ford Coyote engine and a 3.0L Whipple supercharger expertly put together by Kim Mapes and Watson Racing and backed by a Turbo 400 by Joel’s on Joy.
While he had some issues at the first race of the season, the NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines in March at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, he was good to go for the second race of the season, the Scoggin Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals presented by MAHLE Motorsport in April at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina. There, he led qualifying with a 7.72, set the category’s elapsed-time record with a 7.717 and went to the NMCA Winner’s Circle with that 7.717 against friend and fellow racer Tripp Carter.
“My crew chief, Kim Mapes, did a great job tuning the car with Big Stuff 3 and I did a good job driving the car, and it definitely takes that combination to have any kind of success in this category,” said Watson. “It’s not just one person.”
Watson then set out for the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street-Legal Drag Racing presented by Fuelab in May at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois, where he led qualifying again, that time with a 7.84, and backed up his win with a 7.85 against Tripp Carter.
“That was the first time I won two races in a row, and brought home the win from the Super Bowl,” said Watson. “Despite the heat and humidity at that race, and how we were changing the tune between each and every pass, everything went flawlessly, and we were very happy about that.”
Watson was then ready for more revving at the 2nd Annual Arrington Performance NMRA/NMCA Power Festival Presented by TorqStorm Superchargers in July at US 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan. The track is just two hours from Watson Racing, and many Watson fans and Watson Racing customers were there to take in all of the action. Because of work commitments, Watson was late arriving to the track and missed the first round of qualifying, but he made the next rounds of qualifying and secured the number one spot with a 7.83 in the final round of qualifying. Unfortunately, on that pass, there was an issue with his parachute.
“The pre-chute came out and wrapped around the wheelie bar, and when I started to tap the brake pedal, it felt like I had no brakes,” said Watson. “Let me tell you, it was a very eerie feeling. I tapped the brake pedal a couple more times, and I could see the sand trap coming quickly, but what concerned me more was I could see the trees beyond the sand trap, and at 180 mph, I believe there’s a chance I would have skipped over the sand and gone right into the trees, and I didn’t want any part of those trees. My natural instinct was to brake, and when I did, all four tires locked up, turned the car to the right and into the wall. I hit the wall square, bounced off and ended up in the center of the lane. Thankfully, I didn’t hit the other driver.”
Also thankfully, Watson was not seriously injured, and when he returned to his pit area, he started returning calls and text messages from loved ones who had already heard, or seen, the crash and wanted to talk with him.
The crash compromised the car’s carbon fiber hood, which was sent up over the windshield. It also damaged both fenders, the fascia, radiator, frame rails and a number of other things.
“Gardner Stone came over and said he had hurt his engine, and wanted me to take parts off of his car and put them on my car so that I could continue racing, which I thought was very kind of him,” said Watson. “I told him I needed just a moment to soak it all in and think about it, and I went back to returning calls and texts in the rig, and when I came back outside, my guys, Kim Mapes, his son Kimmie Mapes as well as Craig Sphuler and Kyle Kohler, were already working on the car, so I guess they made the decision for me.”
The hardworking team had the car back together that night, and Watson was able to make the first round of eliminations, where he had a bye-run.
“I did my normal routine, and I followed my team’s advice to lift at the eighth-mile on that first pass after the crash,” said Watson, who holds a Summit Motorsports Park Track Record with a 7.761 in Factory Stock Showdown in 2021. “The car felt amazing.”
Soon after that, rain forced the cancellation of that weekend’s racing, and the remaining rounds will be contested at the NMCA All-American Nationals presented by Sick the Magazine, this weekend, Aug. 25-28 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
“We used the time to go over the car to make sure everything is perfect, and I’ll run Tony Scott for the second round of eliminations for the make-up Michigan race while also focusing on the Ohio race at Summit Motorsports Park,” said Watson, whose wears Mickey Thompson tires and is a rolling showcase for Dayco, E3 and Hard Drive Racing, among other supporters.
The Michiganian, who is in contention for the Holley EFI Factory Super Cars championship, will then have one more race, the NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance, Sept. 22-25 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, where he will without a doubt be one to watch.