From the moment HOT ROD Drag Week, Presented by Gear Vendors 2023, is formally announced until the first pair of vehicles hit the water box for burnouts, the period leading up to the annual event is always full of excitement.
As the event’s producers, MotorTrend and HOT ROD staff members are tasked with managing a variety of tasks (working with dragstrips, sponsors/vendors, pre-running routes, coordinating freelance contributors, etc.), attending Zoom meetings to discuss coverage logistics and operational strategies, and managing our high levels of anxiety about the influx of awesome street-strip cars and trucks that we will soon encounter. That’s a good problem to have in the grand scheme of things.
Participants in Drag Week, on the other hand, including multi-year veterans Rick Steinke, Dave Schroeder, Mark Sussino, Alan Whitaker, and hundreds of other like-minded people, undoubtedly go through a number of operational procedures to ensure their personal readiness and to confirm that their vehicles are capable of traveling up to 1,000 miles on the road as well as however many collective miles they can achieve during five days of quarter-mile drag racing.
However, one task can be so nerve-wracking for some contestants that the coolest player on the globe might start eating chewable antacid tablets like sweets. This challenge is something that is unknown until the event’s opening day (registration and tech inspection).
Jeff Sias, a resident of Wilbraham, Massachusetts, will be attempting to control his stomach bubbles despite having competed three times. Jeff is just one of many people who will show up at Darlington Dragway unregistered.
He is on the waitlist, and he is hoping to compete in the Street Race Small-Block Naturally Aspirated on September 17, 2023, with a manually shifting 1990 Ford Mustang LX (as an alternate if a registered competitor does not check in by the deadline).
It’s a difficult situation to be in. But Jeff is someone to watch out for this year as a two-time Drag Week class winner (2013, 2015) and runner-up in 2016.
Here is Jeff’s most recent update, along with some technical information about his high-revving, stick-shifted Mustang LX.
As of this writing, there are only two weeks until the start of HOT ROD Drag Week Presented by Gear Vendors 2023, and the most recent improvement to Jeff’s 1990 Ford Mustang LX is a thoroughly updated Liberty’s Gears five-speed manual transmission.
Jeff explains, “I discovered that the car didn’t have enough first gear while we were testing at Lebanon Valley Dragway, which made it hard to tune on the starting line. “When I removed the transmission to switch the gears (to a previously employed ratio), I discovered that the gearset I intended to replace had a crack in it.
After making that finding, I went through everything and noticed that my third gear was suspect and that my fourth gear was also cracked.
Since 2019, Jeff has not attempted Drag Week because everything that could possibly go wrong did. A few weeks prior to the event, I was forced to give up. I hate failing, so it was a difficult choice, but I had to start over and make significant adjustments to the engine,” explains Jeff.
A change from a Dart Machinery aluminum block to an Iron Eagle is one such modification, which helps reduce heat soak and manage valve lash on lengthy drives.
By switching to an iron block, engine maker Larry’s Power was also able to increase the size of the cylinder and cam bores to 4.185″ and 60mm, respectively.
“The COVID-19 pandemic really slowed the engine build and the car’s comeback as a whole,” claims Jeff.
With assistance from Outlaw Racecraft, Jeff revised the header adapter plates as part of the engine repair to make his pre-existing tubes compatible with the 351 Cleveland exhaust ports. In April 2023, the engine was eventually placed back in the ‘Stang’s engine bay.
Along with adding several new sensors and removing seven years’ worth of unrelated electrical additions, Jeff also completely rewired the engine harness.