It’s now! The first day of competition at Darlington Dragway in Hartsville, South Carolina, kicks off HOT ROD Drag Week Presented by Gear Vendors 2023 on Monday, September 18, 2023. After that, competitors travel to Rockingham, North Carolina—of course, the long way—for more racing action at that city’s quarter-mile dragstrip.
Prior to the 1,000-mile torture test, we’ve been highlighting several returning competitors, who shared insights about themselves and, more importantly, the most recent information about the cars they’re hoping will help them overcome all of the known challenges and, in particular, the unanticipated ones that make drag-and-drive events so popular.
Whether the Drag Week contestant you are following is a veteran or someone like multiple-time Unlimited class champion Tom Bailey, the rivalry is always tight and frequently features the most gripping drama conceivable.
The focus of this story is Mike “Mike Dyno” Ward from Perth, Australia, and his twin-turbocharged 1963 Chevrolet Nova. The two and their ride-along buddy Tom Franks, who is from Washington state, are making a second try with the intention of winning the class this year in retaliation for their disqualification from the SRSBPA in 2022 (the front bumper was found to be unlawful).
The Nova’s front bumper has been upgraded and is now compliant with the Street Racing Small-Block Power Adder (8.50 Index) class rules. Mike’s Nova also features a new Turbo 400 transmission and fresh cylinder heads for its 427 cubic-inch LSX engine, which had powertrain troubles during Sick Week earlier this year.
The on-track traction and wheelie control are controlled by Davis Controls traction VPS devices, and the twin turbos are now 80mm units (replacing 75mm components). Hopefully, a larger radiator will maintain a comfortable temperature for street driving.
Both Mike Dyno’s 1963 Chevrolet Nova and utility trailer still bear the “EFI Store (Brian’s firm)” livery from their previous ownership by Brian Macy.
Both a driver and an EFI tuner, Brian has experience with Drag Week (and we’re certain that other competitors will consult with Brian throughout the week). He’s also a key player in senior editor KJ Jones’ 1986 Ford Mustang LX project’s Holley EFI section, Project T-top Coupe.
Mike Dyno’s 1963 Chevrolet Nova equipped with All Pro heads, Callies crank, alloy rods, twin 80mm Garrett G42-1450 turbos, and a Precision Turbos air-to-water intercooler make up the 427 cubic inch LS engine with Holley Dominator EFI engine management.
1963 Chevrolet Nova Transmission comes with Reid-case two-speed Turbo 400 (1.7,1.35 gears) and PTC torque converter and Mickey Thompson 275 pro radials and front runners, 15×10 Weld double-bead locks, 15×3.5 Weld fronts.
SFI 25.3-certified chassis with stock-style front suspension, leaf-spring rear suspension, Menscer shocks all around, ARB, and sliders (legal to 6.50 seconds)
Any racer who completes a day of racing and then maintains or repairs their vehicle in the secured inspection area under the watchful eye of Drag Week’s Technical Director Keith Turk and his staff earns a “I Survived HOT ROD Drag Week Impound” sticker. Notwithstanding the bumper issue, Mike passed Impound last year without any additional violations or issues.
Mike is competing in Drag Week for the second time this year, but he has long known about and been affiliated with the event. “After hearing about it for years, Tom Franks and I won the Street Race Small-Block Power Adder class in 2018 when I joined him as a co-pilot.
Since then, driving across from Australia in my own automobile has been a life goal, “Steve explains. “It’s incredibly wonderful to be able to drive 7-second cars across the United States, seeing racetracks and historical landmarks, even though I don’t appreciate the lack of sleep that Drag Week usually entails.”