Photography: Kyle Crawford and Jason Reiss
For the better part of two decades, New Mexico’s John Urist has been a contestant within the NMRA’s hard-hitting Street Outlaw class – the pinnacle of street-legal Ford drag racing competition. Urist is not only a perennial contender, but a nine-time class champion. At times, he’s absolutely dominated the competition, yet there have also been instances where he’s struggled to find any modicum of consistency – such is the humbling sport of drag racing.
The incredible 2016 Ford Mustang seen here is a huge departure from the norm for Urist. Not only is it based on the unfamiliar S550 Mustang, but the engine bay is filled with a Coyote quad-cam engine, equipped with three more camshafts than Urist is used to working with.
“It was time for us to be fresh, and reinvent the wheel. With the success of my wife Melissa’s Competition Orange GT in the community, we decided it was time to continue with the new body style and modernize our racing program with a new engine and new technology that’s street-based,” says Urist.
“The success our engine sponsor, MMR, has had with these components, gives us confidence that we can have the same type of success.”
The car was unveiled just this week for sponsor (and Front Street’s owner) Turn 14 Distribution at its corporate headquarters in Horsham, Pennsylvania, where Urist displayed the car for the company’s employees. Urist then set out for a test session in Morocco, Indiana, with an ultimate goal of competing at the NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing in Joliet, Illinois.
One thing is for certain; Urist and his team have not an ounce of quit between them. The team slogan is “Do Work Son”, and they personify this tagline. After every day of competition they can be found in the pits performing maintenance on not one, but three team cars which compete in the NMRA’s various classes, often until the wee hours of the morning in an attempt to stay ahead of the pack.
The car, purchased from Copart as a total – with the nose caved in – will go on to have a long and illustrious history in drag racing competition.
“After seeing Bart Tobener’s 2015 project and chatting with him about how he decided to build it from a wreck, I found this car in El Paso, Texas, won the auction, and brought it back to our home base in Albuquerque, where Team Hellion stripped down the car before we delivered it to Chris Hemmeter at Behind Bars Race Cars in Illinois for a 25.3 chassis to be built,” says Urist.
There, Hemmeter put together a list of all of the tricks he and Urist have developed over the years, and wish-list items they’d thought about after the construction of his previous championship-winning Fox Mustang. They ended up creating a chassis which uses a four-link rear suspension arrangement and Behind Bars Race Cars nine-inch Ford axle housing stuffed with Strange Engineering 40-spline gun-drilled axles and steel spool, suspended by JRi shock absorbers. In the front, the suspension was modeled after the Fox Mustang, with a removable k-member and single A-arm design featuring spindle-mount Santhuff double-adjustable struts. Brakes are from The Brake Man, using their unique Revolution convoluted brake rotors.
A full complement of carbon-fiber body panels help to reduce this Mustang’s fighting weight. These include MMR’s carbon-fiber doors, wing, decklid, and dash, with a lightweight hood from Watson Racing.
Once Hemmeter was done with the chassis and suspension construction, Urist drove back to Illinois to pick up the car – little more than a framework of tubing at this point – and bring it back to New Mexico.
Then local race car builder Bruce Dykes and Urist, along with the entire Hellion Power Systems family, put the pedal to the metal, often working 12-14 hours days to finish up the massive task of completing the fabrication on the car. Dwayne James, Frank Varela, and Brandon Reed all pitched in, putting in monster hours to help bring the chassis to life.
“Bruce lives five minutes from Hellion, so he was able to come over and work on the car every day,” says Urist.
“He is directly responsible for all of the finish work. The seat mounting, window net, carbon-fiber tubs, floor, and grille installation are all his handiwork, and he fit the doors, built the window supports, the parachute mount – all of the little things to make the car perfect.”
Once all of these details were ironed out, Urist delivered the chassis to Jim Guthrie at Car Crafters, where they painted the car black to serve as the undercoat for the Turn 14 Distribution wrap designed by Craig Berry and applied to its flanks by Greg at Genesis Signs.
Urist has won championships with both supercharged and turbocharged Mustangs, with one consistent feature – they’ve all been powered by a Ford Windsor pushrod engine.
“Currently this car has the engine from Haley James’ Team Hellion NMRA Coyote Modified championship-winning Mustang installed, but we have a brand-new billet-block Coyote engine from our engine sponsor, MMR, that will be installed after we shake the car down at this first race. The billet block engine has a taller deck and is much stronger than this engine,” says Urist.
The engine – only 310 cubic inches, the limit for a Coyote Modified powerplant – uses top-shelf components, but with the exception of the induction system, they won’t be re-used in the new 358ci engine. It’s topped with a set of GT350 cylinder heads, one of MMR’s fabricated intake manifolds and one of Holley’s Pro Stock throttle bodies designed for retail use.
“We’re one of the first teams out there to have these cylinder heads, and we used them last year in competition on Frank Varela and Haley James’ NMRA cars,” says Urist. “We have the experience with them – they are the new parts and new technology, so we are going to work with MMR and be on the cutting edge to put these through their paces on the track. We have a lot of data to make this program work.”
As there are a variety of weight breaks available to Street Outlaw competitors running turbochargers, Urist set the car up with one of Precision Turbo’s 88mm Pro Mod turbos with the small engine. With this turbocharger onboard, the car can be raced at a flyweight 2,700 pounds in NMRA competition.
What good would Urist’s own car be without a turbo system developed by Hellion Turbo Systems? The company he co-owns with partner Dwayne James developed the kit in-house specifically for this application, with stainless-steel headers and a five-inch aluminum driver’s side exhaust dump. All tubing is from longtime Urist sponsor Bassani Manufacturing, while the wastegates and blowoff valves are from Turbosmart USA.
“We’re allowed to have up to a 98mm turbocharger, so we’ll test all three available combinations. We’ll put more weight in there, put the larger turbo in there to test, and see which one settles in best,” says Urist.
They’re also going to experiment with one of longtime transmission builder Keith Neal’s Turbo 400 transmissions, which can be used in both two and three-speed configuration to see what the car and engine likes most. Neal’s transmission offers the ability for transbrake activation in either first or second gear, offering plenty of possibility for both eighth- and quarter-mile action, which the car will see on occasion. It also can act as a two-speed to bring starting line torque multiplication down when the track conditions are spotty. The transmission runs the power through a QA1 carbon-fiber driveshaft.
Unlike the rest of the competitors in Street Outlaw competition, Urist uses MoTec’s M800 fuel injection system. He adopted the company’s products years ago and will rave about its abilities to anyone who will listen. Ignition duties are handled by one of MSD’s Power Grid systems and MSD wires. The mechanical fuel pump system was designed by the aerospace experts at Weldon Racing, with fluid transfer hoses from Russell Performance.
Plans currently exist to compete with the car not only in NMRA events, the World Cup Finals held at Maryland International Raceway, along with the Street Car Super Nationals held in Las Vegas later this year.
Urist has a ton of support from a wide variety of manufacturers onboard to help with the race program. The considerable resources of Turn 14 Distribution combine with new sponsors Whiteline Suspension, Hawk Performance, GrimmSpeed, ARP, Vibrant Performance, Husky Liners, and aFe Power to give the Hellion team new advantages it didn’t previously have. And longtime sponsors like UPR Products, QA1, Arias Pistons, Ferrea, Turbosmart USA, Comp Cams, Total Seal, Race Part Solutions, Spaghetti Menders, and MSD have also thrown their full weight into the new endeavor.
With backing like this from the performance industry’s heavyweights, and the knowledge earned by many years of excelling at the highest echelon of the drag racing field, John Urist is looking to make his mark on the Street Outlaw class with this machine – and turn it on its ear for the foreseeable future.
“We enjoy making cars fast – if we weren’t doing this, what else would we be doing? We don’t enjoy doing much else. I want my daughter to grow up watching us compete, and to see the success we’ve been able to have,” sums up Urist.