HOLBROOK OFFICIALLY THROWS HIS HAT IN A/FX RING
It's not that Chris Holbrook doesn't want to see the NHRA's new Factory Experimental Project succeed; he's still a bit salty at the way his Factory Stock Showdown experience played out.
To understand precisely what Holbrook means, one must go back to 2020 when the Ford Cobra Jet, and its front-runner Holbrook, were the continual recipients of rules adjustment to prevent the Factory Stock Showdown from running itself out of existence.
When he raced his Factory Stock Cobra Jet Mustang, Holbrook led a stampede of speed with the Blue Oval machine floating close to the 7.40s. If a Factory Stock Showdown car had run below 7.50 seconds, it would have triggered a significant rule change, forcing the cars to accept a new chassis spec. This high-horsepower transgression would have killed the format of Factory Stock Showdown, whereas the 25.5 SFI spec, allowing for factory-produced chassis, required a full tube version.
The chassis spec for the new A/FX entries must meet 25.1, 25.2 or 25.3, and must be certified by NHRA's tech department. This new mandate is music to Holbrook's ears.
So much so, Holbrook confirmed he will soon have a new Cobra Jet Mustang fitting the A/FX class under construction at Jerry Bickel Race Cars. He will be partnering with longtime sponsor Varsity Ford.
Holbrook now doesn't have to worry about a performance wall, but one keyword has already sent up one concern.
"You see, they already mentioned parity, so...," Holbrook said.
The Cobra Jet 327 Mustangs will do battle with the 610-horse, 3.0 Whipple unit. This combination is a 2019 version, making it the oldest of the three A/FX combinations available. Holbrook believes this speaks volumes for the combination, which will run at 2,650 pounds.
Holbrook wasn't initially going to campaign a car, but a last-minute program has him jumping "all-in" on the exhibition category, which some believe is the future of the Pro Stock division.
Holbrook speculated the cost to build one of the A/FX chassis is going to be in the $150 - $180 range. It remains to be seen what the final build costs will be for the NHRA AFX class. This will depend on the cost of the kits from GM, Ford and Chrysler.
"It's probably a little bit more because now you got your steel roof and quarters and it takes more work to do it," Holbrook speculated. "Because you've got to kind of adapt that to a Pro Stock chassis. And you got some trimming and cutting, and it's not just mounting a carbon body on them. So it's a little bit more work. So it's probably a little bit more money than a Pro Stock car."
Before he was planning on racing, Holbrook was gearing up for a full run at building A/FX engines, a process that lands right in his wheelhouse.
Holbrook believes it's too early to determine a manufacturer front-runner, but there's plenty of logic available to draw a conclusion.
"That Mopar deal, I think that is probably by far the best combination out there right now as far as engine wise goes," Holbrook said. "Then you start putting them in full suit chassis, and I think that Mopar is going to, it's going to be a force to be reckoned with. Now, the cars are heavy, and it's hard to get the weight out of them and everything. I think that thing's going to be pretty fast, especially behind a Liberty five-speed."
Holbrook's heart is clearly with a Ford, a manufacturer his late father Carl excelled with for decades, and one he won an IHRA World Championship with back in 1999. Still, he's not opposed to building an engine program for a client choosing another combination.
Holbrook said he's already working on a Ford engine program for an unnamed client.
"We are doing some R&D on their Factory Stock engines," Holbrook confirmed.
Holbrook believes the A/FX classification was ripe for release years ago as Factory Stock Showdown cars rapidly approached the performance wall and seemingly slowing them down would be to the detriment of the class.
"I mean, it's not too late, but they should have done this a while ago," Holbrook explained. "I think this thing's going to really take off and be pretty big."