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Sportsman Drag Racing and eCOPO Camaro at the Winternationals

Straight Line Spotlight

Bruce Biegler May 19, 2019
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From the McCarthy Era
Kentucky's Jack McCarthy checked off a bucket list item during the 2019 NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals. Following his recent retirement, for the first time in his long racing history he was able to campaign his iconic 1960 Chevy Kingswood wagon at that fabled season-opening event. Jack made the 2,500-mile tow (each way), which is something he had long desired to do. McCarthy has been racing this machine since 1980, beginning all that with his then-partner M.J. Quinn. Over the years, the car has seen only slight modifications. "It's really an old-school Junior Stocker that still races," he confirmed. The race car has seen action in U/SA and R/SA, depending on weight, all the time using a 283ci (230hp) engine and a three-speed transmission. Jack has lost count of just how many times this machine has lumbered down the quarter-mile, but speculates his dragstrip odometer has easily exceeded the 1,000-mile mark.


Stocker Specialty
Phil Mandella Jr., is doing his part to continue his family's rich history within drag racing. Phil, whose father is iconic Californian engine builder Phil Mandella Sr., and brother to versatile class racer Tony, has put his focus on a nicely prepped Stock Eliminator 1969 Chevelle. Phil has been racing this car in either G/SA or H/SA trim since acquiring it in mid 2015. The Chevelle features an in-house engine program from PMR, but with a special touch from previous owner Jim Meador—whose specialty has been with the 396ci configuration. With that 325hp-rated engine, and tipping the scales at 3,750 pounds, Phil has run a career quick 11.04 at 118 mph. Phil Mandella Jr., is based out of Rancho Cucamonga, California, and is a prominent and successful racer within the NHRA Lucas Oil Divisional and SCTA racing circuits.


The Future is Now
While some drag racing traditionalists have scoffed at the idea, an exciting and important new reality is beginning to take hold in drag racing courtesy of ML-e Race Cars. Buoyed by founders and co-owners Patrick McCue and Jeff Lane (who is the owner of highly reputed Hancock & Lane Racing), drag racing fans have already been given a snapshot of a future horizon for the sport. During the season-opening NHRA Lucas Oil Winternationals, that team ran the 100-percent battery-powered 2019 eCOPO Camaro down the fabled Pomona track. That performance was pretty awe-inspiring with driver McCue hitting a stunning 9.837 e.t. and a terminal speed of 134.07 mph.

This eCOPO is a factory-built race car, but instead of an engine, it has two AC motors mounted back-to-back. One motor runs forward and one motor runs in reverse, using a common shaft. That configuration is bolted directly to the same bellhousing that would be used by the V-8, and together those motors produce 800 volts. In the trunk area there are four battery packs (instead of a fuel cell) with each pack having 48 batteries (192 batteries in total), which are monitored individually by a BMS (Battery Management System).

The team reports that while there are many similarities to racing a conventional COPO, the focus for making the car go down the track is very torque-centered. Because the eCOPO is purpose-built for Stock Eliminator, with so much available torque it can easily overpower both the 9-inch tires and racing surface, which is a balance the team works hard on finding.

"NHRA has been very accepting of all this," said Jeff Lane. "Glen Gray (NHRA VP Tech Operations) has already announced that electrification is officially in NHRA's future and they will be creating a class around it. Pat (McCue) is going to help NHRA write those rules and get things together with other major e-car manufacturers so that everyone's on the same page going forward. We love the fact we are pioneers for something new for the sport. I can tell you the tech and tuning is pretty fun!"


Photography by Bruce Biegler



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