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Eric Bardekoff transformed his championship-caliber racer into a Shelby-inspired stallion

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
Eric Bardekoff transformed his championship-caliber racer into a Shelby-inspired stallion
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Kevin DiOssi
With much success and a championship title already under his belt, 26-year-old NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street racer Eric Bardekoff isn’t ready to slow down yet. He revamped his successful stallion into a Shelby-inspired machine, but he wasn’t always a Ford man. 
In his youth, Bardekoff and his brother both raced Jr. Dragsters thanks to their father, Jeff Bardekoff. Weekends were spent either hanging out at the famed Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in Englishtown, New Jersey, or working in the shop on Jeff’s NHRA entry. Once Bardekoff grew out of the half-scale dragster, he built a 1968 Plymouth Barracuda for NHRA Super Stock and competed in that for a period of time.
Inspired by his father and grandfather’s entrepreneurship in the commercial flooring industry, Bardekoff flexed his wrenching and fabrication talents and founded EB Racing and EB Custom Works.
“Originally, I was just building cars for me and my dad, but then people started asking me to do work for them and it progressed into a business,” explained the New York native who has been accepting clients since he was in middle school. “It wasn’t unusual for us to be doing $150,000 frame-off rotisserie restorations. People knew how clean our work was and how well our cars performed.”
Eventually, Bardekoff wanted to get involved in heads up drag racing. “My dad and I were sitting in the stands in Indy watching the U.S. Nationals and talking about how cool it would be to build an NHRA Factory Stock Showdown car,” he shared of his inspiration. “Well, we were Mopar guys but Dodge didn’t want to work with us. Jesse Kershaw [from Ford] talked with us that night, and the following week we found a wrecked 2015 Ford Mustang through a Copart auction.”
The Bardekoff men wound up purchasing the EcoBoost-equipped S550 which had all of 1,200 miles on it. They parted it out and Bardekoff’s friend at MVA Customs pulled the frame to straighten out the front-end damage. 
Planning for the future, Bardekoff built the 25.5 SFI-certified roll cage from scratch — ensuring the Mustang’s chassis was up to snuff for quick elapsed times — then painted the entire pony car to perfection.
At the time, the 2015 Mustang was fairly new and parts were hard to come by. “The car was only a couple of months old, but Jesse [Kershaw] jumped through hoops to help us get what we needed. We had never been treated that well before,” noted Bardekoff, who was more accustomed to digging through junkyards to find old motorhome blocks with which to rebuild his engines instead of having new, off-the-shelf components. “We were converted to Ford fans through Jesse’s awesome customer service.”
Bardekoff was set to debut his build in NHRA Factory Stock Showdown in 2016 with a stick-shift transmission in place and a Ford Performance 429 Ninja engine under the hood. “Well, we never even got to run it with that drivetrain because they canned the naturally aspirated heads-up class,” lamented the racer who decided drastically to switch directions. “I said ‘screw it’ and called Jim D’Amore at JDM Engineering to get a Cobra Jet crate engine instead.”
At first, the Coyote-powered clutch combination proved to be problematic for Bardekoff who volleyed between running well and having a nightmare on his hands. “So, then I got a Turbo 400 from ATI Performance and we started with NMRA Coyote Modified,” he stated. 
In 2018, Bardekoff finished sixth overall in championship points despite his Mustang still being mostly in Factory Stock Showdown trim. The following season, he transitioned to NMRA Modified Street and picked up a runner-up finish at Maple Grove Raceway in Pennsylvania, then capped off the year by finishing fourth in points.
Bardekoff began modifying his Mustang to make it more appropriate for the type of competition he was facing. Upgraded suspension and body components, Lexan and carbon fiber, and more were all added. One of the best changes he made, though, was to add Nicky “Notch” Mancuso to his team.
Racing at the World Cup Finals event one weekend, Bardekoff grew tired of losing races and money. His friend, Frankie Sergi, suggested he talk to Mancuso so he headed over to chat. “He was kind of a dick to me and blew me off, so I wasn’t interested in working with him,” Bardekoff laughed at the abrasive start to their relationship.
A year later, Bardekoff switched gears yet again and moved to Ultra Street, but was still having trouble sorting out his setup. Frustrated, he caved and called Mancuso; the two made plans to take Bardekoff’s Mustang over to Chris Miller’s shop and hit the dyno for some tuning. “I had switched to a MoTeC and Nick got it to make a shit ton more power,” recalled the owner who put aside his previous apprehension in favor of wound up being the start of a seriously epic collaboration and friendship.
Bardekoff ran his first Ultra Street race at the 2019 YellowBullet Nationals. There, he smashed his Coyote engine’s oil pan and damaged some suspension parts when he landed his biggest wheelie to date. He was hunting for a 7-second pass, having been as quick as 8.05 seconds in the quarter-mile previously, and worked with Mancuso to make it happen at the World Cup Finals the following month.
“Well, we got into the sevens and the semifinals before a trans failure took us out,” he said. Bardekoff had always wanted to do everything himself from building the engines to tunning the clutch and setting up the suspension, and Mancuso proved to be the first person — other than his own father — that he could trust on his team. “Nick respects the car. We have the same mindset and we work really well together.”
From there, the rest was history as the guys started chipping away at their Ultra Street performance pass after pass. In NMRA Renegade trim, Bardekoff was the runner-up at the final event of the season in Kentucky but performed well enough over the course of the year that he was fourth in points when it was all said and done.
Bardekoff’s Mustang enjoyed additional alterations in 2020 including “more race car-oriented things” such as cutting the rear floor out to rework it in carbon fiber, adding carbon body panels including bumpers, doors, deck lid, and hood, Lexan windows, fender-exit exhausts, and more.
Although big changes were made, the engine itself had only gone through minor modifications. “We’ve changed a lot but it’s still based off a Factory Stock Showdown platform with NHRA FSS pistons,” noted Bardekoff, who did do a lot of development work on the top end with the Coyote’s valvetrain. “We’ve made most of our progress with the converter and gearing and transmission. The technology has really improved over time, and Nicky’s great at tuning it.”
That progress proved positive in 2021 as Bardekoff dominated throughout the year and captured the NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street championship title while coming in second for the NMRA Edelbrock Renegade honors. Consistency was key as his Whipple-supercharged combination was often the source of scrutiny, but Bardekoff prevailed with a big margin.
“Coming off 2020, we had lightened of ton of things and freshened up the whole car,” he outlined of the massive maintenance operation that took place. Bardekoff also partnered with Rich Groh Racing to test out some new timing components, and the collaboration was beneficial on both ends. “Our 2021 season was really just a lot of upkeep to make sure everything was the same all season long. We had my engine apart at every race to inspect things. We also made some transmission gear changes, rear gear changes, and the suspension setup.”
With a smart racing strategy set for both series, Bardekoff won the NMRA/NMCA combo event in Georgia and had the low elapsed time of the race. He set the NMRA class speed record in Illinois, then was the runner-up at NMRA in Ohio. Bardekoff bested both fields at the NMRA/NMCA Michigan race and also took the top qualifier bragging rights. Next, he headed back to Ohio for the NMCA race and won that outright before wrapping up the year with another winning performance at NMRA in Kentucky.
Never one to rest on his laurels, though, Bardekoff completely stripped down his S550 during the 2021-2022 off-season. Rebuilt from nose to tail, his rebodied 2023 “EB500” Mustang was born.
Bardekoff began by upgrading the Cobra Jet-spec rear suspension to enable greater adjustability. “I got rid of the Factory Showdown Panhard bar and put in a wishbone. Then, Brian Hamm of Hammer Concepts and Designs built me a 9-inch rearend and rear suspension all based off my existing parts,” detailed Bardekoff of the attention to detail that was taken. He also added a Strange Engineering Ultra case to the rearend along with a cryo-treated, lightened, and MicroBlue’d gear set, and an integrated antiroll bar.
In the front, Bardekoff made a jig so that he could fabricate a chrome-moly, bolt-in K-member (serialized and with a part number, so as to be available for purchase by other racers) and other components in-house to simplify the factory suspension by utilizing Fox chassis components instead. Additionally, Ron Galbreath’s Afterworks added piggyback, Fox-style shocks and struts at all four corners.
To accommodate all of the changes, Bardekoff also cut out the floor of the car from the main roll bar hoop forward and took the opportunity to install new, larger carbon fiber wheel tubs to accommodate a big tire if the occasion ever arises, as well as a carbon fiber trunk floor.
With so much major work already done, Bardekoff went ahead and cut off the entire front end of the Mustang, too. “It really just snowballed,” he said jovially. “And then, the inside was so dirty and I needed to replace the carpet anyway, so I just popped the windows out and decided to update the cage.”
Bardekoff wound up with a 25.3 SFI cage certified to safely enable him to run 6.50-second elapsed times. He took the time to rewire the entire car, too, before cleaning up the jobsite and putting the Mustang’s interior back in order.
Of course, Bardekoff also tackled his powertrain with a general freshening, along with other upgrades, for both the Whipple-supercharged Coyote engine and the Turbo 400 transmission from Dave Klaput’s Proformance Racing. “Last year, Dave helped me out when I had broken the planetary and went above and beyond to get me fixed up in time to race,” said the extremely satisfied customer who paired the gearbox with a ProTorque U9 converter. 
The builder also toyed with the idea of going to a mechanical fuel system in case he decided to run on alcohol and even went so far as to buy the pump and make the mounts, but ultimately chose to stick with his old Weldon electric pump and components as they never failed him.
Having had the sixth-generation Mustang under the knife for so many radical changes, Bardekoff also decided it was time to address the aesthetics. He hung a new nose on the tube work along with OEM 2023 Mustang GT500 fenders, bumpers, and a hood he built himself with guidance from Chris Werner at Jase Composites before spraying it with House of Kolor paint.
With his massively overhauled EB500 ready to once again dominate the small tire circuit, Bardekoff opted to skip a traditional test session in favor of racing at the Duck X Productions Sweet 16 shindig at South Georgia Motorsports Park in March of 2022.
There, he qualified 16th with a 4.704 at 151.99 mph pass in the highly competitive field. “We got our faces kicked in,” stated the racer who went out in the first round of eliminations and whose 3.8-liter Whipple-charged combination had been hit with some recent rule changes.
“Then… then, we went to Maple Grove for the Street Car Shootout and blew the engine — torched the head, the gasket, and destroyed the block,” lamented Bardekoff.
With no engine to power his EB500, Bardekoff had to sit out the start of both the NMRA and NMCA season. Tired of waiting around, though, Chris Holbook came to the rescue and let Bardekoff borrow his engine so that he could race at the 14th Annual Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals Presented by MAHLE Motorsport in April at Rockingham Dragway in North Carolina. 
“He lent me the Showdown engine from his red car, and I wound up hurting a head in that, too,” the disappointed driver elaborated of how his luck took a turn for the worse after having qualified fourth in NMRA Edelbrock Renegade/NMCA VP Racing Madditives Xtreme Street. “I didn’t even make it up for the first round of eliminations.”
Since that fateful race, Bardekoff patiently awaited the arrival of parts so that he could rebuild his Coyote 5.0-liter engine. The engine block is ready for its final hone job and pistons have recently arrived as other pieces have been slowly trickling in.
“It sucks that I haven’t been racing in a while, but that’s on the back burner for now while I focus on my business,” said the young man who recently relocated to Pennsylvania with his wife, Steph, and who is transitioning his EB Custom Works business away from racing to instead follow in his family’s flooring footsteps.
Despite the temporary change of trajectory, Bardekoff does still have big goals for racing and hopes to capture the Whipple-supercharged and Coyote-powered door car quarter-mile elapsed time record later in the year while also getting into the 6-second zone. 
Bardekoff is also expecting to bring his old 1968 ‘Cuda back out for some local events in 2023 — potentially with a supercharged Gen 3 Hemi engine instead of its Super Stock setup. “The Mustang will continue in Ultra Street until they come out with another class I can fit in with the Whipple… maybe X275 or Pro 275,” he affirmed of his plans. Additionally, he completely reworked Steph’s Mustang with a new 7.50-certified cage so that she can tag along to terrorize the track, too.
The Details
Owner: Eric Bardekoff
Driver: Eric Bardekoff
Hometown: Originally Long Island, New York, now Kunkletown, Pennsylvania
Occupation: Commercial flooring contractor
Class: NMCA Edelbrock Xtreme Street, Ultra Street
Crew: Steph Bardekoff, Nicky Notch, Amanda Notch, and Frankie Sergi
Car Make/Model/Year: 2022 EBC EB500
Engine: 302 Coyote
Engine builder: Eric Bardekoff
Displacement: 311 cubic inches
Block: Baer 
Bore: 3.700 inches
Stroke: Stock
Crank: Windberg
Rods: Carrillo 
Pistons: Diamond 
Heads: GT350x
Valvetrain: RGR
Cam type: custom comp
Carburetor or EFI system: MoTeC M150 tuned by Nicky Notch 
Power-adder: Whipple Supercharger 
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels Q16 Weldon fuel pumps
Headers and exhaust: Made by yours truly 
Transmission: Proformance TH400
Transmission Builder: Proformance
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: ProTorque 
Rearend: Hammer Fab 9-inch
Body and/or chassis builder: Eric Bardekoff
Suspension (Front): EBC race K-member
Suspension (Rear): Hammer fab
Brakes (Front): Strange Engineering
Brakes (Rear): Strange Engineering
Wheels (front): RC Comp
Wheels (Rear): RC Comp
Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson
Tires (Rear): Mickey Thompson
Aftermarket body modifications: everything, made a custom carbon hood, carbon deck lid, doors, optic armor window, GT500 body, custom House of Kolor paint done by me. 
Safety equipment: Racetech seat and harness, Stroud fire suppression, 6.50-cert cage built my me. 
Vehicle weight: TBD
Quickest ET: 4.496 seconds
Best 60-foot: 1.08 seconds
Fastest mph: 159
Sponsors: Whipple Superchargers, IDIDIT, and Weldon fuel pumps

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