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Kevin Cody Committed to Being Competitive in Dart NA 10.5

Posted By: Mary Lendzion
By Mary Lendzion
Photos by Mary Lendzion and NMCA Staff

 
When Kevin Cody is working on his Capri in his backyard in Dearborn, Michigan, passersby stop to admire it and ask him questions about it.
 
Cody happily shares that he has owned the car for decades, has done a lot of work to it through the years and that it carried him to a high 7-second pass in NMCA Dart NA 10.5 competition in the summer of 2022 at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.
 
His passion and pride are plain to see, and at the same time, he wants to be as competitive as possible. To that end, he spends a substantial amount of time searching for ways to ensure that he is.
 
Cody is not one to give up, and he has proven that. If something is amiss with his car or combination, he will work until it’s all right, and that approach serves him well as he focuses on becoming a frontrunner in NMCA Dart NA 10.5 as well as in the All Motor category at Milan Dragway in Michigan.
 
Read on for more about Cody, who finished just outside of the Top 10  in NMCA Dart NA 10.5 points in 2022. He works as a dynamometer technologist for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, and loves to travel and go camping with his fiancée, Debbie Hogan, who is one of his biggest supporters. 
 

 
WE KNOW HOW COOL YOUR CAPRI IS, BUT WHAT WILL YOU TELL US ABOUT YOUR VERY FIRST CAR?
 
Wow. It was a 1979 Mercury Zephyr that my dad drove before giving to me when I was a senior at Novi High School in Michigan. It was a nice-looking car with blue paint and a white vinyl top. It had a straight-six engine and an automatic transmission, and I wanted to put a V8 in it, but we didn’t have it long enough to do that because we sold it to buy a 1983 Mustang in 1990. That had a 302 cubic-inch engine and a five-speed transmission, and it was my first fast street car. I loved it. It was around that time that I was attending Southwest Oakland Vocational Education Center, and a teacher there talked to us about how he was into Outlaw Dirt Track racing.
 
DID YOU DRAW INSPIRATION FROM THAT TEACHER? 
 
Yes, I really did. I always liked cars, but he made things so interesting that I was always anxious to hear what he was going to teach us next. I was like a sponge when I was growing up. You couldn’t tell me enough. I wanted to know more and more about cars, and that teacher was great because he gave us really unusual projects to work on. One project was to modify a driveshaft. After that, I went to Delta College in Saginaw, Michigan, and earned a degree in automotive service technology, and right out of college, I worked at Hines Park Lincoln Mercury in Plymouth, Michigan. I had all of the hard jobs, like electrical issues, squeaks, rattles and leaks. I learned a lot in the two years that I was there.
 
WHEN DID YOU DISCOVER DRAG RACING?
 
It was soon after college, when I bought a 1981 Mustang with a 302 cubic-inch engine and a T5 transmission. I raced that Mustang, as well as my 1983 Mustang, at Detroit Dragway. The 1981 Mustang ran 12s and the 1983 Mustang ran 14s. After that, when I started working in the dyno lab for Ford about 31 years ago, I wanted to go faster and decided that I should build a dedicated race car. 
 
WHAT KIND OF RACE CAR DID YOU WANT?
 
I knew that I wanted an early 1980s Mustang or Capri, and I saw a 1981 Capri for sale in the newspaper for $400. It was behind a woman’s garage, and I bought it. It had a four-cylinder engine that didn’t run, but I didn’t care. It was a clean car, and it only had a little rust on the doors. I towed it home with another car.
 
WHAT DID YOU DO TO THE CAPRI AFTER YOU PURCHASED IT?
 
I got the four-cylinder engine running, and then I sold that engine for $200. I started to strip the car, including the drivetrain, interior and everything else. I assembled a 460 cubic-inch engine, and decided to run a C6 transmission and a 9-inch rear end. A friend of mine helped me weld in an eight-point cage. I found replacement doors for the car, and I bought the cheap plastic racing seats. I remember when I started the car for the first  time after I built it, and it was an incredible feeling to know that I built this thing and it worked. It felt like an amazing accomplishment. The car was grey and black when I bought it, and not long after, I painted it to the white it is now.


 
THAT WAS AN AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENT, AND ONE OF BE VERY PROUD OF. DID YOU BEGIN RACING IT AS SOON AS YOU WERE DONE BUILDING IT?
 
I did. I bought an open trailer and towed it with my Bronco. I took it to Detroit Dragway and Milan Dragway, and raced it. It ran in the 11-second range. Of course, I got the bug to go faster, and I started working overtime to pay for the parts I needed. I went to a 514 cubic-inch engine, and did some work on some cast-iron heads. That helped me get into the 10s. Then I built a 585 cubic-inch engine, followed by a 638 cubic-inch engine with C heads and picked up to 8.40s. I basically hit every mark. I went 10s, 9s and then 8.40s with the trans and the tires slipping. Most of the time, I was bracket racing, and then I started running Open Comp at Milan Dragway and at a few NMRA races.
 
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE TO TRY HEADS-UP RACING FOR THE FIRST TIME?
 
It was about eight years ago, and it was in the All Motor class at Milan Dragway. I was so impressed with the cars and the racers in the class. At the time, you had to be running high 7s to be competitive, and I was only running 8.40s. I was making about 1,200 horsepower, but I was having some problems with the 638 cubic-inch engine and the C heads. I only did that for a year before I decided I needed to do something if I wanted to really make a go of that and step up.
 
WHAT STEPS DID YOU TAKE TO ENHANCE YOUR NATURALLY ASPIRATED, HEADS-UP RACING PROGRAM?
 
I had to research engines, which, for me, involved looking online and asking around. Then, basically, I found out that I could purchase big-block HEMI heads that fit my Ford Motorsport four-bolt main A460 block, and I was very interested in that. At that time, I worked with Scorpion Race Engines to build a 638 cubic-inch engine with Hemi heads. Then we ran into problems. The engine failed on the dyno because the valve hit the piston because of an issue with the cam. They got the engine fixed about a year later, but I took it home to assemble it myself. When I found something wrong, I called Tony Bischoff at BES Racing Engines, and took the engine to him to assemble.
 
YOU HAVE MENTIONED PREVIOUSLY HOW BENEFICIAL TONY BISCHOFF WAS AS YOU TRANSITIONED TO HEADS-UP RACING. IN WHAT AREAS DID HE OFFER THE MOST HELPFUL ADVICE?
 
Starting to work with Tony Bischoff was amazing. Right away, I could tell that he is an honest and kind person, and that he truly knows what he is doing. He knew what would work with those Hemi heads, and I trusted him completely when he said we needed a new block and that we should go to 700 cubic-inches on a C&C aluminum block. Tony Bischoff was very instrumental in helping me with my program.


 
WERE YOU ON SIGHT WHEN TONY BISCHOFF PUT YOUR NEW ENGINE ON THE DYNO?
 
Yes, and it was great. My dad and I went to see Tony dyno the engine for the first time, and that made me really happy. It made good power to start, and then it made more and more power after every pull. I was thinking, ‘My God, this is so great,’ but I was nervous at the same time. I was going to run All Motor at Milan Dragway, but they had just closed, and luckily, within a year, NMCA opened up the cubic-inch limit for Dart NA 10.5, and I headed to that class in 2021. My first Dart NA 10.5 race was at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois in 2021.
 
HOW DID YOUR NMCA DART NA 10.5 DEBUT GO?
 
I didn’t get to make any test passes beforehand, so it was crazy. I had switched to a Rossler Turbo 400 and the shift pattern was different from what I had, and I wasn’t familiar with it, so I had to figure it out quickly. After a few passes, I got to stay in the throttle, and I thought to myself, ‘Man, this thing is fast.’ It was awesome.
 
THE DART NA 10.5 RACERS ARE KNOWN FOR BEING VERY FRIENDLY AND WELCOMING TO NEW RACERS IN THE CATEGORY. WHAT WERE  YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS?
 
I didn’t know what to expect, but as it turned out, I was immediately happy where I was. The guys were friendly, walked right up to me and introduced themselves. I felt right at home. There is a lot to learn as far as tuning the car and running the car, because I wasn’t used to that horsepower or tire size, but with every race or test pass, I learn something new and something helpful, and that is a very good thing. I’m working on how to get traction and how to get the car to respond to various tunes at various tracks. I’m trying different tire pressures. I started with 11 pounds and most recently I ran 14 pounds. I’m just learning what the car likes and does not like. I use an MSD Grid and Race Pak data logger.


 
YOU WERE ABLE TO COMPETE IN EVEN MORE NMCA DART NA 10.5 RACES IN 2022. WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE YOUR GREATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT IN 2022?
 
In addition to being able to work with Tony Bischoff and get the engine combination where we needed it to be, I would say the biggest accomplishment was my first 7-second pass. It was a 7.96 at 175.3 mph, and it was during qualifying at the NMCA race at Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio. Then at the NMCA race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in Indiana, I clocked my best mph of 179.7.
 
CONGRATULATIONS ON YOUR PROGRESS, KEVIN. WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS BETWEEN NOW AND THE START OF THE 2023 RACE SEASON?
 
I’m going to try new gearing in the back, and modify the top hat of my custom BES sheetmetal intake. I’m also going to freshen the transmission. I have to think about some ways to improve my 60-foot time to go faster.
 
YOUR JOB AS A DYNAMOMETER TECHNOLOGIST FOR FORD MOTOR COMPANY SOUNDS REALLY INTERESTING. WHAT IS INVOLVED?
 
I test all of the prototype engines for Ford Motor Company in Dearborn, Michigan. They can be gasoline or diesel engines. I have even tested GT40 engines. It’s pretty fascinating work, especially when you see an engine roll down the hallway that you have never seen before.
 
WHO HAS HELPED YOU ALONG THE WAY?
 
Tony Bischoff at BES Racing Engines, Russ Meisner, Leonard and Kayte Hughes, number one fans Mason and Kensy, Kevin Sievers, Bill McNab, Chris Williams, who built me a crazy fiberglass hood and my fiancée, Debbie Hogan, for supporting my crazy hobby. I’m very blessed to have God in my life. He gives me the abilities to achieve things I never thought I could achieve.

(This Spotlight interview can also be viewed in the January 2023 issue of Fastest Street Car)




 

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