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SPOTLIGHT Interview-Adam Cox feels at home in Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle

Posted By: Steve Baur
Interview by Mary Lendzion
Photos by the FSC staff

 
After reading about his favorite racers in magazines, Adam Cox went to his first NMRA race to see them in action more than 20 years ago. He was entertained and enthralled by exceptional racers like John Urist, Tim Matherly, and Bob Hanlon, and he was eager to start competing in the series himself. So Cox prepared a 1988 Mustang for the now-defunct NMRA Pure Street, and competed in the category for a few years. After taking some time off to focus on other responsibilities, he was ready to return to racing in 2010, and prepared a 1999 Mustang for NMRA Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle, and he has called that category home ever since.

Like his fellow competitors, he has experienced highs and lows in competition, but with a win, two runners-up and a second-place finish in points in 2021 in his Mustang which clocks consistent 10.00-10.15 elapsed times, the well-liked Cox rightfully feels that he just wrapped up his most rewarding season.

“Adam is one of the hardest-working index racers there is,” said Andy Warren, multi-time NMCA Detroit Truetrac Nostalgia Muscle champion and Cox’s close friend. “I have seen first-hand how hard the work is between races and between rounds to make a car like his consistent. It blows me away how deadly and consistent he is on the .500 Pro Tree using three pedals. Adam and I have been friends since 2014. When our race team had T-shirts for sale, he was one of our first customers, and that shirt sale sparked a great friendship. We started helping each other at the national events as well as at home events. He was even in my and Shelby’s wedding.”
 
Read on for more about Cox, who works in the Signal Department for  freight railroad company CSX Transportation and lives in Fisherville, Kentucky, with his wife, Amy, and children, Ashland and Aiden. When he’s not racing or working, he enjoys going on short vacations with his family, and most recently, they visited Rock City in Georgia and Ruby Falls in Tennessee. 
 

WHAT SERVED AS YOUR VERY FIRST DAILY-DRIVER?

It was a used 1987 red Escort GT with a four-cylinder engine that I got when I was going on 18. I only had it for about a year and a half before I bought a used 1988 Mustang in 1991. It was a butternut yellow color, which Ford called Mimosa. It had a 5.0-liter engine and a five-speed transmission.

WHEN DID YOU BEGIN TO MAKE MODIFICATIONS TO THAT 1988 MUSTANG?
It really wasn’t until about eight years after I bought it, after I decided to prepare it to race it in NMRA Pure Street at the last race of the year in 1999. I asked Tim Knieriem to build a 310 small-block Ford for Pure Street to go with Bob Hanlon’s old Hot Street TKO face-plated transmission. I wasn’t very competitive in Pure Street because I was still working a minimum wage job at a bicycle shop and living at home with my parents at the time, and I couldn’t afford to do what I needed to do to my combination to run as well as I needed to run. I didn’t even have a trailer to pull my car to the races, but my friend, Chad Robinson, pulled it for me with his F-250 truck on a borrowed open trailer.

WHAT WERE YOUR IMMEDIATE THOUGHTS ON THE CATEGORY?
We joined Pure Street because our car and combination fit it, but at the same time, we knew going in that we just wanted to get our feet wet and be part of the party, so to speak. It was amazing. We loved the atmosphere, and we loved all of the racers. They were so welcoming, and I ran that category for two and a half years, with the a 310 small-block engine and the TKO face-plated transmission.

WHAT COMPELLED YOU TO TAKE A BREAK FROM RACING AFTER A FEW YEARS?
I took time off to focus on my job at CSX Transportation, where I had been for two years at that point, and I sold the car as well as the engine and transmission, and started paying off debt, to be honest. I didn’t want to sell that car, but I promised myself that I would definitely race again. During that time, in 2008, I bought the 1999 Mustang that I have now from a woman in northern Ohio, to drive back and forth to work. It had a six-cylinder engine, and I drove it like that for about a year. Then I decided that I wanted to compete in NMRA Modular Muscle, and I started stockpiling parts for the car.


WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO GO FROM HEADS-UP TO INDEX RACING?

I’m a heads-up guy at heart, and I never anticipated joining an index category, but Modular Muscle sounded good, and would allow me to continue to run a manual transmission, which was important to me because I love manual transmissions. I used to tear them up on the street and send them to Bob Hanlon to fix.

WHAT PARTS DID YOU ACQUIRE FOR YOUR NEW ADVENTURE?
I went to a junkyard and bought a short block from a 1993 Lincoln Mark VIII, and I bought 2004 Cobra heads with cams installed on them and a Sullivan intake for it. Finally, after a year and a half, I stopped driving the Mustang on the street so that we could start putting it together for the strip. I took parts from six or so Mustangs to get it together. We sent a valve cover to Bridge Racing of Australia, and they fabricated it to hold a distributor, and we installed an MSD Digital 7 box. We put a different face-plated TKO behind the engine. I prepared the car for mini-tubs, and then Fast Chassis in Kentucky installed them. I had coilovers in the front and rear, and QA1 suspension components all the way around. I bought a truck to tow the Mustang with.

WHEN WAS YOUR CAR READY FOR ITS EXEDY RACING CLUTCH MODULAR MUSCLE DEBUT?
It was in 2010, at the last NMRA race of the year, at Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky. It reminded of the first time I ran Pure Street because my fellow racers were very competitive, but also very welcoming. They’ve all become good friends to me, and they’re all the reason I’m still running Modular Muscle today.


HAVE YOU MADE MANY CHANGES TO YOUR COMBINATION SINCE THEN, OR JUST MINIMAL CHANGES?

Actually, my combination is almost identical, except the engine went to Competitive Automotive Machine in Kentucky two years ago, after I broke a timing chain and hurt internals, which prompted some upgrades with Ross pistons, Scat rods and a steel Cobra crank. Also, I have a G-Force Racing Transmissions’ G101A now.

WHAT COMPELS YOU TO CONTINUE COMPETING IN EXEDY RACING CLUTCH MODULAR MUSCLE?
We have done well in Modular Muscle, and I’m happy in the category. I have found a home, and I have a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. On top of that, I like the people. They are genuinely good people. Last year at the race in St. Louis, I tore the hub out of the middle of the clutch disc in the second round of qualifying, and I could not get the transmission out of my car. Charlie McCulloch found out and got right under my car to help me. He stayed there until he absolutely had to go to the staging lanes for the final round of qualifying. We got it worked out and would you believe I ended up racing Charlie in the final round of eliminations? He went red, and I won. My mom, Nevada, was there to see it. 

WHAT WAS YOUR MOM’S REACTION?
My mom was on the starting line, and Charlie’s crew members hugged her, along with some other racers, including Jason Sloan, because they knew my dad died a few years ago at Christmastime, and my mom was still emotional about that and my win. She told me that she wished she and my dad had come to the races with me a long time ago because of how many special people I’m surrounded by.


WHAT DO YOU CONSIDER TO BE SOME MILESTONE ACCOMPLISHMENTS FOR YOU IN EXEDY RACING CLUTCH MODULAR MUSCLE?

Donnie Bowles, Susan Roush McClenaghan, and Jason Henson have been front-runners in the category, and in 2015, I had to race Donnie Bowles in what was my very first final round of eliminations. It was at Atlanta Dragway, and I went .010 and he went .025 on the tree, and I won. I got out of the car by the scales, got on the ground and started crying. That’s how hard I had worked for a win and how much I wanted a win. It was emotional, and Donnie knew that and understood that, and he came over and hugged me. Later in the winner’s circle, he asked if I would sign his runner-up plaque, and I did, and that made the whole experience even more memorable. That first win gave me confidence and momentum, but unfortunately, I ran into some issues not long after.

SORRY TO HEAR THAT YOU HAD ISSUES AFTER SUCH AN AMAZING ACCOMPLISHMENT. WHAT WERE THEY?
I started having engine and clutch trouble, and I struggled with that for three years. I had two engine failures, and because I couldn’t get the clutch combo right, I was tearing up transmissions. Jacob Lamb was helping me with the clutch, transmission, and gears. Andy Warren was helping me secure help from companies like AEM, XS Power Batteries and Ross Pistons, and giving me advice and brotherly love. If Andy hadn’t done that, I wouldn’t be racing right now. It’s like I told my mom, when I say “we” when I’m talking about my racing program, I’m referring to people like Andy and Jacob, as well as Keith Stevens and the others who help me.

YOUR FANS WERE HAPPY TO SEE YOU FINISH IN SECOND-PLACE IN EXEDY RACING CLUTCH MODULAR MUSCLE IN 2021, YOUR BEST POSITION IN POINTS SO FAR. WHAT DID THAT MEAN TO YOU?
This is the first time I had ever run a full season, and I had a lot of support from my wife, Amy, who took care of our children, Ashland, who is three, and Aiden, who is seven. I also had help from friends and fellow racers. I spent a lot of time in the garage and testing during the season, making sure everything was as good as it could possibly be with the car, and it worked, because I really did have a good car last year. Everything aligned. Even though I finished second in points, I feel like I finished first in points, because we overcame so much to get where we are.
 
 

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