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Taking Flight—Chicken Man Tripp Carter chases new challenges in NMRA’s high-flying Coyote Stock

Posted By: Evan J. Smith
Taking Flight—Chicken Man Tripp Carter chases new challenges in NMRA’s high-flying Coyote Stock
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Dr. Rudy Rouweyah and the FSC staff
Rising to the occasion and overcoming challenges has been a lifelong source of inspiration for Tripp Carter, better known as the “Chicken Man.” After conquering the NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Car category, Carter turned his attention to NMRA Coyote Stock and quickly made his presence known.
Growing up in Memphis, Tennessee, Carter’s father, Marvin, raced a Henry J as well as a slew of 1950s-era Chevrolets. Traveling with his father to nearby tracks such as Lakeland International Raceway, the younger Carter idolized hero drivers like Don Garlits and wild wheel-standing cars of the day. The Memphis area was a hotbed for grassroots drag racing at the time, and with aftermarket entities such as Lunati Power and others surrounding him, an element of entrepreneurship was added to Carter’s interests.
“Once I turned 16, I’d fool around on the streets and do some street racing,” admitted Carter, now 60-years-old.  Always a muscle car aficionado, Carter eventually took it to the track and began bracket racing with his 1987 Buick Grand National.
When he graduated from Memphis State University to pursue a career in investment banking, though, Carter’s life took an unexpected turn. “I lasted all of six months… I hated it,” he laughed. Carter went on to start a successful dance club and later got into the automotive repair and towing business. “I did that for a while, then saw an opportunity to take Gus’s World Famous Fried Chicken and grow it to something huge.”
Over the years, Carter expanded his portfolio to also include ownership of All Seasons Elite Indoor Boat Storage, but his commitment to cool cars and fast hot rods never waned. 
In November of 2015, Carter attended a Memphis Rodders Reunion event where he met Randy Eakins and took an interest in Eakins’s Ford Mustang Cobra Jet. Carter teamed up with the Watson Racing group, including Chuck Watson II and Kim Mapes, to obtain his competition license and begin competing in NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars in 2017.
Over the years, Carter showed an amazing aptitude for quick learning and finished third in championship points in 2019. He picked up two wins and a runner-up finish in 2020 which put him second overall in points, with the same year-end finish for both 2021 and 2022 as well.
Carter is, admittedly, extremely entrepreneurial-minded and “always looking for the next big thing and a challenge.” It was that same mindset, however, that inspired him to diversify his drag racing initiatives and tackle a new opportunity.
“I was blown away the first time I saw Coyote Stock. It was super cool!” proclaimed Carter. He knew immediately that he wanted to run the class as he appreciated the parity of having the cars all so closely matched, due to the sealed-stock Coyote engine requirement. “I really liked that it mostly comes down to the clutch, the chassis, and the driver. And, compared to some other classes, it’s somewhat economical for a change!”
Carter began wandering the NMRA Coyote Stock pits around 2020 and befriended many of his soon-to-be opponents. “I was picking their brains about things and Nathan Stymiest was so open and willing to share, and we struck up a friendship,” Carter said gratefully. 
Through the grapevine, Carter heard that Louis Sylvester’s NMRA Richmond Gear Factory Stock entry was for sale as a roller and Darin Hendricks was selling his drivetrain, so he purchased both to combine them into one car. Still concentrating on his NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars endeavors at the time, Carter sent everything to Watson Racing and told them to peck away at it when they had the time.
“Well, while that was going on, Nate [Stymiest] decided to sell his car and thought of me since he knew I wanted one and my project wasn’t together yet, so he offered it to me and I thought it was a great opportunity since it was a record-holding, championship-winning car,” explained Carter. Knowing it would be easier to start with a proven piece rather than having to sort out an unknown car, it was a no-brainer for Carter to pull the trigger.
The car in question, a 1992 Ford Mustang notchback, was set up by Stymiest with a naturally aspirated sealed-stock Ford Performance Gen 3 Coyote 5.0-liter crate engine, a Ford Performance Control Pack, G-Force Racing’s popular four-speed G101A manual transmission with a matching G-Force shifter, a RAM clutch, and a clutch tamer. 
Additionally, Stymiest included a Racepak data acquisition system, TRZ Motorsports 9-inch rearend, and Santhuff front struts with AFCO rear shocks as well as Strange brakes at each corner.
Stymiest delivered his former ride — the same one in which he earned the 2021 NMRA Coyote Stock championship title — to Dragway 42 in northern Ohio just before the 3rd Annual Mickey Thompson NMRA Ford Homecoming in early June. There, Stymiest familiarized Carter with the ins and outs of wheeling a wild Coyote Stock machine.
“It surprised me right away how quickly the shift light comes on,” proclaimed Carter. “You literally let the clutch out and go and then you’re pulling second gear, it was definitely something I had to get used to.”
Carter was able to collect a timeslip proving he had run 9.84 seconds, pretty quick for a Coyote Stock vehicle but still a way off from his 7.57-second personal best in NMCA Factory Super Cars. It wasn’t just the difference on the clock, though, that Carter noticed. 
“Everything happens so quickly by the eighth mile and after that, you’re just along for the ride, whereas the Factory Super Car is pulling hard the entire run and is on the verge of spinning its tires the entire way down the track, even on the top end,” he continued of the comparison between the two dramatically different beasts.
Weighing in at roughly 2,500 pounds before adding any weight to the car, including its driver, Carter was also pleased to have the leeway of adding ballast wherever he pleased to get to the 3,000-pound minimum to be class-legal.
Carter was eager to get going at the upcoming event, held at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio, and qualified respectably well with a 9.888 at 135.67 mph hit to settle 11th in the pack of 16. Unfortunately, he was a little too eager in eliminations as Carter suffered from a premature departure at the starting line and handed the win to Tim Matherly in the opposing lane despite clocking a stout performance of 10.027 at 135.06 mph himself.
Next, Carter headed to Tennessee’s Jackson Dragway for an eighth-mile stick-shift shootout. “Normally with the Factory Super Cars, they’re fairly delicate and have to be freshened after not many runs, so we don’t beat on ‘em unless we have to,” stated the man. “But what I like about Coyote Stock is how strong the cars are, and when I found out about this other event only an hour and a half from my house, I said ‘Hell yeah, I’ll run it!’”
Carter was particularly tickled to attend without having to haul in a huge support crew and equipment. Knowing he could handle everything on the comparatively simple Coyote Stock car by himself and that he wouldn’t have to worry about hurting anything too critical, he went all in.
The difference between the robustness of the combinations has been a huge eye-opener for Carter. When he asked Stymiest how many runs were on the engine in the Fox Mustang he purchased, he was shocked when Stymiest responded “About 165.” 
Typically, Carter has to freshen up his NMCA Holley EFI Factory Super Cars Cobra Jet’s engine after roughly 25-30 passes, assuming all went well. The benefit of running one of Ford Performance’s factory crate engines, though, is that the Coyote can often provide 400-500 runs or more. 
“It’s a lot more economical to run in Coyote Stock and seems to be a more reliable package that tends to stay together as opposed to the way we run on the edge every pass in Factory Super Cars,” he added happily. “Plus, in Factory Super Cars, we get 12 or 14 runs from a set of slicks, but in Coyote Stock, guys are getting 50 to 75.”
Moving on to Martin, Michigan, in mid-July for the NMRA/NMCA Power Festival at US 131 Motorsports Park, Carter couldn’t wait to get back behind the wheel of his coveted Coyote Stock car. Still learning the car, he ran 9.919 at 135.50 mph during qualifying to begin eliminations from the number twelve spot.
In round one, Carter was paired with veteran Coyote Stock contender, Chad Stephens. Always on his game, Stephens is a tough man to take down, but Carter did so when he sped through the quarter-mile traps in just 9.941 seconds at 135.42 mph. Getting his first-round win in the category was a big step, and Carter moved on to round two. Unfortunately, his celebrations came to an end as his 9.971-second at 135.54 mph effort wasn’t enough to defeat Aaron Worstell who went 9.880 at 136.57 mph in the other lane.
“The car is great and everything is going well. Nate continues to help me over the phone with the setup and the data, so at this point, it’s just me trying to get better at driving the car and learning what it needs,” stated Carter, calm and confident as always.
In the two dozen or so passes that Carter ran since purchasing Stymiest’s former Mustang, he hasn’t changed a thing. While he is toying with the idea of some off-season winter updates such as reducing rotating mass with new wheels and brakes and tweaking some of the gear ratios in the rearend, Carter is doing his best to just enjoy the ride in the meantime.
Despite being a newbie to the group, both Carter and his longtime girlfriend, Wanda Hunsucker, have been met with warm welcomes from their new NMRA Coyote Stock family. “Everyone’s been really helpful. It’s a great, outgoing group and we’re enjoying being a part of it,” he affirmed. 
Hunsucker, too, has also taken a keen liking to the class as Carter’s number-one fan feels more comfortable lining him up and pulling him into the beams. “She doesn’t want to be responsible for that with the Factory Super Cars,” laughed Carter. “But she does everything to get us ready including packing the rig, prepping food, and so much more… I couldn’t do this without her.”
The couple recently purchased 200 acres in rural Tennessee and built their dream home: a 22,000-square-foot “shop house” with one bedroom, one bathroom, a kitchen, a media room, and a whole lot of garage space to house Carter’s ever-growing diverse fleet of performance vehicles.
Not partial to any particular make or model, Carter’s unique collection includes a little bit of everything from a 900-horsepower Cadillac CTS-V wagon to a Porsche 911 GT3 and even a Meyers Manx dune buggy. He’s also a longtime, hardcore off-shore boat racer and is finding strange similarities between the sealed engines he competed with there in the late 1990s and early 2000s and the Coyote crate engine he now runs with the NMRA.
“I bought a Willys gasser to run in the ScottRods nostalgia racing series and a Dodge Demon as well as an SRT Demon 170 to run in the HEMI class,” said Carter, eager to get busy living the dream and running in as many different events as possible.
Despite having an enviable assortment of performance toys from which to pick, Carter is committed to closing out his 2023 drag racing season in both NMCA Holley EFI Super Cars with his Watson Racing-prepped Mustang Cobra Jet as well as his NMRA Coyote Stock Fox Mustang as well as continuing with the two cars in 2024 —but which one will wind up being his favorite ride is still anyone’s guess.
The Details
Owner: Tripp Carter
Driver: same 
Hometown: Rossville, Tennessee
Occupation: Restaurant owner and Boat Storage owner 
Class: Coyote Stock
Crew: Wanda Hunsucker 
Car Year/Make/Model: 92 Ford Mustang 
Engine: Gen 3 5.0-liter NMRA Coyote Stock sealed crate engine 
Engine builder: Ford Performance 
Displacement: 5.0 liters
Block: Aluminum 
Stroke: 92.7mm
Crank: Ford cross-plane
Rods: Sinter Forged 
Pistons: Hypereutectic
Heads: Ford Performance 
Valvetrain: 32 valves
Cam type: Dual Overhead 
Carburetor or EFI system: EFI
Power-adder: None
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels C10
Headers and exhaust: American Racing/MagnaFlow
Transmission: G-Force Racing Transmissions G101A
Transmission Builder: G-Force Racing Transmissions
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: RAM/G-Force Shifter
Rearend: TRZ 9-inch 
Body and/or chassis builder: Ford 
Suspension (Front): Santhuff
Suspension (Rear): AFCO
Brakes (Front): Strange Engineering
Brakes (Rear): Strange Engineering
Wheels (front): Billet Specialties 
Wheels (Rear):  Mickey Thompson
Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson
Tires (Rear): Mickey Thompson 
Aftermarket body modifications: Cowl hood 
Safety equipment: RaceQuip
Vehicle weight: 3,000 pounds
Quickest ET: 9.65 seconds
Best 60-foot: 1.29 seconds
Fastest mph: 138
Sponsors: Me, myself, and I

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