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Iron Plan—Tri-athlete Isaac Reed has a strategy for success with his turbocharged, 427-cube Camaro Z28

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Written by Steve Turner

Photography by Kevin Diossi

As the call to the lanes echoes from the speakers, the pressure is on. Racing a 1,200-horsepower turbocharged Camaro is no simple task. The team has a plan. Before Isaac Reed fires up the 427-cube LS, there are things to attend to. His son Michael checks the tire pressure, while his wife Tammy runs down a printed and laminated pre-race checklist, marking each item with a dry-erase marker before the team heads to the staging lanes ready for whatever awaits them.

“Any problem is expected to be investigated and counter-measured, so that’s kind of why I am so critical,” Reed says of his auto industry-bred attention to detail. “What can we do to make sure that never happens again. One of the runs when we were learning and just starting to take the car out, we kept forgetting to turn the CO2bottle on. It wasn’t long after that I came home with a laminated list.”

The fourth-gen bodylines remain, but the big hood, sheetmetal wing, and that turbo peeking out from behind the front valance are giveaways that this machine means business. Reed Reed spent over two years getting the car where he wanted it, which fulfilled a dream dating back to his childhood.

Pulling to the starting line a camera documents every action as Reed calmly runs through his process. From burnout to staging and shifting to dropping the ’chute, he tries to follow the same process each time. The racing is precise, but it the thrill of that turbocharged push out the back door never wanes, nor does the passion to compete. Reed not only races heads-up with the Camaro, but he competes in another form of racing requiring endurance and mental toughness.

Endurance Racing

“I have done several Iron Man events, and local stuff, so I am also racing in the triathlon scene too, so I try to do it all,” he said. “For the triathlons, I have a laminated sheet that I check off before race morning because there are a lot of little things that you can easily forget that will drastically affect your race. It’s along the same lines (as the drag racing list).”

From left to right are Isaac Reed, Chris Anderson, and Kevin Mitchell. “Being in better condition than most drastically helps me. When you are jumping into a river with 3,000 other athletes it is pretty nerve-wracking — you swim or drown,” Reed said. “If you can mentally sustain that, it helps in the drag racing staying calm and being in better shape. I can handle sitting in the staging lanes for two hours in the sun, while a lot of guys are getting out and taking their coats off. You are able to take a physical beating more.”

While that dedication to process comes from his work as a manager for an automaker with exacting quality standards, it was a nearly pilgrimage to the Circle City that fostered a love for the competition that is heads-up drag racing.

“My dad and I always had a love for muscle cars,” Reed explained. “My dad took me to the US Nationals every year in Indy and loved it ever since.”

Eventually, he started bracket racing in a 1963 Nova SS. He experienced some success racing this car, but he still craved the competition of heads-up racing. As such he set out to build a fast, competitive machine.

“The overall competition of true heads-up drag racing is really where it’s at. I dabbled in the bracket racing, but I found very quickly that it wasn’t satisfying my itch,” Reed said. “Then the desire came to do some heads-up racing, and I slowly started transitioning from a bracket racer to where I wanted to land as a heads-up drag racer.”

Carlyle Racing screwed together a 427 cubic-inch LS topped by All Pro cylinder heads and an All Pro intake manifold. A big Precision turbocharger boosts it to 1,200 horsepower which is fed by Billet Atomizer injectors and controlled by a Haltech EFI system.

Thrill of Competition

While the draw of running faster and competing heads-up was undeniable, the man who fostered Reed’s love for drag racing also inspired this race car build.

“This build was always a dream for my dad and I to build a car together before I lost him as a child. Once I had a son of my own I wanted to do this lifelong project with him,” Reed told us.

Reed follows a regimented process during each run and even goes as far as filming his actions on each pass to further refine his process. If a last-minute change in the tune-up is required before a pass, he can engage a new calibration on the fly using those Haltech knobs on the dash.

Doing so meant making some sacrifices. Without the benefit of sponsors, he started construction on this 1998 Camaro Z28. With the support of his family, they skipped out on some traditional activities like vacations and dining out to direct that money toward building a competitive racer. Despite those sacrifices, the process still took a long time to complete.

“It took a total of two and a half years from the start to getting it, really, where it needed to be,” Reed said. “There’s a lot of stuff that normal families would do that basically got put on hold — from vacations to going out to dinner. It took a joint effort between my wife and I being on the same page about things and where we wanted to go with it and what it was going to take to get there.”

A big Precision turbo does work to pump up the 427-cube LS to four-digit levels.

Rock-Solid Support

As you might imagine, putting that much time and expense into a race car would be impossible without an understanding spouse. Fortunately, Reed’s better half grew up around dirt track racing, so she knew all to well the effort and expense required to create a competitive race car.

“She is basically the rock. A lot of people’s wife’s are not as open,” Reed said. “If you want to buy a $10,000 set of heads versus a used set that is a couple thousand dollars, we built the car to be competitive so that was the direction. This is what we need. Basically there was no complaining. If this is what we need to be competitive, that’s what we need.”

This fourth-gen rolls on Weld Racing V-Series wheels with Moroso front-runners and sticky Mickeys out back.

With that kind of backing and a lot of dedication to the program, Reed’s vision became a reality. Powered by a Dart block-based, 427-cube LS, this fourth-gen Camaro packs a big Precision turbo that pushes it to four-digit horsepower. It’s backed by a RPM-prepped Turbo 400 automatic and follows the orders of a Haltech engine management system.

In 2017 Reed and his team took his dream creation into battle with the NMCA’s top-notch racers in the Edelbrock Xtreme Street and Real Street Shootout ranks.

It took a while to sort out the gearing and rein in the car’s wheelies, but Reed and his team stuck with it. In addition to his racing program, Reed runs triathlons, so he knows all about preparing and persisting. Eventually he and his team dialed in the gearing and suspension to rein in those aggressive launches.

“Staying calm and making sure everything is done before we get to the line,” he said of the essentials of a solid pass. “It’s a big rush to have a successful run with this car.”

“Once we figured that out, we learned that the first gear ratio was way off,” Reed said. “ We were trying to leave on like a nine-something gear between the rearend gear and the first gear in the transmission. That as all be resolved so, hopefully, coming out of the hole will be manageable.”

Getting Real

Along the way to dialing in the car, Reed started running in the Real Street Shootout against other LS-powered machines. He found the fellow competitors welcoming and helpful, which was a refreshing change from the cutthroat nature of some heads-up classes. However, eventually life had to take a front seat. Building a house, changing jobs, and such kept Reed away from the track for a while.

With those things settled, he plans to return to racing on the regular. Real Street would be his preferred path, but that depends on how he modifies the car to meet the latest rulebook requirements.

“Real Street really fit me well because it seems like all the main guys in that category really meshed well together. Everybody seemed like they were trying to help each other. It’s not like a cutthroat-style program,” Reed said. “When I struggled, there were other Real Street guys that would come over and offer help and do anything that I need them to do. It was really nice, kind of like a welcoming, open-arms approach.”

Though he might step up to a faster class, time will tell. Whichever class he ends up pursuing, Reed says that it’s important to keep your mind open and know “How to listen and never think you know everything there is to know.“

“The bracket car versus the turbo car is, basically, a night and day difference. Bracket racing is exciting when you are doing it, but when get behind the wheel of a turbo car and start heads-up racing, you really don’t look at the bracket racing anymore,” Reed Reed enthused. “The adrenaline rush that you get and the satisfaction from the desire to win against somebody in the same style of program is really what turns you on; it’s what turns me on anyway.”

The Details

Owner/Driver:Isaac Reed

Hometown:Columbus, Indiana

Occupation:Management

Class: Real Street Shootout

Crew: Chris Anderson, Kevin Mitchell, and family

Car Make/Model/Year:1998 Camaro Z28

Engine:LS V8

Engine Builder:Carlyle Racing

Displacement:427 cubic inches

Block:Dart

Bore:4.125 inches

Stroke:4 inches

Crank:Callies

Rods:GRP

Pistons:Ross

Cylinder Heads:All Pro

Camshaft:COMP Cams

Type:Roller

EFI System:Haltech tuned by Patrick Barnhill at PTP Racing

Power Adder:Precision Turbo

Fuel:VP

Spark Plugs:NGK

Headers and Exhaust:Custom by Jared at Carlyle Racing

Transmission:Turbo 400

Transmission Builder:Rodney Massengale at RPM Transmissions

Torque Converter: Pro Torque

Rearend:Burkhart

Chassis

Chassis builder:Burkhart

Suspension (Front):Menscer

Suspension (Rear):Menscer

Brakes (Front): Strange Engineering disc                  

Brakes (Rear): Strange Engineering disc

Wheels (front): Weld Racing    

Size:17-inch

Wheels (Rear):Weld Racing

Size:15-inch

Tires (Front): Moroso

Tires (Rear):Mickey Thompson

Body modifications: Sheetmetal wing, parachute

Body components:Fiberglass hood

Safety equipment: SFI roll cage, Kirkey seats

Vehicle Weight:3,100 pounds

Quickest ET: n/a

Best 60-foot: n/a

Fastest mph: n/a

Sponsors:None

 


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