By Mary Lendzion
As a multi-time NMCA and NMRA X275 Drag Radial champion, Jason Lee is well-versed on what it takes to win in a high-horsepower car.
He understands what cars want and what combinations want, and he’s unwavering when it comes to what he wants to accomplish on the starting line and at the finish line.
While Lee, who owns PTP Racing with his business partner, Patrick Barnhill, has been busy tuning customers’ cars and hasn’t raced his Mustang as frequently as he had been, his friend and PTP Racing customer, 2020 NMCA VP Racing Lubricants Xtreme Pro Mod champion Eric Gustafson, asked Lee if he wanted to wheel his Coast Packing Company Camaro for the 2021 race season.
“Eric injured his arm in an off-track car accident last fall, and between that and traveling for his job as CEO of Coast Packing Company in Vernon, California, he wasn’t going to be able to devote as much time to his car as he would like to,” said Lee. “So, he asked me if I wanted to drive it.”
Lee accepted the offer to drive the car which is powered by a Noonan Race Engineering Hemi, ProCharger F-3X-140, ProCharger Gear Drive, Liberty’s transmission, Neal Chance converter and Quick Drive converter drive, and rolls on Hoosier slicks and Penske shocks for Pro Mod competition and on 315 Mickey Thompson drag radials and Mark Menscer-massaged shocks for drag radial competition. In addition to craving the challenges involved with campaigning the car, Lee is confident it will keep the car and combination competitive.
“In drag racing, when you’re trying to have a competitive team, you can’t afford to take a year off,” said Lee. “If you do, you could get passed by the competition, and it could take a long time to catch up. Things are constantly evolving in these categories. Eric knows that, too, and he wants the car and the team to continue to do well.”
The team that so successfully helped Gustafson last year and will help Lee this year consists of crew chief Cameron Hensley, crew members Trucker John Urgo, Ben Liedel, Nick Strohbeen, Michael O’Donnell and Lee’s fellow Haltech engine management expert, Patrick Barnhill. Tim Lyons, Mason Lyons and Robbie Kellerhals of Lyons Custom Motorsports maintain the car between races, while Jimmy Rector, takes care of the engine with input from Darrell Makins of Noonan Race Engineering.
Lee, who had previously made some test passes in the very commanding car, belted in for the U.S. Street Nationals in January of this year at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, where he led qualifying in Radial vs. The World with a 3.55 and advanced to the second round of eliminations.
“For the first couple hits in the car, I was like ‘Holy crap,’ but then I was looking at how to make it go faster,” said Lee, who is celebrated for his adept and aggressive driving. “Being able to outsmart the track surface and trying to get to the top end faster than the rest of the guys makes all of this even more appealing to me.”
Lee will be back in Gustafson’s car for Lights Out 12, Feb. 24-28 at South Georgia Motorsports Park, where he’ll take on Radial Vs. The World.
“Keeping the seat warm until Eric comes back to it is a great opportunity for me,” said Lee. “Not many people get to run 3.60s on slicks and 3.50s on radials. Experiencing 4Gs of acceleration is an awesome feeling for someone who enjoys the thrill of speed.”
After that event, Lee and the Coast Packing Company Camaro team will head to the first NMCA event of the year, the Whipple Superchargers NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines, March 18-21 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, where Lee will lead-foot in VP Racing Lubricants Xtreme Pro Mod. He also will tackle Pro Boost at select PDRA events, and Gustafson intends to get behind the wheel for some events as the season progresses and his arm heals.
“Jason and I have a great friendship,” said Gustafson. “We have spent a lot of time together at the track and away from the track, and a lot of our team’s success is due to him and Patrick Barnhill. This is a good opportunity for me to spectate a little and get my hands dirty in a different way. I’ll be back. This isn’t goodbye. This is see you later, and meanwhile, Jason will be great in my car.”