Written By Steve Baur
Photography by Kevin DiOssi
Truth be told, Jeff Frees wasn’t looking to buy the car when Jim Bailey put his 2010 Mopar // Dodge Challenger Drag Pak up for sale in 2018.
“I got to be friends with Jim Bailey because we bought a house down in Bradenton, Florida, where he lives,” Jeff explained. “When I heard he was selling it, I told Bruce Lang and a couple of other people about it. I thought it was a good purchase based on the value, but no one ended up buying it.”
For those that know Jeff, they are probably more familiar with seeing him behind the wheel of his Quick Fuel Technology Nostalgia Super Stock Barracuda, but since purchasing the Drag Pak, he’s competed in the NMCA’s Coan Engineering Stock/Super Stock Combo class with it.
As you might imagine, Jeff has been a Mopar fan going all the way back to his teenage years.
“It started with the old ‘62, ‘63, ‘64s, the Max Wedge cars,” Jeff told us. “I used to ride with some guys back and forth to the track and then started racing my self at 17 with a GTX. It was black, had a 440, and Weld wheels.”
He bracket-raced the 12-second Plymouth for some time, and that set him on a path that eventually led the Wisconsin-based auto dealership owner to Nostalgia Super Stock racing, which he began competing in around 2009 with a 1964 Plymouth Belvedere with a Max Wedge engine.
“We did that with the Victory group and then switched to NMCA 5-6 years ago,” Jeff explained. “Me, my son, Corimac, and my brother, Tim, got to know Doug Duell over the years and became good friends with him. He told us to come run NMCA because the competition was tougher. All of those guys will bring out the best in you.”
Jeff eventually changed his on-track weapon of choice, moving into a slick, black, ’68 Barracuda just a few years ago. Despite it’s diminutive size, the fish is quite deadly with huge big-block power under the hood. Jeff has spent quite some time refining the car and becoming in-tune with it as a driver, but he had taken part of the 2017 racing season off to have neck surgery, when he heard that Jim Bailey was selling his 2010 Mopar // Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, so purchasing it for himself wasn’t on his mind at the time and he set about helping Bailey find a new owner.
A former IHRA Top Fuel driver and record holder at Bradenton Motorsports Park, Bailey had purchased the Drag Pak from COPO Camaro owner Stephen Bell, who had bought it from Les Norton. Norton had had Greg and Aaron Stanfield drive it for him in NHRA competition.
Bailey only owned it for about a year and a half and decided to take a stab at the new-for-2017 NMRA Stock/Super Stock Combo class, as it was a lot closer to his Bradenton residence than the NHRA race in Gainesville was. The gamble paid off, as Bailey secured the victory for the first running of the fledging NMCA class. Unfortunately, some unexpected health issues pushed him into selling it later that year.
As we mentioned earlier, a buyer never materialized until Jeff picked up the telephone.
“I just decided to call him up and said, I guess I’m going to buy it, and I love it,” Jeff expressed. “It’s a very good, comfortable ride. The Barracuda is such a good car, but then I jumped into the Challenger and it is so much easier to drive. The longer I own it, the more comfortable I feel in it. I don’t think I’ve ever had a car in my life that is so consistent in the 60-ft, especially with a 9-inch tire.”
The Drag Pak is powered by a Jeff Taylor-built 392 combination that makes around 750 horsepower, and Taylor assembled two for the Challenger.
Running one car at a national event is work enough, and running two often requires a bit of help. To that end, Jeff has largely relied on his wife of 27 years, Tracy, but she decided to take a break from racing. In the middle of 2018, however, Jeff reconnected with an old friend who happened to be able to help him out.
“I ran into Brian Bushweiler in the middle of last year,” Jeff recalled. “Brian was my first boss and he got me into racing. I worked at his Mobile station. This year he committed to running every race with me and he’s constantly maintaining the cars. It’s a big relief when you’re racing two cars, and almost makes it seem like you’re racing just one car. I couldn’t do it with him. He’s been a huge asset.”
Jeff has already found success with the Drag Pak, taking the Victor trophy in the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle at the Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals—his brother Tim also won in the Nostalgia Super Stock class at that event, so they got to celebrate together!
While Jeff intends to complete the 2019 NMCA season in both Stock/Super Stock Combo and Nostalgia Super Stock, he also has another race on his calendar.
“I’m planning on taking the Drag Pak to run the U.S. Nationals in Indy,” Jeff explained. “I have a new Jeff Taylor motor to ensure we qualify and we should be a second under the index. Doug [Duell] and Dennis Breeden told me they would take me under their wing and babysit me.”
At some point, Jeff has said he’ll put his son, Corimac—named after Top Fuel driver Cory McClenathan—into the driver’s seat, but he will have to bear the weight of responsibility that comes with the car.
“Jim Bailey told me that since it was built, it has won a minimum of one race per year,” Jeff said. “We’re keeping it going.”
Owner/Driver: Jeff Frees
Hometown: Hortonville, Wisconsin
Occupation: Auto Dealership Owner
Class: Coan Engineering Stock/Super Stock Combo
Crew: Brian Bushweiler
Engine: Dodge Gen III Hemi V-8
Engine builder: Jeff Taylor Performance
Displacement: 392 ci
Cylinder heads: Mopar
Camshaft—Brand: Comp Cams Type: Roller
Carburetor or EFI system: AEM Infinity
Fuel brand and type: VP C14
Headers and exhaust: Stainless Steel
Transmission: 904 TorqueFlite automatic
Transmission Builder: A&A Automotive and Transmission Repair, Rick Allison, With Russ Berens on refresh duty
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Ultimate Torque Converters
Rearend: Dana 60
Differential: Spool with 5.13 gears
Body and/or chassis builder: Dodge // Mopar and MR2 Performance, Mike Roth
Suspension (Front): Mopar Drag Pak
Suspension (Rear): Mopar Drag Pak
Brakes (Front) Brand: Mark Williams Disc/Drum: Disc
Brakes (Rear) Brand: Mark Williams Disc/Drum: Disc
Wheels (front) Brand:Weld Racing Alumastar Size: 15×3
Wheels (Rear) Brand: Weld Racing Alumastar Size: 15×10
Tires (Front) Brand: Hoosier Front from Larry Hodge Racing Size: 28×4.5
Tires (Rear) Brand: Hoosier Drag Slicks from Larry Hodge Racing Size: 30×9
Safety equipment: Simpson 5-point harness
Vehicle weight: 3,385 lbs
Quickest et: 9.59
Best 60-foot: 1.26
Fastest mph: 137