Drag Illustrated Issue 179, November / December 2022 - Page 146

JONATHAN ATKINS
HEN JONATHAN ATKINS lit up the right-lane scoreboard at Gainesville Raceway with a 6.615 at 216.41 MPH Saturday night at FL2K presented by Brian Crower , he didn ’ t just move on to the final round of an impromptu four-car shootout for $ 3,500 . He also obliterated the elapsed time record for a stick shift car in the process , catching the attention of everyone on the property , as well as onlookers online .
Earlier in the day , Atkins in his turbocharged , small-block-Chevy-powered “ Grubb Worm ” ’ 97 Camaro broke the H-pattern stick shift record with his 6.755 at 213.00 , qualifying No . 1 in Outlaw Stick Shift . The record was previously held by one of Atkins ’ Tick Performance customers , Joel Steele , with a 6.81 . Both the 6.615 and the 6.755 surpassed Atkins ’ expectations for the weekend .
“ We had an idea based off of some eighth-mile times that we ’ ve recently done that the car could or should go 6.80s ,” Atkins says . “ There ’ s always that H-pattern record in the back of your mind . You ’ d like to get that just for the bragging rights . We didn ’ t really imagine we ’ d come here and get the record . We thought we ’ d come here and just get into the 6s and try to win the event . Being in Florida , it ’ s not the greatest conditions when you talk about October weather conditions . But the track ’ s been phenomenal , I mean unbelievably good . We went out and put a 6.75 down on a pass
that we thought would probably be a 6.90 , so that kind of blew our minds .”
While Atkins knows his setup well enough to realize what it ’ s capable of , there were some new components this weekend that contributed to the unexpected jump in performance , namely a new Gen 1 Bowtie small-block Chevy engine .
“ All of our racing up to this point has been using a stock block LT1 , basically a 350 smallblock Chevy , fully filled , no water ,” Atkins says . “ Very little difference between it and the Gen 1 at that point . But we ’ d been super-fast to the eighth , just hadn ’ t done a whole lot of quarter-mile stuff this year and what we have done , the track was never really good enough to put it down .
“ We just did a Gen 1 Bowtie block , so the engine is really close to what we ’ ve been running with the LT1 , except our bore increased by a hundred thousandths ,” Atkins explains . “ We went from a 4.030 to a 4.130 . That allowed us to step our cylinder heads up . It ’ s still the same casting , same brand , a Brodix Track 1 , we just went from a 233 to a 245 and was able to get a little bigger intake valve in it . We also went with a little bigger cam from Smallwood Race Development .”
Other than two eighth-mile passes in testing a couple weeks before FL2K , the engine combination was brand-new going into the event . So far , Atkins obviously sees a lot of promise in the setup .
“ It really shocked us ,” he admits . “ We ran that engine a couple weeks ago at a local race and ended up breaking the transmission the second full lick that it made , so we didn ’ t really get any good data on getting aggressive with our 60-foot . Just the changes in the valvetrain and the cam , it seems way more efficient . It seems like it ’ s making a lot more power per pound of boost .”
The transmission was built in-house at Tick Performance . It ’ s a Tremec T56-style , face-plated-style , dog ring gear setup . Atkins admits it ’ s an older setup , but it ’ s been good for him . He uses a Tick Performance shifter , and the clutch is by Advanced Clutches .
“ What ’ s in the car right now is actually an older clutch that we ’ ve had for quite a while ,” Atkins says . “ It ’ s an 8-inch twin stamp steel pressure plate , 3-lever , old-school , long-style clutch . It works great . Just like our ET , it kind of blows everybody ’ s mind that we ’ re still using that oldschool clutch instead of a billet deal . We do have a billet [ clutch ]. We were actually testing that along with the new engine a couple weeks ago . But since we only made two hits , we weren ’ t really comfortable coming out here with a new variable . It ’ s one of the key pieces to making the stick car work . We just didn ’ t have time to sort it out and didn ’ t want to do that here . We put our old stuff back in the car and went back to what we knew .”
The Camaro utilizes Racecraft suspension components , along with a Tick Performance adjustable torque box .
“ Fox-body guys have had adjustable torque
ALONG WITH HIS DAD , JOHNNY ( LEFT ), ATKINS GOES RACING
WITH A CREW THAT INCLUDES JOSH MANNING , AARON DUNCAN ,
AND MIKE ACEVEDO .
146 | Drag Illustrated | DragIllustrated . com Issue 179