As reported on Dragzine in June 2017, Jim Widener and his race partner, Tony Bischoff of BES Racing Engines, debuted their new race car that month at the Prize Fight at Ohio Valley Dragway in Kentucky.
The Chris Duncan Race Cars-built car topped with a carbon fiber Tim McAmis-built and Sticker Dude-wrapped 2017 Corvette C7 body immediately captivated, as did its powerplant consisting of the BES-built 856 cubic-inch Hemi engine, a custom set of Ross Racing Pistons and an Induction Solutions nitrous set-up the team had been campaigning in their 2000 Cougar.
And while Widener and Bischoff had previously relied on a Turbo 400, they had moved to a Lenco with a Bruno Converter Drive and Neal Chance lock-up converter, and Widener continues to tap out tune-ups on a Holley EFI unit.
“On that first outing, which really was to test and not to race, we tried to run the Corvette like we ran the Cougar, and that didn’t work because the two cars are so different,” said Widener. “On top of that, we were fighting a bunch of new-car bugs, including wiring issues, but we still went 4.30. Once we took care of those bugs and issues, we went to Kil-Kare Raceway in Ohio to do some more testing, and we ran a little quicker with a 4.19.”
Widener and Bischoff, who have a long and legendary history with the NMCA, introduced the car to NMCA VP Racing Fuels Xtreme Pro Mod at the 12th Annual Nitto NMRA/NMCA Super Bowl of Street Legal Drag Racing event in late July at Route 66 Raceway in Illinois. There, Widener was on-and-off the throttle and trapped a 4.10 to qualify seventeenth in the sixteen-car field, but was put into the race when another driver broke and bowed out. While he was ready at the hit, he lost in the first round of eliminations with a 4.34.
“The Corvette drives way better than the Cougar did, and as long as it hooks up and goes straight, I’m not moving the steering wheel, whereas I was fighting the steering wheel in the Cougar,” said Widener, who, in addition to Bischoff, receives help from BES staffer and fellow racer Nick Bacalis, Rob Duncan and Ray Burnside. “Also, the hood lines are much lower in the Corvette than they were in the Cougar, and I can actually see out of the windshield much better now.”
Widener and Bischoff were back in action weeks later at the 16th Annual Honeywell Garrett NMCA All-American Nationals in late August at Summit Motorsports Park in Ohio, where Widener wheeled the new build to an impressive 3.91 and 192 mph to qualify in the tenth position. He was forced to lift, however, when he experienced tire-shake in the first round of eliminations.
“That 192 mph is the most mph we’ve had,” said Widener, who’s testing both Hoosier and Mickey Thompson slicks. “We actually learned a lot at that race, including the fact that we have plenty of power right now, but we need to find some consistency, and that’s what we’re working on now. We’ll get there.”
Fans can catch Widener doing what he does best behind the wheel at the final NMCA event of the season, the 16th Annual SDPC Raceshop NMCA World Street Finals, Sept. 21-24 at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana.