Written by Wes Taylor
Photography by the author
In the world of motorsports, many factors contribute to a winning program. You can’t put the power down without optimizing the suspension, chassis, drivetrain, and powerplant. Even at its best, an engine won’t do what the tuner asks of it without having enough to drink. Mike Kopchick, the owner of Rage Fuel Systems, set out to make certain that no potent race powerplant goes thirsty.
Rage Fuel Systems offers a wide range of fuel system components for applications ranging from sprint cars to funny cars. Its pumps will move large volumes of fuel from 1.8 to 124 gallons per minute. This particular 1400N Series-Nostalgia F/C pump pushes 21 gpm and retails for $2,178.
Rage Fuel Systems operates at this facility in Cheraw, South Carolina, which is a long way from anywhere. Its parking lot sits right on the North Carolina/South Carolina state line, and the building houses everything needed to create serious fuel system gear.
Rage Fuel Systems operates a full machine shop where everything is created, along with a complete engine shop, a blower dyno, and an engine dyno used to validate its creations.
Mike began machining at just seven years old, following his father’s footsteps as a tool and die maker. He ventured out to California where he discovered Ed Pink’s engine shop and begged for a job. After many attempts, Ed hired him, and Mike’s career began. He would move on to Keith Black and Ed Donovan’s shop before returning to the East Coast. In the ’70s, he spent time on several race teams before speaking up about his fuel system findings.
Rage tests its fuel pumps on this flow stand after it is constructed to ensure the customer gets a pump that performs at its rated level.
Machining is your author’s day job, so we obviously gravitated toward that part of the process. In production at the time were the Sprint pumps. These are smaller, but many of the Radial vs. the World cars run them, so they still flow a massive volume of fuel. One center runs the housings, typically in two operation cycles, while the others run parts such as distribution blocks, T-blocks, and mounting brackets. A gear hob sits in the corner; all of the fuel pumps gears Rage offers are machined here. Lathes turn out shafts and other small fuel system components.
Rage fuel pumps feature more robust main shafts as well. It steps up to ½-inch instead of 7/16-inch, making an already reliable product stronger. Cast iron is much harder to machine than aluminum, but with the proper knowledge and peace of mind that the customer receives a superior product, “I don’t care what it takes,” Kopchick said. Price points vary from $800 for a lower-volume Sprint pump all the way up to over $5,000 for a top fuel dragster unit, depending on how much horsepower you need to fed about.
Several teams inquired about Kopchick doing his own thing, so he invested all the money he had into some machining equipment to prove that he could produce a superior fuel pump. After those teams moved from the back of the pack to win championships, others followed suit.
“That Monday morning, I had 20 messages asking for orders, and as the week went by, I had orders for 40 more,” Kopchick recalled. Rage Fuel Systems was born, fast forward 35 years later, and he, accompanied by his wife, Sheila, is still hard at turning out more innovative products.
This top injector hat is designed in-house as well, featuring a molded carbon fiber hat. The butterfly blades are billet aluminum, as well as the actuation components. Rage’s latest product is the first-ever dual EFI system, which incorporates the company’s spray bar behind the butterflies. Every atomizer nozzle is machined to perfection, misting extra fuel for a cooling effect. This new setup has proven deliver a substantial, 80-horsepower gain. The complete system can be had for $4,000, or customers can buy the spray bar system alone for $2,000.
The machined lettering on the front of the assembly is a nice touch that makes them stand out. This pump housing is designed so that different combinations of gears and shimming blocks can be used in the same housing to control output and flow, making the most out of a single pump. Kopchick explained that every pump comes from a cast-iron block, which handles heat much better than the competition’s aluminum housings. Kopchick says aluminum tends to distort with heat, causing the internals to expand and either seize or break the main shaft.
The new return manifold makes adding fuel simple with just a turn of a numbered screw. The mounting point sits directly on the side of the blower right below the hat. Allowing a tuner to add fuel while the engine is hot without the need to stop, let cool down, tear apart, and put back together. Customers interested in incorporating it into their fuel systems are encouraged to contact the shop for pricing.
Graciously, he gave us a look at the company’s products at his facility in rural Cheraw, South Carolina. His parking lot sits right on the North Carolina/South Carolina state line and to ensure that no one really bothers him while he is working, Mike operates inside a non-descript building with a small logo on the front door.
Viewing the outside of the hat, Kopchick sets everything up to ensure that the tuner can access everything efficiently for quick in-between run adjustments making the system incredibly more comfortable to use.
Machinists can definitely appreciate the time and effort that went into the design and process for the spray bars nozzles. With pinholes down to .018 of an inch, followed by a .003 bump and a specific roof design, the extra fuel mist is dispersed across the inner hat area with expert precision. A set of 24 come with the spray bar, but with various options to choose from, Kopchick asks racers to call the shop so they can set you up with what you need to accomplish your goals.
Inside, a glass cabinet near the entry displays some of Rage’s products, while the lobby has a few blowers on display, which are on dollies so he can walk the customer through what he has to offer. From start to finish, he does it all at his shop with a flow bench for EFI; mechanical systems for testing; a full machine shop where everything is created; a complete engine shop; a blower dyno; and an engine dyno.
His goal is creating a product that not only performs better than others, but is more reliable as well, so it’s no surprise that teams rely on Rage Fuel Systems. The company services NHRA teams such as John Force Racing, Cox Racing, and Schumacher Racing, as well as big-time players in the heads-up racing world like Jack French, Steve Jackson, Ziff Hudson, and Jamie Hancock. Rage plays a role in PDRA with the likes of Russell Miller and Team Tutterow. NMRA/NMCA stars like the Mike DiDomenico team and Andrew Demarco also run the company’s products.
As we wrapped our visit, Kopchick expressed that he’s not letting up and will continue to push innovation and design limits. Until then, the company has a number of cool and innovative products that were worthy of our attention.
Rage Fuel Systems