After struggling with consistency issues with his ’02 Ford Mustang all throughout 2019, NMRA Exedy Racing Clutch Modular Muscle mainstay Gary “Hollywood” Parker is starting over for 2020 with a fresh engine and a clear head.
Parker, who finished eighth in championship points for the 2019 season, decided to hit the “reset” button and contracted Rich Groh at Rich Groh Racing to build a new, standard bore Gen 1 Coyote engine for him to use in 2020 instead. Oliver connecting rods, Diamond pistons with Total Seal rings, a stock crankshaft, and RGR heads with RGR-spec cams were also on the bill along with a Cobra Jet intake manifold and Ford Racing throttle body.
He had been running a C4 transmission early on in 2019, but Parker swapped it out for a Powerglide and he believes that, combined with the rear gears, was part of the reason as to why his old setup wasn’t what he had hoped for. “The ‘Glides have the quickest releasing trans brake and I thought one shift instead of two would be more consistent,” noted Parker, who had run a Powerglide during his prior winning days and is hoping to get back to that yet again.
“I’m really excited for this new engine as it should make some bigger numbers than last year,” predicted Parker, who eclipsed even his own expectations during initial testing. “I can’t say enough good things about Rich [Groh] for taking such good care of me. He is absolutely meticulous and nobody touches his engines but him. He does all the machine work himself and is like a professor of performance who doesn’t cut any corners; I’ve been very impressed with him so far.”
On Thursday, January 16, 2020, Parker packed up and drove down from his home in Georgia to Cal Hartline’s shop in Florida. The guys strapped his Mustang onto the dyno, made some hits on Friday, and the results were extremely promising. “He’s so incredibly detail-oriented and is a total perfectionist,” added Parker. “The way I race, compared to heads-up, it’s critical that I can mat it off the line with no stumble or hesitation and Cal’s tuning gives me exactly that.”
Back on the road that evening with Hartline’s seal of approval, Parker’s next stop was South Georgia Motorsports Park for a quick test session. His very first hit on Saturday got him smiling and produced a 10.25 at 135 mph time slip – even with Parker short shifting due to being a little excited.
“It felt so good, like I knew how to race again,” he laughed, explaining that his converter had proven to be too loose and would soon be going back to Len Croteau at Ultimate Converter Concepts along with thee data logs and dyno sheets for a tune up. “I let go of the button and it was like, holy shit! Around 7,100 rpm when the converter caught up to the engine in high gear, it felt like a lock-up… or an afterburner! I haven’t been this excited to go racing in a long time.”
Subsequent passes yielded a 10.23 at 135 mph run and a 10.28 at 136 mph, finally giving Parker the consistency that he had been searching for. Parker’s pervious personal best had been a 10.39-second quarter-mile, so even with the loose converter, his Mustang’s performance has already shown a dramatic improvement – and there’s plenty more left in it.
“I’ve been gone a ton and have devoted a lot of time and energy to this car in the past year and a half,” said Parker, who is incredibly grateful for the support of his wife and fellow racing badass, Carole Parker, as well as the support from Exedy, FuelLab, and Team Z Motorsports. He won his last NMRA Modular Muscle championship back in 2010, and it’s been a long time coming but, now, a decade later with a new bullet beneath the hood of his Mustang, Parker is feeling confident that he has a real shot at earing another title.