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Adrenaline Fuels Soper’s Success in Coyote Stock

Interview by Mary Lendzion
Photos by FSC Staff
 
For Randy Soper, racing is rewarding for a number of reasons.
 
He likes the challenge, the competition and setting himself up to be successful in NMRA G-Force Racing Transmissions Coyote Stock.
 
He is well-aware that he is among diehard racers who share his desire to win, and whether he is working on his combination or his car, he is constantly thinking about ways in which he can improve.
 
That involves working hard to get his car to wheelie just right so that it has wicked momentum off the line, and considering whether each change made will be too much or not enough, as he knows what the most minuscule mistake could mean.
 
Whether he wins a round or loses a round, he dives into his data to determine what went right and what went wrong, and he keeps that in his pocket for future passes. That system works for Soper, who earned his very first win in the category at the 28th Annual Spring Break Shootout in early 2022 at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, and is building more and more momentum.

Read on for more about Soper, who lives in Michigan, has worked for Otis Elevator Company for 23 years, and is a former weightlifting and bodybuilding competitor who continues to focus on staying in shape. He also spends as much time as he can with his son, Kaden; his girlfriend, Toni Harbin, and Toni’s daughters, Harli and Mariska.
 
WHAT INSPIRED YOUR INTEREST IN CARS?
 
Back in 1976, when I was five years old, I was playing in the front yard at my grandparents’ house, and I heard an engine being revved and tires squealing down the street. The car was coming closer and closer, and eventually, it flew past my grandparents’ house. It did that three times, and I thought it was cool. Finally, it pulled into my grandparents’ driveway, and as it turned out, it was my dad, Robert. He had bought the 1969 Dodge Charger RT/SE for $800, and it was beautiful. It was gold-colored with a black stripe around the trunk and a black vinyl top, and it had a 440 engine and an automatic transmission. I would say that definitely did it for me. Then when I turned fourteen, my mom taught me how to drive her 1976 Nova with a three-speed on the column, and she would ask if I wanted to drive to the gas station to get her a bottle of pop.

WHAT WAS YOUR FIRST CAR?
 
In 1988, when I was in high school, I walked outside one night after football practice and saw a 1972 Chevelle in the parking light with its lights on and it was just idling. After a few minutes, I noticed that my dad was sitting in the car. He had gone to visit a friend in Oklahoma and bought the car while he was there as a surprise for me. When he told me that it was mine, he also told me that he wanted me to drive the speed limit and stay out of trouble. I loved it immediately. It was Forest Green, and it had a 350 cubic-inch engine and an automatic transmission. It was all stock, but it wasn’t long before I starting making modifications. By the time I graduated in 1990, I had the fastest car in the high school.


 
WHAT A GREAT FIRST CAR. WHAT WERE SOME OF THE MODIFICATIONS YOU MADE TO THAT 1972 CHEVELLE?
 
My dad and I installed a four-barrel carburetor, aluminum intake and hydraulic camshaft, and we added headers, exhaust and a shift-kit in the trans. We also added 4.56 gears to the 10-bolt rear end. I started going to the track in that car, and my dad came with me the first couple of times. When I felt comfortable and he felt comfortable, I started going with friends, and we went to Osceola Dragway in Indiana, and to special events, like the High School Days at U.S. 131 Motorsports Park in Michigan, among other local tracks. I ran 13.90s on regular radial tires. I had the Chevelle for four years, and I sold it in 1992 to buy a new 1992 Mustang GT.
 
WHAT WILL YOU TELL US ABOUT THE 1992 MUSTANG GT?
 
It was Smoke Gray and it had a 5.0L engine and manual transmission. Without modifications, it ran 14s at the track, which I thought was impressive. Then I started modifying things. I put new heads and a new intake on the engine, and added gears and other normal 5.0 bolt-on things, and I got the car to pick up to 12.50s. When I added a NOS kit, I started running 11.50s. We added small slicks on the back of the car, and that was the first time I ever had a car pull a wheelie. Then we put a stroked 414 cubic-inch Windsor engine with low compression in the car, and picked up to 11.00. I raced it for a little bit, and decided to sell it in 2001. 
 
WHAT MADE YOU SELL THE 1992 MUSTANG GT, AND WHAT WAS NEXT FOR YOU?

I sold it because I was dumb, honestly. I should have kept it, but I did buy a beautiful bright yellow, 1995 Mustang GT after that. It had a 302 cubic-inch engine and an automatic transmission, but a couple months after I bought it, I tore it apart and built it up to race in the NMRA Pure Street category. We started racing it in NMRA Pure Street in late 2003 with an engine on a Ford Motorsports A4 engine block with a steel crank and rods, a hydraulic roller cam, some Twisted Wedge heads and a Holley Systemax intake. We backed it with a manual transmission, and we had 4.56 gears and an 8.8 rear end in the car. I raced the car in Pure Street and continued to drive it on the street, and I wasn’t as successful as I would have liked to be, but I still had fun. I raced NMRA Pure Street until 2006.
 
WHAT DID YOU PURSUE AFTER NMRA PURE STREET IN 2006?
 
I actually got into body building, and bought a new 2007 Shelby GT500 in late 2006 from a dealership in Indiana. I had seen so many stores about 2007 Shelby GT500s in magazines, and I really wanted one. It was Torch Red with white stripes and it came with a 5.4L engine with an Eaton supercharger. It had a manual transmission, and I took it right to the race track, where I ran 12.44 at 111 mph. I thought those were impressive numbers considering that was all stock, and I was very happy with the car. I ran it in NMRA True Street a couple of times, and after Lidio Iacobelli tuned the car, I picked up to 9.96 at 140 mph with the stock engine, new headers, exhaust from American Racing Headers, a cold air intake and a Whipple supercharger. The last time I raced that was in 2019, at the NMRA race at World Wide Technology Raceway Park.
 
DID YOU PURCHASE YOUR CURRENT CAR, THE 2004 MUSTANG MACH 1, WHILE YOU WERE STILL RACING THE 2007 SHELBY GT500?
 
Yes. I bought the 2004 Screaming Yellow Mustang Mach 1 in 2016. My brother, Jeff called me one day and said he had a coworker who was selling it, and I went and looked at it, loved it and bought it. I had to have it, actually. It had a 4.6L engine and a manual transmission, and it was all completely stock. There were 37,000 miles on the odometer.

ARE WE ACCURATE TO ASSUME YOU DIDN’T KEEP IT IN STOCK FORM FOR LONG?
 
Yes, that’s definitely accurate. I drove it fewer than 100 miles before I tore it apart. Every car I owned had gone faster and faster, and I wanted to run in the 8s, so I tore it apart and took it to Team Z Motorsports, where Dave Zimmerman and his team installed a chome moly cage, through-the-floor subframe connectors and all of their suspension. When I got the car back home, I painted the cage silver and put the car on the jackstands and made the undercarriage of the car to make it Screaming Yellow. Then, I ended up talking to Clair Stewart, who suggested I check out NMRA Coyote Stock, so I read the rules, watched some videos and decided to try it. Clair introduced me to Tim Donathen, who told me to bring my car to him. That was in 2018.


 
WHAT WORK DID TIM DONATHEN PERFORM ON THE CAR?
 
We went with the new Gen II Coyote engine, a JLT cold air intake, a G-Force G101A transmission and a lightweight 9-inch rear end from Team Z Motorsports. We added Spaghetti Menders wiring and Kooks headers, and installed an Aeromotive fuel system, TBM brakes and a Kirkey seat. While we were at it, we added a Race Pak for reading data. The car had Weld wheels and Mickey Thompson slicks, and we worked on it for eight months. 
 
THAT WAS A FAIR AMOUNT OF WORK. WHEN DID YOU MAKE YOUR  NMRA G-FORCE RACING TRANSMISSIONS COYOTE STOCK DEBUT?
 
My first race in the category was in 2019 at Route 66 in Illinois. We got the car done just about a week before the race, and we went there with no dyno time or testing whatsoever. We managed to do pretty well. We ran 10.86 on the first pass on Thursday, but then we broke the transmission on the fourth pass. Paul Long from G-Force was there and fixed my transmission, and we had one more chance at qualifying after that. We went 10.68 and I qualified in the fifteenth spot out of 16 cars and made it to the semifinal round of eliminations. I was so happy with that because I really had no expectations going into that first race with the new setup and the car responded well. 
 
THAT WAS A GREAT WAY TO MAKE YOUR NMRA G-FORCE RACING TRANSMISSIONS COYOTE STOCK DEBUT. HOW DID THE NEXT RACE GO, AND WHAT WERE YOUR EARLY THOUGHTS ON THE VERY COMPETITIVE CATEGORY?
 
I was able to back that up with another semifinal finish at the NMRA race at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Kentucky. I had fun at those two races that year, and then finished fifth in points the following year, 2020, and then third in points in 2021. I had achieved a runner-up finish against Kevin McMullin and a runner-up finish against Chad Stephens. I really liked Coyote Stock immediately. I liked the way it was designed, and I liked the guys in the class. I liked everything about it, including the competitiveness and the camaraderie. You can ask any racer for help, and they’ll help you.
 
WHAT WORK WENT INTO THE CAR OVER THE WINTER OF 2021-2022?
 
We did a few little things. We made some suspension changes, and changed the bar angle on the rear control arms to get my 60 foot and 330 foot times to be better. We also had the car at Tim Donathen’s to lower the ride height of the car. We didn’t do anything to the engine, and I’m still running the Act clutch I’ve been running since the beginning of 2021. It’s working, and I haven’t had any issues with it, so I’m not changing it. 
 
YOU CERTAINLY HAD A GOOD START TO THE 2022 RACING SEASON. WAS IT SMOOTH SAILING, OR DID IT JUST LOOK LIKE IT WAS?
 
The race in Florida actually went smoothly. We changed the clutch quadrant in the car, so that took a couple passes, but we kept working at it and it started to come together and the car was right where we wanted it to be and pulling wheelies. Then, I won with a 9.73 in the final round of eliminations against Charlie Booze Jr. He was the number one qualifier, and he was fast all weekend, so I was nervous, but I knew I had a fast car, and I was confident in the car. That was my first win in the category.

WHAT DID THAT FIRST WIN MEAN TO YOU?
 
When I saw the win light come on, it was pure happiness and joy. It meant everything to know that we were successful enough to run a good, solid program. The car was great, and I was so glad I didn’t red-light, because I have definitely done that. When it was all said and done, Tim Donathen, who had seen me lose in two final rounds, smiled and handed me a beer. That’s how much it meant.
 
WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THE YEAR, AND WHAT ELSE DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE?
 
We’re just going to go out and do our best. Everyone in Coyote Stock wants to win a championship, and everyone in the class is capable of doing that, but it’s still a goal for me. I’ll focus on each race, and take it round-by-round, while continuing to make small adjustments to the car. My girlfriend, Toni Harbin, is a great crew chief. She helps with the car, checks tire pressure, pushes the car to the staging lanes with the four-wheeler, makes sure I have all my safety gear and stages me at the starting line. I also want to send a big thanks to my Team Timmy teammates, Tim Donathen, Kevin McMullin and Chad Stephens, and manufacturers that support our program, including Team Z Motorsports, Driven Racing Oil, G-Force Racing Transmissions, Paul Long and 269 Motorsports. 

 

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