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Youth Movement—Gabriela Lujan finds success behind the wheel of her father’s 1993 Mustang LX

Posted By: Ainsley Jacobs
Youth Movement—Gabriela Lujan finds success behind the wheel of her father’s 1993 Mustang LX
Written by Ainsley Jacobs
Photography by Evan J. Smith and the FSC staff
With her father, Willie Lujan, bringing her up under his wing in the shop and at the track, it was only a matter of time before Gabriela Lujan followed in his footsteps with drag-strip success of her own. Now, the 22-year-old has gotten a few laps — and a few wins — under her belt and shows no signs of slowing down.
Despite her young age, Gaby has already accomplished a tremendous amount and set herself up for a bright future. The Miami, Florida native completed both her Bachelor’s degree as well as her Master’s in Criminal Justice and is currently working toward her Master’s in Business Administration from Florida International University. In her spare time, she tutors children and works at her father’s shop, Lujan Motorsports.
Gaby practically grew up with a wrench in her hand, working alongside her father who had been working on cars since he was a child. “My dad opened Lujan Performance right before I was born, and I’ve been surrounded by cars and racing my entire life,” noted Gaby, who often went with Willie to the track.
In December of 2021, the motivated young lady put a car into the beams for the first time when she staged her daily driven 2015 Ford Mustang EcoBoost. Then, since the 2022 NMRA Spring Break Shootout at Bradenton Motorsports Park was so close to her home, she decided to give that a go.
“I drove my car up and my quickest pass was, like, 12.90s at 106 mph, and that wasn’t enough for me,” laughed Gaby, who was competing in True Street and finished with a 13.056-second quarter-mile elapsed time average across her three runs. “I got my NHRA license in January of 2023, and the rest is history!”
After making things officially official with the license, Gaby’s father let her hop behind the wheel of his red 1990 Ford Mustang. Willie had campaigned his Fox Mustang in significantly quicker categories, including NMRA Limited Street and NMRA 8.60 Street Race, and Gaby was pumped to make a pass. After she clicked off an 8.8-second hit at more than 140 mph, Willie let her borrow his ride to run the All-Female True Street category at the NMRA Spring Break Shootout at Orlando Speed World.
Gaby stepped up to the challenge and ran a three-run average of 9.679 seconds and, incredibly, took the overall win for the weekend. “It was surreal, I didn’t expect it at all… I knew the car was capable of going fast, but I didn’t expect to win my first time out with only having made six or seven passes,” she recalled.
Next, she accompanied the Lujan Motorsports crew up to Norwalk, Ohio, for the NMRA Ford Homecoming at Summit Motorsports Park in early June. Again, Gaby entered the All-Female True Street fray, and again, she bested her prior performances. 
The Lujan Motorsports-built car was definitely capable of running 8.50-second elapsed times or quicker, but because of Gaby’s relative inexperience, her father detuned the Mustang to keep her safe and feeling confident; with a 9.282-second average, she easily outran all of the other 30-plus entrants and clinched the overall win – her second victory in a row.
To make her achievement even more impressive, Gaby’s average was also quick enough that it would have put her as the runner-up in the primary True Street field of more than a hundred competitors. 
“It was even more surreal that time, and I felt good because there were a lot more women competing,” added Gaby, still a rookie behind the wheel. “I didn’t have much seat time, so I felt very lucky to win both events.”
Even before her back-to-back wins, the father and daughter duo had already decided it was time for Gaby to get her own ride — and they had the perfect candidate ready and waiting right at home.
Before he had his red Fox Mustang, Willie had a white 1993 Mustang GT with an 8.50-cert roll cage already completed. He picked up the nostalgic nineties car around 2011, when Gaby was still a child, and raced it for years in True Street with three kits of nitrous. “It caught on fire on April 1, 2015 – what an April Fool’s joke!” Gaby lamented. “Then he hurt the engine, and that was around the time that Limited Street was announced, and he couldn’t race this car anymore since it had been mini-tubbed.”
Willie moved forward with the red car instead, and the stripped-down white one sat in the family’s garage just “taking up space” and serving “like a table” for Gaby’s mother, Lety, to store things on and in… until it was called back into duty as Gaby’s new competition vehicle.
The Mustang had been pulled out of storage around the time Gaby got her license and arrived at Lujan Motorsports in January of 2023, although work didn’t begin until a few months later in April. Working on the project after-hours, between customer builds, and on nights and weekends alongside her father and 18-year-old brother, Sebastian, Gaby slowly saw the car come to life.
“Dad helped us take the motor out, but my brother and I took out all the nitrous lines and the fuel system and other pieces,” shared Gaby. As the calendar flipped its pages, her new Mustang transformed and was ready for its first fire-up on August 31.
Under the HO Fibertrends fiberglass cowl hood sits a 347-cubic-inch MPR Racing Engines-built small-block Ford bullet that the Lujan family purchased from Sharad Raldiris. The Dart block was filled with Eagle connecting rods and JE pistons, all swinging harmoniously around an Eagle crankshaft and working in conjunction with a custom-spec camshaft from Ed Curtis at FlowTech Induction. Meanwhile, the Trick Flow Specialties 11R heads had been ported by Ed Curtis as well, then mated to a Trick Flow intake.
Running around 20 pounds of boost, a billet Vortech YSi supercharger bumps the engine’s power production up to around 1,100-wheel horsepower while the FuelTech FT600 engine management system (tuned by Lance Holung) keeps it operating smoothly; Gaby especially likes the “practice tree” function of the FT600 system which lets her work on perfecting her reaction times even when she’s in the pits.
A Powerglide transmission and converter, both from FTI Performance, were paired with the engine to transfer the power out to the 8.8-inch rearend and the Mickey Thompson tire-wrapped Weld wheels. The full array of UPR Products suspension components and AFCO shocks keep the car firmly planted when it dead hooks at the starting line, while the Baer brakes take over at the end of each run.
Gaby was hopeful she would be able to debut her 1993 Mustang at the NMRA World Finals Featuring the Holley Intergalactic Ford Festival at Beech Bend Raceway Park in Bowling Green, Kentucky, but as the event drew near, she wasn’t sure it was going to happen. Fortunately, her father pushed hard to make it happen, and the group rolled out for the event over the weekend of September 28-October 1, 2023.
“We had gone testing a week before. My dad drove it and couldn’t get the car to run quicker than 8.80s. We weren’t sure why, kept adding timing, and just couldn’t figure it out,” shared Gaby. Undeterred, she got down to business and went straight into both All-Female True Street competition and SunCoast Performance 8.60 Street Race when the NMRA race began. “My dad realized the blower belt looked kinda loose so he tightened it up and the car got back in the ballpark where it needed to be.”
In All-Female True Street, her total average of 8.838 seconds once again earned her the overall win and Gaby was thrilled. She maintained her momentum in 8.60 Street Race, too, where she qualified 16th of 22 in 8.60 Street Race with a quickest pass of 8.741 seconds.
When eliminations began for the latter, Gaby lucked out when her opponent broke and she was able to move on to round two uncontested. Her father, running in 8.60 Street Race as well, also lucked out with a competition bye of his own. 
Gaby received the competition bye in round two while Willie won when the other driver fouled the start — luck was certainly shining brightly on the family for the weekend. Willie’s luck came to an end the following round, though, but Gaby’s 8.649 at 157.36 mph trip was enough to trigger the win lights in her lane.
By then, Willie had worked his magic on the Mustang and Gaby ran 8.630 at 163.06 mph to earn her place in the finals. There, she lined up against Paul Sienkiewicz but when the heavy hitter slipped and slowed to 9.586 at 130.07 mph, Gaby powered past to take the win with an 8.628 at 162.47 mph blast.
Amazingly, she had doubled up on wins for the weekend with one in each class. “I really didn’t think I was going to win, there were lots of other cars that were faster, but it all worked in my favor and the hard work was worth it,” she stated. After all of her family’s hard work and countless hours of working on the car, she would have been happy just to finish the event, but her results exceeded everyone’s expectations.
“In True Street, you really don’t have to cut a good light, so I wasn’t great, but I guess I had beginner’s luck on my side,” she confessed. “In racing, you have to have a car that’s capable and fast – and my dad definitely builds those kinds of cars — but you do have to have some luck, and I’ve been very lucky, especially with such little seat time.”
The wins were great on their own, but accomplishing the feats in a piece of “family history” made it even more memorable for Gaby, who remembers riding around in the car with her father when she was just ten or eleven years old. “After having had the car sit for so long, too, it was nice to have it out,” she said sentimentally.
After such a tremendous finish to her 2023 season, Gaby couldn’t wait to get going again as soon as possible. So, she and her father readied both of their Mustangs for the Sick Week drag-and-drive event in February of 2024, and Gaby got to enjoy her first time in the event as a standalone competitor instead of as her father’s co-pilot.
With a grueling five-day trip and lots of track time ahead of them, Team Lujan prepared as best as possible — but fate threw a metaphorical wrench in their literal wrenching plans. “The night before we left, my transmission was getting super-hot even without driving a lot,” Gaby explained. “So, we called our friend, Danny Borrach, and borrowed his transmission.”
Ironically, her friend Chris had Christened her car with its name, “Jolly Rancher,” in honor of a beer Gaby tried at a brewery while riding along with her father at Sick Week (which he won in the Street Race 275 class) the year before. And, with a GearVendors overdrive on board, 93-octane pump gas for the street and VP Fuels X98 for the strip, and a Lethal Performance Division X triple-pump system managing the fuel flow, Gaby was excited to tackle her first drag racing road trip. 
Other than the minor gearbox hiccup and one broken rocker, Sick Week went exactly as planned for Gaby and Willie. In Street Race 275, his red Fox accumulated a quick average of 8.579 seconds and placed him sixth in the category while her white pony car picked up a final score of 8.591 seconds. For her efforts, Gaby earned a sweet first-place finish in the competitive Pro DYO class.
Having made big progress towards improving her driving abilities and already having run 8.33 in testing, Gaby returned to the NMRA Spring Break Shootout, this time at the historic Gainesville Raceway, in February of 2024.
Unfortunately, luck wasn’t on her side this time out. “The first pass was good in All-Female True Street was good [8.554] but when I went to start my second pass, it took off and then immediately died,” she explained, sad to not be able to complete the class. As it turned out, the borrowed transmission had broken. But, instead of giving up and giving in, Gaby gratefully accepted another borrowed transmission from Derek Putnam, and her father and friends worked late into the night to get her going.
Despite the disappointment, Gaby at least still had the SunCoast Performance 8.60 Street Race class to look forward to… but that was short-lived as well. In round one of eliminations, according to Putnam, Gaby “made a sandwich” at the starting line and her resulting 0.443 second reaction time meant that her resulting 8.658 at 158.59 mph pass was worthless against Leticia Hughes’s 8.708 at 146.27 mph trip with a quicker light. Always a good sportswoman, Gaby simply shrugged it off, saying “You live and learn!”
Gaby’s father is, of course, quite proud of her development as a driver and her attitude. “She’s done great the last few years, learning how to win and how to lose. It’s awesome to watch her come up and to succeed,” he said, thrilled that both his daughter and his son are following in his footsteps as Sebastian recently borrowed Gaby’s old EcoBoost Mustang to run True Street himself. “Hopefully one day soon, they’ll be the ones racing and I’ll be standing up there crew-chiefing both cars.”
With plenty of track time in her future, Gaby prefers the thrill of heads-up competition but also appreciates the true test of a street car’s mettle with drag-and-drive events. She hopes to be able to follow the full NMRA circuit for 2024 and is incredibly grateful for all the support she’s received from her circle as her journey has progressed. 
“A huge thank you to all my team for being the best, I would be nothing without them!” affirmed Gaby, whose team includes her father, mother, and brother, her boyfriend Danny, electrician Lucien, and support from Mark Mainiero at UPR Products, Willy Bowtie, Danny Borrach, Roly Garcia, and many more. “It takes a team to be successful and I have the best behind me!”
The Details
Owner: Willie Lujan
Driver: Gaby Lujan
Hometown: Miami, Florida
Occupation: Student
Class: SunCoast Performance 8.60 Street Race and TREMEC All-Female True Street
Crew: Willie Lujan, Lety Lujan, Sebastian Lujan, Willy Bowtie, Danny Borrach, Roly Garcia
Car Year/Make/Model: 1993 Ford Mustang
Engine: Small-block Ford 
Engine builder: Progressive Racing Engines
Displacement: 347 cubic inches
Block: Dart 
Bore: 4.125 inches
Stroke: 3.250 inches
Crank: Eagle
Rods: Eagle
Pistons: JE Pistons
Heads: Trick Flow 11R, ported by Ed at Flowtech Induction
Intake: Trick Flow
Valvetrain: Jesel Rockers
Cam type: Custom cam by Ed at Flowtech Induction
Carburetor or EFI system: EFI system: Fueltech FT600 
Power-adder: Vortech YSI Billet
Fuel brand and type: E85 from the pump and X98 from VP Fuels; 93-octane from the pump when driving on the street
Headers and exhaust: Stainless Works 2-inch headers, custom exhaust with Magnaflow mufflers and tailpipes
Transmission: Powerglide with a GearVendors Overdrive
Transmission Builder: FTI Performance
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: FTI Performance
Rearend: 8.8-inch
Fuel system: Lethal Performance Division X triple-pump system
Axles: Moser 35-spline
Gears: 3.73
Body and/or chassis builder: 8.50-cert cage by John at Chassis Shop
Suspension (Front): UPR Products
Suspension (Rear): UPR Products
AFCO struts and shocks (all around)
Brakes (Front): Baer Brakes
Brakes (Rear): Baer Brakes
Wheels (front): Weld Wheels
Wheels (Rear):  Weld Wheels
Tires (Front): Mickey Thompson 
Tires (Rear): Mickey Thompson
Aftermarket body modifications: Fiberglass cowl hood from HO Fibertrends and mini tubs
Safety equipment: Helmet, Sock, Suit, Shoes, Gloves, Seatbelts are all Racequip; Hans III Device, RJS Window net, Stroud parachute
Vehicle weight: 3,300 pounds with driver
Quickest ET: 8.33 seconds at 165 mph
Best 60-foot: 1.30 seconds
Fastest mph: 165
Sponsors: Lujan Motorsports, UPR Products, Vortech Superchargers, Lethal Performance, NGK, Amsoil, Apex Alignment, and Miami Powder

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