Kevin McKenna put another notch in his VMP Performance supercharged Mustang belt running a 10- second average at Hot Rod’s Drag Racing extravaganza
By Evan J. Smith
When Kevin McKenna wanted to take his stock 2014 Mustang GT from stock to rock, he contacted Justin Starkey of VMP Performance. McKenna, who works for the National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) and has written a book on drag racing, knows his way around the quarter-mile. His aimed to run high 10s in his Mustang. To accomplish Kevin’s goal, Justin guided him towards a VMP Performance Gen2R 2.3 L TVS.
McKenna figured high 10s would be quick enough to give a thrill, yet remain tame enough to drive long distances. His plan was to compete at NMRA event, local drags, and at Hot Rod Drag Week. Justin assured him the team at VMP could take the stock 2014 Mustang into the 10s with a VMP supercharger, a few supporting mods, and a VMP tune.
“Our VMP Performance Gen2R 2.3 L TVS supercharger kit is perfect for a car like Kevin’s,” said Justin. “The kit comes with everything you’ll need. However, we’re going to do some upgrades to ensure we make enough power to get his GT into the 10s. In fact, this setup will work on any 2011-current 5.0 L Mustang GT. It normally produces 580-600 horsepower, which is perfect for a daily driver or weekend track car, ” he added.
In January 2018, VMP Performance installed a VMP Gen2R supercharger kit, Ford Performance throttle body, JLT cold air intake, and a VMP Fuel Pump Voltage Booster. The GT came in with 367 rear wheel horsepower and rolled out the door with over 600 horsepower at the wheels. In his first track outing, McKenna’s GT ripped to a 10.79 at 126 mph. A month later, McKenna went on to win the NMRA season opener in Bradenton, Florida. He then drove the Mustang from the Sunshine State to his home near Indianapolis. Back in Indy, he installed an off-road X-pipe and a QA1 carbon fiber driveshaft, complemented by a Stifflers Chassis and Suspension driveshaft safety loop.
Draggin’ on Drag Week
McKenna and his good friend, Mark LaCroix, set out to race in the very popular Hot Rod Drag Week (HRDW). As the name implies, HRDW is a week-long event where racers compete at a variety of drag strips. They must drive the car from event to event. This amounts to racers completing over 1,500 miles of street driving and hammering out a multitude of quarter-mile passes.
McKenna’s adventure started at his home near Indianapolis. He and LaCroix drove the Mustang to the starting point at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Georgia. They passed technical inspection and were ready to race. This unique event required only one pass at each track. McKenna prepped his GT by installing Mickey Thompson drag radials on JMS wheels, adding a can of Boostane octane booster, and uploading a tune supplied by VMP Performance. The Mustang took hold of the Atlanta starting line and charged to a 10.987 at 127.76 mph. Happy with his 10– second pass, McKenna and LaCroix loaded up and drove 260 miles to the next stop, Darlington Dragway in South Carolina.
The weather and traction were slightly better in Darlington. McKenna leaned a little harder on the stock converter and laid down a 10.882 at 128 mph.
“After day 2 of Drag Week, I was 39th out of 125 cars in my class, “Street Machine.” But how many of them have A/C and satellite radio?” he said jokingly.
Since his goal was to Continuing to pursue his goal runof a 10– second average, they headed to Concord, North Carolina to compete at zMAX Dragway.
McKenna knows zMAX well. The track plays host to the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals and the Carolina Nationals. McKenna took his shot at the four-lane track and laid down a 10.968 at 127 mph. “On Day 3 of Hot Rod Drag Week I got to make a run at the fabulous zMAX Dragway. The Mustang spun the tires a bit, which rarely happens, but it still ran 10.96 thanks to the VMP Performance horsepower. I could have made another pass, but we decided to hit the road and head to Bristol.”
Bristol Dragway, also known as ‘Thunder Valley’ was a 247-mile haul, but t. But the comforts of the Mustang made the cruise an easy one. “The car was performing flawlessly and running 10s without really leaning on it. But Day 4 of Drag Week was at Bristol and that was a challenge because of the altitude.” Bristol Dragway is situated 1,475 feet above sea level. Engine performance is diminished due to the reduction of barometric pressure and oxygen in the air. “So far we’d accomplished our goal of running a 10– second average. We needed a low 11 at Bristol to maintain it,” said McKenna.
His prediction was right, the Mustang ran an elapsed time of 11.116 at 127 mph on the mountain. While he didn’t run a 10– second time at Bristol, the averaged a of his passes was 10-second pass at each of the tracks.988. “Justin gave me another tune that should have got us in the 10s. The car was running so well that I didn’t want to mess with it,” he added.
After Bristol, Drag Week competitors made the trek back to Atlanta Dragway for the final day. Unfortunately, due to work obligations, McKenna was unable to attend. He and LaCroix made the uneventful trip back to Indy.
“Over four days of racing and driving, the Mustang was rock solid,” McKenna told us. “We had an incredible experience on Hot Rod Magazine Drag Week. We raced at four tracks, drove 1,700 miles (including four speedy quarter-mile sprints), and achieved our primary goal of a 10– second average for all four tracks. It’s amazing that you can run so quick with just a blower, tune, and a few bolt-ons. My car literally has a stock converter and transmission, a totally stock rear end, and just an X-pipe replacing the stock H-pipe.”
A week later, McKenna drove to Bowling Green, Kentucky, and scored a runner-up finish in the NMRA Race Star Ford Muscle competition. He ran his quickest time to date with this VMP powered Stang, a 10.73 at 128.88 mph! Kevin finished the NMRA season 7th in points.