Recently, I had the esteemed pleasure of chatting with Paul Major for a few minutes to complete our latest interview. Over the past year, I had seen Paul and his crew at the races several times, and did this interview – but never had the opportunity to actually meet him.
I can tell you that it is on my list of things to do in 2009. After speaking with Paul, I have come to feel like I have known him for a long time. He is a sincere person in everything that he does – whether it’s inside his record setting LSX Drag Radial Car – his true love for his family. Major hails from Fort Solonga, New York, and is a successful businessman as the owner of PM Construction and PM Maintenance, both well established in the Long Island, New York area.
This is his story.
Paul Major shares the joys in his life with his wife and three children, as well as his extended family in the drag racing community. Major was like any other high school kid: he had a love for cars and was into street racing. His first car was a 1972 Monte Carlo that was packed with nitrous, running in the high 12’s with a small block nitrous combination, it fed his fever early.
Eventually, Major found his way to the drag strip for some legal racing, and his obsession just went from there. Suddenly, today, he finds himself in this midst of a mid-life crisis (as he calls it) – deep in the mix of things as a top racer in Outlaw Drag Radial and probably the most feared LSX racer in world. Let us tell you though, he’s not just a racer, but a Corvette guy through and through.
That’s why this scene, depicted below from the 2008 LSX Shootout, was a difficult one for him to experience. In some ways, it almost less about the race, and more about the car.
Let’s take you back to 2001. Corvette fever kicked back into high gear with the purchase of a 2001 Quicksilver Z06. Yes, the same car as you see above. His friends and fellow racers kept him in the loop with all the local Vette racing action, which lead him into racing the Corvette Challenge events at Raceway Park.
The classes at Englishtown evolved quickly, and soon Paul was the front runner with his LS-based Z06, with the rest of the pack falling behind in a hurry. Over the last few years, with the encouragement from tuner Job Spetter, Major jumped to the dark side: his Z06 has gone from serious street/strip car, to one of the most feared LSX race cars in the world competing in the fast growing Outlaw Drag Radial classes.
We talked to Majors about what will this year will bring, and look back on the highlights of 2008:
LSXMAG: Paul, please tell our followers about your car and the combination that you run as one of the top LSX Racers in the World?
MAJOR: “The car is a 2001 Z06 Corvette that has been completely set up to compete in Outlaw Drag Radial. For power, we use a World Products Warhawk 454 cubic inch motor that has a lot of great parts on the inside. A Sonny Bryant crank is used, along with components from Competition Cams and all Jesel valve train.
For the heads we use Performance Inductions, and a manifold from them will be used on the engine for this year as well. American Racing prepares all the parts for the headers and exhaust system. The new setup as a whole is very similar to what we ran last season (twin rear-mounted turbochargers), but there just may be some changes in the works for the later part of the season.”
LSXMAG: In the future do you see the LS based power plants becoming the premier choice as the small block Chevrolet has been for so many years?
MAJOR: “There is no doubt that the LSX stuff makes crazy power. I would put it up against any setup out there. The prices (for LS-based parts) have come down considerably from what it was a few years ago, and with that happening you will see more and more of these setups coming out. There is more LSX aftermarket stuff coming into the picture, and with the money we have spent to get where we are – I wouldn’t go back. The guys that have been successful with the LS stuff are able to be counted on one hand. In a small block world with the turbo technology that is out there, I don’t think that you can beat LSX power.
LSXMAG: What kind of power are you making with your LSX7 Warhawk 454 and twin turbos?
MAJOR: “Last year, we saw around 1,900 horsepower on the dyno at the rear tires. With the few updates, it should be slightly more. We never really turned up the combination on the dyno. We switched transmissions this year to try and solve the problems that we had last year, and hopefully no more fires. It is a Rossler Turbo Glide, which is basically a Turbo 400 that has been converted to a two speed. It really gives a lot of options to what we can do with the setup as well as being much stronger than the previous transmissions.
LSXMAG: Tell us about the rear twin turbo system? Is it effective? Why did you choose to go this direction?
MAJOR: “The rear mount turbo setup was our way to deal with the lack of room in the C5 Corvette. As a result, we moved everything out back and it alleviated the car from being so nose heavy when we originally set the car up with a single 106mm turbo. We dealt with some issues early on, but with some testing those problems were solved. In time, we went to the twin 88mm turbochargers, and that’s where we are at now with the setup. Of course, we have something new in store. But we will save that for the next article! Being able to place the weight over the rear tires with the intercooler, and all (that staff) that is back there now — it really helps to balance out the car.”
LSXMAG: Can you tell us about your current chassis configuration and the updates that were recently done by DMC Racing.
MAJOR: “Dennis at DMC narrowed the rear, and notched the rear frame rails to help get rid of the problem that we were having staying in the groove. The rear stance of the car was so wide, we were having a hard time staying in the center of the track, and ultimately loosing traction. Also, we added a floater rear that was fabricated using the exact same suspension setup we had used previously. The rear housing was fabricated by Skinny Kid Race Cars and it is truly a piece of art. Dennis also added in some more bars in the back to stiffen the chassis up.”
LSXMAG: What do you think about the controversy that surrounds your Corvette’s non-stock IRS suspension?
MAJOR: “As for the controversy, you know I truly don’t understand it. You have Florida, and drag radial is big down there, and always will be. Now with the growth of the 275mm Radial classes, the rules will have to loosen up a lot (for Radial racing). I see with all the new cars that are being built from the factory, and you have the guys that are wanting to build them to race the class, but they come with independent suspensions that are not suitable for the horsepower that is needed to be competitive.
Racers shouldn’t be excluded because of what car they choose to run. You can’t close the doors to the class, or it will hurt the class. It all comes down to if there is a advantage for these setups. Is there? I wouldn’t think so, because you look at these stock suspension racers that are going low 1.20’s in the sixty, and they are faster than these true ten five racers on 4-links and slicks. So there is no advantage to my setup or any other that is out there.”
LSXMAG: On the performance side of things do you feel that your car sixty foots well and if not what can be done to improve it?
MAJOR: “Oh, my car is probably the worst sixty footing car out there. It has to be. I think last year our best was a 1.28, with a 1.30 average. That is one of the main reasons we had DMC narrow the rear, and try to keep the car in the groove. With that being done, we should be able to really get after it on the starting line. Compared to any stock F-body out there, if you were to measure from the center line, my car was seven inches wider than them. We are close to where we need to be, but compared to a Mustang we are still much wider. Realistically, if we can get a 1.25 sixty we can definitely get to the 6’s.”
LSXMAG: Who is responsible for the tuning on your car and what is the fastest e.t. and mph to date that you have been?
MAJOR: “Job Spetter. He is “the man” — we are very fortunate to have him be a part of our team. Aside from being a tuner, he is a teacher as he has taught me a lot through the years, and I can even get through some of it on my own. Also, we have Chris from NRG that comes out to help us.
The entire team puts forth a lot of effort, and I am thankful to have them all being a part of this with me. As for the times, we went 7.23 at the Shakedown last year, and 208 mph in Orlando. I think the 208 was a one hit wonder, so I say we are a consistent 205 mph car because we have ran that at like five different tracks.”
LSXMAG: Just to find out a bit more about you, What do you like and dislike the most about drag racing?
MAJOR: “Drag racing as a whole – I love it, I couldn’t do it any other way. I have to be out there to run all out, all the time. It’s all about pushing the limits to see what we can do. As to what I like the least, well I guess I do get tired of all the cry babies and the whining. It all seems to surround the controversy of my car. But overall, I love to be around the majority of the people in this sport because they are all so willing to help. It is always a good time but when you look aside from the keyboard warriors, it is a lot of fun.”
LSXMAG: Who would you say that is your biggest rival?
MAJOR: “I don’t have any rivals…really I don’t. I love the competition. There are a bunch of great guys out there. I would rather see a guy like Dave Hance sell the Pro Mod, and stick with his drag radial car. We have a good car, and it is a consistent 205 mph car. Dave has been 220 mph at three different tracks. That’s real. There are so many others that will be pushing hard once their combinations are done. All these guys are working hard at it, and deserve what they get.”
LSXMAG: Are Outlaw Drag Radial cars going 200+ Mph Safe?
MAJOR: “Well, you know I feel a lot safer just because of the tire that we are on. As far as a guy that is going to go 200 mph, it has to be a car that is built to do so. You just are not going to throw something together and do that. The racers that want to compete at that level are running good parts and there is no junk in that level of performance.
With the whole 25.5 and 25.2 dilemma, I wouldn’t even dream of going as fast as we have with any less than what we have now. We may run across some cars that are not up to specification at the 1/8 mile events, but for the most part everyone has taken the initiative for the safety of themselves and others. I do everything in my power possible to know that I am going to come home to my family at the end of the day. I think the majority of the guys feel the same way.
LSXMAG: What was it like to win Orlando after the loss of your good friend Leo Barnaby, and to be able to dedicate the win to his daughter Jenna?
MAJOR: “It was great. We got back from Memphis with a toasted car, and we were on a mission. We needed a ton of parts and on the way home, I was on the phone with Leo. I told him we had a lot of work to do, and I wasn’t going to miss Orlando again. We didn’t go the year before, you know, with (with the problem of) keeping the heads on the block, so we didn’t make the trip.
Leo got on the ball with Chris at NRG, along with many others — scrambling for parts all over the place. Then, it was like I got the call about what had happened to Leo (he was killed in car accident) and I was just blown away. Not only did I lose a friend, but there were parts at his shop that we needed. Leo’s competitive nature is what made me the way I am .With this happening, it was no doubt that we had to get this car back together and make to Orlando. We had a strong car when we got to Orlando, and we chased around the tune up and it all came together to come out with a win for Jenna.”
LSXMAG: With that being said would you consider 2008 as a success?
MAJOR: “Without a doubt. It was a very exciting year, and we made a lot of progress with the setup. Performance was where we needed to be, come the end of the year. Along the way we made some really great friends. I am so excited about 2009, I just can’t wait to get out there and get racing. What we did last year was a definite motivator.
LSXMAG: With constant rule changes and new classes, where will we see Paul Major in 2009? What are your goals for the season?
MAJOR: “One thing is for sure: I want one of those 6-second jackets this year at the Shakedown. We are going to have to work on that six second pass real early in the season, because we know there are tons of people shooting for that, and are well capable of doing so. Right now, our sights are set on running the entire Drag Radial schedule at Cecil County Dragway, as well as a few of their limited ten five events.
Dave O’Donnell and Jim Halsey have created a great place to race, and a awesome series with the Street Car Shootouts and now with the new 275 classes and limited 10.5 they show why they have a premier racing facility that will continue to give us a place to race. I also plan to support the 1320X series, and will run as much of that schedule as possible, unless there are conflicting dates. Shakedown is a definite, and we will go back to Orlando to defend our title. Plans are also to go back to Vegas as they have a great thing going out there and a awesome facility as well.”
LSXMAG: Will the Shakedown field grow this year?
MAJOR: “I really hope to see more support from the drag radial racers at the Shakedown race this year. It was disheartening to see how many of the northern racers headed south to Orlando and Bradenton, but there was no support from the south at our races. Dave Hance deserves more credit than he gets, and if we don’t see this happen I would hope a lot more people wouldn’t go to Bradenton. If they won’t support our races, we shouldn’t support them. They have the no Paul Major rule down there so I don’t have to worry about it.
LSXMAG: To wrap this all up, What do you feel will be the drag radial record will be next year this time?
MAJOR: “I can see them running 228-230 mph, and it all depends on who steps up their combinations to the big block twin turbo setups. You should see the low 6.80’s with just two or three in that range. I never imagined we would be where we are at now, with two racers in the 6’s already. My prediction was that we would have to wait to see this happen at Shakedown in October. With going from the 7.18 that Hinzman, ran to the 6.90’s, in a few months – it is crazy. I ask myself – where will it stop?