SEMORA, NC - Chip King once admitted that he hated the sound of a supercharger car. Now, it is a melody to his ears.
King, 38, of Semora, NC., is in his sophomore season of Pro Modified and doing it with the legendary Chrysler Hemi. The combination, which was added to the list of competitive combinations in the Pro Modified division last season, has made the former mountain motor Pro Stock racer practically famous in the world of doorslammer racing.
King first served notice that the venerable blown Hemi was back and ready to rumble at Budds Creek, MD last season, where he qualified number one over a tough field of determined rivals during the running of the IHRA CARQUEST President's Cup Nationals. Advancing to the finals, King was poised to earn his first national event victory, but a supercharger explosion put those plans on hold, if only temporarily.
Ironically, King's competitors had never been so roughed up by a Mopar before, so assuming that it couldn't have possibly been legit, cries of "cheat" began to fly around the pits, and it wasn't long before the tech people started moving in.
That, according to King, was music to his ears. "We were real excited about that," he said. "We had actually picked on the tech people a bit; we let them know that we couldn't wait to have them over there tearing us down. When you get torn down, that means you're going real fast. It finally happened, and I was actually trying to hurry them over to our pit, because I wanted them to see it all. As a matter of fact, we probably went above and beyond by showing them things that they didn't even ask to see. I thought it was great. I loved the fact that the other guys were all sitting around thinking that once the tech guys got through checking us that we'd be thrown out. Well, it just didn't happen. We opened a lot of eyes that weekend, I'm telling you."
King has made himself a serious player by qualifying at all events hosted by the IHRA and NHRA in 2001.
"People had better take us serious, because if they don't, they' will wish they had in the end," explained King, who categorizes himself as a "good 'ole boy" from a small town in the Carolinas. "You hear all of those people out there that think they can just bolt in a Hemi and run fast with little or no work. I challenge them to come out here. I'm not trying to tick anyone off, but it's time to put up."
He continued, "I'm here to tell you that it didn't happen like that for us. It took several years of research and development. There's a pile of broken parts and hundreds of hours in the shop, on the dyno, and on the track invested in this project and people didn't see all of that."
If it seems like King has an attitude, he doesn't. He's as easy going as one can be, but let the record reflect that he's not one to accept disrespect from anyone.
Now, has this guy got a competitive attitude or what? Actually, that attitude had its roots years before, when King lost his license for driving too fast on the street. The enterprising young man then did the only thing he could do to keep his hands on a steering wheel - he built a racecar. Over the years, King raced off and on, mostly in Pro Stock competition. After his dad died, King took three years off to get all of the family businesses running self-sufficiently, to the point that he could go out and race again.
So far, the eating's been pretty good in the King camp, especially since veteran tuner Bill Barrett has been doing the cooking. Looking back at how the two Mopar mavens first got hooked up, King related "I remembered his name with the different teams I worked with. When I started messing around with this new engine program, everyone told me that if I wanted to make a Hemi run, I needed to get Bill Barrett. I didn't know a lot about him, and he didn't know me either. I just took a trip up to his shop with my fuel system, and we clicked. We both left our first meeting knowing that we could work together." Chip's friends advice had been right on the money, because Barrett, who guided Bunny Burkett to the 1996 IHRA Funny Car title, and helped Pro Mod legend Scotty Cannon in his transition from a nitrous-injected combination to a supercharger, knew exactly where to go with King's program.
Thankfully, it has been perfect timing, as King's experience at the IHRA Amalie Oil Summer Nationals in Cordova, Illinois last year will attest. King showed up there by himself - with no crew whatsoever. Just him and a brand new supercharged Pro Modified car.
"You can't even start a blown Pro Modified car by yourself," King said with a laugh. "I walked up to the IHRA officials and they asked me what I had. I told them a Pro Modified. They told me to bring it up, but I couldn't because I had no crew. Matt Moore from Lenco finally squirted some fuel in it for me, and I started it up. I had a crew the following day, but I drove a thousand miles, teched the car and ran the first day by myself. I ran a 7.02 at 210 mph, and was as happy as a pig in slop."
King will be among the sixteen special invitees for the NHRA Advance Auto Parts Southern Nationals in Commerce, Ga., this weekend. He is currently featured in the latest issue of www.competitionplus.com.