AI: Skip Smith - NASA interview

NASA Pro Racing - Interview with Skip Smith on campaigning the latest S197 2005 Ford Mustang GT. When the new 2005 Mustang GT was released, it created a lot of buzz in the racing world. Especially in the NASA American Iron and Camaro Mustang ...

NASA Pro Racing - Interview with Skip Smith on campaigning the latest S197 2005 Ford Mustang GT.

When the new 2005 Mustang GT was released, it created a lot of buzz in the racing world. Especially in the NASA American Iron and Camaro Mustang Challenge (CMC) series. Rules have been developed over the years, but the new S197 series car required series directors to consult engineers and monitor some of the superior performance features. To date, Ford Motor Company has used the new platform to successfully return to racing, including winning the 2005 GrandAm-Cup championship. With the help of Steeda Autosports, Robin Burnett took the 2005 NASA American Iron Championship in the Indiana-Ohio Region.

We interviewed Skip Smith to further find out how the 2005 Mustang GT is performing. Skip campaigns his American Iron (AI) car in the Texas Southwest region.

Q.1 What other cars have you raced in besides your 2005 Mustang GT?

Back in the day (late 70's) I pre-ran the Baja 500 and 1000 in a 1975 Ford F-250 that was lifted 5 inches (2 wheel drive) without using blocks, extensive motor work double shocks etc. Kinda ahead of its time. At this time I also ran motocross at Sears Point, Carlsbad, Saddleback, etc in California and Texas for 14 years. My first race car was a 1997 Bondurant Cobra that I raced AI in Texas in 2005. It needed allot of work which we put into the car, however when your getting passed by your son in his CMC car, it was time for a change. We also have owned in the past a few Boss Mustangs and Cobra's, which I have campaigned at NASA open track events.

Q.2. What was the genesis of making a race car out of the 2005 Mustang ?

It's a great platform to build on, very stable, the car was bought for my wife initially, until we started making a track car out of it, adding Sparco seats, all the suspension options that Steeda Autosports offers for the 05', as well as aftermarket engine parts. After that she knew the car was gone. We would run the new car at HPDE and Time Trial events in-between racing with NASA with the Bondurant Cobra race car. As it developed, I won the 2005 Time Trial TT-U class in the new car.

Q.3. How does the new Mustang compare to the older cars you drove?

No comparison. It's a blast to drive and very forgiving and the car has very little body roll. It's very easy to drive at speed stock, however with all the Steeda bolt on suspension modifications, it made such a difference not only in handling but lower lap times as well. Our only downside was the initial weight with me in the car, (6'6'' 245 lbs). The stock car weight was pushing 3900 pounds, including driver.

Q.4, How much modification is required to make the new 2005 car perform in the American Iron Series?

Lightening the car was the first order. TexStar Ford in Stephenville Tx., removed 528 lbs from the vehicle and with the addition of the cage dry the car weighed 3250. All safety items were added, and with all the Steeda suspension mods the car is quite competitive in the series. I added 14" Brembo brakes up front with Hoosier tire's , which require a 18' wheel. This upgrade forces me to the AI-X class, versus running in the AI class.

Q.5. How is the after market parts availability? Can you provide a summary of Sponsor parts from Steeda, Maximum Motorsports, Griggs and other companies you are using?

We added I believe all that Steeda offers for the 05', Cold air kit, Caster/camber plates, lower control arms, adjustable upper link, front end link kit, front/rear sway bars, strut tower brace, Steeda springs and bumpsteer kit, Aluminum flywheel and header's from Ford racing. By adding these upgrades anyone can turn their SN197 Mustang into a much better performance car that has proven itself on the track. The after market vendors have really taken to the new car.

Q 6. How do you like the 3-valve modular motor?

It's very similar in power curve to the Boss 302 we had. It comes on strong in high rpm. With the cars weight I need more power and companies are just starting to dig into this motor. We've added headers, computer power chip, pulleys and all external add ons. I've ordered a set of Livernois heads that should add 30/40 rwhp along with an aluminum drive shaft from JPC Racing that will respond quicker and weighs 27 less pounds. We ought to be @ 340rwhp after these changes. I believe all 05 Mustangs being campaigned in road racing have either the "cammer" motor or other high performance motors. No one to my knowledge uses the stock motor like we do, however.

Q 7. How has the car performed in its first two races this season?

Great! We have swept all four races (2 last year and 2 this season so far). The Texas region only has a few AIX class competitors, however for the April event David Armstrong the 2005 AIX champ will be back with his 600 hp Griggs Racing equipped 2003 SN95 Mustang. And the ex-Steeda #20 Speed World Challenge Mustang will be there, along with a few other highly competitive Mustangs. So it will be a challenge to win the 2006 championship. John George is the Texas region AI 2004/05 Champ. He has driven our 05' and feels it could be a winning AI car in its current form. The car's handling and suspension performance is outstanding, however the motor needs a Vortex or Pro-Charger to be competitive with other regions AIX class.

Q.8. What are your championship plans for 2006 and 2007?

Our goals are to continue with podium finishes in the Texas region and to attend the first ever NASA Nationals at Mid-Ohio this September. Our middle son who races CMC #78 and I will make the trip and it ought to be a great experience for the both of us. We also expect to make a west coast and east coast swing to race with other NASA regions.

Our plans for the 05' Mustang will continue to reduce weight with lexan windows, future carbon fiber body parts and a long term strategy for a increasing horsepower and torque either thru a new motor or existing suppliers. The Texas Region is increasingly growing and lap times are getting quicker and quicker. We expect almost 30 cars at the next event, CMC cars are running lap times that only prior AI cars ran, its exciting.

I would like to thank all that help Flying L Racing, including TexStar Ford, Performance Speed Tech, Motul and Frontier Farm, Ranch Real-estate company, and Steeda Autosports.


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Series Road racing
Drivers John George