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Chris Holbrook is happy to be a part of first official NHRA Factory X race

The Factory X presented by Holley class made its official debut at the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals and longtime Ford racer Chris Holbrook is thrilled by be a part of it.
03 Sep 2023
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor
Chris Holbrook

Years from now, the 2023 Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals will be the answer to the trivia question, “When was in the first official NHRA Factory X race?” Chris Holbrook will long be remembered as one of the first four contestants in the exciting new eliminator that has been the talk of the sport for more than a year. Holbrook has raced in a wide variety of classes from Super Stock to Mountain Motor Pro Stock and has enjoyed success in nearly all of them, but he admits that his new Varsity Ford Factory X Mustang might just be the coolest race car he’s ever owned.

“Well, it’s definitely different, but so far, I really like it,” he chuckles. “It’s been a while since I’ve driven a fast stick shift car and it keeps you pretty busy in there but it’s also nice and smooth. It’s different from a Mountain Motor Pro Stock car, not just because it’s a second slower. It’s just a very comfortable car to drive.”

As some have noted, the Factory X class combines the technology of Pro Stock and Factory Stock into a production-based car which in Holbrook's case, happens to be a 2023 Cobra Jet Mustang. The chassis was built by the late Jerry Bickel, and the powerplant is a 327-cid Ford Coyote engine topped by a 3.0-liter Whipple supercharger. One of the biggest selling points of the Factory X class is a manual transmission, which happens to be a Liberty 5-speed. The class is also limited by rule to a 10.5-inch rear tire, which helps maintain a basically stock appearance.

Like almost everyone else who has expressed interest in the Factory X class, Holbrook’s debut was held up by supply chain issues, most notably the availability of body parts. After a 22-month build, the car was finished less than a month ago. Holbrook made four runs during a test session in Martin, Mich., and then made four more runs during last weekend’s NMCA event at Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio.

As an engine builder, Holbrook is especially intrigued by the technical aspects of the new class. He says it was a big benefit that the engine rules for Factory X are virtually the same as the FlexJet Factory Stock Showdown. Holbrook just happens to run a Factory Stock Mustang with his son, Del, as the driver.

“The engine is pretty basic, compared to what we run in the Showdown car,” said Holbrook. “The way the rules are right now, we’re limited to a 3.75 [supercharger] pulley so we don’t make near the boost we should. Compare that to Del’s car with an aluminum block and a 3.50-pulley. There’s a bit of a difference there, but for the most part the tuning is the same. The Factory X car also has a one-inch wicker in the back which definitely slows it a bit.

Holbrook was in the 7.3s at over 185 mph last week in Norwalk and after three days of qualifying at Indy. He’s second behind Greg Stanfied’s COPO Camaro with a 7.44 best. The field also includes Allen Johnson, driving Geoff Turk’s BlackBird X Challenger and longtime Comp racer Jim Cowan, who is also in a Camaro. The winner of the U.S. Nationals will not only be recognized as the class’ first victor but will also earn a Wally trophy.

“We’ve made some progress, but there is still a lot to be learned. This whole deal is really new,” said Holbrook. “We had some typical new cars blues; wires and cables in the wrong places, loose connections, but nothing too crazy.”

“The big thing is how popular this car is,” Holbrook said. “I can’t remember anything like it. We had a lot of fans around our put all weekend last week in Norwalk and it’s been the same thing this week at Indy. This is definitely going to be a poplar class with the fans. We can see that already.”