If you pay any attention to the world of modern Mopar drag racing, you are likely familiar with Geoff Turk and his Dodge Challenger race car, known as the Blackbird. For years, Turk has campaigned one of the quickest modern Challenger race cars in the world in a variety of different racing associations, but for the 2023 season, he is focusing on the new NHRA Factory X class.
NHRA Factory X
Factory X is similar to Factory Stock Showdown (FSS) in the fact both NHRA classes feature the Dodge Challenger Drag Pak, the Chevy COPO Camaro and the Ford Mustang Cobra Jet. The two classes feature similar engines, as well, but that is where the key similarities come to an end. Factory X uses tube chassis while FSS uses a factory-based unibody chassis.
This chassis difference allows the Factory X cars to be dramatically lighter, with a minimum weight limit of 2,650 pounds. That is almost a thousand pounds less than the FSS cars with similar bodies and engines, but to make the class even more interesting, the NHRA mandated a manual transmission for Factory X. Fortunately, the association also allows a wider 10.5-inch rear tire in Factory X, so they can put the power down more aggressively than the FSS cars.
When you combine less weight and more tire with a similar engine, the Factory X cars are quite a bit quicker than their Factory Stock Showdwn counterparts. In theory, Factory X bridges the gap between FSS, which is heavily factory-based, and Pro Stock, which is not-at-all factory based. Since the day that the new class was announced, racing fans have been eagerly anticipating seeing these cars storm down the track, and while the field is currently small, Geoff Turk and his competitors are proving that they were worth the hype.
A Scary Start
Unfortunately, while testing the Blackbird Factory X Dodge Challenger back in April, Geoff Turk hit the wall at the end of a run and the car rolled. He ended up on his wheels, but the car was in bad shape. The good news at the time of the crash was that Turk was ok after the violent crash, with just some fingers and a foot that were beat up during the impact and ensuing roll. However, a short time later, he began experiencing numbness in one of his arms and severe headaches, but when he realized that he was unable to sign his name, he knew that something was very wrong. His wife, Jena, insisted that they head to the emergency room and that proved to be a very good idea.
Upon hearing of his symptoms, Turk was rushed in for a CT scan and after getting those results back, doctors prepared a helicopter to fly him to Nashville for life-saving surgery to cure two severe brain bleeds. After that surgery, Turk learned that the doctors may not be able to stop another brain bleed like that, so another crash could cost him his life. With that in mind, he made the difficult decision to give up racing from behind the wheel, but he wasn’t done campaigning his Blackbird Dodge Challenger.
Instead, he tapped 2012 NHRA Pro Stock and former Dodge racer Allen Johnson to handle the driving duties in the Factory X Blackbird Challenger for 2023, and so far, that looks to have been a great choice. With loads of hard work by his team, they rebuilt the smashed Challenger in time to get Allen Johnson ready for the start of the Factory X season.
The first NHRA even to include the Factory X class was the Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
In the first round of qualifying, Allen Johnson was the quickest driver in the class with an 8.029 at 169.96 miles per hour and in the second round, when all four drivers in the new class cranked up the heat a bit, he ran a 7.689 at 179.28 miles per hour. After the third round, that 7.689 stood as his best time, and he started in the third spot. Unfortunately, Johnson lost in the first round of eliminations to Chris Holbrook (shown below) and in his weekend wrap-up on Facebook, Turk pointed out that they were dealing with engine issues, and that Johnson had run those numbers on 7 cylinders – and he was still competitive.
The second NHRA event to host the Factory X class was Betway Carolina Nationals at zMax Dragway. On their first qualifying run, Allen Johnson drove Turk’s Blackbird Dodge Challenger to a 7.197 at 196.04 miles per hour, setting the MPH record for the Factory X class and qualifying in the second spot. That was the only qualifying run for Factory X, but in the first round of eliminations, Allen Johnson backed up that 196.04 with a 197.13, resetting the speed record for the class once again. More importantly, on just the sixth run for the Blackbird Factory X Dodge Challenger, the team recorded their first elimination round winning – beating Stephen Bell’s Ford Mustang.
Johnson then went onto the finals to take on Greg Stanfield and his Chevrolet Camaro. The Blackbird Challenger got away from the line with a better reaction time (.069 to .094), but a short distance down the track, the rear tires started to spin and Johnson had to lift. That allowed Stanfield to cruise to another class win, running a 7.10 at 190.70. After running a 7.12 in qualifying and getting away from the line quicker, Johnson would have had a great chance of beating the Camaro had he not lost traction, but the team left North Carolina with the Factory X speed record and their first round win in the new class.
The NHRA Factory X class is back in action this weekend at the NHRA Midwest Nationals in Illinois, so Turk, Johnson and the Blackbird team have another chance of bringing home their first class win and hopefully becoming the first team in the class to break the 6-second, 200mph barrier.
Turk posts a ton of great updates and pictures from the track on his Facebook page and fans who want to support the cause can check out all of the cool merchandise on the Blackbird Racing website by clicking here. Turk has also launched Blackbird Performance, drawing on the experience that he has gained from decades of racing to offer premium performance upgrades for Dodge Challenger and Charger R/T and R/T Scat Pack owners.