It took a cold day in June at Grand Bend ( Ontario ) Motorplex for Brian Gahm to clinch the historical mark. It was the third race of the season, the Mopar Canadian Nationals, when Gahm, the defending Sunoco Race Fuels Pro Stock World Champion, was paired against Charlie Peppers in the first elimination round. The Lucasville, Ohio native pushed his new Ford Mustang beyond the limits of any stock car, blazing down the track to a 6.485-second ET world record. Gahm took the win light, and as he decelerated at the top end of the track, he came to a halt as the first member of the elite Quarter-Max® Pro Stock 6.40s Club.
The Vision of 6.40
As Pro Stock competitors prepared for the 2003 Hooters IHRA Drag Racing Series, the ET world record was held by Gene Wilson at 6.532-seconds and there was no apparent sign of it being contested. Yet, Rick Jones, owner of R. J. Race Cars, Inc., offered a prize to his fellow competitors with the Quarter-Max® Pro Stock 6.40s Club.
The concept of the club, which was backed by the division of R. J. Race Cars called Quarter-Max® Chassis & Racing Components, located in Galesburg , Ill. , was to create a program offering an extra incentive to the first 16 Pro Stock competitors who made a quarter-mile pass under 6.500-seconds. Known as the Quarter-Max® Pro Stock 6.40s Club, the inaugural member, the first to crack the 6.50 ceiling, would receive $2,500, a commemorative club jacket and a plaque marking the occasion. Drivers who fill the remaining 15 slots would win $1,000, a club jacket and a plaque.
"I just wanted to give back to the racers," said Jones. "I wanted to do something that would add excitement to the class and allow the racers to have fun doing it.
"Some people said it wasn't possible, but when I saw the weather in Grand Bend, I knew someone could do it there. In this class, if we get the right conditions, it can happen at any time."
Gahm became the inaugural member of the 6.40s Club. However his reign as the sole member of this elite club was soon ended when in the very next round Carl Baker and Doug Kirk took advantage of the optimal conditions and ran 6.495 and 6.498 respectively to take their place next to Gahm.
"Brian, Carl and Doug were ecstatic when they did it," said Jones. "When I saw their sincere excitement over the program it made it all worth it for me."
After the Grand Bend race, the class remained extremely competitive, undoubtedly the toughest of IHRA's Pro classes. However, the 6.40s Club would take on no new members for the next eight events.
He's Not Only the President, He's a Member
The World Finals at Rockingham Dragway, counting as a double-event, was arguably the most important race of the year. For Jones, his final run on Saturday night may have been one of the biggest passes of his career.
"That run was huge for us," said Jones. "Not only did it win the Spring Nationals, it got me into my own club. My team and I accomplished so much that weekend that I couldn't absorb it all until I got home.
Accepting New Members
In addition to Jones' entry into the club at Rockingham, Pete Berner snuck into the club with a 6.499. Heading into 2004, eleven spots remain.
While Jones, driving his new Dodge Stratus, will be vying for his first world championship, he knows he is not the only one.
"I will be trying to get the Dodge into a championship," said Jones. "I know there are at least 25 other guys wanting the same thing, but I'm having fun doing it. I get to compete in the same class I build cars for."
As for the Quarter-Max® Pro Stock 6.40s Club, Jones expects some new members soon.
"We are looking forward to 2004, getting some new members and giving away some more money," added Jones. "The money is there for the taking, they just need to come and get it and run the number.
"If the club doesn't fill up, the program will be in place for 2005."
For more information on R. J. Race Cars, Inc., and Quarter-Max® Chassis and Racing Components, call 309-343-7575, or check out www.quartermax.com
Club Members entering the 2004 season:
- Brian Gahm, 2. Carl Baker, 3. Doug Kirk, 4. Rick Jones, 5. Pete Berner