The name Jeremy Lookofsky will forever be tied to the lightly colored, H22-powered, naturally aspirated CRX that terrorized the import drag racing landscape for a number of years. Setting records, defying odds, and essentially crushing theories, the CRX was undeniably a trailblazer for the all-motor movement. With the notoriety came a massive cult following and one of the most intense rivalries (Skunk2) in import drag racing history.
Along the way, Lookofsky took note of an incredible tube chassis Honda unveiled in the mid-’90s, and the wheels in his head began to turn. He adds, “The new Civic began construction in 2000 when tube chassis cars were still new and rare to the sport compact world. The first to do it was Stephan Papadakis with his Civic built in conjunction with the legend himself, Shaun Carlson. Both of those guys together were always looking to innovate and dominate.” With thoughts of doing the same, Lookofsky received a bare chassis from Honda Factory Performance (HFP) with the goal of building the first naturally aspirated, front-wheel-drive, tube-frame drag car. Being that the chassis was extremely light, the car was slapped with weight and fuel restrictions during competition in an attempt to level the playing field. A small hurdle, as Lookofsky forged on with Shawn Hillier piloting the car and Jeff Tirado as crew chief, and the trio took home records and trophies at just about every event they attended. After garnering so much attention, a groundbreaking sponsorship contract was drafted with DVS Shoes—an “outside the box” signing that the all-motor world had yet to witness.
A longtime advocate for the power of the H-series motor, Lookofsky felt a change was in order, and in 2006, the Drag Cartel tube chassis was slated for a transplant. The new heart would be comprised of a K24 block with a K20 head, and would serve double duty—as a test bed for a number of track-proven parts for the Drag Cartel product lineup, as well as the key to collecting low 9-second time slips. During its first season of service, the K-series mill pulled the Civic to a new personal best of 9.64 @ 141.
Improving upon stellar time slips typically means finding more power; one area that Lookofsky is all too familiar with. The current engine weighs in at 2.7L, belting out a mind-boggling 420 whp. This is accomplished with a 105mm crank, an astronomical 15.7:1 compression ratio, and 58mm individual throttle bodies via BC, JE, and TWM respectively. As expected, Drag Cartel goods are sprinkled throughout the build, including its Stage 5 “VTEC killer” cams. Lookofsky offers some insight, “Stage 5s run traditional VTEC lobes and utilize Drag Cartel cam gears to degree the motor for its ultimate power potential. We use this method instead of VTC function, as it’s a bit safer when using a .600 lift cam. Not much room for error, valve-to-valve is very tight. The weight savings on the valvetrain is worth some horsepower and allows about an extra 800 rpm in the upper powerband.” He also warns that this is for a race application only, and takes some dedication and knowledge to set up properly.
With almost 10 years under the car’s belt, the team’s goal as well as their starting lineup has changed significantly. “We’re shooting for the first 8-second, all-motor pass. I’m the driver and engine builder, Shawn Hillier is the crew chief, and James Lin handles data acquisition. The car has it, we’re making more than enough horsepower, but the conditions have to be perfect in order to utilize it all. Major factors like track prep, weather, driving…and a little luck never hurts.”
Having already blasted a razor-close 9.01, most in the know are counting on Drag Cartel to nail the landmark time in 2012. “We’re so close, but yet so far away. Stay tuned, though, my thoughts are that it will happen at E-Town, Fall Nationals—the perfect way to end a race season.”
Drag Cartel originally started as a race team in 2006. During this time, the sport compact drag movement saw participation from NHRA as they introduced their nationwide points series that piqued competitors’ interest. All too eager to prove his abilities, Lookofsky and his crew set out to destroy with an emphasis on establishing new records. Their presence was quickly felt as the Cartel took home a championship in 2006, and set records at almost every single track and event they ventured to. As promising as the future looked, the economy’s bottom dropped out, and sponsorship dollars were soon nonexistent. Lookofsky adds, “Funds vanished right before our eyes and there wasn’t much left but a car and trailer full of parts. This is when we felt it was time to open the doors to the public and start selling products.” In 2008, Drag Cartel officially entered the consumer market, and just four years later, not only is the company still standing, it’s thriving. “We can’t keep products on the shelves. It’s a four-month wait for a built motor! It’s a great feeling, and I owe it all to the end-users and customers worldwide who had faith in me and the brand.”