Haley James and the B-Team take on the NMRA Coyote Modified class
By Steve Turner
If you had never been to an NMRA drag race before, you might be taken aback to see the young lady singing the national anthem wearing a racing suit. You might also be surprised to see her strap into an 8-second Coyote Modified race car and click off a win in an ultra-competitive, heads-up race. However, if you know Haley James and the rest of the Hellion Power Systems B-Team, it’s not the least bit surprising.
If Haley’s copper-wrapped 1991 Mustang LX looks familiar, it is indeed the same Fox that Frank Varella piloted to the inaugural Coyote Modified championship last season. He has since moved up to Renegade and turned the reins over to 18-year-old Haley, who has backing from a strong roster of sponsors, including Bassani Xhaust, DiabloSport, Dyno Edge, Precision Turbo, Pro Torque, MMR, MSD Ignition, Spearco, Turbosmart, and Yearwood.
That’s because Haley has grown up around a highly successful drag racing organization. Her dad Dwayne James has raced alongside multi-time NMRA champion John Urist for years, so Haley was raised around racing.
“My whole life I have been around fast street and race cars, mostly Mustangs,” Haley said. “I have always loved the feeling of speed and g-forces, and I always enjoyed watching drag racing. I used to race Junior Dragsters when I was about 8-10…”
“Last year my dad bought me a 1993 LX Fox body with a 67mm turbo on it. From there I started racing—and once you go fast you can never go back,” she added. “So here I am now driving a bad-ass Coyote Modified race car.”
Of course, she never lost her love for going fast, and she might have engaged in a little grudge racing when she was old enough to drive a car. However, that wouldn’t fully prepare her for the hyper-competitive world of NMRA drag racing.
“…Lucky for me I’ve been involved in NMRA through my dad my whole life, so it wasn’t really a new concept to me,” she said. “I just hadn’t ever experienced from anywhere but the burnout box before March.”
Given her meteoric rise to success in Coyote Modified, it’s amazing that she’s so new the competition side of the NMRA. Though she has been around it for years, the fact that she’s a Coyote Modified racer came as a surprise to her as well. When last year’s Coyote Modified champ and fellow B-Team racer, Frank Varella decided to move up to the Renegade class, the opportunity landed under her Christmas tree.
“Well originally, last season Frank wasn’t able to drive the car he has now in Coyote Modified because of the stock-suspension rule, so him and my dad bought the copper car specifically for that class. Frank had his old race car sitting around so after he won the Coyote Modified championship, my dad told me that my Christmas present was to go to Frank Hawley’s school to get licensed, and I asked why,” Haley explained. “Then he asked me if I would be interested in driving the copper car, and obviously I was ecstatic. From there, I mentally and physically practiced the confusing combination of buttons and processes it takes to drive a turbo car, and the rest is history.”
History indeed. Haley went to the final round at the season opener in Bradenton, Florida, where she also set the record speed in the class at 166.02. At the second race in Commerce, Georgia, she went back to the finals and took her first win in Coyote Modified. Along the way, she also set the class record for the quickest elapsed time at 8.23 seconds. At the third race of the season, she runner-upped and ran the quickest e.t. the class has seen yet—a blistering 8.18-second pass.
To run those kind of e.t’s, the B-Team obviously relies on a Hellion single turbo system, but it feeds a stout engine created by the modular engine specialists at Modular Motorsports Racing.
“When Hellion approached us, they were already aware of what we had done with the Coyote platform, they asked us for combination that would be reliable and capable of bringing home a championship in the class. Their experience with the internals in the Coyote engine was limited, so they asked us to build it however we saw fit. This was easy, however, because much of what is in their engine can be found in all of the MMR 1500 series engines that we have been selling to the forum members for years,” Mark Luton of MMR explained. “Some additional safety precautions were taken by adding the MMR dry-deck heads and block, which prevent water spillage in the event of a head gasket failure. This really increases top-end safety in a vehicle that has water in the block and heads. The best part about Haley’s engine is that all of the parts and services are available right on the MMR website.”
Having the power to run quickly is one thing, but putting it all together to win a class at the NMRA level is something else all together. Obviously, Haley is enjoying her ride in the B-Team’s third racing seat.
“Unbelievable. So amazing,” Haley said of her first win. “I am just so grateful for this opportunity. I was more happy winning knowing that my dad was probably hiding somewhere crying than I was to redeem myself from Bradenton. It was just an awesome euphoria and I hope to feel that way many more times! I couldn’t do any of this without my team or my sponsors.”
Despite all that success, that team might be one of the most under-rated in all of drag racing, as its members like to have a good time almost as much as the love the competition. However, it’s hard to argue with its results.
“Everyone has this idea that B-Team is just the drunk team who parties and has a whole bunch of money and no knowledge and that’s why we go fast. That’s absolutely not true. When we’re not racing, everyone is working just as hard as everyone else when they’re home, busting their asses to pay for this extremely expensive hobby that we all love,” Haley explained. “Speed doesn’t come from money, it comes from knowledge and passion. I think that’s the main thing people don’t understand about B-Team, we’re just as passionate and serious about this as everybody else, we just like to have a little more fun at the end of the day.”
Of course, the B-Team’s newest member is understandably proud to race alongside her more experienced stablemates.
“It’s absolutely awesome. I’m so proud to be able to race with a nine-time championship winner and a one-time championship winner that are not only bad-ass drag racers but also have been a part of my life since I came out of the womb,” she said. “I consider my teammates brothers more than anything else. I love them all.”
And, now that the B-Team’s youngest member has tasted the speed of an 8-second race car and the thrill of race victory, it looks like we haven’t seen the last of Haley James on the drag strip.
“…It’s addictive. The moment you feel what almost 2 gs pushing you against your seat feels like there’s no going back. Ever. I just want more now,” she said.
The Mod List
Block: MMR Pro Mod Block w/ MMR Piston oil squirter block-offs, MMR Billet Chain Guides
Rods: Manley Billet Rods
Pistons: MMR/Manley Pistons w/ Total Seal rings
Camshafts: MMR Stage 3R turbo cams w/ MMR valve spring kit and MMR camshaft phaser deletes
Cylinder Heads: MMR Dry Deck cylinder heads (lock-wired and O-ringed) w/ MMR Copper Head gaskets and MMR Head Cooling Mod
Intake: Boss 302 w/ Wilson Manifolds throttle body
Power Adder: Hellion Power Systems turbo kit w/ Precision Turbo 67mm turbo and a Spearco intercooler
Fuel System: Weldon fuel pump w/ Weld regulator and 160 lb/hr injectors
Exhaust: Hellion Power Systems turbo kit
Transmission: Neal Racing Powerglide w/
Rearend: Custom 8.8 by Behind Bars Race Cars
Engine Management: Big Stuff 3
Ignition: MMR Coyote Distributor Drive system w/ MSD wires and Brisk spark plugs
Brakes: Strange Engineering
Wheels: Weld Racing
Tires: Mickey Thompson
Shocks: Afco Racing
Springs: Afco Racing
Brakes: Strange Engineering
Wheels: Billet Specialties
Tires: Mickey Thompson
8-Second Coyote Modified Gallery