Steve Kent Jr. converted his S550 street car into a potent Trans Am racer
By Steve Turner
Trans Am racing and the Ford Mustang have a long and storied history. From the days of Parnelli Jones winning races in a 1970 Boss 302 to Tommy Kendall’s dominant 1997 season, the Blue Oval Pony car prospered in the ranks of this racing series. Since the latest Mustangs were created with better handling in mind, it only seems natural that these cars would end up racing in Trans Am.
Steve Kent Jr. of XLR8 Diesel Trucks is fielding the first S550 Trans Am racer to hit the track. He acquired a 2015 Mustang GT with the intent of turning it into a production-style racer, and SVTP had a chance to catch up with Steve and his team at a Double Majors race at Sebring International Raceway on January 16, 2016.
Racing is nothing new to Steve. He began racing dirt late models at Hagerstown Motor Speedway, but eventually transitioned to the pavement, where he road-raced in the NASA American Iron series starting in 2010. During the 2011 and 2012 season he racked up five wins and 12 podium finishes before decided to turn pro. In 2013 he raced in the SCCA’s Trans Am TA3 class, where he won three of the five races.
“…In 2012 I built the last chassis and ran that car. We did well and won races with that…” he explained. “I ran T2, which was a tube-chassis car, and I was looking at coming back to a production style car. I did have this car and I chose to cut it up and turn it into a race car.”
That’s right. This car isn’t a body in white, Steve scooped up a perfectly good new Mustang knowing it would soon become a race car.
“I bought a Track Pack with a base interior, ’cause I knew I wasn’t worried about any of the bells and whistles because I knew that I was probably going to convert it into a race car,” Steve said. “It just happened to work out that Watson Engineering—that builds the Boss Rs and Ss for the previous years—I did get them to build me the first one. There was a prototype before, but this was the first one out the door…”
Watson Racing upgraded the street Mustang with a roll cage, Optic Armor windows, a Tiger Racing hood and a G-stream spoiler. From Watson it traveled to Revolution Automotive in Baltimore, Maryland, where it received a Tremec six-speed transmission and numerous bolt-on powertrain and suspension upgrades courtesy of Adam Browne and his team.
“This is a production 2015 Performance Pack Mustang that Steve bought and drove it around, actually, on the street a little bit, did some HPDEs and some minor racing,” Adam said. “From there the car went to Watson but it is still 100-percent factory-’15 Ford ECU, and factory Ford 2015 Mustang motor. We did switch out the trans to a 6060 (six-speed manual) like the Shelby.”
You can learn more about the car from Steve and Adam and ride along for a practice lap right here…
That’s right. Steve’s Trans Am Mustang is a competitive race car running a stock engine and bolt-ons, which many onlookers find hard to believe. However, the latest Coyote engines are both potent and reliable given the proper supporting cast.
“As far as the engine parts go, everything is ‘store-bought’ stuff, so it has the Ford Performance 12-quart oil pan, Kooks long-tube headers, a JLT (cold-air) intake, and a Ford Performance Boss 302 intake,” Adam explained. “Everything as far as the engine goes is bolt-on. The valve covers have never been off of it. Pretty straight-forward with the motor so far.”
Naturally a bolt-on engine combination with a stock PCM needs some pretty careful calibration work to withstand the rigors of running flat-out on a road course lap after lap. That’s where Adam continues his work on the car by offering trackside calibration support.
“Calibrating-wise it’s getting the car fueled the way Steve likes to drive, make sure we aren’t hitting any torque limits or going into any limp modes when he’s out around the track and having anything funky happen like that,” Adam said. “So we’ve been able to work through that and it’s actually a bonus for us as this plays into all the customer calibrations that we do. We know how to make them work on the track which, in turn, makes them better for everyone on the street.”
During our time with Steve’s 2015 Trans Am racer the calibration and combination were definitely hitting the apex. In the first short race, Steve finished in second place, and in the 45-minute Sunday race he actually ran his car to the top of the podium.
You can watch him run the full race here…
Unfortunately, while his front splitter is legal for Trans Am action, it was deemed illegal for the Double Major race, so it was only a moral victory. However, it showed that Steve’s 2015 Mustang is ready to compete in Trans Am TA2 class this season.
Steve will be back at Sebring International Raceway on March 4-5 to run this car at the Trans Am season opener.
The Mod List
Block: Stock 2015 Mustang 5.0-liter aluminum
Crankshaft: Stock 2015 Mustang
Rods: Stock 2015 Mustang
Pistons: Stock 2015 Mustang
Camshafts: Stock 2015 Mustang
Cylinder Heads: Stock 2015 Mustang
Intake: FPP Boss 302 w/ stock throttle body and JLT CAI
Power Adder: None
Fuel System: 255-lph in-tank fuel pump in an ATL Fuel Cell w/ Fuel Lab filter, Aeromotive regulator and -6 braided lines
Exhaust: Kooks 1 7/8-inch long-tube headers w/ FPP X pipe, Vibrant mufflers and stock tailpipes
Transmission: Tremec TR-6060 six-speed manual w/ a McLeod Triple-Disc clutch, a GT500 shifter, a Blowfish shifter bracket and a custom aluminum driveshaft
Rearend: 8.8 IRS w/ Custom Derale Performance fluid cooler, a Torsen differential, The Driveshaft Shop halfshafts, a Torsen differential and 3.73 gears
Engine Management: Stock Tricor PCM w/ a Revolution Automotive Inc. custom tune delivered via an SCT X4 tuner
A-arms: Stock w/ Cortex spherical bearings
Struts: Cortex/Ohlins custom coilovers
Springs: Cortex/Ohlins custom coilovers
Brakes: Brembo 15-inch race
Shocks: Cortex/Ohlins custom coilovers
Springs: Cortex/Ohlins custom coilovers
Control Arms: BMR Suspensions BMR adjustable lowers w/ BMR spherical bearing and BMR vertical links
Trans Am 2015 Mustang Gallery