Drag Illustrated Issue 180, January / February 2023 | Page 42


performs anything but stock , clocking 8.50s at 157 mph in the quarter mile , with plans to take it into the 8.40s soon . The car consistently runs 5.40s in the eighth mile at around 126 mph .
Over the years , the car has been stripped of anything that wasn ’ t necessary , now weighing in at just 2,500 pounds with driver . The Mustang is motivated by a 429 small-block Ford powerplant built by Jim Stugart . Charcalla uses a Ram Pro Billet 10-inch clutch and a Leonard Long G- Force clutchless 5-speed , which transfers the power to the Mickey Thompson slicks mounted on Champion wheels .
“ Leonard Long and the whole crew are top-notch people ,” Charcalla said of his transmission builder . “ I ’ ve ran every transmission he ’ s made in the Mustang . That latest GF2000 shifts like butter , and it ’ s maintenance-free for me .”
The car was back-halved a few years ago to accommodate larger tires . “ I ’ m on a two-year plan with tires , though . I ’ m a poor racer – I gotta make ‘ em last two years !” he laughs .
After all these years , the desire to go faster still gnaws at him , but then reality sets in . “ I have to remind myself that the chassis is probably at its limit without putting a different cage in the car ,” Charcalla admits . “ We built this thing ourselves in our garage using mail-order tubing and a Harbor Freight tubing bender !”
Mark ’ s dad , Mark Charcalla Sr ., and his uncle Andrew are also drag racers who ’ ve been converted to the stick-shift movement . “ My dad owned a dragster at one time , but he sold it and the following week drove to Virginia and bought a Ford Falcon that we put a stick in ,” says the younger Charcalla . “ Then my uncle Andrew made a pass in one of Leonard Long ’ s cars , and after that he was hooked , so a stick then went into his Mustang .”
All in total , seven members of the Charcalla family race in some form or fashion , including
Mark ’ s son , Landon , who races a Honda Grom at Beaver Springs .
The Charcallas are also regulars on the Pro Stick tour , a stick-shift organization that schedules 12-14 events a year at venues such as Beaver Springs , Maryland International Raceway , and Keystone Raceway , to name a few . Mark won the Pro Stick championship in 2012 and placed runner-up in 2021 .
“ Last year was a great year of racing in Pro Stick ,” he says . “ The championship came down to the last race at MIR , and there were probably five different drivers that could have won it . My dad and uncle and myself all placed in the top six in points .”
That brings us to his most celebrated win ever : the Stick Shift Nationals , held at North Carolina ’ s Farmington Dragway each June . The race is famous for a couple reasons , namely its free-entry format and three separate events to cash in big , including Saturday ’ s main event that pays $ 10,000 .
Charcalla had a particularly good outing during the most recent running , scoring a runner-up finish in the Friday night gamblers race , then going the distance in Saturday ’ s main event thriller to collect the 10-grand payday . “ For our kind of racing , there ’ s just nothing that compares to that event ,” Charcalla says , “ and I still have strangers coming up to me at the track and congratulating me for winning that race !”
Charcalla , who turns 40 his next birthday , has had quite a history with his beloved Mustang , including driving it to high school , making his first pass ever down a dragstrip in the car , and eventually winning the richest event and largest gathering of stick cars in the nation .
Other than making some passes in his dad ’ s Falcon , his 1990 Mustang is the only car he ’ s ever raced ... and that ’ s just fine by him . “ I can see myself drag racing forever , and I ’ ll also have this car forever ,” Charcalla says . “ Even if the stick-shift scene fizzled out , as long as I can get parts , this car will always have a stick in it !” DI
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