Here’s a great example of how a young kid was impressed by a certain race car and from then on wanted one of his own. This same kid happens to be a driver who moved up from the Junior Dragster ranks right into one of the quickest and fastest classes in Comp Eliminator. Blake Alexander has a total of nine years experience on the quarter-mile, but most of it came at the controls of a Junior Dragster.
Along the way he got a good taste of what it’s like to win, with the biggest victory coming at the hotly contested Junior Dragster East Coast Nationals. But now that he’s reached the ripe old age of 20, Blake drives one of the most challenging cars in drag racing, an A/Altered Planetary ’32 Bantam roadster, which combines blinding-fast, naturally-aspirated horsepower with a relatively short 125-inch wheelbase. To put it mildly, it’s a handful. This thing leaves the starting line in impressive fashion and continues in the same manner, all the way to the finish line, 1,320 feet away.
At the age of 11, Blake enjoyed watching Tom Snyder’s A/Altered and told his dad that’s what he’d like to drive some day. To that, Willi Alexander replied, “That’s a fast car, and it’s expensive to run. I don’t know if we can afford to go that fast.” Obviously, father and son share the same enthusiasm, and their goals have been met, thanks to some sponsorship assistance from Exide and Gates.
Once out of his Junior Dragster, Blake drove a bracket car for a few races and then moved right into an A/Altered Automatic, which had a mild combination (engine-wise) in order for them to get into the routine. His first crew chief was former Pro Stock favorite Morris Johnson Jr., who assisted the team at their first four events. Then they upped the ante with a more serious engine combination and a LencoDrive automatic transmission, which is coupled to a Coan torque converter.
That’s how Blake ended up running A/AP, which (at print time) carried a national record of 6.64/202.67. Blake is not too far behind, as his best numbers reflect a 6.75/201.75, with 60-foot numbers of .980-second. When he’s not racing, Alexander is studying at Radford University, where he’s a junior majoring in Business Management.
Their ’32 Bantam roadster was built by Mike Bos Chassis Craft in Bluff City, Tennessee. Bos is a fabricator who’s well known for producing finely tooled bracket cars, Super Comp and Top Dragsters, along with some pretty spiffy Altereds too. The aforementioned short wheelbase is stuffed with a 505-inch GM DRCE engine, assembled by Frank Cervelli at CRAP (Cervelli Racing Applied Products), which closely resembles a Pro Stock combination.
The heart of this bullet is the induction system, comprised of cylinder heads and an intake manifold crafted by Matt Bieneman, founder and driving force of MBE, located in Mooresville, North Carolina. To top things off, the pair of Dominator carbs was prepped by Warren Johnson. Blake’s father, Willi, serves as crew chief; Jeff and Dan Mealey perform engine and chassis maintenance; and Ray Alexander, Willi’s dad, handles the team manager chores. When it crosses the scales, this car weighs 1,720 pounds against the class minimum of 1,715. However, additional weight savings comes from the carbon fiber body (sans paint) from Spitzer Enterprises, which is reported to come in at a mere 4 pounds.
Looking at the drivetrain, this Bantam is outfitted with a LencoDrive automatic transmission, which is driven by a torque converter. They’re designed for up to 2,500 HP, feature a lightweight magnesium case with a billet valve body, and are said to be the shortest and lightest torque converter-driven transmissions available. In this type of chassis configuration key parts that are short and light are sure to get priority consideration. Another benefit is the variety of available gear ratios, which gives tuners more options for launch and/or building wheel speed early in the run.
The 2009 season saw the Alexander clan entering six divisional events and five nationals. Blake noted, “Our biggest challenges this year were adjusting to the additional horsepower provided by Frank Cervelli and finding the consistency we needed. We went to the third round at Norwalk. Sometimes this car runs smooth, and other times it seems to have a mind of its own. We’re really close to managing the power and finding the sweet spot more regularly.” With an estimated 1,300 HP, it’s no wonder the performance can be erratic. A car like Robert Bailey’s A/Econo Dragster (see DR May ‘09) can make it easier to harness a Pro Stock-type power combination, as the longer chassis becomes the equalizer. But that’s why we like Comp Eliminator: the variety of cars and powertrains makes it the most interesting category in drag racing.
So, for you Junior Dragster racers out there, hang onto your dream no matter which class attracts your attention. Blake Alexander is a young man who held onto his dreams and also made them happen. Of course, his studies do not take a back seat to his racing schedule, so keep that in mind too. First things first, but an old Prell shampoo commercial said it best, “You don’t get a second chance to make a first impression.”
By Randy Fish