FORT WORTH, Texas (June 27, 2019)

As 25-year-old Matt Mansker opened the door of his 1974 Chevrolet Nova, the hinges squealed with 45-year-old metal sliding against 45-year-old metal.

“I literally took every nut and bolt off the car,” he said as he climbed in. “Everything but the doors came off.”

Mansker, who calls Princeton, Texas, home, is in the honey business by day, but on Friday nights he’s a staple at Texas Motor Speedway’s Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags. These days that usually means bringing the well-worn ’74 with spots of rust, chunks of rubber on the rear quarter panels from past burnout competitions, and a homemade exhaust exit right above the front right fender.

Rebuilding a car was completely new to Mansker when he bought the car about 3-1/2 years ago.

“I didn’t know what I was getting into because I hadn’t done a lot of car building,” Mansker admitted. “I’d never done any engine work or suspension work or stuff like that.”

Step one was to replace what was left of the original engine. He considered rebuilding it, but with no experience with carbureted engines, the decision was made to move on to fuel injection, and the new power source came from an interesting place.

“This is an engine out of a Chevy 1500HD,” he said, as he lifted the hood. “It’s a six-liter, LQ4 Chevy engine (Vortec 6000), and the truck it was in was actually an AT&T service truck.”

With the Vortec engine pumping in the mid-300 horsepower range, this modern-day mechanic took to the Internet to figure out how to give his ride some extra power.

“I Googled ‘LS Turbo setups’, and there were a lot of good things I saw but nothing I could implement completely,” he said. “It’s got a Chinese GT35 turbo. Very cheap. The exhaust piping I did all myself. The wastegate and blow off valve I got online. It makes about 533 horsepower running on about nine pounds (per square inch) of boost.”

Now sporting a true ratted out hot rod, he headed off to UTI Friday Night Drags with one goal.

“I’ll line up against anybody and race anybody. Even if I know I’m gonna lose I would rather try it than just be like, ‘Oh no, I’m not gonna do it,’” Mansker said. “That’s what it is for me is just being able to get out and have fun.”

Competing in the Summit Racing Equipment Outlaw Division seemed like a curse, but for a car novice like Matt it turned out to be a blessing.

“Obviously in that class there are some pretty heavy hitters as far as drag racers go. They were almost as interested in what I would consider my junkyard, junky garage-built car as I was in theirs, and they were just so willing share information and help me out,” he said.

Even if the old girl still looks a little rough around the edges, his experiences with the ’74 Nova have proven he’s got a build to be proud of.

Mansker said, “I would rather have a car like this than a $100,000 car that I never drove or that I’m scared to drive.”

Round Two of the six-week journey starts with gates and grandstands opening at 6 p.m. Competitors can practice from 6 p.m. – 8:15 p.m. while other car lovers bring their rides for the In-N-Out Show-N-Shine car show.

Competition kicks off at 9:15 p.m.

UTI Friday Night Drags competitors must be 18-or-older to participate with the entry fee being $20 per week. All vehicles must pass pre-race inspection, and all drivers must wear an approved helmet. Helmets can be rented at Texas Motor Speedway for $10 per night.

Spectator tickets may be purchased at Gate 6 at $10 for adults and $5 for children under 12. Parking is free outside Gate 6 or $20 in the infield. Coolers are allowed in both the grandstands and the infield.

The Torchy’s Tacos located in the TMS infield will be open for each event from 6 p.m. – 11 p.m.

The 2019 Universal Technical Institute Friday Night Drags schedule is:

  • June 28
  • July 5 – Fireworks Night, Military/First Responder Night presented by Snap-On
  • July 12 – Tim Montana concert
  • July 19 – TBD
  • July 26 – Fan Appreciation Night

For more information, CLICK HERE.

About Texas Motor Speedway

Texas Motor Speedway, with a crowd capacity in excess of 190,000, is among the largest sports stadiums in the United States and features an array of amenities such as the world’s largest TV that make it one of the premier venues in the world of sports. The 1.5-mile superspeedway located in Fort Worth hosts all three NASCAR national series as well as the NTT IndyCar Series among its various races and specialty events throughout the year. Since opening in 1997, Texas Motor Speedway has generated an annual economic impact of approximately $300 million to the North Texas region. Texas Motor Speedway is owned and operated by Speedway Motorsports, Inc., a publicly traded company that is a leading marketer and promoter of motorsports entertainment in the United States. For more information, please visit