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Car Profiles

Chris Tuten Plans to Rule in Outlaw Radial!!

September 27, 2012 by Chad Houghton


This creation by Dave Zimmerman from Team Z Motorsports is Chris Tuten's vision.  Together they have created this monstrosity to take on the Outlaw Radial world.  There are a few things that have many intrigued and worried.  One is the car and owners history.  Most of the story has never been told and what has, is almost like a folk tale from long ago passed on from generation to generation.  We sat down with Chris on the day he picked up his car from Team Z and got the whole story.

The Beginning: There was no automotive upbringing or years at the track when Chris was young.  His adventures began when he was old enough to drive and just kinda found his way to the track driving his mothers Ranger.  "My older brother went to the track but would never take me.  I heard them talking about it and I have no idea why it interested me so much.  One day I just found my way there," says Chris.  There would be no watching for Chris, no walking the pits.  When he pulled up to the gate not even knowing what to expect on the other side he had them put a number on the windshield.  Unbeknownst to Chris this was the start of his racing career.  Chris recalls those days as if they happened yesterday.  "I showed up and had them put a number on the truck.  After I left the track I wiped the numbers off.  My mother didn't find out until years later when I was old enough to run from her!" Laughs Chris.  Chris did that for a while until he could afford his first car, a Malibu that he owned throughout high school.  His mom hated the idea of him racing the Malibu but then again this was long before he told her he raced the Ranger.  When asked if he had a mullet to go along with the Malibu, Chris states "We are not going to go there!", but he did say Joe Dirt came to mind.

One of the last times raced his car before the transformation, 2012 NMRA Bradenton.

On the chopping block at Team Z Motorsports.


Chris recalls those days as if they happened yesterday.  "I showed up and had them put a number on the truck.  After I left the track I wiped the numbers off the truck.  My mother didn't find out until years later when I was old enough to run from her!" Laughs Chris.  Chris did that for a while until he could afford his first car, a Malibu that he owned throughout high school.  His mom hated the idea of him racing the Malibu but then again this was long before he told her he raced the Ranger.  When asked if he had a mullet to go along with the Malibu, Chris states "We are not going to go there!", but he did say Joe Dirt came to mind.

Chris's life changed forever in 1996 when he bought his first Mustang.  Which is actually the same Mustang that he still owns and races today.  "It's the only Mustang I have ever owned!  I bought it as a 4 cylinder car and then turned it into a factory 5.0L."  Though it made a really nice driver a lot of Chris's customers were going to the track and it was only a matter of time before a nitrous kit found it's way into the hatchback, then a set of heads... The story keeps going like all of our stories in the past it just never ends and still hasn't for Chris.  With a juiced up car Chris hit the streets of Columbia for some street action.  The very first person he raced was Michael Coleman who is now his crew chief and friend.  But at the time Michael was the man to beat and it was a race to the finish!  "My crew guy Micheal is the very first person I ever raced my Mustang against we didn't even know each other back then.  He was street racing some guys and they had called and wanted me to run him that's actually how Micheal and I met."  When asked if Chris beat him, Chris says it best!  "Yeah I won, I tricked him... Yeah I won," with a smile and a laugh.

In the part of the Country where Chris lives Grudge racing is huge and that was a world where Chris had been very successful, but as time went on Chris was getting fewer and fewer races and decided to divert his efforts to another form, Heads up racing.  Chris started to go to events like Fun Ford Weekend to watch and entered in the True Street class for the first time in 98.  "We went to FFW in Commerce and raced true street.  Something like many people do now.  Just go for the very first time, have a blast doing it then from there that racing bug just bites a little deeper," says Chris.    In 1999 Chris jumped into the Renegade class at FFW a few times and admits he had no idea what he was doing.  "We didn't have a dang clue! We ran nitrous and a 5 speed. When it comes to class racing you have to follow rules and everything, we really didn't know anything about it.  It was new and of course we assumed everyone was cheating because they were so much faster than us.  We just had to learn, I mean we were just too green."

In 2000 and 2001 Chris took some time off and then in 2002 he saw that the NMRA was coming around and decided to take Micheal's drive train and put it in his car and jump into Real Street.  Chris was able to finish 10th in points even with it being his first year going and starting mid season.  When you think about it, it was a pretty good accomplishment considering the class had around 16 to 20 cars at every race.  Because they were so successful in 2002 over the winter they decided to make a full effort and made the necessary changes to the motor to run up front the next season.  The 2003 year was the first time they won a national event and had a points battle to the bitter end with Bruce Hemminger and Robbin Lawrence.  It came down to the last race in Bowling Green KY where Chris came out with the Real Street championship in his first full year racing.  Chris and Michael went one more year in Real Street to defend their title but came up short finishing 3rd or 4th that year.
In 2005 they changed the car over to run the up and coming class, Drag Radial.  The new class was a tough learning curve switching over from nitrous to a turbo but once again came down to the last race of the season where Chris came out on top as champion.  Though Chris was more turbo oriented in 2007 he did have a Procharger on the car for a short time.  "The car ran comparable to the other ProCharger cars running 8.20's when the time to beat was 8.10's.  "We were having some engine problems at the time that we did not know about" says Chris.  "We thought because we were running a 302 style engine the very small crank just wasn't strong enough and the ProCharger belt was pulling on the snout.  It wasn't until they switched back to a turbo and still tore up the motor did they realize it was something that wasn't right in the motor and not the ProCharger".

When Chris switched back to a turbo the decision was made to jump up a class and run Super Street Outlaw.  The very first race with the turbo was the 2007 Joilet race.  The car ran a 7.65 but he lost to Samuel Vincent in the first round.  "We just weren't fast enough and we knew that we had to learn the class and just climb the ladder".  In 2008 they went testing and put 347 passes on the car to get up to speed.  Chris never did win a championship in SSO.  He came close in 2011 in a fight with John Urist but finished as a Bridesmaid.  With all his accomplishments the 2011 year was Chris Tuten's!
After the 2010 Z Max race Tuten put on a 98mm turbo and went testing for the rest of the year, putting on over 150 hits in 1/8th mile.  In testing Chris felt confident he had a good combo.  Over the 2010 winter the NMRA allowed the 98mm in the class for 2011 and Chris showed up to Bradenten ready to do  battle.  Still with no 1/4 mile testing, when they called SSO to the lanes Chris was the first in line.  All on the property were waiting in anticipation to see what the 98mm turbo will do.  When Chris lit up the board, a 201.38mph came up as the announcer yelled it out on the microphone setting off a rippling affect across the raceway.  That was not the only first for Chris that season.  He was also the first to run 7.20's and the first to run in the 7.0's.  To date Chris is still the fastest Turbo car in the class running a 7.03 which could have been a 7.01 or quicker if his fuel pump belt didn't pop off.  While racers in the class are running 400 to 440ci, Chris was getting the job done with only a 302 base engine making 363ci.  Looking around the pits you could say Chris has changed the look and the pace of the class.

After the 2011 Bradenton race, racers were working harder to go faster.  Chris has never owned a set of wheelie bars and everyone else in the class has taken them off now.  Even though Chris has never won a championship in the SSO class it's the 200mph he is still quite proud of.  "In drag racing there is not  of stuff anymore that you you can say that your the first to do and breaking the 200 was just fricking awesome!  I knew it broke 200 I didn't need a time slip we hadn't ever run 200 in testing before that because we didn't get a chance to run 1/4 mile passes.  We hurt the engine 2 weeks before, we went to Valdosta Dragway to test the car in the 1/4 mile and broke on the very first pass.  We went to Bradenton never making a 1/4 mile pass not even knowing if we could go 200 and then it went 200.  I didn't need a time slip to prove it because in the car there is no mistaking running 200mph.  I got out and told the guy at the top end of the track if this car didn't go 200mph, I don't want to drive this car at 200mph.  What happens from the 1000ft to the 1320 its just indescribable you can ask anyone who has been 200 especially on a small 28/10 slick the feeling almost makes your hair stand up, its indescribable!  The car is safe and ran straight but the feeling it gives you, you just know your on edge or actually slightly tipping over the edge."  From months of testing and abuse Chris ended up breaking the turbo on that pass ending his weekend but as you can see it was all worth it!


Present: Looking to reinvent himself the main idea behind this build was to go faster but most importantly to race against a lot more cars.  The Outlaw Radial class is hot right now and to get the job done Chris has picked up an Alan Johnson 481X, billet head motor.  The turbos of choice, a set of Precision 88mm Pro Mods with the new stainless exhaust housings.  The rest of the build was left up to Dave at Team Z Motorsports.  Chris has been dealing with Dave for many years and is very happy with the way the car has been performing.  When talking to Dave about his new build, Dave agreed that the center and back of the car could handle the power but the firewall forward would need some work. Chris decided to stop running SSO after the 2012 GA race and dropped the car off at Team Z to get the updates and be ready to race a full season next year.  Dave started by chopping from the shock towers forward and tying in the front for the new power plant which also made room for the turbos to be mounted where Chris wanted them.  "Iwanted the turbos where they are now and I have my own reasons why I wanted them there.  I discussed with Dave why I wanted them where they are and he agreed.  He told me don't worry about it I'll get them where you want them and I'll make everything happen.  That's the good thing about Dave, he'snot closed minded and I was able to have some input,  but for the most part where everything is was his idea" says Chris.

You can see in this picture how Dave mounted the steering rack as well as the belly pan and blow off tubes.  Also the missing crank in the block because the engine still needed to be put back together.

Because the firewall is in the stock location Dave had to make everything fit.  The Outlaw K member was fabricated to mount the motor in the stock location.  It was also designed so you can drop the oil pan, service the bearings and on the top side still have room to pull the valve covers.  Dave also cut windows in the shock towers in order to get at the spark plugs and lastly made the headers to fit around shock towers.  The front clip is a one piece fiberglass unit that can be taken on and off by one person thanks to the way it locks in the front as well as over the bottom section of the front fenders that were left on the car.  So Chris won't have a hard time getting it around the bull horns.  Over all Chris is very happy with the way it turned out.  "The car requires more work now but with the updates it's enjoyable to work on the motor.  The way they made the front end come off and left the lower part of the fender so I don't have to fight trying to get the front end off around the bull horns.  All that was Dave's idea, I had no input.  It was just Dave's initiative and going above and beyond what I asked him to do.  From the front end to where the engine is sitting, to the bars he put up front, the way he tied stuff in, he even frenched in my floor pan for the bull horns.  When ever I did it to be quite truthful, it wasn't nice and neat and pretty at all.  Dave went back and straightened up all my hack work, it's professional now"

The plan now is to have the car ready for the "No Mercy" race this upcoming weekend.  When Chris picked up the car on Sept 15th he only had two weeks to get it ready.  At the start of the project his goal was to make it to that race.  With no engine or transmission together and still needing to be wired the boys raced back to South Carolina to finish the job they had started.  "I will be at Duck's race with this car and I will be running it even if it's just to test" Chris says.  But Chris had even a deeper goal.  To make the 32 car field and put someone out in the first round!  "We don't like everybody having to be away from their wives all weekend, we want to hurry up and get them guys back home! " laughs Chris.  A lot of Chris's friends have taken time off work and are heading down to the No Mercy race at South Georgia Motorsports Park to watch Chris head down the 1320 on it's maiden voyage.  If nothing else this weekend Chris is just happy to be out racing with the best of the best.  From there they look to just working on dropping the ET and eventually to outrun the cars in the class.  Chris also realizes that without his great sponsors he would not be able to compete at the top level and that's where they want to be for all those people who help them out.  "Our sponsors, Team Z Motorsports, Camerons Torque Convertor Services, Superior Roofing, On The Side Customs.  The muffler shop of Columbia, that's where I work!  Also to all our customers.  People don't always see them as sponsors but they are the one's who pay the bills and that helps us go racing, all those people help us out.  They all know we are going to go test our butts off because we are ultra competitive!  We are going to put that car out there in a quality manner and try and run fast, try to get up top.  We are friendly with everybody but at the same time want to load everybody up!" Chris says.

In the final words Chris tells it best "Our goal is to be the best! It may take us two years to do it but we want to be considered one of the fastest cars in that class just like we did in Real Street, Drag Radial and SSO.  We see who's up top and that's where we want to be!

<- Strapped in and ready to head home to be finished for the No Mercy race.

For more photos (click here)