A Lexus is an unlikely sight in drag radial circles, but Daniel Pharris, the new owner of the Ekanoo Racing Lexus RC F, is using his unlikely ride to put numbers and win lights on the board.
“I’ve always had a thing for this car,” says Daniel Pharris. “It’s different, and I’ve always been the type to want something that’s a bit unusual. I don’t want to be that guy in the crowd with a red ’69 Camaro.”
Pharris says that his penchant for avoiding the beaten path goes all the way back to his early interest in motorsport. “I don’t come from a racing household – I’m really the only one in the family who has ever done this stuff. They all kind of look at me like I’m nuts."
Like many gearheads, Daniel’s interest in performance dates back to high school. “All my buddies had fast cars, and I felt like I needed to have one too,” he says. He eventually snatched up a big-block ’68 Chevelle, which he bracket raced regularly at Sikeston, Drag Strip in Missouri. “I live about a mile from there, so I could just drive down to the track with open headers whenever I wanted to and go race.”
When Sikeston started hosting occasional heads-up drag radial events, Pharris took notice. “It piqued my interest a bit – I thought it might be cool to build a more potent motor for the car, maybe put some nitrous on it, and see what I could do.”
So that’s exactly what he did, and he quickly caught the bug for radial racing, traveling to various events while chasing the local points series. “It was called Cheap Street – basically a small-block, nitrous, 275 drag radial format,” he notes. “I ran a ’72 Nova in that class, and that became the car that people around here kind of knew me for. We ran that for a year or two, and then I started thinking it would be cool to have a turbo car, so I bought a turn-key ’95 Mustang and started doing some X275 events.”
After campaigning the Mustang for a few years, Pharris decided he wanted to step up his game even further. “I wanted to go faster – I mean, who doesn’t? So we bought another SN-95 Mustang that we converted over to a twin turbo 481X setup, and we ran some Radial Versus the World events with that one.”
These days he campaigns a Mustang GT350 in both Pro Mod and Radial Versus the World events. “It’s not easy to make a car work for both formats, but we’ve had some success with our approach, so that’s been pretty cool.”
But his latest acquisition might be the coolest – and most unlikely – yet. A Lexus badge might be an unlikely sight in radial racing, but after you consider the coupe’s Mustang-like dimensions (as well as the factory availability of a 5.0-liter V8), it’s not much of a stretch to look at the RC F as a Japanese interpretation of a muscle car.
The RC F had already been on Daniel’s radar for some time, as Ekanoo Racing – the team who campaigned the machine originally – had established the Lexus as the quickest and fastest Super Street V8 car in the Middle East. Not only was it the first small tire car in the region to break the 3-second barrier, posting 3.92 at 202 mph, the RC F won every single race in the Super Street V8 class in the Bahrain Drag Racing Championships (BDRC) that the team competed in.
And that success continues with Pharris at the helm. “I knew I wanted to run this Limited Drag Radial class, so I planned on building a car,” he explains. “But then this RC F came up for grabs, and it was right within the rule set for the class, and I thought, ‘well here’s my chance to get going right away.’ Normally you see cars being exported from the States to the Middle East for racing, but in the case it was the other way around.”
Once the car landed stateside, the team wasted no time getting the car back into competition. “We unloaded it off the container, moved the seat back and took it to a race track,” Pharris explains. “I made the first pass with it and I was like two numbers off the world record, and we won the race with it the first weekend out.” The team went on to dominate Limited Drag Radial in the race season in 2018, taking home the championship after winning five out of the seven races that the car competed in (and taking the second place spot one in of the two races that they didn’t win).
The 3,300-pound RC F (per class rules) gets its motivation from a Pro Line Racing all-aluminum Stage 4 481X engine paired up Precision 88mm turbos, a combination good for about 3,800 horsepower. While big power and significant weight can put engine internals through the ringer, Pharris says their current setup is up to the task. “With some of the brands of pistons we’ve used in the past, we’ve seen some cracking – we run these things pretty hard because we have to, it’s a really competitive class. What we’ve seen is that playing with compression numbers is key, especially when you’re limited to certain amount of boost. I approached Wiseco because I knew they’d be willing to work with us to put something together that would perform under these circumstances. Feedback is hugely important, and I knew they’d listen to what we had to say to help further develop the design. We’re not easy on parts, but Wiseco stepped up and we’ve had really good luck with the piston so far.”
Coming off a championship-winning season, Pharris is looking to build on that success and take things a step further with the RC F. “We saw at Lights Out 10 that everyone is really starting to step up their programs,” he notes. “We’re going to focus on getting all the power we can out of this engine and fine-tuning the package to eke out every bit of efficiency that we can. The class record is a 4.09, but I think we’re going to knock that out of the park pretty soon here.”