Kenny Hubbard has gone through more nitrous bottles than most racers will use in a lifetime. In that process, he's learned a thing or two, won some races, and set some records. We go under the hood of Hubbard's Nova to talk shop, horsepower, and drag racing.
“It goes all the way back to high school,” Kenny Hubbard says regarding his interest in drag racing.“My dad and I put together a pretty basic street car – a ’77 El Camino. It wasn’t anything special really, at that point I didn’t know much about how to tune a car. I didn’t even know how to adjust the valves or put a jet in a carburetor bowl!” Motivated by a 355ci small-block, Hubbard recalls they had a personal best e.t. in the car of 8.20 in the eighth mile. “All motor, it wasn’t too shabby,” he recalls.
That El Camino would prove to be the start of a long career in drag racing, one which has seen Hubbard become the first racer to reach the 4.20s on drag radials, a milestone he reached back in 2012. Hubbard has also proven to be a force to be reckoned with in X275 and Outlaw 632 racing, taking runner-up podium spots in both classes at last year’s Lights Out 8 event.
“We also set the nitrous record at that event too, with a 4.377 in the semis,” he says. “That was a big deal for us, it was our first pass in the 4.30s, and that nitrous record has held for over a year and a half now. We’ve learned to make the car user-friendly and easy to work on – we know we’re going to have to work on it, there’s no doubt about that. To be in the front that’s what you’ve got to do – you can’t just sit back, put on cruise control, and expect be on top. I can promise you that.”
We recently sat down with Hubbard to get the skinny on his career in motorsport, the cars he’s campaigned over the years, and what he’s got planned for the future.
Moving Up The Ranks
“After I graduated I got a ’91 Chevrolet truck – that was my first real experience with nitrous, a little throttle body deal,” Hubbard says. “I can remember putting probably 5000 miles on it on the street and going through multiple bottles before I finally toasted a piston. I thought that was just the end of the world! Took me about three months to come up with the money to get it sorted, so it sat in the garage for a while.”
After running that truck for a while, Hubbard moved on to a back half chassis. “A buddy of mine had a Grand Prix that I bought from him for like $500,” he explains. “So I stuck a little 350 in there with a 250-shot of nitrous. That thing didn’t last more than a month or two before I killed that motor too. But after a while I saved up enough money to take it to the chassis shop and have it back halved. Nothing fancy – the whole build was probably around $3500. By then it had a big block in it and it ran around 6.30 on motor and 5.60s with spray.”
After spending some time in Outlaw 10.5 with a blown Monte Carlo in the early 2000s, Hubbard got his hands on the ’74 Nova he currently campaigns. “It belonged to another friend of mine,” he says. “He said, “I want you to keep my car and tune it for me.” After a while I told him, “Hey, I really need to buy this car from you.” He told me to keep it! But I also do AC work, so I got to help him out with his house eventually and return the favor.”
Hubbard says that although he still runs in Outlaw 632, X275 class racing is his primary focus these days. “Other people talk about racing the Street Outlaw guys, doing No Prep – I don’t change that car up for anything,” he explains.
The Nova gets motivation from a 588ci power plant prepared by Naiser Racing. Internals include a forged crankshaft, Wiseco pistons, a Comp Cams camshaft, Victory valves, and Dart cylinder heads. Davinci Performance supplies the carburetor and Nitrous Outlet provides the spray, the latter of which is handled by an AMS 2000 controller. Power is sent to the rear wheels through a Mark Micke gearbox. “We go back and forth between a two-speed and a three-speed lockup,” Hubbard notes.
“We’ve got a new sponsor this year, Evolution Race Development, and two new motors in the works right now. One is going to be a raised cam kind of deal, so we’re going to try some top secret stuff there, and the other one is going to be similar to what we’re running now, but we’re going to try some different cylinder heads, camshaft designs, and other tweaks to see what kind of power we can get out of it.”
But regardless of how the car changes, X275 racing will continue to be Hubbard’s stomping ground for the foreseeable future. “I used to run Radial Versus the World with a blower car, and truthfully I just couldn’t afford it,” he says. “Without all the help I have now I couldn’t do X275 either. It’s definitely a team effort to make it all happen. I think no matter how well you might be doing, it’s important to remember where you come from.”