8.70 @ 179.4mph
"We knew it was gonna happen. First hit it went 9.0. Next hit it went 8.90s. We pulled the logs and [Chris] Miller said, 'Dude, it'll go way faster next hit.' Next thing, the car went 8.70 at 179.4 mph-a new record. We were running 60 psi when everyone else was still at 50 [psi]. Most others who would try that would blow their shit up. I don't know, maybe we can build engines and they can't." -Alex Soto
Nobody's ever accused Alex Soto of being modest. Owning multiple show-monopolizing Hondas and, for a brief time, the world's quickest small-tire SFWD (Sport Front-Wheel Drive) import can do that to a person.
Soto's fortune on the dragstrip isn't without controversy, though. Or jabs. Following his 2000 Integra's crucial quarter-mile trip at last October's Sport Compact Fall Nationals held at Englishtown, New Jersey's Raceway Park, online forums went ablaze with accusations of an illegally sized turbo, of an owner who failed to pilot his own car. "We left [California] with a Garrett GTX 72mm turbo, but Miller, who wanted to represent his sponsor, put the Precision unit on, which was completely legal," Soto quips. "The tech department at Fall Nationals even inspected it." Soto, also known as Sheepey within the Honda community, is quick to point out the number of world-class racing organizations whose owners don't man their own cars. Not that Soto hasn't any intention of commanding his Integra on his own, which, by his account, will happen once the appropriate licenses are secured.
"It didn't sink in until I got home," Soto says of the record-making pass. "I couldn't believe it, considering the car was literally a street car." All of that makes perfect sense, especially if you believe in 1,250 whp street cars. And Jabberwocks. Street car or not, to withstand that sort of power, Soto relies on a punched-out, 2.0L B18C engine that was given the Golden Eagle treatment along with GRP aluminum rods and Arias pistons. Up top, Mission Critical Performance is responsible for the CNC-ported cylinder head in which Web camshafts, designed to Soto's specifications, sit inside of.
Transitioning from show queen keeper to race team manager was instinctive for Soto, a longtime Honda zealot whose thirst for automotive knowledge runs deep and whose disposition for the best parts money can buy knows no bounds. "The race car was done for knowledge," Soto says of his decision to walk away from the parking lots and bottles of quick detailer for the staging lanes. "I don't have that competitive blood in me. I just want fast times-at a test-and-tune, at Fall Nationals...it doesn't matter."
Once upon a time, Soto assembled a '94 Civic hatchback of similar proportions, also destined for the dragstrip. But, according to Soto, family issues led to the car's premature sale. The following year he attended a drag event at nearby Fontana Speedway, where he had his epiphany: "I was watching all these cars set up all wrong-lots of horsepower, but not being used the right way," he says. "The next day I tore the Integra apart, this time to get some times."
Take a tour of Soto's Integra and the fact that little expense was spared becomes evident. "I've always wanted to learn how to tune MoTeC, so I bought one," he says of the M880 ECU and CDI-8 ignition, a combination of which retails for the equivalent of a small home's down payment. "I don't cheap out on parts," Soto reassures. The Weldon fuel system, the Garrett GTX turbo, and the eight 2,200 cc/min Injector Dynamics fuel injectors are evidence of as much. Soto, who credits his mom for his never settling for second best, goes on to say, "I would lose sleep at night if I couldn't have the best."
Building a competitive drag car isn't just about money, though. It's also about relationships, one of which proved to be a formative one in terms of Soto stepping into the racing world. "Tony Palo played the biggest role," he says of where inspiration for the car came from. "He always laughed at me and said, 'Your cars are too clean. If you focus on racing like you do building nice cars, the drag world will be in trouble.' I'll never forget when he said that to me."
Correlations between the show car world and drag racing are few, and Soto will tell you as much: "After every hit I go over the car and take things apart. Honda didn't design these cars for this. I thought I had it hard back in the show car days, staying up until midnight buffing the car. Now, looking back at the show car stuff, I kind of laugh."
Laughing or not, Soto's lineage of Honda builds likely isn't over, and when asked about the possibility of reemerging with another show car he simply says, "I might build an all-around car, but I don't know if I'd classify it as a show car." Whatever it is, agitated forum members and a heap of controversy will be all but guaranteed.
Bolts & Washers
2.0L B18C engine
Avid Racing solid engine mounts
Sheepey Inc.-spec Web Cam camshafts
Web Cam chromoly radius rockers
Supertech +1mm valves
Supertech valve retainers
Ferrea valve keepers
Mission Critical Performance CNC-ported head
Arias 11.0:1 pistons
GRP aluminum rods
Golden Eagle Mfg. sleeves
Garrett GTX-series turbocharger
Sheepey Inc. exhaust manifold
Sheepey Inc. 4-inch up-pipe
TiAL V60 wastegate
Sheepey Inc. 3.5-inch intercooler piping
Garrett front-mount intercooler core
Skunk2 90mm throttle body
Skunk2 intake manifold
FCS Race 3-gal. fuel tank
Weldon fuel pump
Weldon fuel filter
Weldon fuel pressure regulator
2,200 cc/min Injector Dynamics fuel injectors, eight
Golden Eagle fuel rail, two
G&J Aircraft A/N fittings & steel-braided lines
MoTeC M880 ECU
MoTeC CDI-8 ignition
Honda CBR ignition coils
NGK iridium spark plugs
Rywire engine harness
Rywire aluminum radiator
Russell steel-braided cooling hoses
Sheepey Inc. oil catch can
SpeedFactory shift selector
PPG 4-speed dog box transmission
Competition Clutch triple-disc clutch
Competition Clutch flywheel
Driveshaft Shop spool
Driveshaft Shop Pro Level axles
Skunk2 Pro-C coilovers
Skunk2 18kg/mm springs
Skunk2 front camber kit
Wheels & Tires
Front: 13x10 Belak Industries, M&H 25x9.5-13
Rear: 15x4 Belak Industries, Mickey Thompson 25x4-15
OG 5150 Paint & Autobody custom paint
10-pt chromoly rollcage
Kirkey Racing seats, two
Crow Enterprizes 5-pt harness
Personal steering wheel
Sheepey Inc. custom staging brake
MoTeC Sport Dash Logger
My great wife, Elsa-without her none of this shit would be going down
Steve and Lourie at Web Cam
Dan and Melissa at Competition Clutch
Tony, Andrew, Mike at T1 Race Development
Ryan at Rywire for the baddest wiring on the planet
Golden Eagle Mfg.
Chris Miller at CMR
My Chikita, Carlos, at Korita Tire
Frank Venezia at Sheepey Inc.
The Pingas, Ricky and Cunha, at CLM Motorsports
Chris Fernandez at OG 5150 Paint & Autobody
Zach at G&J Aircraft
My lil bro, Antonio Garcia, lil sis, Vanie
All my family and my crew chief/ right-hand man, Charlie Turbos
Sheepey or Papi Chulo
Twin-turbo Lamborghini Gallardo
Inspiration For This Build
Tony Palo telling me that if I focused on racing like I did building nice cars, the drag world would be in trouble
To build a high-horsepower Nissan GT-R
By his account, Soto says that, despite the 8.70-second pass, "The car didn't have anything fancy." The chassis was nearly stock, tipping the scales nearly 300 pounds above the class-regulated limit. Since then the Integra has been enhanced with mild chassis modifications and put on a comprehensive weight-reduction plan. "After all the BS of people saying we were cheating, I decided to really make it a race car," Soto says. "We're focused on going 8.40s by the end of 2013." A lofty goal, considering Soto's 8.70 has only since been beaten by less than a 10th. "I know that sounds crazy, but with the data we've collected, I'm sure the car is capable of doing it," he reassures. "And for the people saying that I couldn't do this, well, it's only the start because I'm not going anywhere."