The Need for Speed

Written by Andrew W. Griffin in the June 2008 Issue

Sitting in his office at Utility Data Services (UDS) in Edmond, Tony Powell is watching a video on a drag-racing fan website. On the screen, a souped-up, white 2006 Mitsubishi Evolution, nicknamed an “Evo,” is at the starting line of a drag strip. Next to it is another small racing car, revving its powerful engine.

Tony smiles as his father, Tom Powell, points to Tony’s car and smiles. In the video, Tony is revving his engine as well—a finely-tuned turbo engine at that—and in seconds the two cars are racing down the strip.

In this video, Tony Powell has raced far ahead of his competitor and wins the race.

Winning, it seems, has become commonplace for the 30-year-old Edmond native. But while Tony does the driving, it’s his father, 57-year-old Tom, who is making sure his lightweight “Evo” is a consistent winner.

Tom says that he is known in racing circles as having a knack for “extracting the maximum amount of horsepower out of a car.” This came from years of racing on the streets of Tulsa and other places in Eastern Oklahoma. As for Tony, he was raised in a racing environment but didn’t take to it until recently.

In the stock-appearing class of drag-racing cars, Tony set a record of 10.61 seconds, going 130 mph down the quarter-mile (1,320 feet) drag strip. “We’re doing real well with the car,” said Tony, a graduate of Edmond North. “Out of every Mitsubishi out there, we have the fastest time in the nation.”

The engine, designed by Ohio-based Buschur Racing, also is enhanced with the Force Performance (FP) Turbos designed by McKinney, Texas-based Robert Young. Right now the father-son team are paying their own way, spending $100 in racing fuel alone for each race.

And as a result, heads are turning and looking at Team Powell and their skills – son behind the wheel and father under the hood.

“We have three major manufacturers that are looking to sponsor us,” Tom said confidently. “What we’re doing is influencing people who’ve been in NASCAR and Indy Car for 20 years.”

Tom is quick to say that they aren’t running on anything that isn’t available to everyone.

At the same time, those other racers don’t have a quick-driving Tony or a genius “tinkerer” like Tom.

The car, which looks like a fairly normal car out on the street – yes, it’s street legal – is well-known in the Edmond area and “I do most of the wrecking and all of the tuning,” Tom said.

His engine-tuning skills have caught the attention of other racers who will e-mail him asking for advice.

Tom talks about how his son had expressed interest in the Evo, so he went to Houston and purchased one. “It has incredible steering,” Tom said, then added, “Now I know why Tony wanted an Evo. I’m hooked on it now.”

This racing “addiction” takes the Powells to tracks all over the country, from Tulsa to Kansas City to Shreveport to Cleveland.

When Tony wins a race, he usually receives money or a trophy. “The money is okay,” Tony said. “What matters is the fun we’re having.” When asked why he decided to get involved with his son’s racing passion, Tom replied, “My father passed away in 2004 and it became real important to spend time with my son.”

Tom and Tony both agree that this has made them closer – they work in the same office building – and is only making them a better racing team. “The biggest thing is that we’re having fun and breaking records while we’re doing it,” Tom said.

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