615 cid Big Block Chevy Nitrous Engine - Engine Builder Magazine

615 cid Big Block Chevy Nitrous Engine

It's no secret that turbochargers dominate the power adders seen in drag-and-drive events, and to a lesser degree, superchargers. However, very few competitors resort to nitrous. Graham Hayes is one of those nitrous believers, and his Buck Racing Engines-built 615 cid big block Chevy engine put on a strong performance all five days of Sick Week 2023. Check it out.

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After five full days of drag racing and driving across Florida for Sick Week 2023, we had made it back to Orlando Speedworld for the final day of competition. It was there that we got a chance to chat with Graham Hayes about his 1966 Chevy Nova and its 615 cubic inch big block Chevy nitrous engine built by Buck Racing Engines. Graham was competing in the Pro Street class, and it was refreshing to see something other than turbochargers helping power his big block.

1966 Chevy Nova

“We bought the car five years ago to do Drag Week and just run a big tire nitrous car,” Hayes told us about the Nova. “Everybody is running turbo, turbo, turbo. We really felt like a big block nitrous car could run a good number easily. Buck Racing Engines was the obvious choice. Charlie [Buck Jr.] takes care of all our engines and he built us a 615 tall deck, big block with traditional heads and two kits of nitrous.”

Graham said the car was built as simply as possible, so that fewer things could go wrong. This was his first time competing in Sick Week, but he had done other drag and drive events in the past. The big block Chevy features a belt-driven water pump and alternator, and that’s the only thing on the front of the engine. Graham also runs a Turbo400 lockup by Mark Mickey and a traditional 9” rear end. According to Hayes, the car has been 4.80s in the eighth and 7.80s in the quarter, evening while weighing 3,400 lbs.

615 cid big block Chevy featuring two kits of nitrous

“We just like try to keep it simple and prove that nitrous is still a viable way to do this and run good numbers,” Hayes says. “It’s not turbos and EFI. We’re keeping it old school. We run a Holley Stealth Dominator, which is built for the upper end. We also have GRP aluminum rods. Buck Racing Engines spec’d the whole engine. He definitely set us up with a good piece. I don’t know much of what’s in it because we don’t break much.

“The crank has been in it for five years and never had an issue. The camshaft has been in it for five years, and we put some pistons in it and rods in it every 50 runs or so. She’s happy and we’re happy with it.”

On the street, Hayes says the car was getting about 8.5 mpg pulling a trailer that weighs almost 1,000 lbs., so he was as happy as he could be with the street performance. Out on the track, the Nova and its big block Chevy were also performing well.

“During Sick Week, we went 7.90 the second day,” he says. “We ran 8.10s and 8.20s the rest of the week. We’ve had one-and-dones every day trying to get on the road to beat traffic. We’ve really been happy. We’ve had a good dinner every night and besides one alternator bolt breaking, she’s been happy and riding right along.”

Graham’s two kits of nitrous are direct port, and feature a 28 and a 32 jet worth 300-350 horsepower on each kit, and he says he was running them pretty close to full.

“We’re trying to get some better 60 foots,” he says. “She’s been a 1.14 before, so we’re trying to get back there this week. The track prep is phenomenal for the radials. Usually, on the drag and drives, you’re babying them, but Tom Bailey definitely got this one hooked up and ready to go. Yesterday, we had a pretty good wheel stand and had to set it down after the 60-foot. On this final day, we’re ready with some suspension changes and we’re going to see if we can’t keep all four wheels on the ground this time.”

Hayes told us the engine makes 1,140 horsepower to the crank without nitrous. He estimates that the big block makes 870 horsepower to the wheels on just the engine at 6,100 rpm.

“It definitely puts down some ponies,” Hayes admits. “It’s a monster. On the last day, hopefully we’re going to make a safe pass and then we’re going to come back and turn the lockup on and really put the beans to it, and if she’ll take it, we’re going to hang the rods out of it.”

Over the five days, Graham handed in ETs of 8.27 at 166 mph, 7.97 at 167 mph, 8.13 at 164 mph, 8.20 at 170 mph, and 8.10 at 172 mph for an average of 8.14 at 168 mph – good enough for a second-place finish in the Pro Street class.

Engine of the Week is sponsored by PennGrade1Elring – Das Original and NPW Companies. If you have an engine you’d like to highlight in this series, please email Engine Builder Editor Greg Jones at [email protected].

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