E3 Spark Plugs Highlights the Players in Pro Mod: Steve Matusek
Nashville, TN, (May 15, 2018)…One of today’s most exciting classes in NHRA drag racing has become the Pro Mod series that is now in its first season, sponsored by E3 Spark Plugs. The 2018 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service is the only one that allows multiple makes of cars, builders and engines to compete on a level playing field. This combination is now drawing ever increasing throngs of fans to each city that Pro Mod races at NHRA. The 2018 season is shaping up again as one packed with thrills as barely hundredths-of-a-second divides the number 1 with the 16th qualifier, from entries topping 30 cars per event.
One of the Pro Mod racers is Steve Matusek, from Olathe, KS. The first time Steve got into a race car was in 1994. Steve has been exposed to racing from as early as he can remember. “I grew up at the race track always trying to help my dad. He always did everything different when he was racing; When everyone else was running a big block Chevy he was running a big block Ford, he ran a cammer back in the 60’s in a ’32 Bantam; he made his own homemade fuel injection for it. Dad raced FE Fords and then transitioned into running front engine dragsters. He ran a Chrysler Hemi in a front engine dragster in Comp Eliminator in the late 60’s and into the 70s. Then he ran a rear engine hemi dragster in Comp Eliminator. I had always been around the classes where innovation paid dividends. I had an understanding, a passion for it and I always wanted to do the same. The first car I ever drove I actually still have: it’s a 70 Maverick, with a 427 FE engine in it. I competed in NHRA super gas with that car.”
Before he was able to garner his own seat time however, Steve Matusek had to follow his college career as his European parents deemed necessary. Steve started his career as an Engineer at McDonnell Douglas in St. Louis. In 1994 Steve created and founded Aeromotive, Inc., a developer of fuel system components for performance based vehicles. “When I got the business off the ground, I decided to license the Maverick, brought the car from back home (Pittsburgh), my parents then moved to KC in the 90s, and my dad helped out working on the race car. it was a fun time.”
Matusek says he wanted to go faster, and wanted to build unique cars. He built a roadster with a shotgun Ford and ran super gas. He continued in racing by building a turbo car with a modular engine in it. Matusek says, “We gained partial sponsorship with Ford based on the what we did and the PR from the Mustang. So we built a Pro Mod car with a Ford Hemi engine that Ford created and developed for Pro Stock. Ford donated a body, an engine block and cylinder heads for the Pro Mod car and we ran that combination for 4 years. While competing the turbo Mustang, my wife Lori and I became friends with Danny and Val Rowe. We decided to combine forces and race as a team; here we are today; 5th season, and running a roots blown Camaro. I’m part of what I’d like to think is one of the most exciting classes in NHRA drag racing. 35 cars to qualify for 16 spots. Of the 35, 33 could win the race. Qualifying is a dog fight and anyone that get’s in has a chance to win the race.
The Camaro Matusek drives is a Tim McAmis-built ‘68 Camaro. The powerplant is a supercharged Brad Anderson Hemi. “We are two of the few cars in the class that still use a clutche. Most of the class now use automatics. I’m a purist and I like having to do the driving vs.simply just releasing a trans brake button. I like to drive, I like to shift,” says Matusek. He claims his top speed in the ¼ = 5.78 @ 253 MPH, and a 3.80 @ 197 MPH 1/8 mile hit.
Matusek fills his trophy room with quite a few accolades from along the way with awards such as:
* NHRA Winner - Houston 2016
* NHRA RU - Bristol 2014
* Several Semis
* World’s Fastest Modular Powered Ford Mustang (Mid 2000’s)
* Perennial Top 10 Car: Highest finish in points at 5th and finished 2017 in points at 8th.
Matusek plans to focus on the entire NHRA full series, which he sites as such a popular sanction because of the crowds, the venues, the television show dedicated to NHRA Pro Mod and the safety that is synonymous with NHRA. “Most of the Pro Mod competitors are business owners and have a day job,” says Matusek. “We want to stay safe. Pro Mod drivers have the stigma that we are crazy, but we’re really not. We are very calculating, we don’t want to hurt ourselves or any one else for that matter and we want to do this in an environment conducive to the cars we are running.”
Of all the time spent at the track, Matusek recalls his favorite personal memory as the 2006 Western Conference Finals for Jr. Dragsters, in Denver. “I had three (3) daughters running in the event,” says Matusek. “3 different age brackets, 3 different classes. 23 rounds of racing in one day! My oldest lost in the semi by .002. My middle daughter lost in ¼ finals because her engine blew in the burnout. My youngest won the race - at 12 years old! They called her “the natural.” Matusek says, “she was in a car only twice prior to the track. And she won. She got to the Semi’s 3 out of the next 4 years. Typically, if she won first round, she would often win the race. It’s something special to see your daughters have success in a venue of the same passion.”
Ask Matusek his favorite motorsports hero and he’ll tell you adamantly, Tom McEwen. “I had the opportunity to meet him years back, and he’s become a friend. I feel like he adopted me; to the extent that he called me about 3 years ago in Gainesville, about 8am the morning of the finals at the Gatornationals, which was 5am for him in California. When my cell phone rang to my surprise it was Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. Tom proceeded to give me a pep talk; what to do to get ready, on and on. Who does that!? It’s pretty cool to have a legend like him to pay attention, call me, and get me hyped up to go to the track the morning of the race.”
Matusek says they have recently tried E3 spark plugs. “We were the first car in Orlando testing to try them this year. We Made a single hit, and are working to get them on a dyno,” Other sponsors that assist Steve with his racing are LAT Oil, Hoosier Tires, VP Race Fuels, ARP and he thanks Danny Rowe Racing for their great partnership. Matusek jokes at the opportunity to mention and prove his competitive spirit, that Rowe is 3 days older than he is.
When he’s not in the race car Matusek says he’s building new fuel systems, and testing new products and features in their company dragster; a 2008 Cobra Jet (prototype #3 of the 50 serialized Ford manufactured), and still campaigns the Maverick. He says he gets to play golf once a year and he’s hoping to start working on getting his private pilot’s license. Matusek likes to learn and stay busy. He says he mostly spends his time just staying ahead of the game in his business. And likens his business mantra to that of his racing, just staying ahead of the competitors: Be innovative, do things right, do things domestically and don’t sell yourself out. We do what we do because we love the industry.”
And just for a fun fact that many may not know, Matusek shares that he likes to be light-hearted and have a good time. He chuckles when stating, “My wife says that if I’m not teasing you, or just ripping on you, I must not like you.” He says he “may seem like a fierce competitor at times, and very focused, but I just really like to have a good time.”
Steve Matusek has built a formidable career over the years and he says that everyone has a story. “My father was a freedom fighter. I found out when I was in 10th grade that my mother was Jewish. She was slated to go to a concentration camp. Then I found out she had to literally hide in an attic for safety from the concentration camp. Everyone has a unique story. And that’s theirs.
My wife sacrificed her career. She had an opportunity to be a controller at a chiropractic school after we got married and had our first child. We were both in night school. She stayed home with our children and allowed me to pursue my dream. We displaced her from her whole family in the St. Louis area, we had to leave there for KC. Where it was just her and our three daughters. She’s been by my side since day one. Everybody needs that and you have to have that support. And that’s part of her story.
Mine, I went through a very long process from college into engineering where I was frustrated with my job; I was married, had two small children, my wife was babysitting to make ends meet, on and on. And my wife said to me, “ya know what, you’re doing this work on your own anyway, why don’t you just leave and continue to do (automotive) on your own. Start your own business. I looked at her and said, that’s not a bad idea. That evening I started writing my business plan, took 2 years to get funding, headed up by Paul Henson (Sprint) in KC. I relocated form St. Louis to Kansas City and been here ever since. Aeromotive was born Aug 1st 1994 as a clean sheet of paper company.” And then on to racing.
His philosophy through all of it, Matusek relates life to driving; When you get in a car and drive you have a destination in mind. As long as you keep that destination in in sight, you can arrive there. The car may break down, there may be some detours along the way it may not turn out the way you think, and you may not get there the way you think, but if you keep your destination / goals in view and continue working at it, you’ll get there. If you can visualize it, it can happen.
Just like Steve Matusek, E3 appreciates the support from the racers/teams/participants competing in the E3 Spark Plug Pro Mod class of the NHRA and we are excited for the 2018 season. ?Rob Fisher, E3 Director of Motorsports says, “We are very thankful for everyone in the sport and everyone in the stands!”
For more information about E3 spark plugs and performance ignition products, visit www.e3sparkplugs.com. For the latest company and product news follow E3 on Facebook, Twitter, Google +, Instagram, or subscribe to E3’s You Tube Channel.
E3 is a true high-performance aftermarket manufacturer providing high-performance spark plugs and ignitions systems for drag racing, off-road, late model, street rod and muscle car, tuner, sports car, marine, lawn and garden and powersports. E3 Spark Plugs are the product of years of fundamental research in the combustion field. The unique patented electrode configuration of the new E3 spark plugs increases the amount of combustion pressure created during each power stroke of an engine, which results in a marked increase in power output, fuel economy, and reduced emissions in gasoline engines.