Chrysler Joins ARCA: Racing Chrysler LeBarons and Setting Speed Records

The speed record

Chrysler LeBaron ARCA car

Hemland wrote about this former ARCA Chrysler LeBaron, which posted a record-setting 207 MPH average for the 90 mile run from Lund to Hiko, Nevada, in the ran at the Silver State Challenge. It's an old ARCA stock car, V8 powered. These photos were not taken on the day the car set the record, which had been a few years earlier; the owner was planning to beat his record with a Dodge Intrepid.

Nevada Open Road Challenge record setting Chrysler leBaron

The ARCA races

In 1989, Chrysler briefly returned to stock car racing, using the Chrysler LeBaron for oval track competition at Automobile Racing Club of America (ARCA) races. Jerry Churchill, an experienced ARCA racer, fielded a LeBaron whose chassis was built by Norm Negre, and whose engine was a 355 cubic inch nestled between the framerails is a 355 cubic inch "LA" engine built by Arrow Racing Engines. Putting the power to the ground is a GM Super T10 transmission, with a special bellhousing designed by Mike Powell to allow it to match the Chrysler block. Louis Duncan worked on aerodynamics, coming up with a fiberglass front end that looked like the standard LeBaron's but was more efficient. Even in its first checkout runs, the car recorded lap speeds of over 160 mph.

The engine, as it was first set up, had:

  • A bore and stroke of 4.04 x 3.46
  • Mopar Performance race block with Diamond pistons, Carillo rods, Keith Black billet crankshaft
  • Fluidampr vibration damper, Reed roller camshaft
  • W-2 (iron) or W-5 (aluminum) Mopar heads with Mopar Performance intake manifold
  • 2.08" intake, 1.60" exhaust valves
  • Modified Holley carburetor
  • Weaver three-stage dry sump pump

Mopar Performance made many oval-track parts available, including a machined block with semi-finished bores, forged camshaft, W-2 and W-5 heads, aluminum intake manifold, electronic ignition, and dry sump oil pan.

Churchill's Chrysler LeBaron was successful in ARCA, and Mopar cars remained through the 1998 season. Mopar driver Roy Payne won rookie of the year and finished in the top ten for points. Bob Keselowski's LeBaron was second in points one year. Roger Blackstock won a number of races in an Avenger. [See the rest of Mopar’s ARCA history in our Mopar in ARCA page.]

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