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K&N Built Mustang Driven To Victory By Ryan Walton in NASA American Iron West

The Mustang was stored for two seasons before given the good ahead to race in 2017

Originally intended to showcase fuel efficiency it was decide to build the Mustang as a race car

The 2014 Ford Mustang built from a bare shell inside the shops of K&N Engineering and piloted by veteran driver Ryan Walton captured the 2017 National Auto Sport Association (NASA) American Iron Western States Championship. While it may seem like a straightforward path to victory for a company with the engineering and fabrication capabilities of K&N, but the route from the delivery of the body-in-white Mustang to the checkered flag has been an unconventional one.

For starters, the Mustang was not initially intended to be a race car at all. The original plan was to install an EcoBoost engine tuned to run on E85, keep the car as light as possible, and have a celebrity drive the car from K&N HQ in Riverside, California to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, Nevada. But the challenges were insurmountable, according to K&N R&D Manager Dave Martis.

After a year gathering dust, Martis convinced senior management to allow him and his team to build the Mustang into a road racer. Martis spent the next few months collecting all the needed parts, some donated, some purchased. All fabrication and installation work was accomplished by the R&D team. The only work done outside the building was the paint.

Every nut, bolt, and screw needed to be sourced as well as all the major parts

Delivered in a digusting-looking color of undercoat, the Mustang was truly just a bare shell

While the American Iron rules are strict regarding the modification of the car and the replacement of stock parts, they do allow for a 5.0 Ford Coyote motor, and the R&D department developed a custom intake that utilizes a Dodge Viper K&N 33-2058 air filter. The entire upper grille has been converted into the car's air intake while the lower grille feeds the radiator.

Power runs through a Tremec Magnum XL six-speed gearbox and a custom Curry rear housing hung with Cortex linkages. At the front, the stock strut setup was replaced by a Cortex double A-arm set-up. Shocks are from JRi wrapped by Eibach springs. Brakes are Baer monoblocks with Hawk pads. Other K&N components include a K&N HP-1018 oil filter and K&N 81-1001 and 81-1003 fuel filters.

In the 2014 season, Walton nearly won the Western States American Iron title in the K&N Mustang, save for a single missed shift that dropped him to second. Walton earned the ride earlier in the season after he’d blown the engine in his own car and was asked by Martis to sub for him on Sunday. When Walton was fastest in Sunday morning practice, Martis, nursing a bad back, decided K&N would be better off with the experienced American Iron racer driving the company’s Mustang.

In additon to the K&N Mustang, Walton races his own Fox body Mustang in AI

With 15 years of road racing experience Ryan Walton brought K&N the American Iron title

With the arrival of 2017, Ryan Walton signed on as driver. After a season full of racing, it was proof of all the work by Dave Martis and his team and the driving of Ryan Walton came down to one weekend in October at the 3.0-mile configuration of Thunderhill Raceway Park. At stake was the 2017 NASA Western Series Championships, presented by Toyo Tires.

If you believe in omens, consider that problems started before Walton even arrived at the track, blowing a trailer tire on the tow to Thunderhill. In practice earlier the week prior to the Championships, the car wasn’t working the way that Walton wanted and his results reflected that. Methodically, the K&N team worked to adjust the car to improve its handling through the sections of the course that were causing Walton to lose the most time.

Still, while Walton felt the Mustang had been greatly improved, he wasn’t sure it had what it would take to win. “We struggled the whole week,” Walton said about the qualifying races. “I tore a splitter off twice, went off the track a bunch of times. I finished second to Corey Weber in both qualifying races. I thought we had a second-place car and driver after that.”

The intake is a design that will influence future K&N cold air intake systems

Wrapped like a NASA satellite this unique K&N intake helps power a NASA rocketship

Things started to look up on the day of the race. “We made some setup changes to the car the morning of the main race that made a big difference,” Walton added.

Then finally fortune smiled on Walton. “Before our race, a car went off track and caught the grass on fire. It delayed our race three hours” he said. A long delay can sometimes unsettle a driver, but not Walton. “In the race, I got into the lead and got through traffic really well and held on to the lead till the end. There were competitors quicker than us but at the end, we got it together when it counted,” Walton said proudly. “I won my first national championship after racing for 15 years,” he added excitedly.

Congratulations to Ryan Walton, Dave Martis, and the entire K&N Engineering racing team for your 2017 NASA win.


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