Driven To Win: Tim Dutton’s X275 Camaro Is Primed For Success

The word Competition has three distinct definitions, and each of these three accurately describes what drives New Hampshire resident Tim Dutton to pursue the win light each time he takes the tree in the X275 class.

  • the act of competing; rivalry for supremacy, a prize
  • a contest for some prize, honor, or advantage
  • the rivalry offered by a competitor

You see, Dutton’s drive comes from within; he focuses on success in all aspects of his life, and although drag racing is his vacation time away from his contracting and excavating business in New Hampshire, it is also a place where he can apply his knowledge and analytical talents to chase fame, fortune, and a spot in the winner’s circle. As he tells it, self-employment drives his entire mindset, which carries across to the racing efforts.

“The level of competition, quality cars, and attention to detail of what it takes to run competitively in this class are what lured me in,” says Dutton. “If you’re not competitive when you’re self-employed, then you’re going hungry. You tend to have a competitive spirit.”

That character trait has driven the former bracket and index racer—who has over two decades of racing experience—to focus on his racing exploits in the X275 class. Although this is the first heads-up class he’s competed in as a racer, his efforts have been largely successful. So successful that Dutton is the only turbocharged car in the class to run in the 4.20-range on a competition pass and one of only two overall. He clocked a 4.29 at No Mercy X last fall in the first round, but lost to his competitor on a holeshot. That performance is second only to Ducky Johnson’s 4.24, which also occurred at No Mercy X.

But success hasn’t come easily, nor quickly. Before jumping headfirst into the shark-infested waters of X275, Dutton worked as a crewmember for several local racing programs in the New England area to gather knowledge, filing it away in his memory banks until it was time to bring his stunning Markow Race Cars-built ‘99 Camaro to the party.

“The class has evolved so quickly from running 5.0s to 4.20s; when I started, 4.90s would get you into the field, and now if you’re not a .30 car you’re not in the field. Six-tenths of a second difference is pretty impressive,” he says.

The advancement in performance capability from the other racers in the class even pushed him to sway away from what he knew—nitrous oxide—and spurred the installation of one of Forced Inductions’ 88mm class-legal turbochargers, controlled by a Turbosmart wastegate, under the hood of the Markow Race Cars-built ’99 Camaro. The engine is a 364 cubic-inch small-block Chevy variant based around a Brodix block and cylinder heads, for a specific reason.

“I chose this combination to take advantage of the class weight breaks. I wanted to be able to run the car as light as possible. I think these cars are running too fast to be as heavy as some of the rules require based on some of the other combinations,” he explains.

Since that change, Dutton and crew chief Paul Thompson have worked tirelessly to sort out the car in X275 trim, aided especially this last season by the efforts of tuner Jamie Miller.

One area where Miller—who is not just a tuner but a fabricator and supremely talented all-around race car guy—really assisted the program was with getting the suspension lined out to work properly with the car’s combination, through the use of adjustable struts and shocks from the noted suspension experts at Menscer Motorsports.

“Neither Paul nor I are suspension experts; we needed some assistance on suspension setup, as well as help with the whole tuning part of it. Paul is an experienced tuner for high-performance street cars, but with this class being so competitive, I knew it didn’t make sense to keep pushing and wearing out parts just to learn, season after season,” says Dutton.

Additionally, the team swapped to alcohol fueling for the 2019 season and needed help with sorting out that side of the tuning equation, as it is very different from running the car on gasoline. The fuel system on the car consists of a Waterman pump, Aeromotive fuel pressure regulator, and Holley EFI 220 lb/hr injectors are the main components that ensure fuel is accurately supplied to the engine.

“We had no experience tuning alcohol, so it made sense to get Jamie on board and get all of the help we could and not wear out parts prematurely without making progress. We knew the power potential was there, so it was logic that said to get someone who knows the stuff on board with the program. Jamie is semi-local to me, as we see him regularly at our home track event, and it just made sense. It shortened our learning curve tremendously,” he says.

Coming from the nitrous program has been a steep learning curve for the TD Racing team, especially in the area of learning how to make all of the electronics work to the benefit of the program. As I’ve heard time and time again in discussions with different race teams, just because you have the right parts, doesn’t mean you’re automatically going to be fast.

Dutton concurs. “We’ve had the right parts for years, and not utilized each properly. They all have to work together, and if you have one working at a different time in the sequence compared to another, they don’t work to their full potential. Making sure the electronics are working hand-in-hand to their best potential versus using them to 50 percent of their potential and having a better understanding of how the features work, has made a large difference.”

Using items like the traction control and ride height sensors in conjunction with the engine management system to perform their intended tasks, then, at Miller’s direction, using those sensors to do things other than the obvious by working together, have helped the car to respond more effectively.

As Dutton says, data is king, especially in a class like X275 that brings out some of the best racers the world has to offer. And if there’s one piece of education his bracket racer background has given him, it’s the importance of maintaining a voluminous archive, both in the engine management datalogger software and externally, where he records all sorts of information about the conditions for each particular run. Doing so helps to provide the team with a reference point when they encounter similar conditions to those experienced in another situation. Recording all of this information sets the team up with more opportunities to succeed in a given environment. When you consider that his home base is in Northwood, New Hampshire, and his opportunities to test are greatly reduced when compared to some of the other class racers that live in more temperate climates, you realize that the strategy makes sense. Dutton estimates that with private test sessions lumped in, that the team makes somewhere around 40 test passes over the course of the season. Some racers have done that by March.

With the level of success the team had in X275 during the 2019 season, Dutton is confident that they will be able to step up the car’s performance yet again as 2020 comes into focus. He made the bold prediction that it would take 4-teens to be one of the top runners this year in X275, and believes his team will be in that conversation.

No racing effort of this magnitude would be complete without the people who make it go round. In the case of this team, all of the folks mentioned above, plus Shane Wilson, Mark Menscer of Menscer Motorsports, and engine builder Shawn Miller help to keep the program on the fine edge of performance. Also, Tim’s fiancée, Sherri, and son, Blake, are there to cheer him on as often as possible. I got to hang out with Blake during our photo shoot, and it appears that he’s going to have the drive to replace Dad in the driver’s seat someday.

Or maybe, just maybe, Tim’s competitive streak doesn’t end, even when there’s family involved. Two-car team? Why not? He’s got a couple of years to figure out the details.

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