So just how did Artis Houston come up? Well, his dad Ralph helped. So did cuzzin Spud. This dedicated family circle showed him the good stuff when he was ripe for it, and he sucked all the syrup up, his tongue wagging for more. They helped him join his physical with his mental and he came away solid in his conviction. As they knew he would. The sights and sounds glued him to it. One day he'd have a race car, of that he was certain.

Artis: "When I was about 3, my father would pile the family in his Charger and we'd head for the street races. I remember being so pumped up by the noise, big tires, hood scoops, and of course the ranting on about who had the fastest car. Later, dad took me to the Winternationals and once I got a taste of Pro Stock drag racing, I was officially hooked. I think I was 8 when I attended my first (organized) drag race and then realized that somehow I would be racing."My father introduced me to racing, but my cousin Tommy "Spud" Houston was the first to let me feel some horsepower. We were at the street races and nothing was really going on. He looked at me and asked if I wanted to drive! This was a street-driven Malibu that ran 11s and I was 17 years old. I figured he wanted me to take it easy, but when a nice straightaway appeared and he told me to punch it, that's when I knew I'd never become a drug addict. I'd already achieved my greatest high."

Here's another solid case for the influence of environment on the developmental path of a youth. His kin, mostly for budgetary reasons, gravitated to race cars with sheetmetal identity, doorslammer cats that raced what they had previously driven out to those clandestine gatherings. When it became Artis' turn, he knew he could find thrills as well as satisfaction celebrating the same vehicle type.

He found his niche in the Pacific Street Car Association Wild Street class, one that specifies radial racing tires, much like those early examples he'd run on the street. Though the recent emergence of the Mickey Thompson radial DOT slick made that choice a lot easier, it was a tremendous challenge to make an essentially stock-configuration suspension system (as per the rules) hook up and maintain traction as well as stability at speeds beyond 165 mph.

Though the rear suspension components are designed and engineered for racing, they mimic the stock stuff to the end. No dedicated drag race stuff allowed. Artis' Nova has leaf springs, tube shocks mounted in a conventional manner, and a modern variation of a traction device that's been in use for 50 years or more. Nothing exotic here; it's a system of components that all work in concert, thanks solely to chassis extraordinare Phil Mandella. The other half of the equation comes from a masterful combination of sidewall construction and rubber compound found in the M/T 275/60x15 drag radials, combined with staged nitrous hits. This way, the Nova exits the gate on nuts to keep from blowing the tires off, and shortly after the 60-foot mark the first stage of juice takes over. And so on.

Look at the car. Sleeper personified. OK, the 'cage gives it away, but otherwise, no loud paint, those small tires, CalTracs bars, and flat hood make this devilish Nova seem anything but a low-8-second hellion. At this writing, Artis holds the PSCA Wild Street record at 8.395 seconds. He aims to drop that into the high-7s with a new combo, a 598-inch motor that our Henry D. was going to use in a radial-tire racer of his own. After a 30-second review of his budgetary status, Henry's good sense prevailed. He can do his car later, but this big-inch bullet is ready to go now. With Artis in the picture it's instant racer and what amounts to a CHP project car of a completely different stripe. Imagine the stories it will tell.

Artis won't have to work two jobs now, and he'll be able to spend more time with his young family. His car's chassis and driveline are already overqualified for the task, so he just needs to slip the 598 in place and get racin'. We're not suggesting that you do anything of the sort. That 15-to-1 compression ratio, badass camshaft, and 4,500-stall converter notwithstanding, Artis has launched his registered and licensed Nova on more than one fact-finding tour of the neighborhood, perhaps even scorching the tarmac a time or two. What you can glean from his experience is a suspension setup that will work just as well on the street as it does on the quarter-mile. That, and the way to dress out the sleeper properly.