This is hard. You know we love you. We're big fans and hang out online with you regularly, but the Camaro5 Fest gathering is at a crossroad and you've got to decide what it is going to be. Even with less than ideal weather, the turnout for the fourth iteration of your admirably grassroots event was down by our unscientific gaze at the show field and staging lanes. We didn't run into many people who were there for the first time, either, and while loyalty is wonderful, you need fresh blood – and wheels – through the gate to thrive.
Listen, we love coming out to see the quick cars, like the RPM Transmissions 427-powered and nitrous-fed Camaro and, of course, the American Racing Headers/Farks Supercars Camaro, which ripped off some amazing ETs – including a blazing 8.56. Running at the home of the historic U.S. Nationals, at Lucas Oil Raceway, in Indianapolis, the track prep is excellent and the ETs are low, although its stickiness claimed more than a couple of rear axles. Nevertheless, there seems to be a huge disconnect between the drag racers and the car show participants, hardly any of whom found their way to the stands. If they had, they would have seen some great 8- and 9-second runs.
But here's the thing even with the drag racing: We heard plenty of grumbling about the rules and perhaps more pointedly, the lack thereof. Like, what was the deal with that fourth-gen Firebird race car? It was neither a fifth-generation, nor a Camaro. Just sayin'. There seemed to be trouble keeping the racers engaged, too. There were half a dozen entrants in the V-6 class during Friday's test session, but when it came to Saturday's eliminations, only one rolled into the staging lanes to compete. The announcer kept calling for the others – basically daring anyone to come up and prevent the sole competitor from rolling off unchallenged with the trophy – but no dice.
The autocross portion of the event, too, was interesting, entertaining – especially watching Danny Popp and Detroit Speed and Engineering's Kyle and Stacy Tucker – and a blast to participate in, but besides a few crossover drivers who also ran down the quarter-mile, there was little interaction between those enthusiasts and the others at the track.
To us, it looks like three separate events – car show, drag race and autocross – occurring simultaneously, but without much cohesion or cross-participation by attendees. So, if you don't mind the advice from a friend who's been to more events over the years than there are light bulbs along the Strip in Las Vegas, here are a few thoughts to consider before next year's event, which we understand will be held at Royal Purple Raceway, near Houston:
Hire an experienced event planner and staff. The site's moderators who have volunteered to run the event the last few years have done a tremendous job and they're great guys and gals, but they're not event planners. Spend a few bucks and hire someone who is.
Figure out what you want to do with the drag racing. We're not sure exactly what was going on there and we're pretty sure many would-be participants felt the same.
A car show in the middle of an open parking lot in the summer heat and humidity is not comfortable for very long – and there's basically no cover for the storms that have blown through the track the last couple of years.
Hey, don't get us wrong. It isn't all bad. Not at all. The vendor area is great and we saw plenty of activity there. The folks at Lingenfelter said they were moving some serious merchandise and the guys at ORACLE couldn't have been busier. We were blown away by the support from Chevrolet, too. Beyond their vehicle displays, they brought a small army of engineers and other product experts, giving us mere mortal enthusiasts direct access to the people who developed the cars in the first place. That was great and it was clear those in Detroit don't take customer enthusiasm for granted.
The move to Houston is a good idea, too, although Texas in the summer isn't exactly the cure for heat and humidity. Nevertheless, the change of venue is an excellent way to shake up the participant roster and attract those who couldn't make it to the Midwest. It's a smart move and we hope it pays off.
Believe us, we're not criticizing for the sake of bellyaching. Everybody at the Camaro5 Fest, from the moderators manning the entrance to the owners wiping down their cars, are great people and the feeling of camaraderie at the host hotel in the evenings after the track closes will go down as the stuff of legends – hazy, headache-inducing legend s– but we think you're having a good time without focus or purpose. That won't last forever. Figure out what you want Camaro5 Fest to be, and make it so. We'll be back, but we'll be watching closely. Good luck!
Your pal always,
GM High-Tech Performance