Following 2010’s overwhelming car count in Georgia, there was plenty of speculation and doubt as to whether Camaro5 could draw the same numbers to a Southwest event. But on April 14-17, 2011, all doubt was cast aside as nearly 1,000 Chevy enthusiasts flocked to Firebird International Raceway just outside of Phoenix. Firebird’s spectacularly complete facility houses a quarter-mile track and three separate racecourses (not including Bondurant’s course) as well as acres and acres of extra space for drifting and autocross. There’s even a course for racing boats! While the Camaros stayed on dry land for most of the weekend, everybody got down and dirty in some way, shape or form of motorsport.
For some, the highlight of the weekend could easily have been the road-racing sessions on Friday. The folks at Pfadt Race Engineering sponsored a High Performance Driver’s Education (HPDE) day, enlisting the help of Pro AutoSports, on the West Test Track. Rookies and veterans alike flocked to the 1.1-mile, 11-turn course, which is quite tight until the 3/8-mile straightaway. During the event, hot laps with a Bondurant School instructor were also available. “I ran the track event and had an outstanding time,” said Jordan Priestley, no relation to Jason. “I was also an instructor and it was great hanging out with a Camaro enthusiast like myself. I’m looking forward to next year’s event.”
For others, the action was on the infield where an autocross course was set up on Friday and Saturday. Seeing the Hankook drift car getting sideways on many of the exits was quite a thrill. Meanwhile, those that like to stay in a straight line took to the dragstrip in droves. Jason Simpson, Chris Harrell and David Herrmann were some of the heroes on the weekend in their respective classes (sponsored by American Racing Headers). But our personal favorite was Steve Leerentveld, who drove all the way from Ohio and ran a mid-11 on street tires!
With an event this large, though, there are bound to be a few surprises and special treats you won’t see at just any track event. Seeing and hearing the 2012 Camaro ZL1 as well as its creators would definitely qualify. But how about a wedding? That’s right, Lisa Willhelm and Thomas Hendrix tied the knot on Friday, April 15, 2011, at 11:30 a.m. at Firebird International Raceway. The lucky couple got a full Pedders suspension as a wedding present (installed by National Speed), and donations to the St. Jude Children’s Hospital were collected in their honor. Hopefully, the Camaro5 Fest will continue to bring people together for years to come. Good luck, Lisa and Thomas!