V-8 engines wailed and tires smoked all weekend long at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, Kentucky, for this year’s Holley LS Fest East. Between the drag racing and autocross by day and the burnout competition and drifting by night, there wasn’t a moment of silence from September 8-10, 2017, and that’s just how we like it. What we liked even more was that every other car seemed to be a Corvette.
Our favorite Chevrolet model made its presence known by throwing down in every aspect of the event. In the autocross world, Corvettes have become more and more prevalent—and there’s a good reason for that. With their fiberglass bodies and low center of gravity they are a great platform for building a machine that can absolutely dominate on an autocross course or a road course. If you think about it, anything you would do to a Camaro or Chevelle—such as chassis work or engine upgrades—you can do to a Corvette with even better results. Exhibit A was the Chevy High Performance High Noon Shootout on the first day of the LS Fest East. The top eight quickest cars of the morning session at the Beech Bend course were chosen to compete in the competition and, wouldn’t you know it, six of the eight were Corvettes. Not surprising is that Vettes took the first, second and third spots on the podium.
The action continued out on the dragstrip at Beech Bend Raceway. Cars were running nonstop all weekend long, so we had plenty of time to snag a few photos of Vettes making their way down the historic strip. Late-model Corvettes seemed to be the vehicle of choice to run the quarter-mile, with an abundance of C5, C6 and C7 Vettes. Some were stockers, some sported choice drag racing modifications such as upgraded powerplants and tires, and one competitor went so far as to remove 90 percent of his C5’s body and in its place installed a full exo-cage. As it turned out, that guy was YouTube phenomenon Garrett Mitchell—better known as Cleetus McFarland by his loyal following. Every time he ran his crazy Corvette with its twin-turbos hanging out of the would-be engine bay, the fences were packed full of spectators trying to capture a cell phone video of the star charging down the quarter-mile.
You could never really escape the ruckus—and we mean that in the best possible way—of all the drag racing and autocross, but there were other attractions, too. On the northern side of the strip were vendors galore where you could stroll up and down the rows of sponsors and check out their specialty products and cars on display. After making our rounds, we made sure to stop by the Holley trailer, say hi and grab a T-shirt or two.
On the other side of the strip was the Show-N-Shine where hundreds of LS- and LT-powered cars—new and old—sat waiting to steal your attention. There might have been a few nice Camaros and LS-swapped pickups, but we kept our cameras pointed at the Corvettes. Like the dragstrip, we saw mostly late-model Vettes in the show section, with the only difference being a lack of rubber clouding the shine on their quarter-panels.
We mentioned earlier that everywhere we looked we saw a Corvette. Well, that rang true even on the one-car-at-a-time dyno because the couple of times we passed by there was a Vette strapped down. Then come Saturday evening it was time for the burnout competition where they pulled off all the cones from the autocross and gave the competitors free rein to do whatever they wanted in the huge lot. They introduced the competitors one by one and we started to get a little nervous. Was this the one event (besides the drifting competition, which was comprised almost entirely of LS-swapped Nissans) where Corvettes would be silent? But to our delight, one lone Vette pulled up and boy did he put on a show.
Sunday was more of the same action-packed drag racing and autocross along with the leisurely Show-N-Shine. We were pooped and ready to go home. But then all of a sudden we were back in the office that next week wishing we could do it all over again. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a sign of a good show. Until next year, LS Fest East.
With 650 supercharged horses under the hood, C7 Corvette Z06s are a good option when your goal is to turn your tires into smoke and click off a lightning fast quarter-mile pass straight from the factory.
As a full-time sponsor of Beech Bend Raceway, Holley always gets a nice photo-op or two every morning when we are shooting photos out on the autocross course.
This should give you a good chance to daydream about which color C7 Stingray you’d take home if you had the cash.
Whatever was under that huge cowl on this C6 was enough to help it execute a textbook paper-slipper when the light turned green.
These Corvette Grand Sport re-creations have some serious aero and, based on the number of “Autocross Winner” stickers on his windshield, this owner seems to have taken advantage of it.
There were so many Corvettes running the autocross all weekend we didn’t even have to try to grab a shot in the pits with three different Vettes in one picture.
If you thought the C7 Z06 was right at home on the dragstrip, the C7 Grand Sport is even more at home on the autocross. Its naturally aspirated LT1 makes plenty of power and add that to all the aero and suspension wizardry derived from the Z06 and the Grand Sport is the perfect cone-dodging machine.
This is just a glimpse of the enormous crowds that flooded LS Fest this year. If you decided to come to the event anytime from about 10 a.m. through the afternoon on Saturday, you would be joining the hundreds of others sitting in an hour-plus of traffic just to get through the gates.
Here’s a look at the Dyno Challenge that was going on all weekend. It might not look too exciting from here, but standing right next to a bunch of LS- and LT-powered cars screaming up to their rev-limiters was quite the treat.
Just when you really get moving on the autocross, the course tosses a few curveballs like this hairy hairpin.
Like most twins, you could swear they look the same until you stare a little too long—oops—and finally realize they do have their subtle differences.
C6 Z06s were practically a dime a dozen, so it was nice to see something special like this ZR1. Will we see a couple of late-model ZR1s at future LS Fests? We hope so.
This is the YouTube star Cleetus McFarland’s C5 Corvette—not that it looks much like a C5 Corvette anymore. What it lacks in “Corvetteness” it makes up for in wow factor.
Our buddies over at Detroit Speed, Inc. wanted to prove that you could make a C3 kick butt on an autocross so they threw their catalog at this one. What parts they didn’t have to fit a C3, they made and now sell so you can build one, too.
Photos and Video by Taylor Kempkes