Heading into Bowling Green, Kentucky’s Beech Bend Raceway I was wondering if my eighth trip to the Holley LS Fest would be just as fun and exciting as the seventh, or any of the previous Fests for that matter. I mean, the energy of an event has to level off at some point going into its eighth year, right? Wrong. Holley’s 2017 celebration of everything LS, now referred to as LS Fest East (due to Holley throwing in the LS Fest West, which goes down in May at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway), was bigger and better in every aspect over all previous gatherings. There were more spectators, more participants, and the car show area was as full as I’ve ever seen it. The Dyno Challenge was constantly buzzing all weekend. Even if you wanted an event T-shirt you had to stand in line awhile, but it, too, was well worth the wait. What you didn’t have to wait long for was competing in your LS-powered hot rod. With two autocross courses operating simultaneously (one at Beech Bend and one at the National Corvette Museum), participants got plenty of runs in throughout the weekend.
The Grand Champion portion (autocross, 3S Challenge, and drag racing) of the 2017 event was sold out in record time so those wanting to have a shot at the big trophy had to sign up soon after the registration opened up online. Procrastinators were relegated to a wait list so you definitely couldn’t snooze if you wanted to take part at the 2017 Holley LS Fest East.
Holley’s massive LS bash consisted of some amazing drag racing, with the headliners being the late-model COPO Camaros competing in the Lingenfelter COPO Battle at the Green. This class racing took place in front of completely full grandstands in which the fans were treated to some awesome wheels-up drag racing action that didn’t disappoint. The final round saw 2014 COPO Camaro pilot Emily Volkman take out Parma, Ohio’s Brian Palcisko, also in a 2014 model COPO.
Other drag classes included Drag Radial, Wiseco Performance Products Real Street, Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center Chevrolet Performance Stock, Cam Motion True Street, Three Pedals Rumble, SAM-Tech Street King, and Frankenstein Engine Dynamics Late-Model Heads Up. The Roto-Fab Grudge Test-N-Tune didn’t carry a payout or an official winner as it was designed for those just wanting to get in some fun runs or those looking to line up against their buddies to show each other what’s up. There was an unofficial callout to those running manual cars to step up their shifting skills, too. The top prize: Bragging rights.
The Dyno Challenge saw impressive numbers in the Power Adder class where Jessie Coulter spun the rollers to a pull of 1,277.54 hp in his C5 Corvette. Kasey Artmayer, in the naturally aspirated class, busted out a 640.76hp pull in his C6 Vette.
The Show-N-Shine featured hundreds of high-quality LS-powered rides from all over the country, but it was the gorgeous 1955 Chevy Bel Air belonging to Ben Coffman that took home the Chevy High Performance Best of Show award at noon on Sunday.
New for 2017 is the Brian Tooley Racing/Car Craft Bolt-on Power Challenge where two teams take their own LS-powered cars to see who can get the largest percentage gain by using their choice of six different camshafts from Brian Tooley Racing, cathedral port heads from AFR, and their choice of intakes, throttle bodies, and other components from Holley and MSD. It was up to the teams to choose the right parts to get the largest power increase.
Another new event added for 2017 was the Hoonigan Burnout Challenge. This was not your typical static burnout contest. In true Holley fashion, a large section inside the Beech Bend (The Bullring) oval track was utilized to see who could manufacture the biggest clouds via donuts, drifting, or whatever means they saw fit to torture a pair of tires. Needless to say, the packed house was treated to a killer smoke show.
And in a similar spirit of annihilating rubber, the Drifting Challenge had the capacity crowd on their feet once they took to the Beech Bend Bullring to display their slideways mayhem as they flirted to within inches of the walls, and each other, in a high-speed drifting show.
There was also a Road Course Challenge, which took place at the NCM Motorsports Park where those looking to tighten up their driving skills competed in run groups (novice, intermediate, and expert) designed to accommodate each competitor’s driving ability and experience.
After three days of action-packed LS automotive mayhem, the Eighth Annual Holley LS Fest East was in the books. Those running in the Grand Champion competition got to drive on two exciting autocross courses, feast heavily on the 3S Challenge course, and had access to as many dragstrip runs as they wanted.
It was déjà vu all over again, as repeat LS Fest Grand Champion (2013 and 2015) Danny Popp, in his 2003 Corvette, came out on top and was crowned the 2017 Holley LS Fest Grand Champion. Grabbing a maximum of 25 points each on the Beech Bend and NCM autocross courses, 20 points on the dragstrip, and 22 on the 3S Challenge, Popp’s point total of 92 was well ahead of Second Place finisher Rich Wilhoff (2006 Corvette) who was able to muster up 79 points. Joe Gregory (2007 Corvette) finished in Third with a point total of 56.
Every year we wonder how the folks at Holley plan to one-up themselves from event to event, but they always seem to deliver. So the question remains: How will Holley improve the LS Fest in 2018? We’re not exactly sure, but these gearheads always seem to figure out a way to make each event better than the last.
Chevy High Performance High Noon Shootout
At every LS Fest, Chevy High Performance gives the autocross competitors a little extra incentive to start their weekend hard on the throttle by sponsoring the High Noon Shootout on Friday. This year we took the eight quickest cars from the Beech Bend Raceway morning autocross session and put them up against each other at noon to see which competitor was able put together the quickest three laps. We then added those lap times together and presented the one with the lowest combined time a $500 gift certificate from Holley and a nice plaque from Chevy High Performance.
The 2017 Holley LS Fest Top Eight competitors were: Ryan Mathews, Mike DuSold, Rich Wilhoff, Sam Strano, Tyler Powell, Gary Walsh, Larry Woo, and Danny Popp. This was a winner-take-all competition so Second and Third Place finishers had no reason to celebrate.
After the clutch dust had settled, it was Danny Popp taking the Shootout win in his blue C5 Corvette. He’s always a dominant force at the LS Fest, and with plenty of other competitors looking to change his winning ways, that will have to wait until next year.
Last year’s Holley LS Fest Grand Champion Mike DuSold had engine issues with his ’67 Camaro and wasn’t able to answer the 12:00 p.m. call for the Shootout so he was forced to take a disappointing Eighth Place finish. “One of the main reasons I came out to Bowling Green was to work on beating Popp,” remarked DuSold. “Now that will have to wait until next year, or at the very least until the LS Fest West should Danny decide to show up for that event.”
Although the $500 gift certificate from Holley is certainly appreciated by the competitors, the tone here is that bragging rights are just as important.
|2017 Chevy High Performance High Noon Shootout Results|
|First||Danny Popp||C5 Corvette||94.31|
|Second||Rich Wilhoff||C6 Corvette||94.632|
|Third||Sam Strano||C6 Corvette||95.13|
|Fourth||Tyler Powell||C2 Corvette||96.49|
|Fifth||Gary Walsh||C5 Corvette||96.883|
|Sixth||Ryan Mathews||C3 Corvette||97.547|
|Seventh||Larry Woo||1968 Camaro||100.670 (Two cone penalties)|
|Eighth||Mike DuSold||1967 Camaro||DNS|
Photos: Wes Duenkel & Nick Licata