The Holley LS Fest franchise beginning in 2010 in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and now having expanded to a second location this time “out west” in Las Vegas is aptly titled the Holley LS Fest West. But one thing hasn’t changed … the excitement around the LS and LT engine platforms cannot be denied.
The Holley LS Fest West is loaded with plenty of competitors, spectators, manufacturers and performance on multiple levels. Held at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway where there’s ample pavement-covered real estate to go along with a ready-to-rumble dirt track for all of the off-road festivities. The cornerstone to the LS Fest is the NHRA sanctioned dragstrip where each day, and into the early evening, there was drag racing for a myriad of classes sponsored by MSD. Using the dragstrip as the event’s real estate anchor we found immediately next door space set aside for the home of the Baer Brakes 3S Challenge and the Lateral G/QA1 Autocross. But if this wasn’t enough entertainment then the Lucas Oil Drifting Challenge took place here as well as several other entertainment-based activities. To this, there is the Racepak Road Course Challenge located south and to the west of the dragstrip. But it didn’t stop there; remember, this is the LS Fest so not all things good happen on paved roads. The Nitto Off-Road Challenge was the site for unlimited buggies as well as PreRunner class pick ’em ups flying through the air for upward of 80-100 feet … had to see it to truly believe it.
It should come as no secret that the Holley LS Fest franchise has become the choice of LS and LT engine platforms for hot rodders of all persuasions to compete. You will find race cars, street rods, muscle cars, classic and late-model pickups, drift cars, PreRunners and unlimited off-road buggies all having one thing in common … they are all powered by the Chevrolet Performance LS/LT V-8. It doesn’t matter if the V-8 is carbureted, fuel injected, blown or supercharged as long as it is an LS/LT platform you are welcome. Oh, and don’t think for one moment it has to be a Chevy-bodied car or truck. No sir, if you can stuff, wedge, jam or make fit in any manner an LS/LT you are good to go.
With massive growth across the board, the 2nd Annual Holley LS Fest West at Las Vegas Motor Speedway exceeded all expectations. This year exceeded everyone’s expectations, including the staff at Holley as they saw spectator attendance jump up a whopping 96 percent, participants themselves enjoyed a massive increase of 45 percent, with the manufacturers row climbing a very healthy 22 percent, while total attendance was up by 62 percent from the inaugural 2017 event.
The three-day event has it all with a large manufacturers row; show ’n’ shine; dyno challenge; plenty of high-performance driving encompassing drag racing, autocross, road course, drifting, 3S Challenge; and the Off-Road Challenge in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway dirt oval. And one last eyeball rubbing excitement for the spectators is the tire burnout spectacular aptly titled the Cinco De Mayo Tire De Fry’O. Not just standing still and burning up tires like normal folks do, but full speed spinning, turning, tire burning drifting, with all sorts of going forward, backward and sideways immersed in tire smoking excitement.
The event’s driving excitement starts with the autocross and then on Friday followed by the Chevy High Performance High-Noon Shootout. The autocross is a demanding 30-35 seconds of rapid acceleration, hard turning (left and right), and braking with a bit of drifting through the corners just to make sure the excitement level is up there. It’s a great way to get a high-performance event off and running.
It should be noted that while there was (and is) all sorts of competition at the LS Fest both in Bowling Green (September) and in Las Vegas (May) one fact is surfacing. Corvettes are the dominant marque … they are the ones to beat.
There are a handful of competitive events but it’s the overall Grand Champion that reigns supreme. Sort of a champion of champions, this overall winner is taken from a points scale where the individual competitors compete in the Racepak Road Course Challenge, the Baer Brakes 3S Challenge, the Lateral G/QA1 Autocross and a quarter-mile blast down the dragstrip.
While there were plenty of worthy competitors, it became apparent that last year’s runner-up at both Fests, Rich Willhoff of Woodland, California, was a true tour de force and the one to beat this year. Come 2018 LS Fest West, Willhoff was ready for the competition but the competition wasn’t ready for him.
Willhoff took home First place honors in the Racepak Road Course Challenge (1:22.388; fastest lap and 25 points), Baer Brakes 3S Challenge (26.174 seconds, quickest lap and 25 points), and the Lateral G/QA1 Autocross (32.067 seconds, quickest lap and 25 points) while driving his ’06 Corvette Z06 (C6). He also racked up 5 points during the Poker Run and 16 points in the drag racing competition for a grand total of 96 points. In the autocross event (by far the most popular in terms of competitors and effort) the top 10 finishers were taken and then there was a Shootout where the overall winner was based on the quickest combined time of three runs. Willhoff also won this with a combined time of 96.454 seconds.
Our own Vette magazine also sponsors the Fastest Corvette, and in this competition there are four events: drag race, autocross, 3S Challenge, and dyno challenge (rear-wheel horsepower). Taking home honors here are Josh Elam with his ’09 Corvette turning in a quarter-mile run of 8.46 seconds, Willhoff in the autocross and the 3S Challenge, and Chris Hart with his ’06 Corvette measuring 548 rwhp.
Taking into account all the disciplines and all of the challengers, it was Willhoff with his C6 Corvette that outpointed the competition to take home the Grand Champion title for the 2018 Holley LS Fest West. (Finishing Second was Duke Langley with his ’02 Corvette, 81 points, and Third went to Robby Unser with his ’70 Camaro, 75 points.)
A little background on the GM Velocity Yellow ’06 Corvette of Willhoff, whose day job is as a Service and Parts Director at Abel Chevrolet Buick in Rio Vista, California. His wife, Carrie Willhoff, who owns the women’s clothing and racing apparel company Racechick, finished a very respectable Eighth overall in the Grand Champion challenge, and is also one of the fastest drivers at any given event.
The C6 is powered by a Katech Track Attack LS7 displacing 427 cubic inches, sporting the likes of Comp Cams pushrods, Katech cam and pistons along with a Callies crank and an MSD intake and Atomic LS7 system all screwed together with ARP hardware. The LS7 aluminum heads are GM castings modified by West Coast Cylinder Heads. In the past, the 427 has pumped out 642 rwhp and 571 rwtq, making for a formidable V-8. Getting all this power to the rear falls to the TREMEC T-56 (fitted with an RSD shifter) with a Quarter Master pressure plate and twin-disc clutch ending at the Getrag (GM) rearend with a limited-slip differential sporting 3.42 gears.
The front suspension comes by way of LG Motorsports spindles featuring a 1-inch drop along with JRi double-adjustable shocks. Braking power comes from 15.25-inch carbon ceramic Brembo rotors. In back you will find JRi shocks and Brembo brakes once again. Wrapped around the brake package are Forgeline GTD1 wheels (black finish) measuring 18x11 in front and 18x12.5 in back all shod with either BFG or Kumho rubber depending on track conditions. Sizing comes down to 295 or 315 in front and 335 or 355 in back.
Well, there you have it from a Corvette perspective. The 2018 Holley LS Fest West (second year and growing wildly) proving once again that the Corvette is America’s true performance car. Of the top 10 finishers in the run for the Grand Champion eight were Corvettes, giving pause for little doubt what the current “King of the Hill” is in competitive short course racing.
Photography by the Author, Steven Rupp, Taylor Kempkes, & Nick Licata