This is the ninth year Holley has put on the LS Fest in Bowling Green, Kentucky, and somehow it manages to grow bigger and better every year! The autocross was selling out so fast that they opened a second course over at the National Corvette Museum so that they could accommodate more cars. It didn’t matter since the autocross event still sold out. Holley keeps expanding the venue and the crowds grow to fill it up. It’s pretty crazy when you think that it’s a pretty specific show where only vehicles powered by modern LS (and the newer LT) engines can come play. And play they do. There’s drag racing, autocrossing, drifting, and a road course available. For those that want to relax there’s a huge car show to check out along with a massive vendor midway and fun stuff like a chassis dyno shootout, burnout contest, and an LS engine swap contest.
Brian Finch had a very good weekend in his well-sorted 1971 Camaro. He finished Second in the Vintage autocross, Third in the 3S Challenge, and Second on dragstrip with a solid 11.287 pass. Add it all up and it made for a Second Place overall finish in the Vintage class!
Maybe that’s why, even with the threat of rain, tens of thousands showed up to check it out. Word is that Saturday was the largest attendance at Beech Bend Raceway for any event … ever! As an added bonus, Holley rented the amusement park next door (complete with its own water park!) on Saturday and anyone at the event could pay $10 to get in! Better still, if you were a participant in the event you got in as part of your entry fee!
One of our favorite rides at the event was JB Granger’s LS-powered 1966 Corvair. It’s just a super-cool ride that’s much faster than it looks.
On Sunday, the LS-fueled mayhem continued roaring at full throttle even after the rain showed up. The autocross action that consumed Friday and Saturday was taken down and in its place the Super Chevy/Baer Brakes-sponsored 3S Challenge was set up. So, what is the 3S Challenge? Well, it’s fun to watch and hard to explain. Two cars line up at a Tree, like a drag race, and when the light flips green they sprint side by side. At the end the left side turns left and the right turns right into 180-degree turns. After negotiating a quick squiggle the cars make a dash for the timing lights. But there’s a catch! After triggering the lights they have to come to a complete stop within a relatively small coned-off box. Hit a cone and all you get is a DQ. The trick is timing and knowing how well, or not, your car stops. Each car’s best right lane time is averaged with its best left lane performance for an overall time. Even after the rain arrived everyone kept running, which made for slower times, but way more fun.
In addition to all of the cars in motion, there was a huge car show going on next to the track. Hundreds of LS- and LT-powered cars were on display and the variety of LS-swapped rides was truly impressive.
A big part of the event is the Grand Champion competition. This year was different with three classes: Modern, Vintage, and Truck. For this, the vehicles have to run both autocross courses, the 3S Challenge, and turn in a dragstrip pass. All of those times are awarded points and on Sunday the winner is announced. Of course, that was in addition to all of the dragstrip and car show winners that were announced. To see all of the times, results, and winners be sure to visit holleylsfest.com.
We have a soft spot for wagons, so we really liked the 1965 Nova piloted by Charles Malone. Here he was smacking around some cones, but usually he was just going fast.
Another cool car that we liked more for its simplicity than for a ton of complicated nonsense was the 1965 Chevelle brought to the party by Aaron Oberle. We’ve known Aaron for long time now and he truly loves wringing out his classic A-body.
We don’t typically feature trucks in Super Chevy, but when they’re as nice as James Otto’s 1966 C10 we make an exception!
Another automotive distraction for both spectators and competitors alike was the Dyno Challenge where people could strap down their ride and battle to see who made the most power. There were two classes, one for naturally aspirated and one for power-adder. The winner in the power-adder class, Anthony Peck, put 1,206 hp to the tires of his 1972 Vega! The NA prize went to Casey Artmayer in his 2008 Corvette, which put down 602 hp.
This year the cars were broken down into three classes: Modern, Vintage, and Truck. Brad Smith’s First Place 11.779-second pass in his 1997 Sonoma truck, combined with the other scores put him solidly in First Place overall for the Truck class along with a SEMA Optima invite. And it’s good that he had a truck given how big the trophy was!
Over 80 cars participated in the True Street drag class where each vehicle was required to do a 30-mile drive is followed by three back-to-back passes, which are averaged out to find winners in the various brackets. It’s a fun event, which explains the popularity. Here, Tim Liberty launches his 1967 Chevy II for a pass of 11.822 seconds.
OK, when you think performance you certainly don’t think of Donks and their ridiculously sized wheels with uber-low-profile tires. And you certainly don’t think of them as drag racers. Well, nobody told this guy. We watched him make an 11.012-second pass! Imagine if he had real tires.
Finishing Fourth overall in the Vintage class was Robby Unser in his sweet 1970 Speedway Camaro. His overall finish was helped with an 11.605 pass on the dragstrip to take Third in that event, which on autocross tires is pretty impressive.
One fun aspect of the Holley LS Fest is seeing all the crazy things that people swap LS engines into. We imagine the power-to-weight numbers for this 525hp LS3-powered trike would void most life insurance policies.
Finishing in Third overall in the Vintage class was Bryan Johnson in the DSE-crafted 1987 Camaro. Detroit Speed built this car several years ago and it’s our favorite third-gen ever. It looks great and kicks some serious tail on the track. On the dragstrip it placed a solid Fifth with a pass of 11.668 seconds.
Friday was pretty crowded, but Saturday was nuts! Every parking lot, including the one for the neighboring amusement park, was packed and the thousands of spectators broke every attendance record for the venue.
We had never seen, in person, a Monte Carlo Aerocoupe before doing our recent Jegs Week to Wicked build, so we were happily surprised to see Angela Payne in her stunning 1987 model. She finished 18th overall in the very competitive 50-car Vintage class, and looked great doing it!
The drag action went on all day Friday, Saturday, and Sunday till the rain finally arrived. So many cars showed up to race that the brackets were full to the point where new classes were added.
Mike Dusold has won the Grand Championship award at the Holley LS Fest before and this year he did it again in his insane (literal, not figurative) 1967 Camaro. Twin turbos and enough electronics to launch a space shuttle make this car, with Mike behind the wheel, nearly impossible to beat. He won every event, including the dragstrip portion with a 10.72 pass! The good news for everyone else is that he can’t compete in the Grand Championship deal next year, but we’re sure he will be back for more in 2020.
In the Modern class it was Rich Wilhoff in his 2006 Vette that took home the Yuge first-place trophy. First place in the autocross and 3S Challenge combined with a Fourth place pass of 11.28 on the dragstrip gave him the overall win.
Past winner Danny Popp was able to pull off a strong Second Place finish in his high-reving 2003 Corvette. This was due to solid finishes in the autocross and 3S events along with an 11.148 pass on the dragstrip.
Photos by Steven Rupp