As many people close to the automotive world might already know, Bowling Green, Kentucky, is home to the National Corvette Museum and GM's Corvette assembly plant. Corvettes have been assembled there since 1981. But what many might not know is that it's also home to Fruit of the Loom, Camping World, and the place Holley calls home-yep, the same Holley that has been dealing out Double Pumpers, Dominators, and Street Avengers for decades. Now, with the undeniable popularity of fuel injection, they've made their presence known in the world of EFI-related performance products. And in that vein have decided to host the Inaugural Holley LS Fest held at nearby Beech Bend Raceway Park-a three-day automotive shindig dedicated to everything LS.
Beech Bend is also home to the Holley NHRA Reunion. It has been since the inaugural event back in 2003. It's a fantastic celebration of NHRA's rich drag racing history. Needless to say, the place reeks of drag racing nostalgia. But for the second weekend in September 2010, it was all about modern horsepower-LS horsepower to be exact. And it wasn't open to just late-model hot rods, either; classic cars were encouraged to participate in the action as long as they relied on LS power under the hood, and there were many. Hundreds of cars participated and thousands came to witness the fuel-injected frenzy.
The event was broken down into five events: Drag Racing, Autocross, Speed Stop Challenge, Show-n-Shine, and a Countryside Cruise. The beauty of this event was that participants were able to compete in as many aspects of the competition as they chose. But those vying for the Holley LS Fest Grand Champion Award would need to compete in all five of the aforementioned competitions in order to receive the maximum number of points and a chance to take home a really tall trophy and huge bragging rights. The winner would also receive an invitation to Optima's Street Car Challenge in Pahrump, Nevada, the Saturday following the SEMA show in Las Vegas.
The Inaugural Holley LS Fest Grand Champion Award went to Mark Stielow in his recently completed LS9-powered '69 Camaro he calls the Red Devil. Mark ended his weekend in the top three in points of all three performance competitions: The Ridetech/Camaro Performers magazine Autocross, Baer Speed Stop Challenge, and the drag race. Although not part of the accumulated points, Mark also won the Spectre Top Speed portion of the Speed Stop Challenge. Participation in the Show-n-Shine and Country Cruise was worth five points each.
To welcome the inaugural event, a large number of automotive media outlets were in attendance. The staff from Hot Rod magazine was on hand covering the event, as were staffers from Car Craft magazine who sponsored the Engine Swap Challenge, and Chevy High Performance magazine sponsored Saturday's High Noon Shootout at the autocross. Another one of our sister publications, GM High-Tech Performance magazine, sponsored the Shut Your Face drag race, which featured an unlimited nitrous class with the only stipulation being the car had to weigh at least 3,000 pounds. With your pals at Camaro Performers magazine, alongside Ridetech, sponsoring the autocross, we gave out the award for the quickest autocross lap of the weekend. Brian Finch took top honors by recording a quick time of 1:03.024 in his '71 Camaro.
Not only were we sponsors of this event, but we also brought out two of our own project cars to see how well they would do in the heat of battle (see sidebar article). One driveshaft and a clutch were given up to the drag racing gods, and we managed to knock the front end of our fourth-gen so far out of alignment that it somehow became totally committed to a constant left turn. That was weird.
With all the competitive events going on these days, it's really an exciting time to be a hot rodder. And the way these competitions are playing out, having a car that can do multiple things good is more important than having a car that can do one thing great. Sure you can have a drag car that kicks ass on the quarter-mile, but if you want to do well at an event with multiple competitions, your ride better be street worthy, able to turn a corner, and stop when you ask it.
Drive It Into the Ground
Indy to Bowling Green
There's just something about driving your car that makes all the hard work worthwhile. We're not talking just driving a few miles to the local car show, although that's fun, too. We mean really drive it!
Since upgrading our fourth-gen Z28 project car we call Black Betty with some stout suspension goodies from Global West we're very happy with its newly found handling capabilities. Up until recently, we've had it at a few autocrosses and done really well, but it's mainly been used as a daily driver for the most part, so when the opportunity came to get the car out to the Holley LS Fest, we were all over it.
We had that car and our '10 project car shipped over to Mike Norris at Norris Motorsports in Indianapolis, Indiana, via Reliable Carriers for some dyno tuning since both cars received some engine upgrades the week prior (we'll get into those in upcoming issues).
Tech Editor Steven Rupp and I arrived at Norris' shop on Thursday afternoon. After a few pleasantries and a dyno run or two, we grabbed Camaro Performers magazine photographer Robert McGaffin and hit the road-240 miles to Bowling Green, Kentucky. Needless to say, Norris had both cars dialed in. It was fun to finally get these cars out on the open road. There aren't very many highways in SoCal where we can do this, so we took full advantage of it.
Once we arrived in Bowling Green, a mileage check confirmed we were getting 24 mpg in our fourth-gen and 22 mpg in our supercharged fifth-gen-not bad, especially in the '10, which belts out 640 hp to the wheels. You just have to love fuel-injected LS power.
Black Betty vs. the Dragstrip
I spent most of Friday morning wheeling around the autocross and focusing on improving my lap times since the drag racing portion of the event didn't start until the afternoon due to some early morning rain. With the track dry later that afternoon, I made some test runs. Everything was going fine until about the fifth run, when some nasty wheel hop off the line awarded me with a loud bang and a new three-piece driveshaft.
Thankfully, the School of Automotive Machinists (SAMS) drag team was there with two of their wicked fourth-gen Camaros and a few more-than-eager students willing to help out with my driveshaft dilemma. Within minutes they had the car up on jacks and the broken driveshaft removed and awaiting a replacement piece. Less than two hours later I was rolling with a used driveshaft and a wallet 90 bucks lighter than when I left Cali (dude wanted the full Benjamin, but that's all I had).
I can't thank the gang from SAMS enough for all their help in getting me back on track. I especially want to thank Judson and Linda Massingill for loaning me the tools and the students.
Black Betty vs. the Autocross
With the driveshaft all bolted up, we were back on the autocross on Saturday morning. Just three runs in, a healthy pothole on the course played havoc on the passenger-side lower control arm and moved it enough to once again sideline the Z28 ... temporarily, anyway.
I limped the car down the midway and over to the BMR display where Allan Miller and Kyle Briese loaned me a jack, a couple of stands, and a digital alignment tool, which I had no clue on how to use. All I knew was that I needed to figure out why the steering wheel was pointing at 10 o'clock with the car going straight. Fortunately, our tuning guru Mike Norris (remember him?) was within shouting distance (sitting on my golf kart, actually) and happened to be the only one who recognized that the alignment tool was an alignment tool. Claiming to have aligned a car a little over ten years ago, it was good enough for me. Needless to say, with the help of "Magic Mike" and Briese, Black Betty was back on all fours and running laps within an hour's time.
We all know that breaking parts is going to happen occasionally when you run your car to its limits, but I can't think of a better place to break down than at an event like this. The number of people willing to help out when something goes wrong speaks volumes for our hobby. I really can't thank the folks at SAMS, BMR, and Norris Motorsports enough for all their help. Those are the kind of people who make doing what we do so much fun.
|LS Fest 2010 Grand Champion Scoring|
|Name||Car #||Drag Race||Score||Speed Stop||Score||Autocross||Score||Total Points||Final Rank|