Once a mere pipe dream thought up by a group of gearheads who happen to work at Holley, the aftermarket automotive company best known for carburetors, nitrous systems, and now electronic fuel injection, the idea of the Holley LS Fest has not only morphed into reality, but is now recognized as the most exciting muscle car event of the year for enthusiasts running LS power between the ’rails of their muscle car.
Now in its third year of existence, the Holley LS Fest has grown exponentially in terms of participants and spectators. This year’s three days of automotive mayhem took place at Bowling Green, Kentucky’s, Beech Bend Raceway September 7– 9. The facility’s grounds, rich in nostalgia drag racing history, are now recognized as an accommodating arena for modern Chevrolet horsepower housed within the confines of vintage and late-model sheetmetal.
For those not familiar as to what exactly the Holley LS Fest is; logistically, it breaks down like this: For those wanting to take part in the Grand Champion portion of the event, it’s drag racing, autocross, speed stop challenge, show-n-shine, and a 35-mile cruise. For the enthusiast looking to partake in any of the aforementioned exercises a la cart, the event also caters to those with more one-dimensionally built hot rods. If you’re among the folks looking for a more leisurely approach to the weekend, the spacious rolling grass hills play home to a show-n-shine featuring some of the sweetest rides in the country. If brute horsepower and bragging rights are your thing, then the Dyno Challenge is for you. And, in between the excitement of muscle cars wreaking havoc on the autocross and drag cars fighting for bite on the dragstrip, drifting cars showed their stellar choreographed smoke-dance just inches from one another at over 60 mph in a sideways slide. Now, top all that off with an extensive manufacturers midway, and that, my friends is the Holley LS Fest. Let’s just say it’s more fun for muscle car enthusiasts than should be allowed in one day, let alone three consecutive days.
With all the excitement, noise, speed, and smells that take place at this event, it would be nearly impossible to accurately convey all this show has to offer within these magazine pages. With that said, we’ve done our best to capture the highlights, but the best way to fully appreciate the Holley LS Fest is in person.
Erik Cederberg is what we call a hard-core enthusiast. We’ve seen him at events all over the country, and he gets there by driving his Camaro from Florida. Recently, he replaced his SS with a ZL1 and has been learning and tweaking the new ride. This weekend, his best autocross time was 44.82 and he placed Third in the ABS Speed Stop Challenge with a time of 8.63 seconds.
Jim Stehlin won our “dare to be different” award for showing up in this eye-catching ’68 drop-top Camaro. We dug the graphics and the fact that Jim beat on the car really hard. His best time on the autocross was 46.91 seconds and he laid down a 9.97-second pass in the Speed Stop Challenge.
Bruce Raymond had a blast flinging his fifth-gen through the cones where he knocked down a best time of 43.91 seconds. This was good enough to get him in the Top Ten. In the Speed Stop Challenge, he placed Tenth with a time of 9.19 seconds.
Randy Johnson brought out his killer ’71 Camaro for some LS-powered fun. He placed Ninth in the autocross with a time of 43.90 seconds and did even better in the non-ABS Speed Stop Challenge with a Fifth-place run of 8.73 seconds.
At the Holley LS Fest something is always going on. While some were dodging cones, others were blasting down the 1320. Judson Massingill piloted the School of Automotive Machinists fourth-gen to a Second-place finish with an 8.403 at 161.30 mph run in the Finals of the LSX All-Motor class. He qualified number one with an 8.138-second run but slowed just bit giving the win to Greg Delaney who went 8.372.
Late second-gens, or as we call them “disco second-gens” are cool, and Brandon Slater’s flat-painted example was even more so. On the autocross, he managed a best time of 45.51 seconds and his best Speed Stop time was 9.59 seconds.
The LS Fest is all about driving your car. To emphasize the point, all competitors in the Grand Champion competition had to complete a cruise through the Kentucky countryside. Running the cruise and competing in the car show were each worth five points, which can make a big difference in the final tally.
The beauty of bracket racing is that you don’t have to be super fast to have a chance at winning. Thomas Hendrix ran in the True Street class and won the 14-second bracket with a three-run average of 14.042 seconds.
Adam Preston’s fourth-gen will never be lost in a crowd, and this weekend it didn’t lose a race either. He battled though the ladder and ended up “top dog” in the LSX Real Street category with a final run of 8.523 sec. at 160.73 mph.
Nick Licata loves to break his ’01 Z28 at the LS Fest. One year he fragged a driveshaft and another year he tore up a control arm. This time the brakes got sketchy, so we enlisted the help and tools of Detroit Speed to get Black Betty back on track. Matt Butts and Shawn Hughesman traced the problem to a gunked-up master cylinder. Before long the problem was fixed and Licata was back on track. I’m sure we owe them lots of beer for this.
Robert Bertelsen’s Camaro is nice enough to win just about any car show, which is why it’s even more impressive how hard he beats on it at the track. In the Speed Stop Challenge he placed Eighth with a run of 8.93 seconds, and on the autocross he nailed down a best time of 44.35 seconds.
Rolling on a new set of forged Weld RT-S wheels and Falken Azenis RT-615K tires, Licata ran Black Betty hard. His main goal was to make to the Top Five in the autocross shootout; fortunately, he squeaked into the Fifth spot with a 43.56-second run. In the Speed Stop Challenge his best pass was 9.68 seconds.
Robert Littlefield was running his recently completed ’69 hard all weekend and kept improving his times. The car features a complete CA Chassisworks suspension. His best autocross time was 44.75, while he managed a best Speed Stop run of 9.45 seconds.
DSE’s Stacy Tucker beat the ever-lovin’ tar our of her ’69 all weekend. In fact, we don’t remember seeing the car anywhere else other than on the track or queued up waiting to run in one of the events. Her fastest lap on the autocross was 44.03 seconds, and in the Speed Stop her Camaro made the run in 9.46 seconds.
Don’t let the V-6 nose on this fifth-gen fool you – it’s stupid fast. How fast? Well, John Ebert nailed the top speed in the LSX Real Street category with a 164.25-mph run.
Everyone perked up when Daren Poole Adams’ fifth-gen COPO factory drag car pulled into to the beams. This ride was still bone stock, just as it was delivered from GM. It even had the new-car smell going on. On its first pass it laid down a 9.680 e.t. at 140.63 mph, which is pretty damn impressive.
There was a little rain on Saturday morning, but once it cleared, the crowds flooded in to check out the cars, vendors, and racing. In addition to the drag and autocross action, there was a dyno shootout, LS engine swap competition, car show, and even a drifting shootout. The only thing not on the schedule was getting bored.
This show-car quality race car started out as a GM body in white. Greg Delaney ran hard and it paid off with a big win in the LSX All-Motor class. His winning pass was 8.372 seconds at 160.16 mph.
Ray Bulach launched hard and ended up winning the LSX Rumble class with a best pass of 9.641 seconds at 144.240 mph.
DSE’s Kyle Tucker owned the autocross track all weekend. Early on he set the time to beat of 41.91 seconds and nobody was able to get close, let alone do better. In the Speed Stop Challenge he knocked down a 8.90-second run, which was better than many ABS-equipped cars. This combined with his drag race times gave him enough points to nab the Number Two spot in the Grand Champion competition.
Brian Finch didn’t win any of the individual events, but he did well in all of them. He placed Third in the autocross (42.74), Sixth in the Speed Stop Challenge (8.74) and, thanks to a shot of nitrous, he had the third quickest drag race time. Added together it was just enough to edge out Kyle Tucker for the overall Grand Champion win.
If fifth-gens are racing, then chances are you’ll find Shawn Calabrese burning up the asphalt. This weekend, all the practice paid off and he took the Number One spot in the 5th-Gen Camaro Challenge with a final run of 9.641 at 144.24 mph.
Licata squeaked into the “Top Five” autocross shootout where each driver was given three laps to improve his standing. In the end, Licata was able to move up a notch to Fourth place. The final four were all Camaros, with the finishing order for the shootout being: Kyle Tucker, Britt Marolf, Brian Finch, and our very own Nick Licata.