This year's National Corvette Challenge race took place on February 24, at Richmond Dragway in Richmond, Virginia. While it was hardly T-shirt-and-shorts weather, it was warm enough for participants to take to the track and the show fields and get the '07 racing season started in a big way.
The weekend featured a one-day drag race featuring four different classes and, for the first time in Corvette Challenge history, a people's choice car show. The new mix was a success with 130 race entries, 54 show entries, and numerous other Corvette owners showing up to take part.
Many competitors traveled hundreds of miles to make this once-a-year event. Several racers from the Corvette Challenge regional series in New Jersey were joined by regulars from the South Carolina- and Florida-based series. One participant, Eric Oday, drove his blue '84 halfway across the country from the Houston area.
Corvettes began lining up at the Richmond Dragway gate at around 8 a.m. on Saturday. After the track was prepped, event co-organizer Steve Oyer invited all of the inexperienced drivers to the starting line for a "Drag Racing 101" session. With that done, Corvettes of every type, color, and generation began filing into the staging lanes.
The bracket-racing class proved to be the event's most popular, with a total of 80 entries. Bracket racing uses a handicapped starting procedure to ensure that driver skill-and not sheer horsepower-is the deciding factor in most races. The bracket cars would be followed by the three heads-up classes, beginning with the "baddest of the bad" Outlaw cars.
Next up was the 10.0 Index, a heads-up racing class in which drivers could go no faster than 10.0 seconds without forfeiting their run. The last class to run was the 11.50 Index. These four classes gave drivers of all speeds and skill levels the opportunity to square off against similar competition.
All race participants received a free event T-shirt, provided by East Coast Supercharging. In addition to the shirt, class winners and other high-placing competitors received a portion of the $6,450 collected from race entries and event sponsors.
Sixty-seven of the 80 registered Corvettes were entered in the Bracket class, making it the day's largest and most brutally contested race category. The final round saw John Trescott, driving an '04 Torch Red Coupe, square off against local racer Ronnie Jeter, piloting a silver '75. Trescott has been racing in the Corvette Challenge in New Jersey for several years and finished 10th out of 102 drivers in 2006.
Jeter is no stranger to bracket racing, either, having campaigned his C3 at Richmond Dragway for more than 20 years. He's even won the track championship on several occasions. Jeter ran a 9.575 on a 9.56 dial-in to clinch the class win, while Trescott broke out with an 11.546 on an 11.58 dial.
The Outlaw class features Corvettes configured for all-out racing competition, the fastest of which are capable of mid-8-second quarter-miles. Unfortunately, a number of pre-registered drivers backed out of the competition in the days leading up to the event. In the end, only five Corvettes competed in the Outlaw class.
Bill Maloney from Toms River, New Jersey, took the top qualifying spot with a '97 Corvette Coupe built by The Vette Doctors in Amityville, New York. Equipped with a single rear-mounted turbo, the car ran a sensational 5.58 at 138.80 mph. (This equates to roughly an 8.78 in the quarter-mile.) Maloney has gone as fast as 8.60 in the 1320, a time he hopes to better with his most recent round of top-end tuning by the Turbo People.
Phil Corbin, driving a '91 Corvette, grabbed the second qualifying spot with a 6.09 at 114.80. Derek Yates, meanwhile, took the third spot in a red C3 owned by John Cook, running a 6.20 at 111.25.
Yates capitalized on superior reaction times to vanquish the faster cars of Alan Eckert and Maloney in the first and second rounds, respectively. Could he manage a third holeshot to take out Corbin's C4 in the final?
When the smoke settled, Yates had logged an 0.016 reaction time on a 6.20 at 111.25 run. This was good enough to put away Corbin, who managed a 0.152 on a 6.09 at 115.83 pass. Yates had taken all three rounds with holeshot victories, proving that even in heads-up racing, the fastest car is not always the winner.
Index racing is becoming very popular, as evidenced by the size of the two index classes. The 10.00 Index class saw 22 participants attempting to qualifying for 16 positions. Qualifying was very tight, with Paul Smith Jr. taking the number one position in his naturally aspirated 427ci '98 Coupe. The car is one of Marietta, Georgia-based MTI Racing's developmental vehicles, and it bears the tuner's logo on its doors. The Vette is capable of running in the 9s, but today's focus was on nailing the 10.0 index. Smith came close to doing just that, running a 10.002 in qualifying.
He was followed in the class by Phil Corbin, pulling double-duty after making it to the final round of Outlaw. Dwayne Schultz, meanwhile, drove his flamed Pewter C5 to the number three spot with a 10.01 pass. Jay McCardle was fourth in an East Coast Supercharging-prepped supercharged C5, while David Outten drove his '66 Corvette into the number five position with a 10.03.
After two hotly contested rounds, the semi-finals found Steve Haynes and his 642ci '73 squaring off against Outten in his C2. Haynes cut a 0.010 reaction time on a 10.01 at 127.00 mph pass, bettering Outten's 0.035 on a quicker 10.00 at 134.45. In the other semi-final contest, David Shen beat Dwayne Schultz off the tree then went on to cover the quarter with a quicker 10.036 to Schultz's 10.046.
In the finals, Haynes cut his best light of the day, a 0.009, while Shen posted a none-too-shabby 0.029 in his '65 Coupe. Haynes took the stripe with a 10.07 at 130.70 to Shen's 10.08 at 131.35, taking the class win and a $750 cash payout.
With very little needed to make today's Corvettes run 11.50, this class was truly for everyone. New Jersey's Rob Zona took the number one spot in his C5 Z06 with an 11.506 pass. In the second spot was Mike Calicchia, who drove his father Louis' supercharged C5 to an 11.59. North Carolina racer J. Smith was third in his C5 Coupe, while James Geer grabbed fourth place in his 396ci Bright Aqua Metallic '95. Wayne Totaro rounded out the top five at the wheel of his Machine Silver '06 Z06.
Paul Major, who campaigns a 7-second C5 in many drag radials classes around the nation, brought his two other Corvettes to compete in the 11.50 index. Unfortunately, his C6 Z06, driven by Angelo Valla, broke at the line in the first qualifying round. His other Vette, a '66, made two qualifying passes under the 11.50 index.
In the semis, David Matyjasik cut the best light of any competitor in the class with a 0.059. He drove Carolina Auto Masters proprietor Jeff Creech's C5 to an 11.70 at 123.80, defeating J. Smith, who broke out with an 11.45 at 100 mph. In the other semi-final pairing, Ron Leader overcame a 0.038-second reaction-time disadvantage to push his '06 Z06 past Dave Satterfield's A&A-supercharged '04 Z. Leader ran an 11.536 at 109.04 to Satterfield's 11.626 at 118.51.
Matyjasik cut another superior light in the final, posting a 0.103 reaction time to Leader's 0.208. Leader easily overcame the deficit, however, coasting his Z to an 11.95 at 92.18 to better Matyjasik's way-off-the-pace 12.47.
The weekend also featured a Vettes-only car show, which was led by Tony Watson of the Beachcombers Corvette Club, with help from The Corvette Club of Richmond. All proceeds were donated to Sonny Parks, a local Corvette enthusiast who was injured in a motorcycle accident.
Best C1: Jamie Davis, '61, New Church, VA
Best C2: Bill Lakin, '65, Newport News, VA
Best C3: Alan Syslo, '75, Virginia Beach, VA
Best C4: John Davis, '93, Virginia Beach, VA
Best C5: Gary Ballard, '02, Suffolk, VA
Best C6: Lawrence Glover, Clinton, MD
Best Raced and Shown: JR Walker, '03
Participants' Choice Additional Awards
Tom Mroz, '98 50th Resto Mod, King Gorge, VA
Cindy Lakin, '96 Grand Sport Convertible, Newport News, VA
Gil Ozmore, '93 Coupe, Hopewell, VA
Charlie Neal, '94 ZR-1, Williamsburg, VA
Charles Clark, '04 Convertible, Clinton, MD
Richard Hillis, '06 Z06, Carrollton, VA
Stay tuned to VETTE and visit www.national.corvettechallenge.info for the latest news regarding the 2008 National Corvette Challenge. For now, you can take part in any of the Challenge's regional series, held at tracks in New Jersey, South Carolina, California, Florida, and Virginia. Visit www.corvettechallenge.info for more information.
The organizers of the 2007 National Corvette Challenge would like to thank Jeff Creech, of Carolina Auto Masters, for being the event's title sponsor. Special thanks also go to Valone Motorsports, RevXtreme, and Zip Products for taking lead roles in sponsoring the Outlaw class, 11.50 Index class, and car show, respectively.