What's the fastest muscle car of all time? To quote Paul Revere and the Raiders' song "SS396," you can "Forget about your Hemis and your GTOs," and while you're at it, you can also forget about 428 Cobra Jets, W-30 Olds and Pontiac 455s, Buick GS455 Stage 1s, LS6 454s, and every other heavy-hitter that's ever attempted to lay claim to the title of world's fastest muscle car. That honor goes to the '69 L88 Corvette, and we're not just bench racing. We've got not just one, but a pair of record-breakers to prove it.
If you weren't a Corvette aficionado, it might be a bitter pill to swallow, what with all the posturing, propaganda, and PR about which car is truly the king of the quarter-mile. But we kind of like this pair of supercars, especially in Monaco Orange, and even more when they blow the doors off of everything in sight en route to breaking records. Amazingly, they're piloted by a husband/wife team.
Terry and Julie Pennington, of Mishawaka, Indiana, drive the matching Corvettes. Terry competes in F.A.S.T. and Julie in Factory Stock (a division of F.A.S.T.) and at the Pure Stock Drags. Both have risen to the highest heights of their classes in these L88-spec cars. Stock racing requires the car to be close to showroom condition, while F.A.S.T. mandates a stock look and tire size, but encourages creative modifications internally. The competition is tough, and for Corvettes to hold both records simultaneously is unprecedented. But it's yet another testament to the engineering built into these incredible automobiles.
Julie Rocks The Pure Stocks
If you show up at the Pure Stock Drags and assume Julie is just a fair, soft-spoken, petite blonde, you're already jinxed. She's all that off the track, but behind the wheel, she's got the heart of a pirate. Julie loves to lay low, then, when the time is right, carve up the odds-on favorites like a holiday turkey. Her favorite carving knife just happens to be an Orange '69 L88-spec Corvette. Watch her at the starting line. You can't read her poker face, and you're not going to psych her out with head games. Don't even try. Just bring your best game, and hope you brought enough. Chances are you didn't. That's because Julie is going on her third year as record holder for quickest e.t. at the Pure Stock Drags.
Julie showed up as a driver in 2005 but was well off the leader's pace. Terry would later confess that he purposely had the engine detuned a bit, until Julie got familiar with the car. That changed in 2006, when he put all the timing back in the engine, removed the sidepipes, and broke the record for low e.t. on her second qualifying pass. The record was now 11.63. For having pulled off such an amazing feat, she didn't seem to view the achievement in technical terms. "I don't know, I just drive," she says. "I ignore how fast it is, and I just go."
In Saturday's best-two-out-of-three shootout, Julie faced Jimmy Johnston, a fellow L88 pilot and high-powered gunslinger whose skill with a four-speed would be hard to overestimate. Jimmy was what you'd call highly motivated, as it was his record that Julie had just broken. Julie took Round 1 with a 11.68/120.75 to Jimmy's 11.79/120.36.
In Round 2, Julie redlighted while Jimmy shaved off a tenth, running his best e.t. of the meet, 11.69 at 121.72. Up next was the Round 3 tiebreaker. Incredibly, Jimmy, the cool customer, redlighted. That handed the shootout to Julie, but instead of soft-peddling the Corvette to a leisurely win, she put the spurs to it, blitzing the 1,320 with a jaw-dropping 11.54 at 120.75, yet another Pure Stock Drags record, and one that still stands. If Julie was looking to make a statement, she certainly did. So the '06 Pure Stock Drags ended with bang.
At the '07 Pure Stock Drags, the anticipated rematch didn't happen. Julie again had the quickest e.t., an 11.58, but she was paired against Bob Karakashian's '70 Hemi Cuda, which she dispatched handily in two straight rounds. Meanwhile, Jimmy wound up as top qualifier and top gun. His best e.t. of 11.66 was improved, but he still trailed Julie and her '06 record. A rainout at the '08 Pure Stock Drags would extend the record another year.
Defending the record won't be easy. For 2009, Jimmy will be back strong as ever, a '71 LS6 has been coming on strong, a new L88 is expected, and there are always the usual sharks of other brands.