The entire suspension package was installed by Andrew Chevrolet. "This addition was probably the best aftermarket product I added to the car," Kepler says. "The coilovers keep the Z stuck on the ground and give it more bite than I could have imagined. We've run the car at Sandhills Open Road Challenge and in the Optima Ultimate Street Car Invitational exhibition class, and in both cases, the suspension instilled more confidence in taking turns at higher speeds than previous competitions. A few turns of the adjustment knob on the coilovers, and you can go from track to street in a few short minutes." And since Kepler's Z sees nearly as much track use as street duty, he's well versed and efficient at making the change from street to track. A change of brake pads and bolting on a set of Goodyear slicks on CCW wheels completes the transformation.
With the fresh confidence of the Pfadt suspension in place, Kepler elected to drive the 2009 Silver State one class faster than previously. "I ran in the 150-mph class in 2009 because it's a little more challenging with the max speed at 165 mph. There is also more competition in that class," he explains. Though he finished a slightly disappointing Fourth Place, he will be running the 150 class again in 2010.
Also on the agenda for 2010 is the Sandhills Open Road Challenge in Arnold, Nebraska, which most consider more of a drivers' course. "Silver State is an almost completely straight high-speed course that limits speed to 165 mph for a stock Vette with a harness. Sand-hills' max speed is 135 mph, and most of the course is run at 110 mph or lower," Kepler explains. "At Sandhills you really need a navigator to let you know which turns are coming up, and there are plenty of blind ones. I really count on Mike there. Course record speeds are also indicators of technical difficulty. At Sand-hills, it's about 135 mph or so, versus 205 mph for Silver State. I personally prefer and enjoy the Sandhills course."
Kepler says he doesn't get to drive his Z06 as much as he wishes, as it is often touring other parts of the country as part of Optima's various publicity campaigns. Still, he has managed to rack up 12,000 miles on the odometer, mostly at speeds that would probably be considered unreasonable by most law-enforcement types. In true competitor fashion, he's always thinking ahead, of ways to go even faster. To that end, his future plans may include installation of a Magnacharger. He admits the prospect of having more than 700 lb-ft of torque at his disposal should be an interesting exercise in self-control, both on the street and exiting his favorite increasing-radius corners at the track. Somehow, it seems a certainty that he will find a way of optimizing it.
Spec Sheet: '06 Corvette Z06
Owner: Steve Kepler; Waukesha, WI
Block: Stock LS7 aluminum
Displacement: 427 ci
Heads: Stock LS7 aluminum
Valves: Stock 2.200 titanium/1.610 sodium-filled
Camshaft: Stock hydraulic roller (0.591/0.591-in lift, 211/230-deg duration, 121-deg LSA)
Rocker Arms: Stock 1.8-ratio
Pistons: Stock hypereutectic aluminum
Rods: Stock forged
Crankshaft: Stock forged
Intake Manifold: Stock LS7 composite
Fuel Injectors: Stock
Fuel Pump: Stock
Ignition: Stock coil-on-plug
Exhaust System: American Racing headers with Magnaflow after-cat
Transmission: Stock six-speed
Front Suspension: Pfadt adjustable coilover shocks and Pfatty sway bar
Rear Suspension: Pfadt adjustable coilover shocks and Pfatty sway bar
Front Brakes: StopTech
Rear Brakes: StopTech
Wheels: Stock (street); CCW with Goodyear Eagle slicks (track)