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Kentucky Road Trip - Paddling Faster

We pilot a grand sport 'vert upstream to Kentucky but hear no banjos.

Jay Heath Nov 17, 2011
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Since this magazine's re-launch last year, we've taken pains to incorporate scenic drives and destination stories into our editorial plans as frequently as possible. Modern Corvettes are toweringly capable sports-touring machines, goes the reasoning, so why not put their cosseting capabilities to good use out on the open road?

In the months that followed, our Corvette peregrinations carried us to the southernmost tip of the continental U.S., across Death Valley to Las Vegas, over the undulating pasturelands of Wisconsin, and down some of the lesser-known shunpikes of Southern California. But while these destinations all provided a chance to enjoy the car in a relaxed setting, none supplied the performance-minded Vette owner with an opportunity to experience Chevy's speedy two-seater the way Mr. Duntov intended. What we needed was a road trip capable of satisfying both halves of the sports-touring equation.

An opportunity eventually materialized in the form of the 2011 Holley LS Fest, held near the speed-parts manufacturer's headquarters in lovely Bowling Green, Kentucky. Launched last year, the Fest is a multipart motorsports event open to all LS-powered vehicles, regardless of make or vintage. When GM agreed to lend us a Jetstream Blue Grand Sport convertible for the week, we blocked out our calendar and made plans to take the 12-hour drive from our office in Tampa to deep into the heart of horse country.

Aside from an unprovoked wasp attack outside the Shell station in Manchester, Tennessee (Vols fans, doubtless), the 1,673-mile round trip passed without incident, reaffirming our opinion of the latest C6 as a road warrior extraordinaire. Indeed, whether traversing somnifacient stretches of Interstate in northern Florida, surmounting red-clay hillocks in central Georgia, or wending through the rock-walled defiles of the Cumberland Plateau, our Grand Sport never failed to comport itself in the manner suggested by its ambitious appellation. And while insurance restrictions prevented us from entering the car in any of the Fest's motorsports activities, it was clear that, even in showroom-stock form, it would have fared respectably in every category.

If you've always wanted to experience your LS-powered Corvette to the fullest extent of its abilities on both the road and track, a road trip to the Holley LS Fest in Bowling Green should be at the top of your motoring to-do list. For complete results from the 2011 Fest, and up-to-date information on next year's event, visit

Trip Data

Total Miles Traveled: 1,673

Average Fuel Mileage: 22.23 mpg

Arby's Market Fresh Turkey Sandwiches Consumed: 5

Drag Races with Late-'80s Nissan Sentras Declined: 2

Speeding Citations Received: 0

Notes from the Road

To avoid unwanted attention from law enforcement, we set the Grand Sport's cruise control to 9 mph over the speed limit while on the highway. The tactic proved effective, as we sailed through several speed traps without incident during the course of our trip.

Kentucky is not an indoor clean-air state, so be sure to specify a nonsmoking hotel room if you prefer one.

Beech Bend may be the only motorsports facility in the world whose entrance is patrolled by a battalion of miniature goats.

With the top up, our Grand Sport's trunk ingested one large suitcase, a laptop computer, and an average-size electric-guitar case, leaving the passenger seat free for camera gear and road food.

Nissan drivers near the carmaker's manufacturing facility in Smyrna, Tennessee, are strangely confrontational on the road. Wave them past and live to race--legally--another day.

The Grand Sport's only interior demerit arises from the hard plastic framing the center console, where a taller driver's knee will naturally tend to rest. On the plus side, fully inflating the driver seat's lumbar support is wonderfully effective at warding off lower-back pain during extended periods behind the wheel.

VETTE Magazine Award Winners

Quickest Quarter-Mile: Mark Carlyle / '07 Z06

Quickest Autocross: Jeffrey (Luke) Hawkins / '02 Z06

Fastest Speed Stop (ABS): James Rowlett / '99 FRC

Fastest Speed Stop (Non-ABS): Jeffrey Cleary / '63 Coupe


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