IMET Bret Kepner back in 1989 when crewing for Bill Kuhlmann. The NHRA track announcer is a living drag racing encyclopaedia and knows who has run the quickest times and where for just about any class in the world. I asked him who has the quickest real street car in the world, thinking he’d know straight away. He came back with the most perfect answer possible: “Define street car.”
To the best of my knowledge, Jeff Lutz’s ‘Mad Max’ ’69 Camaro is the quickest street-legal car in the world, with a email@example.com timeslip. He drove the wicked black Camaro 1000 miles towing a trailer and took out Hot Rod Drag Week in 2016. When posted this on my Facebook page, people in the States were quick to reply that James ‘Birdman’ Finney, Ryan Martin, Larry Larson and Tom Bailey were quicker. But no one could substantiate their Street Outlaws-inspired opinions with timeslips quicker than 5.852.
A friend in the US sent me a link to the Summit Midwest Drags drag-and-drive event. I was interested to read in the press release that the popularity of no-prep events was waning and Summit was putting $18K on the table in prize money for a three-day drag-and-drive in June. The giant performance parts company must be recognising the growth in popularity of events like Drag Week, Rocky Mountain Race Week and our own Drag Challenge. Everyone wants to know who has the quickest real street car in each country, or, for that matter, in the world. Summit is aware that many racers can’t afford to take a week off work, so they’ve created a three-day event, much like Street Machine Drag Challenge Weekend in Queensland. Another advantage to holding it over a long weekend is that most people are off work, which opens up the opportunity to get a lot of spectators through the gate.
I’m super-excited about this year’s Drag Challenges. The weekender in Queensland in May and the five-day event down south later in the year will be awesome. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are 400 entrants wanting to compete this year. I gave Mark Arblaster a call and asked him what it’s like racing with a massive 400-car field, which is Hot Rod Drag Week’s limit. Mark reckons 400 is too many and that’s the main reason he’s bringing his LS1-powered Val, POR440, back to Australia to race.
When Mark first started competing at Drag Week there were only around 100 cars. It has grown so much over the past five years that the 400 entries are now snapped up in six minutes. Mark says he has to have the radials on his car and be lined up ready to race at 6am. If the first pass is a fizzer, he’s lucky to do a second lap by midday. He spends most of the five days standing in the hot-as-hell staging lanes, and didn’t get to see any racing until the last day in 2018 after an injector failed and put POR440 out of the competition. In his opinion, 280-300 is the right number of entrants for these events. It was good to catch up with Arby and I look forward to seeing him race the Val at this year’s DC events. He’s fitted a Gear Vendors and changed the gearing from 3.0 to 3.9:1, and estimates that 8.40s will be the benchmark for the new 235 class.
One of the things he was concerned about was making sure the cars are street-legal in all aspects. Mark suggested it was only a matter of time before the authorities set up a roadside inspection at one of the Drag Challenge events.
So if you want to compete at DC 2019, be sure to have all your engineering and roadworthy certificates handy. It’s totally out of Street Machine’s hands if your machinery is inspected by the Department of Transport or the police.
Something I did notice at the most recent event was how many almost all-original muscle cars were racing. The majority of the cars were stock-bodied in every way – all steel panels with original chrome bumpers and wind-up glass windows. And many were fitted with original stock-configuration engines and suspensions. I actually like the no bonnet scoop or low original shaker scoop look, especially when they’re a rare muscle car. Entrants with these kinds of cars should have no trouble passing any kind of roadside inspection.
Drag Challenge has measures place keep in to people honest and test the streetability of their cars. Competitors don’t know what roads they have to travel on until their quickest timecard is handed in each day. They are then given route instructions, which include a designated checkpoint where they have to take a photo of the car and themselves on their phone and show it when handing in their timeslip the following day. It’s a clever system. The roads chosen are everyday roads and rarely smooth four-lane highways.
Last year, instead of following the route given to the racers from Calder to Swan Hill, I rode up the M79 on my Harley. A couple of kays north of Calder Park I saw two high viz-clad DOT guys keenly watching the traffic. I don’t know if they were checking cars or simply looking for trucks that were overloaded. I’d hate to see anything happen to Drag on Challenge; the calendar. it’s the s best street machine event on the calendar.