Throughout the weekend of October 5-7, the ground was shaking on the west coast and it wasn’t because of an earthquake. Close to 200 racers and countless spectators had gathered for the 2012 Pacific Street Car Association (PSCA) West Coast Nationals sponsored by Mickey Thompson.
The event was held at the highly regarded Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a facility that not only houses a dragstrip, but a NASCAR oval track, an autocross course, and even an area for Formula-D drifters.
Since Las Vegas is only a five hour drive from our Murrieta, California offices, we made it a point to cover the event. Besides, we needed an excuse to get some more runs on our long-term 2002 Camaro project car, BlownZ.
Friday October 5th, Test and Tune
Once we arrived at the event early Friday afternoon, we immediately unloaded our Camaro along with all of our gear and set about getting ready for some trial passes. Friday was essentially a show up, set up, and test and tune night for all of the racers participating in the event.
Joe Schalpi's crew worked hard throughout the weekend to keep the Pro Street '57 Chevy in top form.
In the meantime, your author cruised the pits to see what other vehicles the participants were fielding for the weekend. Immediately we stumbled upon John Schalpi’s car, the Pro Street ’57 Chevy that packs a 526ci. Hemi and is well-known for being a low 6-second contender in the quarter mile. There were other cars we were excited about too, like Artis Houston’s ’71 Nova who was also competing with us in Wild Street, among many others.
We saw quite a large array of different cars competing at the event, from a pair of bone stock 2013 Mustang V6 convertibles to Top Fuel rail cars, and everything in between. Strangely, we were one of only two or three LS-powered vehicles competing during last weekends race. For such a popular application, we were expecting a lot more.
Dan Hale's '89 Mustang LX arrived at the party with twin turbos and 324ci. of Modular power, enough to put him squarely in the nines. Ollie Frazier's '69 Nova was a bit more tame, running a naturally aspirated 406ci. small block that keeps him in the 11's. It may not sound that impressive to some, but Ollie easily earns our respect being as how he's campaigning such a machine at 80 years young. Look for a full feature on both of these cars in the near future.
As far as BlownZ was concerned, we made a couple of trial passes. Unfortunately one of the passes wasn’t very rewarding, as we destroyed the blower belt that would result in a pass of 9.04, having to lift off at the end of the track. Although we would eventually set a new best time for our BlownZ Camaro during the event, this problem with shredding our blower belts would become a consistent problem throughout the weekend.
The test and tune didn’t start until later than expected at 6 p.m., but everyone who got to make a pass or two definitely helped set the stage for things to come on Saturday and Sunday.
Late Friday evening consisted of test and tune runs by several competitors and us destroying a blower belt. This would happen a few times throughout the weekend, despite our attempts of curing the problem. Mechanical perplexities aside, this didn't keep us from setting a new record time with our BlownZ project car with an 8.24 at 168 mph.
We weren't the only ones who had problems. Russ Delia's '68 Camaro SS blew a head gasket, causing the team to drop a piston during Friday night's test and tune. This would seal their fate at the event, but look forward to a full feature on this boosted F-body in the future.
Saturday October 6th, Qualifying Rounds
An interesting selection of vehicles took part in the event's small car show throughout the weekend.
Wanting to get a head start on the event, we woke up at dawn to be at the gates at 8 a.m.. Like the night before, spectators showed up and were ready to see some racing. We walked around the pits to see what some of the racers had to say about the track, the way their car was running, and what challenges they were facing. Many of them claimed that the track was a little slippery, especially in the right lane, and the changes in temperature throughout the day didn’t help.
Toaster's friend and pit crew member, Jamie Voorhees, helps him square up on the track.
We immediately ran into Ryan “Toaster” Jones, and his red ’65 Nova first thing in the morning. Although the last time we saw him he was having head gasket issues in Pomona, we’re happy to report that he was back, and running better than ever before. He upgraded most of his cooling system, and said that he had his car in Arizona just a couple of weeks earlier where it made a best pass of 7.64. We were looking forward to see what he would do this weekend.
Ben Davidou was just as eager to get out there and see how well his 334ci. SBF-powered ’95 Mustang GT with a 98mm turbo was running. He would later tell us tales of 5.50 ET’s, a slippery track, 60-ft. times in the 1.30’s, and hoping to earn a 1.20 60-ft. Ben’s Mustang was relatively simple, but efficient, and would continue to impress us throughout the weekend. Ben was competing in Outlaw 8.5, and running Q16 in his boosted ‘Stang.
Ben Davidou was pulling ET's in the 5.50's all weekend and eventually won his class for the event.
Throughout the event there was beautiful weather, lots of qualifying racing action, and surprisingly, very little carnage. That included carnage of our own, as BlownZ didn’t really want to keep its blower belt in place. Apparently, the blower was mounted slightly tilted, causing our belts to slip and get shredded from the pulleys. Luckily, we had a few extras on hand, but as it would later turn out, just enough to get us through the weekend.
But this didn’t keep us from setting a new personal best of 8.24 at 168 mph! Traction was a bit of an issue for us as the track was slick in some areas, and despite the inconveniences with the belt, the car ran strong. We made a few adjustments to our supercharger assembly in an attempt to quell these issues, and they helped, but it wouldn’t be enough. However, we didn’t let anything deter our determination to continue racing, and we would continue doing so throughout the weekend.
Even trucks showed up to the event, like Anthony Salas' '08 Trailblazer SS and Doug Delay's '05 Silverado Duramax. Joe Keurjikian's '69 Trans Am represented Hot Street, while Ollie Frazier and Artis Houston represented Novas for each of their classes.
At the end of the day, one racer almost went home early, but thanks to Jeff Hughes of Hughes Performance, that wasn’t the case at all. Jeff was on hand with a trailer loaded with everything needed to rebuild a transmission. In fact, he had a complete transmission and enough components on hand to rebuild ten more.
The fortunate person (or unfortunate, depending on how you look at things) was Scott Bieschke. Scott was campaigning his ’88 Mustang LX in the Outlaw 8.5 category, and was packing a QMP-built 363ci. SBF and an 88mm turbo that, together, generates 1,400 rwhp.
With over 1,400 horsepower going to the rear, it's a small wonder that Scott Bieschke burned up hids built Powerglide during Saturday's Qualifying Round 3.
This is the clutch pack that was removed from Scott's transmission. These six clutches were welded together.
With everything on hand to rebuild ten transmissions, and to completely replace two, Jeff Hughes was there to help out anybody with their transmission needs.
Here are just a few shots of Jeff rebuilding Scott's Powerglide. Hughes worked into the darkness to rebuild and upgrade the Powerglide.
Not bad, but definitely enough to destroy the built Powerglide Scott relied on to shift his ‘Stang down the track. As it turns out, six clutches had welded themselves together in lieu of all of the heat that resulted from trans-braking the engine for too long.
Jeff claims he typically can rebuild a transmission in twenty minutes, but if there’s a lot of broken debris, it could take as long as two hours. Scott broke his Powerglide in the late evening, and Jeff worked on it into the darkness. When we arrived at the track the next morning, it was ready to go.
Sunday October 7th, Eliminations
Racers filled the staging lanes for Sunday's eliminations.
The third and final day at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the day of eliminations. As much fun as we were having, it was time to either put up or shut up. Everyone running that day had the determined look in the eye, as all racers had their sights set on winning their categories.
Norman Chang would go on to take home the winner's trophy in his class. Pretty ironic, since he was the most laid back racer we talked to all weekend.
That is everyone except Norman Chang, who took a more relaxed, “just here to have fun” approach to the whole thing. Norman was running an ’88 Mustang LX with a 427 SBF and twin turbos. He claims he’s not a points chaser, and doesn’t take racing events too seriously. The car itself is new to Norman, and he just swapped on some Mickey Thompson Drag Radials to compete in the Xtreme Drag Radial class. Ironically, he was the number one qualifier and went on to win his class with a 5.164 at 145.27 mph.
Kevin Young was there with his ’86 Camaro, and he claimed to be having no issues with the car at all. Even the track was on his side he claimed. His only gripe was the “finicky air,” as the elevation and abrupt wind blasts were there to cause him a little grief. Like Norman, he was the number one qualifier in his class, although he ultimately handed the final elimination round win to his brother, Jeff, in his ’85 Camaro.
Kevin Young's '86 Camaro was consistent and earned him the number one qualifying spot in Sunday's eliminations. Unfortunately, he lost the top spot to his brother, Jeff, in his '85 Camaro.
Walking past John Scialpi’s pits, one would have the pleasure of seeing a group of guys wrenching on the old Chevy to get it prepped for Sunday’s rounds of eliminations. When we approached John, he told us that they were happy to be the number one qualifier in the Pro Street Category. In fact, the PSCA event made it four events in a row for the Scialpi team to accomplish top honors in their class.
They were running new Goodyear slicks that, unfortunately, made traction a bit of an issue, but they were determined to find that “sweet spot” that would allow them to get the launch just right. The Car Gods must have been smiling down, as they won the event with a time of 6.400 at 221.27 mph.
John Scialpi was number one qualifier for Sunday's race, and would ultimately won the event in the Pro Street class.
Right before we went to grab some trackside action, we ran into Randy Jones and his red 2005 Cavalier that was built to compete in the Hot Street category. Before you pass judgement on the J-body we should probably point out that it has a 388 ci. Chevy under the hood that helps propel the RWD-conversioned Cavalier down the track in 8.2-seconds at over 164 mph. Like the others, Randy landed himself in the winner’s circle with an 8.263 at 164.67 in the final.
BlownZ getting it's front wheels up on our final run.
Unfortunately, BlownZ was eliminated in the first round, thanks once again to our slipping blower belt issue. Although the adjustments we made Saturday evening did help, it still wasn’t enough to keep our belt from destroying itself. Despite the technical issues, our Camaro set itself a new record time and there’s plenty more untapped potential left in our combination. As of now, we are working on a fix and you’ll eventually get to read about it here.
Longtime West coast Pro Modified racer John Scialpi muscled his way to the Pro Street crown on Sunday afternoon, using a first round competition bye to advance into a final round matchup with Jeremy Hanger. There, Scialpi took an .075 to .193 edge out of the gate and never trailed, running 6.40 at 221.27 mph to Hangers’ 6.47 at 210.67. Four-time PSCA champion Doug Sikora also walked way victorious on the weekend after making headlines with a new record performance of 6.509-seconds from his supercharged, 499 cubic inch Mustang.
Extreme Drag Radial No. 1 qualifier Norman Chang, out of Atherton, Calif., fell well off the pace in the final round, running “just” a 5.16 at 145.27 mph, but it was all he needed to secure the victory, as opponent Wally Tuttle Jr. had troubles and slowed. Chang neared his 4.72-second qualifying pace in eliminations, downing Doug Shelton in round with a 4.83, Scot Slotten in the quarters with a stout 4.78, and posting a 4.84 on his semifinal competition single. Tuttle, meanwhile, ran as quick as 4.96 during the previous three rounds, where he downed Ryan Jones, Rich Hoyle, and Chris Graves.
The Young Brothers out of Idaho Falls, Id. squared off in the Wild Street final, with Jeff snatching the hardware with a 7.66 at 186.33 mph as Kevin was dead-late and slowed to just a 14-second lap. The pair had both run in the mid-7.50’s earlier in the day, setting up what what was expected to be a titanic battle for the West Coast National crown that didn’t materialize.
The naturally aspirated Hot Street class was won by Monarch Beach, Calif. native Randy Jones in his 2005 Chevy Cavalier, as he rolled to an 8.26 at 164.67 mph to defeat Al Aguire and his ’68 Barracuda. Jones recorded low elapsed time of each round, including a best-of-the-event 8.211 in the opening round.
Ben Davidow took his ’95 Mustang from the No. 3 qualifying slot all the way to victory circle, scoring a 5.48 to 5.53 win over Scott Bieschke in the money round. Davidow ran low elapsed time of eliminations in the semifinals — a 5.311 to oust Jason Kenzevich.