Over the last decade-plus, the Street Car Super Nationals has become a destination event for the many of the world’s most accomplished racers. Held in Las Vegas just a few short weeks after the SEMA Show, the SCSN event attracts racers from the Outlaw Pro Mod and Radial Vs. the World ranks all the way down to traditional bracket classes, each with a chance to close out their event season by taking home some of promoter Mel Roth’s prize money.
The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is relatively unique among dragstrips in the United States; its location in the high desert of Nevada means that racers typically need a specific tuneup to run well at the facility. Incredibly low humidity and high elevation force tuning changes which aren’t applicable at any other track, and it’s perhaps this handicap – especially for racers from the eastern half of the country, of which there are many – that leads promoter Roth to offer racers at the event at least four, and sometimes five, qualifying shots before eliminations begin.
I’ve been to this event a number of times in previous years, and while it’s usually a marathon that tests even the diehard racing aficionado, the racing action is well worth the price of admission. The chance to see the East Coast and West Coast racers mix it up is also a big draw – many of these racers see each other only once a year at this event. The scenery at The Strip is like no other, and the whole vibe is one that must be experienced to understand why the Street Car Super Nationals has become a destination race.
Sidnei Frigo made the long trip from Brazil to compete in his Pro Line Racing-maintained Pro Mod Corvette. The longtime racer’s efforts were rewarded, as he carded an insane 5.69 at 261 mph in the first round of eliminations on Saturday night. This feat was accomplished with a pair of 88mm turbochargers in an NHRA-legal Pro Mod, although it’s my understanding that there are no boost limits imposed at SCSN, where the NHRA limits competitors to 38 psi. Frigo went all the way to the final round of competition before getting out of shape and losing to California racer Mike Bowman.
Although he had the second-smallest engine in the Outlaw 10.5 class (more on that later), Greg Seth-Hunter took the MMR-backed Mustang to the top of the heap in the class once qualifying was complete with a 4.045 at over 190 mph. The sleek ’07 currently uses a 5.8-liter Ford Modular engine and a pair of turbochargers, but the team’s plan for 2017 is to swap the older technology for one of MMR’s all-new billet-block Coyote engines topped with GT350 cylinder heads and the accompanying technology boost of the newer platform. MMR owner Mark Luton is running one of these engines, measuring 400 cubic inches, in his Pro Mod. With duplicate engines in the two different cars, the team feels the accompanying data acquisition will be invaluable. In SCSN competition, Seth-Hunter went to the semifinal round before losing to Ken Sihota.
Given the cold weather, as temperatures struggled to get out of the 50s the first two days, and the varying track conditions required by the different race classes – Pro Mod requires much different prep than a class like Pro 275 or RvW – the LVMS crew was on point with their prep efforts.
Paja Agatonovic’s Camaro is one of the cleanest I’ve seen anywhere, and thanks to the big-inch nitrous-injected Sonny’s engine, the Oregon resident cracked off a 4.21 to qualify sixth in Outlaw 10.5. By the end of round two, Agatonovic was on the sidelines at the hands of Lyle Byrum.
This car is one of the baddest real street cars on the planet – Tom Bailey’s Sick Seconds 2.0 ‘Beast Mode’ Camaro is one of the perennial contenders for the Hot Rod Drag Week title and has been deep into the six-second zone. Bailey made a vacation of the trip to Las Vegas; the Michigan business owner brought his son along for a 14-state round trip the youngster will likely never forget. Unfortunately, the team damaged the engine beyond repair during their first qualifying hit.
I stopped by to chat with Tom on Sunday, and despite never meeting him before, he took the time to talk with me for about half an hour about the car, his goals, and what keeps him chasing the dream of having a car that can be street-driven (he really does drive this car around) and still compete with the world’s most prominent racers. The 615 cubic-inch, 4,000-plus-horsepower Steve Morris Engines powerplant in Sick Seconds 2.0 is due for a winter overhaul, and he vowed to be back with a vengeance for the 2017 season. He’s already the first racer to run 6s at each Drag Week track and complete the six-second average, done back in 2013 in his original Sick Seconds Camaro. In 2015, this car ran a 6.3x average on Drag Week, and the way I understand it, he’s shooting to run 5s at each of the Drag Week tracks and become the first with the 5-second average as well.
A win in the Outlaw 8.5 class was a great way for Missouri’s Dan Saitz to finish off his weekend. Going up against many purpose-built cars – like the G-body of Krusty Ramsey – Saitz took the orange ’88 Mustang right to the top of the ladder with a stout 4.762 at over 155 mph. That’s not all; he ran low ET of the event with a 4.740, then took out George Raygoza’s ’68 Nova in the final round, overcoming Raygoza’s holeshot in the process. Rumor has it Saitz drives this car to work quite often.
John Urist showed up to the event with a solid plan to do well in his Turn 14 Distribution-sponsored Mustang in the Xtreme Drag Radial class; the car had run 4.55 at No Mercy VII in Georgia in October and he was looking to improve upon that. Unfortunately for Urist, the ‘new combination bugs’ bit him again, and he was forced to bow out of competition prior to the end of qualifying. As Urist is one of only a few racers running in the small-tire ranks with the turbocharged/Coyote combination, and the only one running as quickly as he has, he’s still sorting out the failure points to eliminate them from his program.
“This is one of my favorite races of the year. We came in with a fresh engine combination, but we had traction issues all weekend long. Regardless, we recorded some solid data and expect 2017 to be a great year,” says Urist.
This is one of the most touching stories of the entire weekend. Tim McNamara II (far lane) came running into race control on Saturday evening, concerned that he wouldn’t get to make his final qualifying pass. See Tim was racing in two separate bracket classes – but he was also scheduled to get married on Saturday night at 10PM. As the racing action was running long, the entire track staff encouraged him to forgo that last pass of the evening and go get married, which he did! On Sunday, everyone in Race Control was rooting for him to take home the win, and he came oh-so-close, going to the semifinals in Open Comp – against the toughest competitors around – in his 19-second Chevy Corsica. Just goes to show that a drag racer is a drag racer, regardless of the vehicle they use to get down the track.
Volkswagen Beetle with a convertible top and right-hand-drive doing a big burnout – what could be more awesome about this photo? Richie Webb’s VW caught my eye every time he came to the starting line.
Justen Spencer has been ripping up the West Coast in the SCSN’s Mustang Maddness class for years; he also competes in the PSCA and the NMCA West series with regularity. His Vortech-supercharged Mustang is super-consistent; Spencer qualified sixth with a .010 reaction time.
Mike Maggio’s blown Outlaw Pro Mod Camaro is one of the loudest cars I’ve ever encountered. Maggio is always a player at this event, and 2016 turned out to be no different. While Troy Coughlin turned in low ET, when the finals rolled around, it was Maggio and John Stanley at the tree. Stanley pulled the trigger a hair too early, giving away the OPM win to Maggio before the race even started.
With only 12 passes on this car to date, driver Giuseppe Gentile and car owner Bob Remillard are extremely pleased with the changes they’ve made. You might remember this car as the maroon ProCharged Outlaw 10.5 machine formerly driven by Doug Sikora. Today, Sikora is on the sidelines working as a crew member on the car along with engine builder Jason Pettis, and Remillard and Gentile have stepped up to completely overhaul it after a wreck suffered when Sikora was still in the seat. Today, it’s boosted by a pair of turbos in front of the Brad Anderson Hemi instead of the ProCharger that was previously underhood. The car has been completely rebuilt from front to rear, and Gentile turned in the top speed in Outlaw 10.5 at the event with a 193.40 mph blast, showing incredible potential. He qualified eighth and went all the way to the quarterfinals before falling to top qualifier Greg Seth-Hunter.
This is the moment when Xtreme Drag Radial number-one-qualifier Eric “Goose” Gustafson realized his weekend might be over prematurely; against Norman Chang in the final round of competition, Goose stuck the tire hard on the launch, and the car went up, and up, and up, until he ultimately crossed the centerline and disqualified himself from the run. Despite winning his back-and-forth qualifying battle with James Lawrence to qualify with a 4.35, anything can happen on race day. Gustafson, who has been racing mostly on the East Coast with this impressive car all year, has it up for sale as he builds a new ride for 2017.
Chang, to his credit, had been steadily chipping away at his twin-turbo Mustang’s performance all weekend long. After qualifying fifth with a 4.54, Chang turned it up during eliminations, running through number-two qualifier James Lawrence with a strong 4.366 before sending Gustafson home to earn the win in Xtreme Drag Radial. With Gustafson out of shape, Chang had to take evasive maneuvers at the top end of the track.
Troy Coughlin and the JEGS team have been staunch supporters of this event over the years, lending their name as the title sponsor while competing in the Outlaw Pro Mod category. Coughlin makes a number of small changes from his NHRA Pro Mod trim to compete in this class, including the switch to a lockup torque converter, a pair of 102mm Precision Turbo Pro Mod turbochargers, and the appropriate adjustments to the fuel system and engine management to support the added horsepower. Coughlin’s monstrous Corvette was able to break into the 5.50s with a 5.591 at 272-plus mph – these are insane numbers from a door car at altitude. Coughlin bowed out to eventual winner Mike Maggio in the semifinals when the car got out of shape and he had to lift.
Susan Roush-McClenaghan (near lane) made the trip from Michigan along with teammate Donnie Bowles to race in the Open Comp-style classes in their Roush-based propane-powered Mustangs, doubling up in the Open Comp and Mustang Maddness classes. The team has been deadly in 2016, with Bowles taking the NMRA Modular Muscle championship and Roush-McClenaghan finishing in the seventh spot. In NMCA Open Comp action, Susan finished seventh for the season, with Donnie in the eighth spot. Here in Las Vegas, Susan went to the second round in Mustang Maddness and all the way to the semifinals in the MMR Open Comp class – down to the final four out of 71 cars in the class before she fell to eventual class winner Ken Spears and his ’54 Chevy pickup.
Meanwhile, Donnie Bowles made the best of his foray into Las Vegas, going to the fourth round in Open Comp – where he, too, fell to Spears. But in the Mustang Maddness class, Bowles made the best of his trip by qualifying 11th out of 33 cars. During the elimination sessions, he was like a machine, carding reaction times in the mid-.020-second range and just hundredths off his dial-in. By the time the final round rolled around, it was dark and cold, and the track was tight – but Bowles was loose and ready. Of course, it helped that opponent Don Bonahoom went -.001 red on the tree, but Bowles had figured out his Mustang’s combination during the 21 total passes he made while in Las Vegas and would have been tough to beat with a .008 reaction time and a 10.111 on a 10.10 dial-in for a 19-thousandths package.
“Whenever I go to Vegas, my car falls off quite a bit. Between that, the barometer, and the DA compared to where I usually race, I’ve always had to make big changes to get the car to work properely. But this time, I had Steve Matukas come and check out the chassis to make sure the setup was correct. He suggested a ladder bar change, which we made for the Street Car Super Nationals. That worked well, and made the 60-foot time extremely consistent. I really think that helped me feel confident in the car. I had a good read on the weather and conditions for the final. I’m going to enjoy it, I’m going to celebrate it, and most of all I’m going to appreciate it!” says Bowles.
In case you’re the type to sit home glued to your favorite internet-connected device when the Street Car Super Nationals is running, Brian Lohnes from Bangshift spent the weekend broadcasting the event from atop this motorhome – layered in about six shirts and a couple of pairs of pants. It was cold down on the ground, and I can’t imagine how much more the wind was cutting through him up on top of the rig. But he’s from Massachusetts, and has a beard, so I suspect it was just another weekend at work for him. He’s currently recovering on a cruise ship in Mexico.
How does a 7.83 at well over 170 mph sound? Florida racer Robbie Blankenship turned in the quickest pass in the history of the Junior Pro Stock naturally aspirated class, taking out all of the competition in the process to take home the winnings. Chase Blankenship agrees with this message.
Mike Keenan’s 2017 Corvette qualified first in the Radial Vs. The World category with a strong 4.139, a stout number in the thin air of Las Vegas. Tuner Josh ‘Squatch’ Ledford had the car running like a bracket car all weekend long, as Keenan ran through the field, including stalwart player Roger Holder, and clicked off a 4.110 over 196 mph in the final round to earn the win. I fully expect to see more of the car at upcoming events next season, and I’m extremely curious to see how it does on a radial-prepped track closer to sea level. Even more impressive: the Street Car Super Nationals was the debut event for this car on the radial tire!
Kelly Harvey had a weekend I’m pretty sure he’d like to forget; his ’41 Willys proved to be a handful every time he dropped the hammer on the starting line. On Thursday afternoon, the car swapped ends through the traps in the left lane, ultimately tagging the wall with the right rear quarter-panel while going backwards at 150-plus mph. Then, on Saturday evening, this happened. Harvey got out of shape again, tagging the left wall with the left side of the car, spinning around multiple times through the traps, then continuing down the track to tag the wall three more times as he was rendered unconscious at some point during the accident. The track’s Fire & Safety team got him safely out of the car. My understanding is that thankfully he was OK with the exception of some bumps and bruises – both on himself, and the car.
One of the best reasons to go to The Strip is the sunset – as the day fades into night and the sun drops behind the mountains on the outskirts of the city, the sky puts on quite a show.
Outlaw Pro Mod racer John Stanley awaits his chance to blast down the track.
Despite Sidnei Frigo claiming the top qualifier spot, Top Speed, and Low ET of the event in Turbo Pro Mod, at the very end of the weekend, California’s own Mike Bowman was the man left standing. His ’69 Chevelle qualified ninth, but on elimination day he was like a razor, cutting through everything in sight. In the final round, Bowman cranked off a 5.78 at 259 mph to outlast Frigo.
A 5.59 at nearly 129 mph in the eighth-mile on a 235-wide tire? That equates to a mid-8-second elapsed time, on a tire that has only 8.3 inches of tread width. These guys are just crazy! Eric McEwan won the 235 Limited class in his ’73 Camaro. The car features a small-block Chevrolet and a nitrous system tuned up by Robert Lane of Fast Lane Nitrous in Texas.
It was a good year for our friends from up north; Craig Henschell made the trek down from Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada to take the top qualified spot in 275 Radial. He then ran through the field and battled East Coast standout racer Jacky McCarty in a tough final round, ultimately coming out on top with a strong 4.483 to not only win the race but set low ET in the process.
Another Canadian who found his way to the winner’s circle is Outlaw 10.5 champ Ken Sihota. Over the last four years, he’s qualified in the top four at each SCSN event, finishing as the runner-up once. He also went to the semifinals against Taylor Lastor in 2014 and came up just .008-second short of moving into the final. This year, Sihota and his team had a tough road to the win; in the process they beat former class winner Steve Nicholson and number one qualifier Greg Seth-Hunter. The finals brought number two qualifier Robert Costa, and Sihota and his team answered the challenge.
“We have always brought our Eh! Game, but this year it finally paid off! The final was a true battle. We both ran hard – all I can remember is seeing a purple glare out of the corner of my eye the whole pass – but fortunately we crossed the stripes first with a 4.03 at 185 mph against his 4.06 at 183 mph. The 4.03 is a personal best pass for me. Winning is absolutely amazing, but win or lose, none of it would be possible without all of the support of my crew and sponsors. I am fortunate to call each and every one of them friends,” says Sihota.
The must-see spectacle that is the Street Car Super Nationals delivered upon its promise of low elapsed times, stout racing action, and excitement yet again. Enjoy the photo gallery below; it’s just a small sampling of the photos I shot over the course of the weekend. Thanks to promoter Mel Roth and all of the SCSN racers for the amazing show!