Photography: Daniel Schenkelberg
General Motors has done its part to attempt to take over the world with what could ultimately be the most swapped engine of all time; since the debut of the LS-series engine in 1997, the company has seen its popularity grow explosively with the enthusiast population. The platform’s ability to make reliable horsepower – and GM’s foresight to install a variant of the engine configuration in everything from the Corvette to the 1500-series pickup trucks – ensures that there are millions of these engines on the road. It also means that there are plenty of inexpensive, fuel-injected engines with forged crankshafts in local junkyards for engine swappers and hot-rodders to choose from when building a project car.
The LS Fest, an event designed to showcase vehicles powered by the respected engine, was started by LS enthusiasts for LS enthusiasts, and today, it has become the go-to deal for LS lovers all over the country. In years past, the event was held strictly in Bowling Green, Kentucky, the home of title sponsor Holley Performance Products. However, the Holley team realized that the West Coast has been eager to have the opportunity to attend an event a little closer to home, so a plan was hatched to bring LS Fest West to life. Held at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the two-day event caters to all LS enthusiasts. On the schedule were various forms of motorsports competition; drag racing, autocrossing, drifting and the newest LS Fest West-only addition, an off-road exhibition.
The huge facility at LVMS is the perfect location for an event of this stature. With access to the dirt track, LS Fest added off-road demos to their schedule for the first time, with a showing from Ultra4 and Dirt Alliance trucks. Ultra4 trucks are known for their ability to tackle rough rock crawling but still be able to stretch their legs in desert sections. The Ultra4 series has grown in popularity within the past two years, with the premier race, King of the Hammers, held in a dry lake bed in southern California.
Dirt Alliance consists of a group of like-minded Prerunner truck owners who are known for pushing their trucks to the limit each time they hit the dirt. Whether in the dunes, or at the Hoonigan Racing Garage, they know how to put on a show.
Many of the racers arrived Friday morning – Cinco de Mayo! A short walk through the pits and you could see many of the racers were enjoying the holiday, sporting sombreros and having pinatas at their camp, then running them over during the drifting event. Drag racers hit the staging lanes in the morning. Many got a chance to witness the drifting while they awaited their next race as it was in the parking lot just south of the staging lanes.
In the lanes, a wide range of vehicles – from a standard C6 corvette to a monster work truck – could be seen awaiting their turn at the dragstrip. The eighth-mile shootout had the fastest cars of the event running consistent mid 5’s throughout the weekend. In my opinion, the most entertaining class was the LS truck class with its diverse group of competitors. The crowd’s favorite was the military truck.
The autocross event ran all day, and was consistently filled with cars. Speedtech had an impressive showing with their Camaros being the most entertaining, slamming on the brakes and lighting up the tires in the brake box.
Oddly enough there was a mini-truck racing and it had a lawnmower and weed whacker in the back, although this arrangement was not the best for weight transfer as he would lose it on the back turn and spin out. The truck had a twin-turbo LS in it with the filters sticking out of the headlights; confidently I say he may be the fastest gardener in the neighborhood.
Friday and Saturday’s temperatures hovered in the low 100s; although the track seemed to be holding up well, as things wrapped up for the day on Saturday, Mother Nature decided to change her course. Thunderstorms came in from the west during the night and the temperatures dropped significantly. By Sunday morning, the sun made only an occasional showing, and temperatures dropped a staggering 40 degrees into mid-60s throughout the day. Cars were having trouble with traction with the cold track surfaces, as many ended up skating around on the dragstrip and in the autocross.
Temperature is always a concern when it comes to the Prerunner trucks. Dirt Alliance put on a massive show sending their trucks over the jumps, to the tune of 100-foot-plus distances! As expected all of the trucks in the demonstration session were running LS engines, with most pushing over 700 horsepower to the wheels. These trucks need an engine to last in the taxing desert environment, on the limiter throughout their race, and the owners have to remain confident in the engine’s ability to stay together. The LS engines have been reliable in these conditions, and that’s why they are so popular with this crowd.
Holley Performance did a great job bringing the West Coast LS fans a new perspective – one that East Coast LS Fest attendees don’t get – when it decided to include the off-road segment into LS Fest West. This gave many of the fans a unique experience at the drag strip that they may not have had the opportunity to witness before.
As the first event in a new region of the country, the turnout was solid and all of the attendees seemed to be pleased with the outcome. In fact, Holley announced that LS Fest West is already on their schedule for 2018. Thanks to all of the staff members of LS Fest for throwing a fun event and giving the West Coast a first taste of the LS flavor!