I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve attended Mel Roth’s Street Car Super Nationals in Las Vegas. It’s one of those events that is a constant on my travel schedule each fall; while Vegas proper isn’t my choice destination as I don’t gamble much, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is one of my favorite places on Earth, right up there with Beech Bend Raceway in Kentucky—but for very different reasons.
I’m not sure if it’s the spectacular scenery, the strikingly beautiful cars which show up to take part in the event, or the opportunity to shoot photos of the warplanes entering and exiting Nellis Air Force Base next door, but there’s just something about SCSN which keeps me coming back every year. Most of these classes run eighth-mile, with the exception of the Pro Mod and Index/Open Comp-style classes, which retain the traditional quarter-mile format.
Video Footage Courtesy of Free Life Films
Without a doubt, one of the major highlights of the Street Car Super Nationals is the Pro Mod Quickest Pass Challenge, which pits the Pro Mod racers against one another on the quarter-mile in a dash for the $1,000 bonus cash provided by SCSN. With the Pro Mod rules relaxed for this part of the show, the racers uncork their turbos and blowers to see what’s hidden inside, and this year, noted NHRA Pro Mod racer Rick Hord took home the money—and a super-cool trophy courtesy of Bangshift.com—with an awesome 5.52 pass at over 267 mph. With the assistance of tuners/engine builders Carl Stevens Jr. and Sr., Hord threw it down all weekend long in the Maximum Effort IV Corvette, eventually finishing runner-up to DBarD Racing’s Ed Thornton in the Precision Turbo Pro Mod class.
Thornton, to his credit, took the reins of the team’s beautiful ’70 Camaro and wheeled it like a consummate pro, taking the tuning input of Shane Tecklenburg and turning it into a winner’s-circle payday in Pro Mod. He ran 5.63, 5.65, and 5.61 on his way to the finals, where Tecklenburg loosened the reins on the tune enough to send the Camaro to a personal-best 5.543—at a monster 274.61 mph! The win netted the team $20,000 for its efforts.
This year’s event had a first-time wrinkle thrown into the mix which made it more enticing. Under noted track preparation specialist Kurt Johnson, The Strip, which was upgraded last winter to incorporate a second pair of racing lanes and become the second Four Wide track in the country—next to Bruton Smith’s other palace, zMAX Dragway in Concord, NC—was able to be prepared with two lanes for slick-tire racecars, and the second set of lanes for radial-tire-equipped cars, because the two types of tires require vastly different preparation styles of the surface. The SCSN crew was able to alternate lanes to send each class down the correct prep type, and every racer I asked about the track surface said it was one of the best that they had ever raced on, regardless of their racing category.
One of the advantages to preparing the track in this manner is that it provided an incredibly consistent racing surface all weekend long regardless of class or tire choice, and as a result, many, many competitors achieved personal-best passes throughout the course of the weekend. For these racers, although their weekend didn’t result in an event win or runner-up placement, that personal-best pass achieved at the last big race of the year before heading into the offseason was the stamp on a racing season that provides rejuvenation and a renewed focus heading into 2019. After the event, Roth made a Facebook post asking how many racers achieved that personal-best at SCSN, which had dozens of racer responses as of this writing.
During the racing action, there was a $10,000 grudge-style race utilizing all four lanes: Jermaine Boddie’s Nova and Giuseppe Gentile’s Mustang in the slick lanes, and Mark Woodruff’s Corvette (see his Front Street feature here) and Eric Kvilhaug in the Dragzine Corvette in the radial tire lanes. Gentile, who’s been on a tear lately, gained the quick advantage and never relinquished it, taking the Bob Remillard-owned Mustang to a solid payday. He also outlasted nearly everyone in Hughes Performance Big Tire, going down to John De Jonge in the final round.
Free Life Films
After qualifying at the top of the ladder in Mickey Thompson 275 Radial with a strong 4.428, the Turn 14 Distribution Mustang of John Urist ran through the class during eliminations—until the final round, that is, where he met up with the gorgeous ’74 Nova of Clint Downs in a number-one versus number-three-qualifier battle in the tightest race of the weekend. Just .012-second separated the racers at the stripe, with .006-second of that in Downs’ favor on the starting line (.034 to .040 reaction time advantage) and Downs’ 4.412 besting Urist’s 4.418 on the big end. When they went by me at the 200-foot mark it was too close to call and they stayed stuck to each other like glue through the lights. Urist told me they were so close he couldn’t tell who was ahead until the win light came on for Downs.
Busting into the three-second zone under true Outlaw 10.5 rules this weekend, Greg Seth-Hunter made his mark in the GenX 351ci Coyote-powered MMR Mustang. The car becomes the world’s fastest Ford-powered car in the world on this tire, and Seth-Hunter went all the way to the semifinals against a field full of cars sporting 500-900+ cubic-inch engines. A loss in the semis against eventual class winner Mike Keenan didn’t dampen his spirits, though. You’ll get to see a mini-feature on this trend-setting combination over the winter right here on Front Street.
Trey Boothe’s best pass of 4.67 at 158 mph in this convertible New Edge Mustang is a personal best; from what I understand this was the first outing in the car in the Outlaw 8.5 class after two years of working on it and changing the entire combination from what it was previously. That’s an outstanding showing and puts him toward the top of this class.
Frank Yee’s brand-new Voodoo Racing Innovations-built car took over the Flying A Small Tire No Time class, and captured the win over some serious competition. Anthony Manna, Tony Aneian, James Lawrence, Freddy Bueno, and Kevin Wallauer all fell to the Yee juggernaut over the course of the elimination rounds. With tuning assistance from Patrick Barnhill of PTP Racing, Yee was able to capture a personal best on his final pass of the weekend with the 481X-powered twin-turbo ride.
The Vortech Superchargers Outlaw 8.5 class is and has always been one of my favorites, for a number of reasons. Chief among those reasons are the driving talents on display, with racers attempting to get down the track with big-time horsepower and a tire that is better-suited for a 500 horsepower bracket car. It’s a long drive from Little Rock, Arkansas, to Las Vegas (1,450-ish miles) but Brad Medlock made the best of his trip, racing his Gotta Have It Green turbocharged Mustang into the final round against Derek Cooper, who made a long drive himself from Littleton, Colorado to The Strip (750-ish miles). Although Medlock clearly had the car to beat by virtue of his 4.59 number-one-qualifier shot, Cooper took the easy win when Medlock’s car wouldn’t make any boost on the starting line. How does 4.50s and 4.60s sound? These elapsed times are achieved on a tire which has a tread width of just 8.1 inches—less than the width of a standard sheet of paper.
Ross Pistons Limited 235 is a distant cousin of the Outlaw 8.5 class; the engine rules are much more limited, and the class is run on a 235-wide radial tire rather than the slick used in 8.5, but ultimately it’s a class where driving skill—especially on the starting line and in the first 60 feet—are critical to a racer’s success. At the end of the weekend, though, the cream rose to the top as Dan Dagata (#1 qualifier) and Mike Silva (#2 qualifier) pierced the field to end up in the final round. Chevy (Silva) vs Ford (Dagata), nitrous vs. nitrous, and wheels-up launches with low 5-second eighth-mile times. What’s not to love about this class?
Prior to the event, there was a huge buzz in the Pro Mod world when Keith Engling of Skinny Kid Race Cars posted a photo of this all-new seven-speed (!) transmission from Liberty installed in his well-known blown Hurst Olds. While we only got to see the car on the track one time—and driver Dave Hill wheeled it to a stout 5.79 at 250-plus—they were out of commission with engine problems by the time eliminations began. Even so, I chatted with Hill in the pits, and he told me that the car was crazy just keeps on pulling with this setup in it, and had his head pinned against the seat even in fourth gear. It will be interesting to see how this setup impacts Pro Mod over the coming seasons.
I could stand and look at Eddy Whipple’s Outlaw 10.5 Mustang all day long. There are so many nice details on the Whipple Motorsports ride that need to be seen to be appreciated, and Eddy is a heck of a nice guy, too—nice enough that he let me crawl all over and around and under the car to snap some shots for an upcoming feature here on Front Street. Enjoy the teaser! Oh, and Eddy ran a personal-best 4.44 pass in the twin-turbo ‘Stang too, despite starting the weekend in left field with all-new shocks and working all weekend to dial them in. He eventually fell to class winner Mike Keenan in the second round of competition.
Daniel Pharris purchased the EKanoo Racing Lexus at the beginning of the 2018 racing season and has been on a tear, capturing the title of the eight-race ProCharger Limited Drag Radial Championship Series title. Here in Vegas, the Shane T-tuned machine scored yet another payday, this time to the tune of $20,000, as Pharris took the Ultimate 8 No Time class win over a hard-charging Roger Holder. This car—and team—just wins, everywhere they go.
Meet the man with one of the loudest Pro Mods I’ve ever heard, anywhere. Mike Maggio’s blown ’68 Camaro is usually at the top of the field, but the team struggled all weekend long at SCSN this year. More than once I saw the supercharger off the top of the engine between rounds, and ultimately he was out of commission by the end of Saturday. Although most of the engine was destroyed and he had a spare in the trailer, the team elected to call it quits on the weekend as he felt there were other issues going on with the car that would prevent them from making competitive runs. With respect to the damage, he thinks the threads pulled out of one of the connecting rods, the capscrew fell out, and then all hell broke loose. Looking at the photos, we’d agree. It was ugly.
Dave Eggerling and his team undertook a year-long thrash—from a shell with two quarter-panels and a roof—to the stunning ’64 Chevy II you see here, built specifically for the Limited 235 class. Heck, when Dave showed up to the track he hadn’t even been able to secure his competition license yet, but by the end of qualifying, he not only had the license but the sixth qualifying spot in a field of 20 cars, with a 5.48 at 127 mph. A second-round out to Kristyn Cordova didn’t dampen his spirits, though, as he was ecstatic that the car performed up to expectations on its first time out. He met event announcer Al Tucci, who sent him in my direction, which led to a feature photoshoot on this amazing car. There are simply too many details to list here, but you’ll be able to check them all out in the feature over the winter. Dave and his crew headed back to Colorado on a high note, and we can’t wait to see this car hit the track at next year’s event.
If you’re a race fan, you own it to yourself to put SCSN on your list. From the scenery to the highly varied types and styles of cars on the track to the town of Las Vegas, you’re in for a treat. One thing that sticks out to me is that the race cars on the West Coast are just done… differently. Over here in the East you see lots of Mustangs (and there are still plenty of them out there) but at SCSN there’s just so much variety, and the cars are so well-built, that you could realistically spend the entire weekend just walking around the pits and appreciating the craftsmanship that goes into these machines. The best way for me to sum up the experience of attending the Street Car Super Nationals is to say that it’s an experience everyone should have at least once.