The challenge of drag racing has always been a delicate balance of horsepower and traction. It’s easy to have too much of one or the other—or sometimes a little too much of both. Regardless of the situation, the result is pretty entertaining, which is one of the many reasons we love drag racing. You never know what might happen, so when the balance of horsepower and traction is lopsided, it draws a crowd. Such is the case with the recent Chattanooga’s Fastest Street Car Shootout, an eighth-mile, no-prep drag race at Brainerd Optimist Drag Strip in Tennessee.
Anytime the subject of “no-prep” drag racing comes up, it’s always a hot topic, as the true street-racing contenders are often revealed. If your car can hook on an unprepped surface, that usually means you can get it done on the street. We were on hand as the cars battled for a $1,000 winner-take-all purse and the bragging rights of being Chattanooga’s Fastest Street Car. Scattered rain showers in the forecast made for a light racer turnout, but the action was hot and a bunch of spectators came out to view this Friday-night shootout.
The rules for the shootout were simple, as the unprepped racing surface was the ultimate limiting factor for some of the higher-horsepower cars. With no tire rules, no engine rules, and no suspension rules, this shootout came down to the driver’s and tuner’s ability to get the car down the track. No times would be displayed on the scoreboard, and the timeslips were cut in half to keep the e.t.’s under wraps.
The racers must first complete a street cruise and pull directly into the staging lanes to start the first of two qualifying passes. After two back-to-back qualifying passes, the cars were allowed to cool off while the staff set up the elimination ladder. Race organizer Rusty Bridges mandates a rule that he calls “chase is a race,” which means the typical red-light disqualification rules are not in place. If a racer leaves before the green light comes on, the fellow in the other lane has the option to “chase” his opponent or make the very difficult decision to remain staged. If you chase, it’s a race—if you stay locked in the staging beams, the early leaver gets disqualified. It’s a tricky rule, but a couple of racers used it to their advantage.
Throughout the night, the heavy hitters revealed themselves, as the field grew smaller during eliminations. Many of the contenders were sporting nitrous-fed combinations, but there were a couple of turbocharged cars in the mix as well. Our pick for the top five street cars in the shootout goes like this:
Ron Lane’s Datsun 240Z is a handful to drive, but that’s just the way Ron likes it. It has an aluminum-headed small-block under the massive cowl hood. One nitrous system is all it takes to make this 240 get down. It sits on a set of Mickey Thompson 275/60R15 Pro Drag Radials.
Although Russ McDaniel’s Chevelle looks a little rough around the edges, it is exactly the type of street car that will take your money at a moment’s notice. The nitrous-assisted big-block makes big-time power, and the stock suspension works hard to keep the 275 drag radials hooked up.
Car Craft featured Patrick Henry’s 1967 Chevelle in the Sept. 2013 issue. Since that article, Patrick replaced the small-block with a big-block with nitrous. He’s running an overdrive transmission, as this car sees lots of street miles and consistently runs 5s in the eighth-mile. This is one bad street car.
If there were a “best appearing” award at the Chattanooga’s Fastest Street Car Shootout, Mike Newton’s Fox-body Mustang would own it. His ultra-clean coupe is powered by a small-block Ford with a single 88mm turbocharger. It was a regular in NMCA True Street racing several years ago.
It was Justin Dempsey’s first time driving his newly acquired Chevy Nova, so he didn’t expect to carry the wheels for 100 feet on an unprepped surface. The leaf-spring Nova put the 28×10.5-inch slicks to work and carried the wheels on nearly every pass. A healthy small-block with a plate nitrous system makes it go.
When it came down to eliminations, the top five cars showed their strength, but it came down to Ron Lane in the lightweight 240Z taking home the $1,000 victory. Although a few of the cars hooked hard and proved that the unprepped surface still offered some bite, the 240Z came out on top thanks to some careful control of the nitrous oxide to keep from overpowering the track. The Chattanooga’s Fastest Street Car Shootout was part of a three-day event called the Scenic City Smackdown.
This slick Fox-body Mustang GT laid down some killer passes with plenty of street-friendly features. Power comes from a centrifugally supercharged small-block Ford.
Sometimes, it doesn’t take a super-sticky surface to break parts, as evidenced by this second-generation Camaro. It spit the rear U-joint out of the driveshaft in the first round of qualifying.
Rickey Barnes hammered on his slick 1957 Chevy 210 all evening. He’s an avid drag racer, but came out to play in his street car, which is powered by a small-block and four-speed manual transmission.
Even though it looks pretty mild, Eric McDaniel’s Camaro convertible held its own among a bunch of serious street cars. The nitrous-fed LS3 ran great all evening.
Yes, that’s a giant turbo hanging off the front of a junkyard LS engine in a rat rod pickup. John Gray pilots this International pickup, which handled the unprepped surface nicely.