I just got back from the 2017 Car Craft Summer Nationals and I had a blast!
I arrived in Bowling Green a day early to get acclimated.
We went over to the Raceway to get a lay of the land and to see where everything was set up.
After driving thru the beautiful green rolling hills of Kentucky we arrived at Beech Bend Raceway Park.
In my opinion it was the perfect venue.
The main stage was right in front the autocross course which was right next to the drag-strip.
If you were a registered participant, you were welcome to take your car down the quarter-mile or out on the autocross track – or both – as many times as you could fit in during the day.
How cool is that?!?
As we drove in I saw this wicked 55 who was a part of the “Blower Mafia.”
I love that the Blower sits up higher than the roof of the car.
These guys had some serious cars with some serious Blowers!
Turbos and Nitros too!
Then, right in front of Chevrolet Performance, there it was…
In its natural environment…
The first one I’d seen in person…
The 2018 ZL1 1LE!
This is the car that ran 7:16 on the Nurburgring Northschlife.
As I was toweling off after drooling over the Camaro, who happened to drive up in her Cadillac SUV?
The lovely Janet – Miss Bowling Green.
She was on the Hot Rod Power Tour Long Haul and she drives a red convertible 1971 Chevelle with a built LS1.
She’s A-Okay in my book.
Janet said she was on her way to a meeting and if I wasn’t doing anything later I should go to the National Corvette Museum Track for some hot laps with her and some friends.
Her friends were all a part of the TriFive Nationals which would be held in Bowling Green in three weekends.
On the way to the NCM Track we saw a truck load of brand new C7’s heading off to fulfill their destinies.
We entered the lobby of the National Corvette Museum Track, signed our lives away and headed out to the go-cart track to get acquainted.
After 10 laps in the go-carts they rushed us over to the big track where we were put in Gen-6 Camaros.
We were rushed because at 5:30pm they have to shut everything down because of a noise ordinance.
When we pulled out onto the track I initially thought we were in V8 SS cars, but I was mistaken.
We were in the 4-cylinder LTGs.
And they RIPPED!!
I was super impressed not only with the car, but also the track.
The Race Whisperer: Lonnie Grim told me that the track was designed to incorporate lots of famous corners from other racetracks around the world.
It’s just under four miles, and it’s a world-class layout.
After fun at the track I went back to the hotel to get ready for dinner.
I’m lucky enough to be included in the power dinners during these events.
We had the Network Content Director, the General Manager, the Editor-In-Chief, the Feature Editor, the Staff Editor and some Staff Photographers all there.
And Brandan wowed us all with “Bacon in a Cup.”
I’m not making this up.
Bacon in a Cup.
It. Is. Awesome.
It was a great first day in Kentucky and the Car Craft Summer Nationals hadn’t even started yet.
The next morning I found biscuits & gravy on the menu and proceeded to gorge myself.
I told the chef that we don’t have good biscuits & gravy in California.
Two minutes later he came out with this:
Talk about Southern Hospitality!
After breakfast I was escorted in by the GM of Car Craft & Circle Track Magazines: John Viscardo.
Pretty cool, huh?
We got to the venue a little early and since I didn’t have to be on stage for a little while, I decided to follow John around while he made the rounds.
My first stop is always Green Mountain Merchandise.
Gotta get a Car Craft Summer Nationals hat and represent!
Leaving Green Mountain Merchandise we ran straight into Project X.
I’d told John about driving The Atomic Van, The Muscle Truck and General Mayhem but that I hadn’t yet driven Project X.
Without missing a beat, he walked over to Joe, the head of Pilot Transport and asked if we could take Project X for a spin.
Joe said to John: “You’re the boss.”
And handed him the keys.
He tossed me the keys and said: “Let’s go!”
I finally got to drive Project X!!
What impressed me the most was the steering – it was totally docile.
After parking Project X and toweling off John talked his way into the Week to Wicked C10.
It’s a nicely done Chevy C10 done in a week and loaded with all the good stuff.
After John got tired of driving he pulls over, turns to me and says: “I think you should take it on the AutoCross.”
You don’t have to ask me twice!
We ended up taking the Week to Wicked C10 around the autocross twice.
Now, the reason we did it twice is because the starter told us to: “Go out there and have fun. Learn the track a little and then come back and do it again and get a lower lap time.”
To me it sounded like good logical thinking.
And I did lower my lap time.
Now, one of my standard lines is: “You never know who you’re gonna come across at the Car Craft Summer Nationals.”
And it’s true.
One of these super-stars was the Car Craft Summer Nationals Grand Marshall and one of the nicest, most regular guys you’ll ever meet.
3-time NHRA Top-Fuel Champion Larry Dixon.
Not only does he drive a 3-second Top-Fuel Dragster at over 300mph, he’s a real car-guy.
He drove his 66 Nova, with his son, from his shop in Indiana.
He’s had the car since he was 17 and he built it to compete in Hot Rod Magazine’s Drag Week.
His goal is to run 9’s in it.
It’s got the original paint and emblems on it, and it’s wearing Rally wheels, so it looks – as Larry says: “Conservative.”
But under the hood it’s got a Chevrolet Performance LT4 that he had delivered to his local FedEx office.
We were talking about how amazing it is that in this day and age you can get out your smartphone and credit card and order up a 500, 600, 700 horse-power engine from a Big-3 Manufacturer with a factory warranty.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Now is the Golden-Age of Hot Rodding.
One of the things I love about the Car Craft Summer Nationals is that in the hotel parking lots around the venue you’ve got cars that are better than 90% of the cars at car shows across the country.
And the owners are driving them!
One of my favorites was Rollin’ Thunder.
A nasty flat-black 55 Chevy Gasser with a blown 409.
It sits up higher than my brother’s Jeep Rubicon.
We arrived the next day and parked next to a beautiful maple-syrup brown Z-28 Camaro.
I knew it was gonna be a good day.
After inspecting the Camaro I went over to the main stage to get situated.
I was busy giving away a bunch of Lund organizers when John Viscardo came up to me and said: “Jeff, I’d like to introduce you to Al Unser Jr.”
I said: “Duuhhhhhhhhhhhhh”
It was Al Unser Jr!
Today was definitely gonna be a good day.
Al and his cousin Robby were the ones who were screaming around the auto-cross track all day long in the Speedway Camaro’s.
They posted the lowest times I saw all weekend long.
Only the Schwartz’s were close.
Another super nice guy: Kevin Tetz – Host of Trucks TV came by and introduced me to his friend Chris who’s gotta beautiful 66 Mustang.
You can’t tell until you get up close to in it in the sun – but the paint looks like a metallic root-beer.
It’s dark and beautiful.
The Mustang’s been widened two inches on each side and it’s gotta supercharged 598 under the hood with over 700hp.
Then came the Pro Builders Shootout.
Hot Rod Chassis and Cycle had a sweet pro-touring 67 Chevelle with a Chevrolet Performance LSA and a 6-speed.
It looked like something Chevy should’a built to go ralley racing back in the 60’s.
I love the yellow lights and if you look closely you can see a nicely done, very subtle, little rear wing.
The Custom Shop pulled out all the stops with their 62 Corvette with a Vortech supercharged 596 big-block making 1048hp.
But my favorite part was the cool little side-view cameras built into the windshield frame and the C7 door handles.
Then Muscle Car Restorations brought out their 64 Galaxie XL500 with a Keith Craft built 514 big-block, TKO-600 5-Speed and a 9-inch with 4.10’s and 35-spline axles.
It’s color is straight off of a hoveround mobility scooter.
They liked it so much they called up and got the paint code for the scooter and sprayed the big Ford to match.
Then Schwartz Performance showed up with a beautiful custom ‘Cuda with a blown 426 Hemi under the hood and it was right-hand drive.
Not only was it right-hand drive but the dash was out of a C2 Corvette.
It was covered in PPG pearl orange which looked like metallic tangerine to me.
Pictures don’t do it justice.
After the Pro-Builders showed us their stuff we closed down the main stage and headed over to the Midnight Drags for a night of drag racing action.
Like I said before, if you were a registered participant at the Summer Nationals you could make all the passes you wanted on the auto-cross track and the drag-strip.
And, as The Drag Whisperer: Lonnie Grim told me – if your cars 2008 or newer you’re good for up to a 10 second pass without having to go thru tech.
Pretty cool huh?
So cool that I ran our little rental car down the 1320 just for grins.
A 14.84 to a 17.43.
But I had a blast, and that’s what the Car Craft Summer Nationals are all about.
At the end of the night it was Nova vs. Nova, but Michael Goodman in the blue Nova took home the win with a 8.03 at 160.10 mph.
It’s not a surprise since his license plate read: “UL LOSE.” and he consistantly ran 8.0’s all night long.
Jeff Lutz was there with Mad Max, but he’d broken down earlier that day.
And Larry Dixon was there in his little 66 Nova making runs down the strip.
The last day of The Summer Nationals started out with a little sprinkle.
But a little rain didn’t stop the faithful from coming out.
I had the honor of talking to Jeff Lutz about his new car he’s debuting in a few weeks.
It’s a 57 Chevy that’s got stock body dimensions and it’ll have over 4000 hp under the hood.
But to find out the color – you’re gonna have to wait for the exclusive in Hot Rod Magazine.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him I got to drive the real Project X only two days ago.
Larry Dixon came back up to announce that he and John had just taken the rental car down the drag strip and John beat him!
John ran a 16.83 to Larry’s 17.12!
They’re both still faster than me, but I deep staged…
Drag racing, auto crossing, driving Project X, Larry Dixon, Jeff Lutz – The 2017 Car Craft Summer Nationals were a whole lotta fun!
I can’t wait until next year.