$10K Drag Shootout 2 Episode 7: Rise from the Ashes

The Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout 2 has gone into overtime.

As you’ve undoubtedly heard or read by now, three of the four vehicles built on the blood, sweat, and beers of the teams that made up season two of the budget-build shootout were damaged — to varying extents — in a freak trailer fire while en route to Georgia last fall, where they were destined to compete at Duck X Productions’ No Mercy 10. The unexpected setback threw a major wrench in the show, as the vehicles were too badly damaged to be repaired in the relatively short amount of time remaining before the event. And so the Horsepower Wars staff and the teams went to a Plan B, which entailed delaying the racing event until spring — at Lights Out 11, to be held at South Georgia Motorsports Park — and the teams returning to California to make the necessary repairs.

For some of the teams, this was minor — Enemies Everywhere, with the further distance to travel from its home in Australia, needed only to repair minor cosmetic damage from the heat of the fire to its Chevrolet Camaro. Meanwhile, Team Bigun, with its prized Ford Granada wagon, was forced to rebuild its big-block engine and the entire front half of the car. Lastly, the COMP Cams Dream Team got the worst end of the situation, as its entire turbo LS-powered SN95 Mustang was scorched in the blaze, leaving quite literally nothing behind but the toasted steel shell.

With a plan in place, representatives from the teams returned to the Horsepower Wars build center to assess the situation with their respective vehicles and to develop a plan for the entire team to trek back for the rebuild in early January.

Lonnie Grim was brought back to keep a watchful eye on the teams during the rebuild. Given it was Bigun and the Dream Team that tried so hard to skirt the rules the first time around, we weren’t about to give them a chance to get sneaky.

The most important aspect of the rebuild was that each of the teams repair the cars back to the exact specifications as they were originally. Of course, the opportunity invites the teams to once again bend the rules and play the system to procure better parts than they had before, but tech director Lonnie Grim was brought back to police the teams and ensure no funny business.

Enemies Everywhere purchased a salvage donor car and robbed what cosmetic parts it needed to repair the fire damage to the aft section of its Camaro.

For Enemies Everywhere, the damage to its 2000 Chevrolet Camaro was a relatively simple fix. The rear bumper and a portion of the hatch were singed in the fire – nearest the Dream Team’s Mustang. Rather than chase down individual parts, the team took the scorched-earth approach (no pun intended) and purchased another black fourth-gen Camaro locally and robbed what pieces and panels it needed. The team inspected the back-half of the chassis to just to ensure no structural damage from the heat.

Much of Bigun's work centered around its engine, damaged by both the fire itself and the water required to put said fire out, and the need to rewire and plumb much of the wagon.

Team Bigun, meanwhile, had some work in front of it — with temperatures evident to be well over 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit, the blaze melted the valve covers and rendered the carburetor, fuel system, valvetrain, nitrous system, and other components a virtual loss. Bigun was afforded four days, given the work needed to finish the car, and a budget of $3,000. The team’s primary concern was the engine, which not only suffered through the intense heat of the fire, but also took on water as the firefighters doused the flames. That water worked its way into the cylinders and then sat for a considerable length of time. The team, however, was determined to reuse the engine block and heads and make only the needed machining repairs to patch it back together and reassemble it with any new parts that had been damaged. Despite a sluggish start, the team eventually got the engine fired and forewent any rips on the dyno to save its less-than-100-percent engine for the big race. Previous articles outline Bigun’s car and engine builds.

The Dream Team was forced to, for all intents and purposes, rebuild its car from the ground up, including a new engine, wiring, suspension, drivetrain, and all.

The Dream Team, though, had its work cut out for it. Rather than start from scratch with a completely new 2004 Mustang, Grim and the Horsepower Wars staff – together with the team – decided to rebuild the burnt shell to serve as a symbol of perseverance. Despite the damage, the car did show signs of work they had put in, and with the scorched appearance, it would tell quite the story all on its own. So, a decision was made to allow the team to go above and beyond the original allowance for time and expense and install an SFI 25.3-certification cage in it to ensure both structural rigidity and the safety of driver Keith Berry.

The Dream Team dropping the new engine into its charred 2004 Mustang.

Because of the kind of time that would be needed at the Horsepower Wars build center to repair the physical chassis and fabricate the 25.3, team member Jesse Adams was permitted to take the car to his personal shop in California and return the car back to a rolling chassis. This would allow the team to collectively focus its efforts on the rest of the car, building a new engine, and so on. The Dream Team was given six days to perform work on its car; it was also given a fresh start, with a full $7,000 in Summit Racing Equipment store credit.

A number of the major supporters of the $10K Drag Shootout 2 stepped up to the plate to assist the teams in returning their vehicles to their pre-fire condition; E3 Spark Plugs provided plugs, coils, and ignition boxes; Total Seal its piston rings; Hawk Performance brake pads; COMP Cams; aluminum tubing from Spectre Performance; Speedwire and its electronic switch panel; Moser Engineering axles, differential, spool, and bearings; ARP hardware; Moroso kill switches and battery boxes; Racepak; TCI‘s shifter originally won by Team Bigun; PRW Industries radiator and water pump; US Gears’ and its ring and pinion; Dyna-Batt batteries; Victor-Reinz gaskets; Mickey Thompson front and rear tires; Holley’s HP EFI ECU, originally won by the Dream Team, and of course, Summit Racing Equipment, which provided the team with fresh dough to purchase parts.

Optic Armor Performance Windows, not part of the original builds, heard of the unfortunate circumstances and jumped in to provide Bigun and the Dream Team with replacement windows for their cars, while BMR Suspension, likewise, extended a helping hand with torque box reinforcements for the Dream Team’s Mustang.

After a few tense moments not experienced the first time around, Bigun’s fire-scarred big-block nitrous mill roared to life.

As we saw the first go-round, the Dream Team was slow to make progress, arriving late each day and pushing itself up against the clock after the close of the six days. In the end, with the assistance of Team Bigun — and a bit of a fiery exchange with members of said team — the Dream Team squad got their car completed and fired before the bell. You can read about the Dream Team’s initial build and engine.

Midwest Mayhem, which tragically lost its team leader, Joe Hunt, in a racing accident after the $10K Drag Shootout was originally filmed, was spared entirely from the blaze. Its 1979 Oldsmobile Cutlass was the only car of the four untouched in the incident in what may have been a bit of divine intervention for a team already grappling with a far more significant loss.

On the next and final episode of the $10K Drag Shootout 2, all four teams will compete for a winner-take-all $10,000 prize at South Georgia Motorsports Park. Of course you can also watch the race unfold live on SpeedVideo.com (February 13-17), along with some of the baddest drag radial cars in the country at Lights Out 11.

The $10K Drag Shootout 2 is made possible with the support of a number of industry giants, including Summit RacingCOMP CamsMickey Thompson Performance Tires & WheelsTCIK&N Filters, MAHLE MotorsportsDyna-BattWeld RacingCorsa PerformanceFragolaHolleyDiabloSport, NOSE3 Spark PlugsTotal SealMoser EngineeringBMR SuspensionMiller ElectricAerospace ComponentsVictor ReinzMorosoUS GearHawk PerformanceLucas OilPRW IndustriesWeld RacingVP RacingProCharger, and ARP.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
Read My Articles

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