$10K Drag Shootout 3: Episode 7: “4 Teams – 3 Race Cars”

The last 10 days of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products have been extremely eventful as the teams have worked feverishly to finish their cars. We’ve seen engines explode on the dyno, teams try to sneak parts in, team members nearly come to blows, and so much more.

Villain Squad walked into the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products behind the 8-ball and never seemed to find a way to get around it. The team was literally down to seconds on the official build clock when they were finally able to get their Firebird started. It was a huge moment for the team, and they couldn’t hide their excitement after they accomplished what seemed impossible. There’s a lot of work left to do on the Pontiac, but at least they have a running car and have a chance at racing.

How The Teams Rolled Into Race Day

The Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products tests every team both mentally and physically, but the big payoff is seeing who has built the fastest and most reliable car. Time is tight during the build phase and the budgets are even tighter, so just finishing a car is a major accomplishment. Teams are able to go slightly over their budget, but it comes at a heavy cost, literally, as the more you go over, the more weight you have to add to your car.

Team Out In front did well with its budget and ended at $10,380. With the lowest overage of all the teams, they only had to add 100 pounds to their base weight and cross the scales at 3,450 pounds. The team was very methodical with its build, but did have their issues, which meant they didn’t get much time on the dyno to really dial-in their Mustang. This lack of data is going to put them at a disadvantage at the track.

For Team Home Grown, the build process had a few rough spots, but they were able to get the El Camino wrapped up in a timely fashion. The final budget for Team Home Grown was $10,940 and that earned them a hefty 200-pound weight penalty. On race day, the El Camino must weigh 3,550 pounds to be legal for competition. The biggest question surrounding Team Home Grown is if they’ve fully recovered from the debacle on the dyno.

Team MAK was the first team to get their vehicle fired up this year, but they’re also the team that took the biggest hit to its budget. When Tech Director Lonnie Grim was done with Team MAK, their final budget reached $11,147 and that earned them a 300-pound weight penalty. To make the 3,650-pound minimum weight, and help with weight bias, Team MAK added a large weight box full of concrete to the S-10. Going into the race, Team MAK is still trying to solve its boost issues and will need to do it quickly if they want to be a factor in the final phase of the competition.

Tires Are Everything

Mickey Thompson has provided the tires for the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products teams from the beginning, but it’s always been a radial tire until this year. Since the teams would be facing a no-prep surface a slick tire would be required, so they all got a pair of 28.0×10.5 ET Drag Slicks.

These ET Drag Slicks are perfect for the 15-inch wheel each team elected to use and features a bias-ply construction. The M5 compound that Mickey Thompson makes the ET Drag Slick in is a perfect medium compound for no-prep racing. With that much slick under the rear of their vehicles, the teams shouldn’t have any issues getting a hold of the tricky surface at Barona.

Staying Safe At The Track

Safety is important in drag racing and the teams participating in the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products got some great safety gear from Impact Racing Products. The drivers were outfitted head to toe with shoes, pants, jackets, gloves, and helmets from Impact that were appropriate for the potential performance levels of their vehicles.

Champ SNELL 15 helmets were issued to each driver — these helmets are made of Impact’s “Intelligent Gray Matter” and have an inner layer of Nomex material. The SFI 15 jacket and pants the drivers wore met the SFI Foundation’s 3.2A/15 specification, have 360-degree full-floating arm gussets, ribbed arm and ankle cuffs, and a proprietary multi-layer inner layer that helps with cooling.

Each driver got a pair of G6 gloves that feature ¾ finger seams that provide great steering wheel input and suede inserts that allow for plenty of grip. The Axis shoes that Impact sent to the drivers have a high-grip fluted sole, offer solid cooling characteristics, and have a fire-retardant lining. Finally, every vehicle was equipped with a five-point racing harness from Impact to hold each driver in place as they made a pass down the track.

It’s Time To Race

The racing side of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products takes place at Barona Drag Strip in Southern California this year. Each team will be given five qualifying runs to dial-in their vehicle and record the quickest ET possible. When qualifying is done, it’s time for eliminations and the number one qualifier will face the number four qualifier, while the number two and three qualifiers square off on the other side of the bracket. It’s single-elimination, heads-up and the first to the stripe wins, so teams are going to be willing to take big risks to turn on the win light.

Before racing even began, Villain Squad was thrashing on their Firebird. Yes, they were able to get the car to run before the build time ran out, however, there was a big punch-list of items that needed to be addressed before it made a pass. The team had to get the brakes finished up, fix a wiring issue, and add some bars to the roll cage.

While Villain Squad worked away, the other three teams kicked off qualifying. Team MAK was the first to make a hit and its main goal was just to make sure the S-10 would get traction and not wheelstand. Driver Nick Taylor could tell during the burnout that the boost cut issue hadn’t been solved, so his hopes weren’t too high about how the run would go. When Nick went to stage the S-10, it jumped the beams so he didn’t get an elapsed time, but the team did get some data from the run.

Team Out In Front took to the track next and driver Marcus Thompson showed he’s not afraid to lay down a big smoky burnout, even with a freshly-built car. The team was looking to just gather good data since their dyno session didn’t go as planned. Marcus piloted the Mustang to a very spirited 6.86 e.t. at 105 mph and accomplished the data-gathering mission. Amanda Howe brought the El Camino to the starting line and all seemed well until she let go of the transbrake. The car nosed over instantly and never made power, limping to an 8.59 at just 57 mph.

The second round of qualifying saw Team MAK take to the track first so they could try and record a time. This run started out better with the S-10 actually staging and taking the tree, however, the truck still wasn’t making power and it only mustered a 7.37 at 86.9 mph.

After doing some diagnostics Team Home Grown made its appearance for the second round of qualifying. Shortly after Amanda left the starting line disaster struck — a giant river of water erupted from under the El Camino and it slowly rolled to a stop. Clearly, something bad happened to the engine and the car was pushed back to the pits for further inspection.

Marcus and Team Out In Front made another full pull and lit the boards with a 6.92 at 106 mph. Villain Squad didn’t make the call again, as they continued to thrash on the Firebird with the hopes of making a pass during the third qualifier.

The teams are provided a $1,500 repair budget in case of an emergency. Home Grown cracked open its engine and found the block was damaged beyond repair. The cylinder walls were missing in spots and it looked like the pistons could have been damaged, as well. They had to find a block and build a new engine overnight if they wanted to continue racing.

The tension was high going into the third and final round of qualifying of the day for all of the teams. Some were looking for answers as to why their vehicle wasn’t performing, others were just trying to get on the track for the first time. Team MAK finally put together a solid run and rocketed to the number one spot with a 6.49 pass at 109.8 mph. The third qualifying run for Team Out In Front yielded another 6.92 pass at just 94.5 mph with Marcus lifting early as the Mustang really got out of shape.

Villain Squad made a valiant effort and thrashed hard to make a run in during the third round of qualifying, but ultimately didn’t get finished in time. After a disagreement with Technical Director Lonnie Grim, Geo decided to make a run, but not on the track. Emotions got the better of the Villain Squad and Geo took the Firebird to the street outside the track for a test hit of sorts. Needless to say, this wasn’t approved or sanctioned by the production staff and this decision will have consequences.

The final act of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products begins next week. Make sure you tune in to see if Team Home Grown can get their engine repaired, Team Out In Front can tame its Mustang, Team MAK can continue to chip away at the S-10’s performance, and if the Villain Squad will even be allowed to race…

Horsepower Wars Season 3 is made possible by its title sponsor Lucas Oil as well as ARPBMR Suspension, Comp Cams, Dyna-Batt, E3 Spark Plugs, Holley, Kooks Headers, Lucas Oil, MAHLE Motorsports, Moroso, Moser Engineering, NOS, PROFORM PartsPRW IndustriesQA1Ron Francis, Summit Racing, SpicerTotal Seal, Victor Reinz, Tuff Stuff Performance, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, B&M, Impact Race Products, and Weld Racing.

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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