$10K Drag Shootout 3: Episode 8: “One Race, One Winner”

The Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products has entered its final inning and the road to get here has been both interesting and exciting. Last week we saw explosions on and off the track that have left two teams’ futures in doubt. With the final day of competition upon us, the stakes are high and only one team will walk away with the $10,000 in prize money, along with the vehicle they built.

Last week, Villain Squad went for an unapproved test drive on the road after missing their qualifier, and since the car is not registered or plated and therefore illegal to be on the road, their extracurricular decision earned them a potential disqualification. Team leader Geo Ramos pleaded with tech director Lonnie Grim to reconsider the disqualification and to ask the other teams if they could stay. Lonnie got the other teams together to collect their thoughts on allowing Villain Squad to remain in the competition. It was unanimous; the teams wanted Villain Squad to race, and so they were allowed to continue to participate in the event.

Taking on the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil Products isn’t for those who fear a challenge. Geo and his Villain Squad team stepped up at the 11th hour to be a part of the show, something that any veteran of the $10K Drag Shootout will tell you takes guts. After dealing with incredible adversity throughout the build, the team got its Firebird done with a final budget of $10,290. Thus, they were hit with a 100-pound penalty and will race at 3,450 pounds when they roll to the starting line.

Team Home Grown’s engine experienced a monumental amount of damage during the second round of qualifying — the final autopsy revealed the engine pushed both head gaskets out and hydrolocked, which led to the block being destroyed. After searching the internet far and wide to find an engine locally, team leader Jim Howe, Jr. finally struck gold late in the evening and picked up a junkyard 5.3-liter LS. The team worked well into the wee hours of the morning to finish the engine so they could race. Before the next round of qualifying began, Team Home Grown had resurrected its El Camino and begun preparing it for battle once again.

Going into the fourth round of qualifying, Team MAK was leading the pack with a 6.48 at 109 mph, followed by Team Out In Front and its 6.86 at 105 mph effort. Team Home Grown held the third spot with a troubled 8.59 at 57 mph pass, and Villain Squad hadn’t recorded a time yet.

Villain Squad just wanted to get down the track to make sure the Firebird didn’t have any major mechanical flaws and the brakes would function correctly. Since they didn’t push the car it only ran a 9.81 at 59 mph, but they were officially qualified. After thrashing all night, Team Home Grown made the call for qualifying and it was time to see if the new engine would work. The El Camino never seemed happy the entire pass and only mustered an 8.65 at 75 mph.

Team Out In Front came into the fourth round of qualifying ready to push the Mustang a bit harder to see if they could unseat Team MAK from the number one qualifying spot. Once again, Marcus had his hands full with the Mustang and laid down a 6.64 at a booming 110 mph. Team MAK wanted to make a statement during the fourth round of qualifying, and they accomplished that mission in grand fashion. Nick piloted the S-10 to a 6.31 at 112 mph, hanging three-tenths of a second on Team Out In Front and showing the rest of the competitors they meant business.

During the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil, teams are constantly working on their cars between rounds. Villain Squad was still underweight after finishing the Firebird, so that meant they needed to add ballast to the car. What do you do when you’re at the track and need objects for weight, but resources are limited? You head over to Team Home Grown’s pit and grab broken parts and start welding them to your chassis, that’s what you do! One thing’s for sure, you can’t say Villain Squad didn’t pull out all the stops to stay in the competition

Villain Squad welded a whole LS engine block and even some factory brakes to its car to make weight.

Team Home Grown rolled to the line for the fourth round of qualifying, however, during the pass something didn’t seem right — when the valve covers were removed to start the diagnostics process the team discovered the engine’s valvetrain had been decimated due to rocker arm failure. The team now faced the reality they weren’t going to make the final qualifier and need to thrash on the engine yet again to make the first round of racing.

The fifth and final round of qualifying was the last opportunity for each of the teams to dial-in their cars before eliminations begin, so the pressure was immense. Villain Squad still hadn’t been able to really test the Firebird, so on the final pass Geo did his best to make a full hit and ran an 8.08 at 96 mph. The pass didn’t set the world on fire, however, it showed the Firebird had some potential and could be a factor when racing begins.

Team Out In Front was still trying to see how much power they could use during the fifth qualifying session; Marcus tickled the tune-up in the Mustang, but only managed to run a 6.73 at 111 mph, which meant they were going into eliminations without knowing what the car was really capable of. The final round of qualifying for Team MAK was treated like another data-gathering mission to see what the S-10 liked. The 6.34 that lit the boards didn’t eclipse the team’s number one qualifying effort of 6.31, but it did show they had the truck to beat for eliminations.

Each team poured its heart into building a racecar in just 10 days with a bare-bones budget, which is no easy task, even for the best of the best. With qualifying complete and the ladder set, the time has come to start sending teams home. The first round paired Nick from Team MAK against Geo of the Villain Squad and Amanda from Team Home Grown against Marcus of Team Out In Front. For eliminations, the teams would face an instant green start, just like they did in the practice tree competition earlier in the week.

The first pair down the track during eliminations was Team Home Grown versus Team Out In Front. Team Home Grown was running on pure adrenaline and hope after dealing with so many issues at the track, and Team Out In Front wasn’t going to take them lightly because anything can happen in a drag race. When the green light flashed, Marcus and the Mustang rocketed down the track and took care of business, retiring Team Home Grown from the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil for good.

On the other side of the ladder, the Team Villain Squad and Team MAK matchup was surrounded with intrigue. Nobody knew what the Villain Squad Firebird was capable of, and Team MAK had made it down the track on nearly every pass, so the stage was set for a potential upset if Team MAK encountered any type of problem. Villain Squad showed they weren’t phased by how dominant Team MAK had been and threw everything they had at them, but in the end, it just wasn’t enough, and Team MAK moved on to the final round to face Team Out In Front.

The stage was now set for a clash of $10K Drag Shootout titans. Team MAK and Team Out In Front have both been very calculated in their approach to the competition and that diligence has paid off — they now have the opportunity to win their rides and $10,000. Thompson had a significant starting line advantage with a .522 reaction time to Nick’s .533, however, Nick had nearly eaten up that advantage by the 6o-foot cone with a 1.422 short time to Thompson’s 1.507.  Nick did a masterful job piloting the truck down the tricky Barona surface and recorded a 6.23 to Thompson’s 6.45, thus securing the team’s spot in history as a $10K Drag Shootout champion with the win.

The third season of the $10K Drag Shootout presented by Lucas Oil displayed every emotion a person can experience — each team pushed through so many difficult situations to complete their build, and the final result was a showdown in the desert that lived up to its billing. Congratulations to Team MAK on their victory — they earned every penny of the prize money and we’re sure this won’t be the last time we see the S-10 making laps with Nick behind the wheel.

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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