LS FEST WEST.
2019 is Holley Performance Products’ third year putting on the LS Fest West show at The Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It has become a staple show for anyone with an LS or LT-based engine sitting between the framerails of their ride.
This was the first year I have attended the show, and while I had been scrambling to finish the wiring on the ’68 Firebird project we’ve been working on, it just wasn’t going to happen. Regardless, I wanted to illustrate the experience to our readers, and anyone who has never attended Holley’s LS Fest West (Vegas) or East (Bowling Green, Kentucky).
I’d been talking with the editor of our sister magazine, Brian Havins of LSX Magazine, who was going to be flying from Texas. Brian laid the groundwork for a cruise before the show on Thursday that would take LSX and Street Muscle Magazine readers through the Valley Of Fire State Park in Nevada. We planned on tag-teaming the event and leading the cruise.
We couldn’t exactly do that in a rental Nissan Altima, so I went on the car rental app TURO, and found a 2017 Camaro SS 1LE. For $82.00 a day, I was able to live the LS Fest experience wholeheartedly.
I left Southern California Thursday morning and made way to the bright lights and high-heat of Las Vegas, Nevada. I arrived about an hour before the cruise, around 2:30 — and there were already people waiting in line. All told, we had about 62 cars from all over the country (and even a few from Canada) with us on the cruise.
Unfortunately, Brian got held up at DFW Airport due to weather and didn’t make it in time for the cruise. Still, we had a blast, and everyone on the cruise had a great time. Although, we did get kicked out of our first stop almost as soon as we pulled in. Apparently, almost everywhere near the entrance of the Valley Of Fire is Federal land, and we were promptly informed of it by some no-nonsense agents. But, that’s a story for another day…
Ultimately, it was a beautiful cruise through the most scenic red rocks you could ask for, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed the scenery. If you have the means, I highly suggest making it out next year. It is a cruise that LSX Magazine puts on every year. Hopefully next year, I’ll be up front with Brian in our own LS-powered machines.
For now, you’ll have to settle for the virtual experience if you didn’t make it out, but I will do my best to paint a vivid picture of the show.
Day 1. Friday:
Brian and I started the day off bright and early, leaving our hotel and making our way to the Speedway in our Hyper Blue rocket ship. Seriously, I’m crazy about classic cars, but this 6th-gen Camaro is incredible! For a Friday morning, when most people are working, there were loads of cars already in attendance.
We immediately made our way to the registration area where we picked up our media credentials, golf cart, and bright yellow media vests. We also spoke with Bill Tichenor, and Blane Burnett of Holley, and talked about the show, the vibe, and what to expect. One thing you will realize when you come to LS Fest, is this show isn’t like any other you’ve been to.
I’ve been to a lot of car shows, and the vibe at LS Fest is like one big party. When Bill and Blane were running down the list of events, my mouth was on the floor. We all know LS engines have been swapped in just about everything, and pretty much every class of motorsports is represented here. From drag racing and autocross, to drifting and off-road, there are events running all day long! There were three separate burnout competitions staged throughout the day, and they even had a sideshow section dedicated to guys bouncing off the rev-limiter and doing insane donuts. Let’s call that area “organized chaos.”
I scoured the grounds looking for badass cars, trucks, and everything weird or interesting. Trust me, there was no shortage of that. Just check out some of the wild rides we saw on the first day.
I capped off the day by linking up with my buddy Blake Wilkey, who you all will remember from the Muscle Kingz Show we attended a few weeks ago. This time he actually gave me a ride in his LS3-Powered “Class Fun Buggy.”
I don’t want to downplay this, and yet I don’t want to be overdramatic, so I will just say it was one of the most exhilarating experiences of my life! Check out the air we got in the pic below! (That was already on the way down.) You can see my live video of the ride on our facebook page, here. (Disclaimer: it was really hard to hold on to the phone while Blake was shredding.)
By the time Brian and I got back to the hotel, we were beat, but it was well worth it. After the first day, I can make a couple recommendations.
1: BRING SUN SCREEN!
2: HYDRATE & EAT!
3: Get ready to smell more tire smoke, have more fun, and see some of the wildest builds you’ve ever seen before!
Day 2. Saturday:
We woke up bright and early again on Saturday morning for Day 2 of LS Fest, and immediately made our way to the closest convenience store for our fix of caffeine and snacks.
I cannot stress this enough – eat enough food and drink enough water! It’s easy to find yourself wiped out mid-day, especially if you tied-one-on the night before, like people tend to do in fabulous Las Vegas. Not that I would ever do anything like that…
As you can imagine, Saturday is the biggest day of LS Fest, and it was truly insane. There were burnouts going on everywhere, people ripping dirt bike wheelies in the pits, and everyone just having a great time.
With so much going on, it’s hard to say this, but the main attraction on Saturday was the drift competition. At the time I’m writing this, the results have yet to be posted, but you can view them on the LS Fest website, here, when they are.
I witnessed so much impressive driving, cars, camaraderie – including the ride I took 30 feet in the air with Blake – but, the most impressive thing I saw at the show was the drifting. I’ve been a fan of drag racing my entire life, but seeing these guys throw their cars into a slide at 70-80mph with such confidence and dance around the track inches away from one another, was awe-inspiring.
Another event that was the talk of the town on Saturday was the sideshows. I think every LS-powered car from Northern California, especially the Bay Area, was there blowing the tires off their rides. The sideshows also drew the biggest crowds. I guess there’s something visceral about seeing someone just abuse their car with reckless abandon, and a level of “aintcare” not seen since Evel Kneivel was jumping busses.
I can’t say I’d do it to my car, but it was definitely fun to watch, and maybe that’s what it’s all about. The crowd loves seeing other people do what they would never…Oh! If you plan on attending in the future, bring a mask, there was enough smoke coming from that area of the show to rival Mt. Saint Helens.
As an extreme contrast, we ended Saturday by kicking back in the stands of the strip and watching some good ol’ fashioned drag racing. With the sun setting to our backs and street cars making passes in front of us, it was a perfect end to a fun-filled day.
Day 3. Sunday:
Sunday mornings at racetracks always have an interesting feeling. You go from sheer insanity just hours ago, to a calm atmosphere where people are quietly working on their cars in the pits, and wiping down their rides in the show ring.
Many of the attendees are nursing hangovers from their wild Saturday nights. You can see them taking a sip from the cup called hair-of-the-dog, donning dark shades and sun hats, but you can also feel something brewing – more of the same action – it’s just a slower build.
When things get going, it’s no less fun, until you start thinking about Monday morning’s call to action, aka, work. That explains why you see people packing up early, and doing more hanging out than racing. But, the vibe of LS Fest was one of a party, and no one wants to be the first to go home from a wild party, right?
Speaking with the attendees, that was the collective sentiment. Nobody wanted it to end, but all good things must, as they say. There was still a bunch of autocross going on, since it was part of the 3s challenge for the Grand Champion competition, so we checked that out.
But, Brian and I spent most of our dwindling time collecting our favorite cars still in attendance and using the ample space, that up until then had been a rarity, to shoot features and grab interviews. Slowing down allowed me to take a good look at my surroundings and really appreciate what a great time it is to be alive.
Surrounded by beautiful rock formations and great people all doing what we love is a commodity not afforded to many, and I’d just like to thank everyone at Holley, The Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Power Automedia, and everyone that showed up to make this event such a great one for our industry and culture.
If I can summarize my experience for anyone who couldn’t attend this year, and has never been to LS Fest East or West, it’s this: It’s hot, smokey, and some of the most fun you can have with cars. It has everything a motorsports fan could want. The show is basically just one big party fueled by LS horsepower, and everyone is out there to bang revolutions and make smoke. If you’re used to setting out some lawn chairs and just wiping down your car with a diaper all weekend, or Rascal scootering to and from the snack bar, LS Fest ain’t it. If you want to party with your car in a fun, organized atmosphere, definitely make the trip!
If you weren’t there this year, make sure you are in 2020, come say hi, and cruise with us the day before it starts. I’ll be out there in my bright yellow vest. If you’re chomping at the bit, check out the LS Fest East show in Bowling Green, Kentucky on September 6-7-8.
Til’ next time…Check out the gallery below, and keep an eye out for our top 10 LS swaps article….