The first time we saw the Wheelstanding Championships at Byron Dragway in 2004, we just stared when Brian Ambrosini came out of a 150-foot wheelstand on his oil pan and silenced the crowd. In the years since, rumors of a backflip and the reality of a $20,000 purse for the winner have cranked the event to a soccer-riot fervor.
The rules are simple: pass tech, take off the wheelie bars, and stand the car on the bumper as long as you can. This year, a panel of judges that included Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen picked the winners for the Highest, Longest, Most Photogenic, and Most Violent wheelies. The huge purse guaranteed the destruction of drivetrains, and you can actually see the fender gaps change as the cars slap the asphalt. You get as many shots at the title as you can until you are kicked off the track by jeering fans or track promoter Ron Leek calls the cops. The routine includes 8-second race cars performing U-turns at half track to take another swing.
Ron came up with the wheelie idea while thinking about a fun event that would pull in the crowds and help with track costs. "You could tell this event was instantly going to work," Ron said. "It is about some entertainment value, the more the better." This year, he announced that the cars competing for the big prize must be stock configuration in terms of engine and suspension placement, so it doesn't become about purpose-built wheelie cars, which still get to run, but only in the Modified class.
So are you going to sit there and watch or are you going to join the action? Visit byrondragway.com to get the details on how to attend this year as a gaper or be the hero you always wanted to be and have your grim visage burned into history by winning the whole thing. Your call.
First Place Steve Blue Roann, In '69 Chevrolet Camaro
Steve Blue has no fear. He put his '69 Camaro on the bumper for 480 feet and locked the win for Longest Wheelie and First Place points for holding the car in the sky forever. This is an all-motor deal for Steve; his 632-inch big-block has a nitrous kit, but he left the bottle in the pits for the wheelie show. After the first wheelie, he just wasn't satisfied, so he turned around at half track and restaged for another try. Instead of stabbing the gas like he would in a drag race, he changed his style and stayed in the air a lot longer.
"The second time, I just rolled up on the throttle. After a while, I felt the car moving left, so I lifted and brought it down. I know that there was more in it, and I wanted to make it an eighth-mile wheelie. I was in High gear when it started going left, I was scared the car was going to roll over at over 100 mph." Just to add to the chaos, Steve had a small heart attack on the way from the pits to the tower to pick up the cash. "I just thought it was indigestion," he recalled. "The paramedics gave me some oxygen and I felt better."
Is he coming back? "I am going to try to be the only back-to-back winner. Someone said it will be worth 50 grand next time, and that is going to bring out the crazy ones."