Here's what happens when you try to road race with sticky tires on 35-year-old stock axles
It's the classic story in motorsports. We had a fast car that last year finished Second overall and promised to be much quicker this year. But that means little when you break in the first lap of the first of four events, ending our shot until next year. That's racing.
The Hotchkis Shootout invites any magazine or media staffer to Buttonwillow where they can duke it out with the other magazines for a year's worth of bragging rights. Inaugurated last year, John Hotchkis enlisted Baer, Centerforce, Flowmaster, Yokohama, Magnacharger, Red Line, Optima, Axis wheels, and a few others to co-sponsor this year's Media Shootout day. The idea was to pit run-whatcha-brung street-legal cars against each other in a four-tiered contest. The race consisted of a 600-foot slalom, a quarter-mile drag race, a 60-to-0 braking flog, followed by hot laps on Buttonwillow's road course.
Last year, we entered my '65 Chevelle powered by a 420ci Lingenfelter-built small-block Chevy that did exceptionally well. We won both the dragstrip and 60-to-0 brake contests and finished Fourth overall on the road course. We did poorly on the slalom-it's still our worst event. On the first practice lap with the car handling much better through the cones, the right rear suspension banged twice just as we cleared the final gate and then the right rear locked up. A post-mortem revealed the axle had sheared off right at the flange, mangling some brake parts and cutting the Kumho tire.
We quickly changed mounts and jumped in the Corvette owned by Centerforce's Patrick Wilson
After the track sent out its tow truck to cart away the wreckage, Bryan Wilson from Centerforce offered to let us drive the company's 2000 Corvette that he had brought out initially as a display vehicle. The Vette is equipped with a complete Magnuson supercharged LS1 engine, along with a ton of parts from RK Sport, Weld wheels, Yokohama 18- and 20-inch tires, and of course, a Centerforce clutch.
We jumped in the Corvette and just managed to get back to the slalom course in time to run, followed quickly by the dragstrip and braking runs. With zero seat time, we drove the car cautiously since both timed runs on all three venues are averaged requiring both runs to be clean. Unfortunately, we learned that our fastest time on the slalom was on the practice run and not for time! We did better in the quarter with more consistent runs and even pulled down a short 111-foot stopping distance on the braking test by literally trying to bend the brake pedal with our right foot. The dragstrip revealed that the new combination still needed some tuning since the Magnuson blower is capable of much more power than what the Corvette delivered.
It required eight burly guys-including Popular Hot Rodding's Johnny Hunkins and Scott Park
Scott Tsuneishi's driving skill behind the wheel of the bright yellow Axis Wheel-backed Ni
After lunch, Hotchkis split the field into two 15-minute sessions for practice. The Vette felt strong, but after four laps it succumbed to overheating problems. A subsequent underhood inspection revealed the accessory/blower drivebelt was about to let go. This is partly because of a slight misalignment problem that was easily rectified.
So in a matter of a couple of hours, your scribe had managed to kill two cars and had officially dropped out of the race twice! Additional attrition from several cars left the door open for a Nissan 350Z and a couple other imports to run some relatively quick laps on the road course, but substantially slower than what took the top spots on the road course in 2003.
Overall, the event was still fun even if we broke on the first lap! We're already planning on a full-out assault on the Hotchkis event for next year with stronger Strange axles, less weight, and perhaps even fresh paint to make our barge look a little better. A quick count of vehicles revealed an even split of imports to domestics, but the imports clearly held the upper hand. It's obvious we need to make a musclecar statement. The first two Hotchkis winners have been imports, and we need to show them that our old-school musclecars can play in this arena, too!
PHR's Johnny Hunkins only ran his '94 Vette on the road course, but averaged 2.22-second l
HRM staffer and previous CC Editor Matt King competed his newly minted NASA Camaro/Mustang