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World Power Wheelstand Championships - Pans On The Ground

Byron Dragway mayhem

By Mike Yoksich, Photography by Mike Yoksich

In the world of drag racing, few promoters are as audacious as Byron Dragway's Ron Leek. Because of him, wheelstand mavens invade the beautiful Rock River, Illinois, area to get a front-row seat at the ultimate drag racing freak show. In the 16 years since the first World Power Wheelstand Championships, it has gone from a cult classic to a major event that brings in fans from the other side of the planet. Ron Leek was booming away on Byron's PA system interviewing John Ross and his family, who traveled all the way from Australia. John was heard to say, "I read about the wheelstand contest in Car Craft magazine and knew I had to go see it for myself." He's right and Byron Dragway packs the stands every year. Studying the photos is good for a thrill, but you'll have to be at the show to really appreciate it. It's our favorite thing to do in Ogle County.

Wheelie King $20,000 Prize!
Brian Ambrosini

One of the most famous wheelstanders in the world is Kenosha, Wisconsin's Brian Ambrosini in his orange '74 Gremlin. Brian's YouTube clips have more that 9 million views, he's been seen in Car Craft for the last six years and on the Lucas Oil...On the Edge show. Seeing him live is truly worth the trip.

Brian's a master of suspense, always getting his car to the line at the last possible moment. A pack of orange shirts parted the crowd in the staging area as the Gremlin smoked its tires toward the starting line. A couple of purges from the nitrous system, and Brian edged up to the line. With his two-step set kinda low, he launched the Gremlin and ramped up the power in the fast but smooth way that gets the car all the way up for his trademark vertical bumper slide. It was looking really good right up until it started looking bad. Brian's car pivoted and made a hard left toward the wall, scattering the judges and media. The Gremlin came down hard on its nose, flipping over and ricocheting off the wall before skidding on its roof in a cloud of sparks and chips of orange paint.

The crowd was going wild while the rescue crew and media descended on the wrecked Gremlin. Brian was hanging in the belts upside down trying figure out what just went down.

For that crazy run, Brian won the King of Wheelies 2010 and the $20,000 prize that goes with it. Fortunately for Brian, he owns Precision Auto body in Kenosha, Wisconsin, and will be able to go home and pound that Gremlin back into shape and continue building upon his legend.

Best Street Car and Best GM Wheelstand
Chris Orr

Chris Orr from Superior, Wisconsin, almost took out the media gallery with his blown White '67 Firebird. At about 100 feet, Chris' Firebird got up on one wheel and dove to the left with both rear wheels a couple of feet in the air. It rocked to the right after the first impact and bottomed out the front-right wheel with a shower of sparks before the weight went to the back wheels and Chris started a second wheelie. It was a truly spectacular wheelstand and well worth the double title.

Super Stock Wheelstand
Chris Shenuk

Chris Shenuk's white '72 Formula is well known in local Super Stock racing. The last few years Chris has brought his Pontiac to Byron to see if he could hang with the big dogs of wheelstanding. On his first run, Chris hit his wheelie bars so hard he unloaded the tires and came crashing down, dislodging his Endura bumper and springing the hood.

Most Violent Wheelstand
Brian Mahnke

Brian Mahnke took Most Violent and Runner-Up in Super Stock back home to Saginaw, Minnesota, with a massive sidewall-rippling blast off the starting line in his '72 Camaro. Sparks flew off the chute mount while the Camaro slid with all four wheels off the track before landing in a shower of sparks.

Best Mopar Wheelstand
A. J. Fiorelli

A. J. Fiorelli from Mackinaw, Illinois, rocked the crowd with his Chenoweth Speed and Machine–powered, 505-cube '68 'Cuda. Midwest Chassis hooked up the suspension for A. J., and he did the dirty work with the throttle and steering wheel. This year A.J. flat-out took the prize with all four wheels off the ground.

Longest Wheelstand
Andy Brody

Andy Brody brought his '67 Buick GS from Lockport, Illinois, and took a shot at fame and fortune. The big Buick has a 565-inch motor making 1,000 hp without any power-adders. Andy's GS weighs 3,600 pounds with Andy in it and runs 9.20s all day long. Longest Wheelie is not bad for Andy's first time.

Highest Wheelstand
Robert Howard

Robert Howard came all the way from Peru, Illinois, to compete for the big money is his '80 Olds Cutlass. Robert's run featured a great nitrous blast from the pipes at the top of the wheelie. The first bounce severed all connection from the auxiliary cooling fans and dumped them on the track.

Weirdest Wheelstand
Rick Johnson

They just should get it over with and call this the Rick Johnson class. Rick's '60 Chevy looks like it's going to roll over until you hear the bang from the rear quarter-panel and bumper hitting Byron's track surface. If he put a wheelie bar on his car it would have to be mounted like a curb feeler.

Unique Performer Wheelstand
Jeff Wild

At Byron there seems to be an award for every kind of wheelie. Unique was not the first word that came to mind when we saw Jeff Wild from Palos Hills, Illinois, doing a wheelie in his bright-yellow '70 Buick GS. He had the top down and his hand in the air waving like he was on a parade float.

Best Ford Wheelstand
J.D. Drissel

The Ford contingent was cheering for J.D. Drissel from Kenosha, Wisconsin, in his '86 Mustang. The rear wheels would come off the track, and J.D. kept the throttle mashed causing smoke to billow from the rear tires when they touched the track again.

Be There Next Year!
Byron Dragway; Byron, IL;
815/398-1060; ByronDragway.com

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By Mike Yoksich
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