Brian Ambrosini's wheelstanding AMC has more than 14 million hits on YouTube--and it's no mystery why. The fiery orange Gremmie hangs all four wheels off the ground in what he calls the "bumper slide." When he buries the nose into the pavement and flings his grille into space, he just shrugs it off. It's a small price to pay to win the event.
So what is wrong with Ambrosini and the rest of these guys that makes them want to take off the wheelie bars and risk the destruction of their equipment? Money is one answer. Drivers share a pot that includes a payout of $10,000, and $20,000 for the top two cars. Glory is something a little less tangible.
The Byron Dragway's World Power Wheelstanding Championships is the Woodstock of wheelstand shows. Promoter Ron Leek and his team have been running the event for 17 years, and it has developed its own cult following, storming the Internet and turning the drivers into autograph-signing iconoclasts. For the money and the glory, regular Sportsman racers are gripped by temporary hysteria as they listen to their inner teenagers, and then it becomes completely rational to hit both stages of nitrous off the line to get the adoration of the crowd. We've asked why they do it, and the answer is always the same: "My friends said it was a good idea."
Watching the event on YouTube and reading about in the magazine is nothing like being there in person. You can catch the event October 6, 2012 at Byron Dragway in Byron, Illinois. For more info call 815/234-8405 or visit ByronDragway.com.
Brian Ambrosini: Big Money Winner Brian Ambrosini is perhaps the best free-form wheelstander in the world. His technique requires a slower initial rise to hold the front wheels of his 401-powered '74 Gremlin as long as possible before going for the bumper slide. This time, he broke a tie rod when he connected with the ground, forcing the car into the retaining wall. With his car on a flatbed, Ambrosini walked the return road signing autographs.
Chris Shenuk: Chris brought his 455-powered '72 Pontiac Formula Super Stock out again for some wild thrills at Byron. Last year, he won the Best Super Stock Wheelie class before disgorging the front-end brightwork onto the racetrack. This year, all the parts stayed on the car, but that wasn't enough to take the trophy.
A. J. Fiorelli: A. J. Fiorelli from Mackinaw, Illinois, put his flat-black Chenoweth Speed and Machine–powered, 505-inch, Chrysler-powered '68 Cuda almost straight up on its bumper to win the Highest Wheelie and Second Place Mopar awards. Midwest Chassis is responsible for the big hook.
David Karcher: This '30 Model A, five-window coupe looked as though it should have been spinning on a stand at the Autorama instead of cranking wheelies at Byron. David met another wheelstand competitor on last year's Hot Rod Power Tour and was talked into bringing his ride to Byron.
Chris Pirkola: This '39 Willys looks like it escaped from a street-rod show. The 700hp, all-steel Willys is a crowd favorite, and this was the third year in a row that Chris came down from Duluth, Minnesota.