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This past weekend racing fans packed the stands, fence lines, starting line and track wall at Wisconsin’s Great Lakes Dragaway to watch racers battle it out against each other and the track surface at the original No Prep racing event, Chi-Town’s King of The Streets. Not only is this event the origin of heads-up “No Prep” drag racing, but it’s also the longest running, with a whopping 17 events in the history books.

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Started in 2008 by Stephen “Heyyo Steve” Gillespie, with the help of Trent Eckhardt, they wanted to give fellow street racers a safe place to run their cars without the worry of neighborhood traffic and cops. Back then there were no spectators allowed … racers could only bring a few select friends as crew members, and car count was modest. Fast forward to now, and spectators pack the joint, there are multiple car classes for anyone to enter their car into based on tire size and set up, and a thorough list of general rules was created to help keep things running smoothly with the increased car count.
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The main event is held on a Saturday with the latter half of Friday being for the Street Life group. Street Life has two classes available for those who are not racing in the main event on Saturday: a “hard tire” class and a drag radial class for insured and plated street cars, both of which have to complete an estimated 30 mile cruise before racing on the track.

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Trent Eckhardt leading the drivers meeting on Saturday to determine first round parings in all classes.

For the main event on Saturday there is no track prep the day of the event, no burnouts past the starting line, and first round is straight off the trailer — no test passes are allowed on the day of the event and call-outs can only be made during the first round of each class. During staging when both cars have turned on the pre-stage bulbs, if one car rolls forward to turn on the second set of staging bulbs, the opponent in the other lane has five seconds to do the same before the automatic red light turns on resulting in a disqualification. The starting method is auto start with an instant green and only track “win” lights are used to determine winners; no numbers are shown on the scoreboards or shared with the competitors. Interestingly, racers are also not disqualified for their car touching the centerline or going into the other lane, so long as it happens behind the car they’re racing against and doesn’t effect their competitors’ run.

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Classes available for racers to enter into for the main event on Saturday are Junior, Banger, Gangster, Senior, and Unlimited, along with classes for motorcycle. The Banger class was newly added this year for any H-pattern manual transmission door car on a 26-inch tire. Cars can have any foot operated manual clutch, front and rear stock suspension is required and no wheelie bars. This class runs to the 1/4-mile with a buy-in of $200. The class brought in 10 cars, including Mirjan and his Boostin Performance black Evo 8, who was the runner-up of the Juniors class last September against Rocky Sardo”s 1964 Chevelle. This time, though, Mirjan lost to Sean Williams in the semi-finals. The final round came down to Sean Williams against Jamie Davila’s black and purple SFWD (Sport Front-Wheel-Drive) Honda Civic, referred to as Black Heart. It was the first time an SFWD Honda made it to the final round in a KOTS class. Sean Williams ended up beating Jamie to the stripe in the final.

Jamie Davila in his SFWD Honda (left image) and Sean Williams (right image) earlier in the day on Saturday. Both cars end up battling each other in the final round of the newly added Banger class.

In the semi-finals of the Gangster class we saw Trevor Peterson behind the wheel of The Grinch  up against Aaron Stapleton of Fast Forward Race Cars once again. Last September, both drivers made it to the final round, where The Grinch narrowly took the win.
Aaron Stapleton of Fast Forward Race Cars' new '69 Camaro.

Aaron Stapleton of Fast Forward Race Cars’ new ’69 Camaro.

This time Aaron was piloting a new shop car, a big-block Chevrolet, nitrous powered red 1969 Camaro, and The Grinch was running with a borrowed engine from Billy Adams and Phil “Corndog” Smith. They were able to get in just three test passes on Friday with the engine before the big race on Saturday. The car was running consistently enough with the borrowed motor on Saturday and Peterson was able to beat Stapleton to the stripe for a second time in the semi-final when Stapleton’s Camaro spun the tires and he was unable to catch up to the mustang.

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The Grinch with the lead over Stapleton during the Chi-Town’s KOTS Gangster class.

In the Gangster final round, The Grinch battled it out against Curtis Martin’s Mustang, Section 8, being driven by Kevin Connelly, better known as Plumber Kevin. Section 8 also had engine problems just days before the event and the team thrashed to get the car race-ready. Kevin Connelly is no stranger to the KOTS event or making it to the final round, being that he currently holds the record for most final round wins at KOTS. The race between Section 8 and The Grinch was close until The Grinch rattled the tires mid-track, causing Peterson to get out of the gas and Connelly to drive to the win for Curtis and his team.

Section 8 and The Grinch getting lined up before battling each other for the win in the final round of Chi-Town's KOTS Gangster class (left image). Kevin Connelly, who was piloting Section 8, stops on the return road to celebrate his win over The Grinch (right image).

Leech's Turbo Trans Am, The Executioner, (right lane) staged up against Al Gonzalez's N2O Camaro (left lane) before Leech ended up sitting sideways in the right lane after bouncing off the track's right retainer wall during Chi-Town's KOTS Junior class final round.

During the final round of Juniors, Tim Leech unfortunately wrecked his white Pontiac Trans Am while racing against Al Gonzalez’s blue Camaro. Leech lost traction, nearly taking out the 60-foot cone, and the car went nose-first into the right side retaining wall. Leech got out of the car under his own power but the car had to be towed away.

 The Senior class brought in the usual No Prep heavy-hitters such as Mantia, Hate Tank, Szabo, teammates Tony V and Boost 12, Corndog, and the Blain Brothers, among others.

Boost 12 takes out the previous Chi-Town's KOTS Senior class winner, Corndog

Phil “Corndog” Smith was the winner of the Senior class last September but was only able to make it to the second round this event, as he spun while racing against Joey “Boost 12” Rabiola, allowing Joey to move on to the next round to go up against his teammate and friend, Tony V. Keith Szabo raced against Turbo GT first round in an extremely close call-out match, where Szabo just barely nosed out Turbo GT at the stripe. Szabo, who is known as “The Shoot Out King,” then worked his way through the rest of the field to meet up with “Boost 12” in a suspenseful final round, with $10,000 being awarded to the winner. Szabo took the win over Boost 12, grabbing another KOTS Senior class victory after winning the class back in June of 2016.

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Szabo “The Shoot Out King” (left lane) vs Joey Rabiola “Boost 12 (right lane) during Chi-Town’s KOTS Senior class final round

 Love or hate no prep racing, you have to give Gillespie and Eckhart credit for how this event has developed over the years and how successful it is. They listen to and apply feedback, which shows they truly care about the racers and fans that come from near and far to participate and watch the action; they understand the event wouldn’t be where it is today if racers and fans were not a top priority. Classes have been added to allow more racers to participate and spectators now have an easier time watching from the stands since the rule was made last year to only allow spectators along the track’s right side wall. There’s still another Chi-Town’s King of the Streets race this year, as it is a bi-annual event, so if you are interested in participating or spectating, September 15th and 16th at Great Lakes Dragaway in Union Grove, Wisconsin is the place to be.

Fans filled the stands from the starting line to down by the finish line.

 King of the Street XVII Winners
   Juniors: Al Gonzalez over Tim Leech
   Banger: Sean Williams over Jamie Davila
   Gangster: Section 8 over The Grinch
   Seniors :  Szabo over Boost 12
   Unlimited/Big Tire: Craig Shefchik over Tim Jakus
   Senior Bikes: Anthony Dugo over Maurie Misner
   Junior Bikes:  Matt E. over Phil Stoll