$10K Drag Shootout 2 Episode 2: The Teardown

In last week’s premiere of the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout 2, the four antsy squads kicked off the 10-day racecar building affair by going head-to-head in a climactic $10K Olympics to determine the order of vehicle selection. Following a sudden-death showdown between Team Bigun and the COMP Cams Dream Team — and a little wrench being thrown into the plans of the former — the teams were off and running as they worked quickly to strip their respective machines down to create a palette for a thoroughbred racing machine.

The opening day, as expected, wasn’t without drama, and the controversy has spilled over into this week’s episode as the teams work to gain every advantage possible within — or in some cases, outside of — the rules.

As sparks fly and the floor of the Horsepower Wars set becomes ever-more littered with factory steel, wiring harnesses, seats, and other discarded parts and pieces, the Horsepower Wars tech staff is getting down to its own business of ensuring fair play among the teams. This season, Lonnie Grim, the PDRA’s Competition & Technical Director, was brought in to join the $10K Drag Shootout technical team. Grim is one of the sport’s most respected tech inspectors and rulesmakers, and armed with a lifetime of experience around the sport, you’ll be hard-pressed to sneak a fast one by him, as the teams quickly discovered.

Parts are flying left and right as the four teams scramble to strip their respective cars down to the bare essentials.

Team Bigun, the reigning champions of the $10K Drag Shootout, are still reeling from the unexpected reveal of their Ford Granada wagon, but have nevertheless accepted what they have to work with and the unique challenges it presents. But they weren’t about to accept the fate of the Turbo 400 transmission that they procured before arriving for the $10K Drag Shootout build. Grim, along with transmission inspector Leo Glasbrenner, determined that Team Bigun had presented a transmission with upgraded components, with a street value hundreds of dollars higher than they suggested. 

Lonnie Grim goes over the findings of the Turbo 400 transmission that Team Bigun presented for inspection.

Because the added and unexpected cost would have ramifications on their tight budget, Bigun wasn’t about to go quietly. In the end, Grim outlined the adjusted cost and Bigun begrudgingly accepted.

But Bigun’s infraction paled in comparison to that of the Dream Team.

As they say, if you aren’t cheating, you aren’t trying hard enough. And the COMP Cams Dream Team most certainly put in the effort. Upon inspection of the GM LS engine that the team presented, which was claimed to have been stock, the tech committee discovered numerous modifications and new parts that had been deliberately installed in an attempt to sneak a fast one by the tech team. A brand new set of lifters had had the logo shaved away, new valves were installed, and the face of the cylinder heads been painted black to appear old and worn. The team, hesitant to admit their wrongdoings, were sacked with an increased dollar value on their engine and a “creative” weight penalty of 37-pounds on its 2004 Ford Mustang.

Lonnie Grim delivers the news to the COMP Cams Dream Team upon inspection of its creatively-modified LS engine.

Team Enemies Everywhere and Midwest Mayhem, meanwhile, avoided drama of their own as they worked diligently and within the confines of the rules to make considerable progress on their machines. Midwest Mayhem, armed with a plan that was working to perfection through the first couple of days of the build, was the first to get to work welding on their Oldsmobile Cutlass, utilizing Miller Welders’ feature-packed Multimatic 220.

The squads raved about the capabilities of the Multimatic 220, which combines AC/DC Tig, Mig, flux-cored, and stick welding into one portable unit, allowing them to complete any welding process — be it steel or aluminum — efficiently and effectively with the same welder. The setup and switching processes are fast and easy, and the 220 ensures excellent arc quality using either 120 or 240 volt power. The 220 welds up to 3/8-inch (Mig and Stick) or 1/4-inch (Tig).

While members of each team are in demolition mode to strip their cars, the teams are also burning up the telephones and wi-fi signals placing orders with Summit Racing Equipment, which is again providing next-day shipping for the competitors on its many thousands of in-stock, high-performance parts.

Team Midwest Mayhem made quick work of its Oldsmobile Cutlass, stripping it down to the bare shell so the body and chassis could be separated for further fabrication.

Team Midwest Mayhem has taken a unique approach, borrowing on the team’s collective years of experience of beating on factory LS engines, by utilizing a stock 4.8-liter core out of a pickup truck with little in the way of aftermarket upgrades or modification. They paired massaged factory heads with upgraded valvetrain components and a BorgWarner SX400 turbo and backed it up with a Turbo 400 and a TCI torque converter. The group of no-time racers quickly stripped their car and separated the body from the chassis so they could notch the frame to fit the Mickey Thompson 275 drag radials in the wheel-well.

Team Enemies Everywhere hard at work stripping the engine from its fourth-generation Camaro.

Enemies Everywhere has followed a similar path with its fourth-gen Chevrolet Camaro, bringing a 6.0-liter LS core, upgraded with aftermarket rods and pistons and topped with VE Commodore heads, all upgraded valvetrain, and a FiTech intake manifold. The Aussies have also gone turbo, with a cast-iron Airwerks SX400 snail. A Turbo 400 transmission backs the power up. The Australians have their work cut out for them as they will be installing a ladder bar rear suspension in their fourth-gen Camaro originally equipped with a torque arm. To save time, they hammered out the rear wheel-wells to fit the wide radial tires rather than install wheel tubs.

COMP Cams Dream Team leader Dave Henninger (right) benefited from the assistance of last year’s Dream Team driver, “Big Daddy” Dwayne Gutridge in strategizing its parts order from Summit Racing Equipment.

Recognizing the affordability and possibilities, the COMP Cams Dream Team has also gone LS with its power plant; the 5.3-liter mill sports Lunati rods, MAHLE dome pistons, and factory heads with COMP pushrods. An intake from Summit Racing takes the forced air from a used Precision 80mm turbo. A Turbo 400 and TCI converter transfer the power to the rear wheels. 

Team Bigun, which won the inaugural $10K Drag Shootout a year ago with turbocharged LS power, analyzed the rules package for this season and, accepting a new challenge, opted to go a different direction for their title defense with a big-block nitrous combination. Utilizing a GM Mark IV 454 cubic-inch block, the team will be utilizing aftermarket aluminum heads massaged by team engine builder Peter Harrell, with an upgraded crank, rods, and pistons. The final product will measure 505 cubic-inches. A Wieand intake and Holley Dominator carburetor will be supplemented by an NOS Pro Shot fogger nitrous kit to supply the extra juice.

Team Bigun was forced to re-think its plans when presented with the Ford Granada, but quickly strategized and executed a new game plan.

With plenty of fabricating fire-power, Bigun is the only team installing custom wheel tubs in their car, allowing them to get the ride height as low as possible.

With the interiors stripped, many of the teams are already pulling their roll cages out to begin prep for fitment. Because safety is of the utmost importance and not something we want the teams to skimp on in order to save money in their budget, we have partnered with Competition Engineering and parent company, Moroso, to provide each of the teams with 10-point roll cages custom-made to their specific vehicle make and model.

These cages are manufactured from 1-5/8-inch O.D. by .134-inch wall, aircraft-quality AMS-T-6736 chrome-moly tubing, and are mandrel formed on CNC equipment to precisely fit the measurements and contours of each vehicle, right out of the box. These cages will not only help meet the NHRA’s requirement for 10.99 and quicker vehicles, but will also make the cars stiffer and better able to handle the horsepower.

As the teams wrapped up a physically-demanding second day of the build, their minds were put to the test in the second challenge of the build-off: a drag racing trivia contest. Each of the teams selected two members to represent their squad, and the Horsepower Wars staff presented each of the teams with nine questions, to which they had a limited amount of time to present their answers.

After the dust settled, it was the COMP Cams Dream Team — represented by driver Keith Berry and Jesse Adams — that got the most answers correct. Each of the other three teams tied. In winning, the team was given its choice of three prizes: a Holley HP EFI ECU fuel injection with a plug-and-play harness kit for the LS1/LS6, a Holley Gen III Ultra Dominator carburetor, or an NOS Pro Shot fogger nitrous system with a Big Shot plate (in either 4150 or 4500 carb flanges). 

The COMP Cams Dream Team was represented by driver Keith Berry and second-year team member Jesse Adams.

The team ultimately selected the Holley EFI setup, one of the most feature-packed and popular EFI systems on the market. This simple plug-and-play system plugs directly into factory sensors, and you then need only to wire the power and grounds and you’re ready to go. The ECU can control boost, nitrous, water/meth injection, and a wide array of inputs and outputs to control fans, pumps, relays, and other accessories. The system, perfect for everything from 5.3L swaps to 3,000 horsepower all-out racecars, includes the ECU, harness, communication cable, software, and a Bosch wideband 02 sensor.

The COMP Cams Dream Team won the Drag Race Trivia contest by a single point, earning a Holley EFI HP ECU system for their efforts.

Stay tuned, as next week the cars will begin to take shape and the drama will ratchet up a notch as we build — pun intended — toward the exciting conclusion of the $10K Drag Shootout.

The $10K Drag Shootout: 2 is made possible with the support of a number of industry giants, including Summit Racing EquipmentCOMP Cams, K&N Filters, MAHLE, Moser Engineering, BMR SuspensionVictor-Reinz Gaskets, SpeedWire, Total Seal, US Gear, Spectre Performance, E3 Spark Plugs, E3 Ignition Components, PRW, ARP, Fragola, Aerospace Components, Lucas Oil, DynaBatt, Mickey Thompson Tires, Moroso, and VP Racing Fuels.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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