The Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws franchise has been a massive catalyst for the revitalization of the drag racing world. Love it or hate it, the television shows have given the sport a shot of life that in many ways it desperately needed. Like all things, the show has evolved. What started with a bunch of Oklahoma-based street races has transformed, giving fans two successful spin-off shows, a multi-million dollar nationwide no prep race series, and now, the largest shootout-style drag racing event ever seen—Street Outlaws: Fastest In America.
The premise of the show is pretty simple. Eight teams of street racers from all over the country pair off and race to decide who advances to the next round. As the ladder gets smaller, the winning teams will move on, with the shootout winner faces JJ Da Boss and Team Memphis for $100,000.
Just as you’d expect, the list of racers from across the country is packed with familiar names, faces, and race cars. But with 82 racers filling the rosters of all 9 teams, there are plenty of fresh faces as well. Racers that have made a name for themselves and built incredible reputations on the streets and track, grudge racing for huge amounts of money. One racer you might not be familiar with is Chris Gordon. Chris goes by the alias “Block” and he is the leader of the South Carolina team who took out the team from St. Louis in the first episode earlier this year.
We wanted to spend a little time with Block and find out where he came from, how he put his team together, and why he thought small tires were the way to go against some of the quickest and fast big-tire street racers in the country.
As I got faster, the cars I couldn’t beat at the track, I could beat on the street. That’s where it all started.
“My dad used to drag race when I was little,” explained Block. “I’ve been at a drag strip since I’ve been in diapers. He had an old blue Vega he raced at Dorchester Dragway. So, every Sunday I’d be at the track. He was a grudge racer and he’d go out there, raise hell, put on a show. I guess that’s where it all started at.”
Like so many of us, the passion of racing gets passed down from father to son. Many times, the passion fades as more important aspects of life take precedence. But racing remained a constant for Block.
“When I really started getting hot and heavy with it, I had an El Camino,” Block tells us. “I was working at Boeing and I would lock in grudge races on Friday at the local tracks. I worked second shift, and that kind of interfered with my racing schedule. But I would go in early and get my work done so I could go race, but it started becoming a problem. I just got to a point where it was time for me to start taking my craft seriously because it’s something I loved.”
Up to this point, Block was building a reputation as a fast track racer, but he had yet to make the move to the street. It would take a friend to help guide Block down the road (pun intended) his racing career was about to take.
“I’ve always been into racing, but my buddy Sherm was into street racing,” Block tells us. This is probably close to eight years ago. You know, I wasn’t into street racing. I was getting into the track heavy, but I hadn’t been in the street. He was like, man, just come give it a try. Once I did it, the adrenaline in the street was totally different and I was hooked.”
It didn’t take long before Block started building his reputation in the street of South Carolina. He set out to be the baddest man on the street, and the reputation soon followed.
“I was immediately hooked on the street and I became one of the most feared people in South Carolina,” he explains. “I was able to get my cars to outwork the other cars, and I was able to level the playing field in the street. As I got faster, the cars I couldn’t beat at the track, I could beat on the street. That’s where it all started.”
Block built his reputation wheeling a ’79 Ford Fairmont, but not the car we see him driving now. Mayhem was the replacement for the Fairmont Block used to solidify his place as the top street racer in South Carolina.
“I used to drive another Fairmont for a guy,” Block tells us. “He teamed up with me about four years ago. He had a ’79 Box Top and we turned that into one of the baddest street racing cars in South Carolina. I drove it, it was his car. He furnished the funds, and I did a lot of the work on the car. I made the car work on the highway and it was bad. But he and I went separate ways. So, I looked online and I found Mayhem, which a the ’79 Fairmont Futura. The guy had it listed for $5,500. I paid him $5,000 for the roller, and that’s where the story started. That was probably two years ago.”
Block instantly knew this was the car he needed as soon as he saw it. He was able to take much of what he learned with the first Fairmont and use it to make Mayhem even more lethal.
“It was like love at first sight,” Block tells us. “When I saw it, I thought ‘this is the car that I’m going to make something out of,’ And we just started when I got it home. We had to start from scratch for the drivetrain and we put it all together. The car was decent. It was blue. When I bought it, the suspension was all jacked up. People I talked to said the previous owner couldn’t get it to go straight. Even at this point now, it’s not that fast. There’s nothing fancy about this car. It’s a stock suspension, stock location car, with stock framerails. It had doors and fenders and stuff on it, but it’s nothing all that special.”
But even though the car was fairly basic, Block still ran into massive obstacles along the way. The powertrain was a particularly challenging part for him and his team.
“A buddy of mine just kind of kept up with what we had going on when my small-block got hurt.” Block continues, “So, I went and got his 632 and put in the car, and the first day the motor was in the car, it blew up. So, we were scrambling last year before filming and stuff. I put that motor in the car, blew it up. I got another short-block from a different guy and it was supposed to be good. It blew up. We are just now finally are getting a hold on the combination and trying to keep it right. It’s a 632 with a Powerglide transmission, and some nitrous. That’s what we got going on.”
How does a street racer from South Carolina make the jump to TV and the biggest shootout-style street race ever? The street racing networks can be very secretive, but rumors about fast cars travel fast.
“We had done something with JJ previously,” Block tells us. “As a matter of fact, I was supposed to go run a Cash Days in Las Vegas with JJ. We went on vacation after the Cash Days got canceled. We were coming back, and I called him, he said, ‘can you put a team together to run this race?’ I said I’ll make it happen. This was my opportunity, you know, this was my shot.”
With the opportunity to put a team together for this incredible street race, Block needed to assemble a team. He needed people that could work together and perform under some extreme circumstances.
“Honestly, when the group came together, I pretty much laid the law down,” he tells us. “I said I’m the head chief in charge. I will never put us in harm’s way. Y’all just have to listen to me and we’ll be successful. I reached out to Jimmy. He’s local, right down the street from me. Big Tom is a shootout guy. I knew he had a truck that worked really well. I put a post out and got some of the guys that are on the team.
“To be honest, I really wanted it to be 100-percent people I raced with in the street. But everything worked out in my eyes like it was supposed to. When you have nothing to lose, you have everything to gain. We work together as a team. Everybody helped each other. For not being a family, you couldn’t tell. Everybody did what they were supposed to do.”
Block and his team certainly looked like the underdogs when you looked at the teams they were up against. Especially when you consider the team from South Carolina was comprised almost completely of small-tire cars. But did Block see this as a disadvantage?
I just wanted to show up for my team because my team had showed up for me. I just wanted to do the best job I could, and if I felt I had done my job right, the outcome would be what it needed to be and that’s how it was.
“I looked at it as ‘it is what it is,’ Block explains. “Here in the South, we don’t street race big tire cars like that. I mean mostly all street racing is done on small tires in the South. So, it’s what I’m used to. It’s what we are used to. These big tire cars aren’t what’s out here in the street. I’m just a warrior for the average man. When the average man sees me and my team on TV, I want them to be able to crack a cold beer and be like, ‘man, my uncle had a Fairmont like that’ and be able to relate to us.”
With block’s confidence in his band of small-tire brothers, the focus became another, and possibly more challenging obstacle—the road. Block pulled the number 1 chip, meaning team South Carolina would be one of the first two teams down the road. Going into round 1, strategy was crucial.
“So, with this particular race, we knew there’s a game,” Block adds. “We just have to stick to our strategies and play the game. Our team needs to be mentally tougher and smarter. We have to get the jump, or we have to pay attention if we need to sit. You have to pay attention to the confidence of the other team and just feed off that energy and do the best we can.
“When I pulled number one, I was like, man, so we’re going to be the first team to go down this road now. This road was tricky, and it showed for both teams. It definitely wasn’t a perfect road. I knew that it was going to be tricky, but I knew that they were going to have to fight the same thing. And with them having more power than we did, I believe that was going to be worse on them than us. We just had to manage ours and just get it through there, and that’s what we did.”
As the night progressed, the small-tire crew from South Carolina found themselves ahead 5 to 3 in the race to 7. But St. Louis quickly bounced back, making the race tally 6 to 6.
“Yeah, six and six…” states Block. “That was, um, that was rough. Especially knowing I was the last racer. There’s a lot of money on the line. At the end of the day, going into that race to move on to the next round to get my shot at $100,000, that was great. But I ain’t ever had $100,000 before. I just wanted to show up for my team because my team had showed up for me. I just wanted to do the best job I could, and if I felt I had done my job right, the outcome would be what it needed to be and that’s how it was.”
In the end, Block took the win in the final race against St. Louis. But it wasn’t without drama. Prior to the race, He switched his nitrous and transbrake buttons between the steering wheel and the shifter to give him better control over the nitrous system. But racers are creatures of habit. In the moment, He forgot about the change and grabbed the wrong button. The car lurched forward on the starting, effectively giving the race to St. Louis. Fortunately for Block and the team from South Carolina, “a chase is a race”. And after Block left the starting line, his opponent followed suit and was unable to run down the Fairmont.
As Fastest In America rolls on, it will certainly be interesting to see what teams prevail. As the rounds go by, the strengths and weaknesses of each team will be revealed. It will be exciting to see who has the best strategy, and capitalizes on the right opportunities, moving forward in the process. With $100,000 on the time, we’re sure the action is just starting to heat up!