Jeff Lutz is definitely no-one hit wonder in the drag racing world. From his early days in the NSCA and NMCA where he picked up plenty of wins, including the 2013 NMCA Pro Street championship title, to his domination of the Drag Week drag-and-drive with multiple successes in various vehicles, his most recent accomplishments on the Street Outlaws: No Prep Kings circuit should come as no surprise.
From his Lutz Race Cars business, Lutz has also had his hand in countless winning builds for other racers. His own program, though, really picked up the pace when he began working with Justin “Big Chief” Shearer and Shawn “Murder Nova” Ellington around the time the original Street Outlaws series first began airing on the Discovery Channel.
“Back in the early days, I was sitting in Pro Line Racing’s office [in Georgia] with Eric Dillard and Steve Petty got a phone call and asked if I knew Justin Shearer,” recalls Lutz, who wasn’t familiar with the soon-to-be-famous man at the time. “Petty said Justin needed someone to do his turbo system, so I called him.”
That fateful conversation set in motion a chain of events that have led Lutz to his current position as one of the most feared men on the No Prep Kings tour. In the beginning, he worked with Shearer and Ellington – who were both big fans of Lutz’s from his Drag Week days – as well as some of the other original members of the Street Outlaws show. “I ended up turbo’ing everyone on the show’s cars at one point. Things went through the roof and got crazy,” adds Lutz.
As he transitioned from behind the scenes to the action in front of the camera, Lutz became a fixture within the cast and his legendary status continued to grow. Over the years, Street Outlaws spawned many other series and spin-offs, but the No Prep Kings live drag racing series has taken center stage – and Lutz has been a part of the entertainment from the beginning.
Towards the end of his 2019 season with his ’57 Chevrolet Bel Air, though, Lutz realized his back was up against a wall. “I was close, but not close enough, and couldn’t get the car to run as quick as I needed,” he explains. Lutz had been a fan of the Pontiac GXP and GTO platforms since Spiro Pappas campaigned his in the late 2000s, but knew he didn’t have time to assemble a complete car and instead searched for one that was already on its way towards racecar status.
Lutz located a suitable, pre-built GTO in Northern California, but didn’t have quite enough cash to purchase it. “I got Rick Ball from RC Components involved, and he said ‘hell yeah, let’s go,’ so I picked him up and we drove out there, through snowstorms and everything, to buy it and bring it home,” Lutz outlines on the awesome adventure the men had on their five-day, 5,700-plus mile road trip in December of 2019.
Back at his Pennsylvania-based shop and together with his son, Jeff Jr., Lutz removed the car’s carbon-fiber shell and replaced it with the stock steel body panels and parts from a 2004 model-year donor. “We shortened the front end a bit and had to do all kinds of work in a short amount of time,” he continues.
Interestingly enough, Lutz’s Pontiac is powered by a big-block Chevrolet engine – one of only two in NPK competition. Through a strange confluence of events many years ago, Lutz acquired eleven new-old-stock engine blocks from Trick Flow. “They had collaborated with Sonny’s Racing Engines on them, but for some reason, they never sold well and stopped making them in 1989. Twenty years later, I got them for cheap,” Lutz elaborates. “I ran them in my NSCA/NMRA days, and I still run them today. I’ve got four in the trailer and they’re strong.”
The 9.80-inch deck height, 4.84-inch bore space, conventional 540 cubic inch cast block was paired with cast heads and “standard everything” which lets Lutz take advantage of every weight break he possibly can. As a result, his minimum competition weight wound up being a scant 2,525 pounds. “We couldn’t get the car that light, so I lost weight and run it at 2,535 pounds,” confesses the man who does whatever it takes to win and tips the scales himself at only 165 pounds.
Included in the engine, which was machined by Tim Wallace of Westside Machine Racing Engines in Idaho and is boosted by a set of twin Precision 98mm turbochargers, Lutz used a Callies crankshaft, Icon pistons, GRP connecting rods, Isky Racing camshaft, Isky lifters, and T&D rockers along with a Plazamaman intake manifold. The bullet is fed through a set of Atomizer injectors flowing fuel from an Aeromotive system, and controlled via a FuelTech FT600 engine management unit.
It’s insane that I can go out to eat in a strange town and people will recognize me. This show has completely changed my life and it’s been one hell of a ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. – Jeff Lutz
Under the car, Lutz outfitted the Pontiac with a full Strange Engineering modular rear end housing, along with Penske shocks and struts, and power is transferred from the engine to the pavement via a Rossler Turbo 400 transmission and ProTorque converter combination.
Of course, the car’s outward appearance was also upgraded with a set of RC Components’ finest wheels at each corner.
Initially, Lutz intended to run the GTO in No Prep Kings and still haul the ’57 around for fans to look at, but that plan changed. “Well, then I had the wreck with the ’57 and we were supposed to be filming in Chicago one week later,” says Lutz. While he was laying in the hospital, he spoke with NPK’s producer, Sam Korkis, and they decided the GTO would immediately be called into duty for 2020.
“We tested, went to Chicago, and kicked all their asses … so it was cool,” laughs Lutz, pleased with the redemption he so quickly found. Although he had to hit the ground running a lot sooner than planned, Lutz was pleased with how quick the car had turned out to be.
And, after several seasons of No Prep Kings racing, the car has proven to be a contender. So much so, in fact, that Lutz has been quickly closing in on his one-hundredth round win in NPK competition — and all of ‘em were done with a turbocharged entry. “I have the baddest turbo car in No Prep Kings history,” he affirms.
Although he hasn’t picked up an overall event win in 2023’s Season 6 just yet, Lutz has still had a lot of success throughout the year and he’s hopeful that the relentless schedule of back-to-back, weekend-after-weekend racing will turn in his favor soon. He was picked early on to be on Ellington’s Team Murder Nova for the year, too, and has been having a blast competing alongside his teammates.
“We’ve been crazy busy,” shares Lutz. On the road for nine weeks straight during the first half of the NPK season, he was able to make it home for a few sporadic days in the middle as the tour shifted towards the East Coast to work on his ’57. “Starting with the GALOT race, we’re back in the truck for another six weeks and after that, we go to SEMA, then more NPK racing.”
His son, Jeff Jr., handles tuning of the twin turbo Pontiac GTO, and the younger man has already gotten a good handle on the engine management. “We’ve been in the semi-finals the past two races,” Lutz shared in mid-October. “We moved up to eleventh in points, and we’re kicking ass now. The GALOT race kicks off the points-and-a-half events for the next two, and then Ennis [Texas] is double points, so we still have a lot of opportunity to move up.”
Despite the relentless pace, long days, and exhausting travel, Lutz absolutely loves being able to go drag racing for a living and has spent his entire life working hard to make it all possible. He knows, though, that none of No Prep Kings’ success would be possible if not for the diehard, dedicated fans, and he’s grateful to them for enabling him to pursue his passion.
“I love seeing the stands packed with fans and am always happy to sign autographs,” he noted. Having started his family when he and his wife, Christine, were both teenagers, Lutz never imagined he’d be where he is today, let alone an international celebrity who has traveled as far as Australia just to go racing. “It’s insane that I can go out to eat in a strange town and people will recognize me. This show has completely changed my life and it’s been one hell of a ride, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world.”
Lutz can’t predict where life will take him in the future, but he’s doing his best to stack the deck in his favor regardless of how the cards fall. Between the frenetic No Prep Kings filming, he’s focusing on growing his YouTube channel as an additional revenue source, working on completing the new shop that he’s currently building next to the existing Lutz Race Cars facility, and helping get Jeff Jr. ready to race either his small-tire Honda or Lutz’s old “Mad Max” 1969 Chevrolet Camaro for 2024 in NPK’s Outlaw Big Tire class.
“I don’t know how we managed to do all this, but we did,” concludes Lutz, grateful for how much faith Sam Korkis has shown him over the years and how the producer has changed Lutz’s life as a result. “Kids and grownups always ask for my advice, and all I can say is, it’s never too late … dreams do come true if you don’t give up.”