Grudge and no-time racing superstar Justin “Lil Country” Swanstrom is poised to debut a new-to-him 2012 Chevrolet Camaro in the coming weeks, and although it comes under circumstances far from ideal, he’s nevertheless enthused about what the new chariot holds for his racing future.
Swanstrom, one of the most feared competitors in the clocks-off world, whose mettle on the racetrack has made it increasingly difficult to lock in a grudge match, crashed his familiar “Armageddon” nitrous-assisted Ford Mustang late last month at North Carolina’s Piedmont Dragway, leaving the car repairable but nevertheless in disarray right in the heart of the racing season. Fortunately, Swanstrom had already purchased another car that was in waiting back home in Florida — a Rick Jones Race Cars-built fifth-gen Camaro that was originally campaigned by Mike Castellana under the Al-Anabi banner, with considerable input into its construction from crew chief Shannon Jenkins. Castellana raced the car in the states and in Qatar, before Mississippi’s Mike Bankston purchased and raced it in Pro Nitrous with Tim Savell at the controls.
“We bought this car about three months ago, but it’s been sitting while I ran the other car,” Justin shares. “I had planned on putting it together and running two cars, but the wreck changed things, so now we’re trying to speed the process up. The car was basically a rolling chassis and it’s just been sitting in my garage, so now we’re ordering a bunch of parts and have it going now.”
“On the way home [from Piedmont] I had a lot of people messaging me, and I told dad I thought we ought to just bite the bullet and spend the spend the money to get [the Mustang] fixed, because I was planning on going to another race this month. But after looking it over, we were probably going to spend 10 or 15 grand getting it painted back up and all that … so I thought why don’t we just put that money into the new car and we’ll just sell Armageddon as-is. I don’t really need to be running two cars anyway … it’s just too hard and not going to be fun, so we’re just going to focus on one car,” he adds.
Armageddon, unsurprisingly, has already been sold.
We’re going to run a little no-time with it, and then we’ll probably go to Radial versus The World. The grudge racing has been good so far, but it’s starting to slow down and getting harder to get races.
Swanstrom is currently having headers built while some final odds and ends on the chassis are completed. The Rossler Turbo 400 transmission is also being installed, and once all is completed, it will head to Georgia to be wired. If everything goes to plan and work is completed by the 21st, Justin will throw some shocks on it and be ready to go in time to debut it at the grudge race he’s promoting — the Summer Slam Throwdown at Darlington, South Carolina on July 27-28.
The configuration of the Camaro affords Swanstrom greater opportunities going forward, as it can be campaigned with minute changes in everything from Pro Nitrous to no-time racing and various arenas in between. He points out, however, that with the performance of his Mustang, securing a grudge race had already proven a challenge, and this car may push him fully out of the grudge scene he so enjoys.
“We’re going to run a little no-time with it, and then we’ll probably go to Radial versus The World. The grudge racing has been good so far, but it’s starting to slow down and getting harder to get races. We can take this car and run it in shootouts, and we might get one or two grudge races, but I’m not sure which route we’re going to take yet. I told my dad if it comes down to it where we can’t get any grudge races, we’ll just go on over to Radial versus The World. But we want to see if we can get any races first,” Justin says.
He hints that a Radial versus The World debut at No Mercy this fall isn’t entirely out of the question, but again adds that “it just depends on if we can get some [grudge] races. Once I turn the clocks on, that will probably be the end of it, because I doubt we’ll get any more grudge races, but it is what it is. It’s just the price I’ll have to pay, but before I make that final decision I’ll have to be 100-percent sure that grudge racing is done.”
Swanstrom acquired a new 959 cubic-inch nitrous mill from Pat Musi, and will back it with the aforementioned Turbo 400. A FuelTech FT600 ECU will serve as the brains of the operation. Santhuff Suspension Specialties jumped in with Swanstrom as a backer following the crash and provided a set of shocks, struts, and springs for the Camaro to help get him back on-track. “It’s a really well-built car; it’s going to be lighter than Armageddon, has more wheelbase and a lower center of gravity. It should be a good deal,” he asserts of the new ride.
In addition to Santhuff, supporters of Swanstrom’s efforts include CJRC Chassis Shop, R&R Fab Life, SS Vac & Video, Clay Motorsports, Carolina N/T Productions, Neal Chance Racing Converters, and Pat Musi Racing Engines.
Regardless of his trajectory, Swanstrom relays that he has no intent of stepping away from the grudge racing scene that’s become a second home to he and his family.
“I like grudge racing — there’s more money in it, if you can get races,” he states. “You can lose money, too. But I like the people. I’ll always be around in grudge racing and I’ll still run the shootouts, because it’s a big family. But I won’t let this car sit if I can’t get any races, so at that point we’ll do some class racing. I have big enough dreams that I told dad I don’t care if I have to turn this car back over to big tires and maybe go run some Pro Nitrous races. With this car I have a lot of options and can do whatever I want. Jay Cox is on my ass hard, he’s wanting to race me bad. Sooner or later we’ll end up getting to race.”
Given his penchant for success, from X275 to Limited Drag Radial and the no-time scene, there’s little reason to doubt Justin will make his mark on other arenas in the sport, and this blacked-out Camaro is perhaps the piece that will carry him to bigger and better things.
“Hopefully everything works and we go out there and run good and we ain’t way out in left field.”