Going to a national event to race your car may seem a bit daunting to new racers but it really doesn’t have to be. The NMCA has partnered with Chevrolet Performance to bring the Chevrolet Street Car Challenge to events in 2018. I decided to try my hand at racing at a national event so I loaded up the project Red Dragon and headed to Summit Motorsports Park so I could be a part of the Chevrolet Street Car Challenge at the NMCA All-American Nationals.
The Chevrolet Street Car Challenge (CSC) provides people with little or no racing experience a chance to compete at a national event for free. At the same time, this class also affords these new racers the chance to participate in a big event with instruction and the chance to have a good time. Chevrolet Performance also comps the entry for the 75 entrants, so they can get some laps in with their LS or newer LT-powered vehicles.
How The Chevrolet Street Car Challenge Works
To be a part of the CSC you first have to go to the NMCA’s website to get the registration form and get your spot reserved. After that, the NMCA will send you a confirmation and instructions on what you will need to do for the race. What makes this so nice is that for someone who doesn’t have any real experience at a larger event it removes the intimidation factor and allows you to have fun. The instructions explain where you need to go to get your credentials, where to get registered, and where to go through tech. All of this mimics what a normal NMCA class racer does, so it will transition over for the participant if they decide to run a class like True Street in the future.
When I arrived at the gate I was greeted by an official who helped me get my race credential squared away quickly and without any issues at all. They provided me with a great packet that included all the relevant race information I would need, a survival guide explaining where to park, how to go through registration, and how the tech process worked. At the All-American Nationals, they had all the CSC and HEMI Shootout racers pit in the same area — this was great if a racer had any questions and they could communicate with each other when there was a class call.
Going through the registration process was super easy and the NMCA staff made sure I had everything I needed before I left the trailer. The tech staff gave the Red Dragon a good once over to make sure it met the criteria for the ETs I hoped to run and that I had all of my safety gear. They also had helmets available for those who might need them and didn’t know it was required. It was very refreshing to see how well the staff treated new racers and made them feel as comfortable as they could be at their first big event.
Time To Go Racing
Now what makes the CSC a great stepping stone into racing at larger events with the NMCA is the format they provide. Instead of having a few qualifying shots and then eliminations, the CSC works off of a format similar to True Street. Racers get several test runs on Friday and then one on Saturday before the CSC begins. When the racing portion starts it’s treated like True Street where racers try to get closest to a nine-second through 15-second index during their three runs, but the passes aren’t back-to-back so you have a little time to regroup.
At the end of the three runs, the times are averaged and winners for each index are announced along with the quickest car overall and the second quickest car. Winners for each index and the two quickest get some prize money as well to go with their trophies. The racing doesn’t end there — CSC racers then get to take part in some bracket racing on Sunday so they can get the experience of what it’s like to be in true competition at an NMCA event.
The Red Dragon had a weekend full of ups and downs on the track. During testing the car seemed to be having a transmission issue that was pushing it into limp mode and robbing it of all its power. An adjustment to my burnout procedure seemed to address the issue and the car was back to running how it should with a 12.51 pass on motor and a nice 11.01 with the nitrous turned on. With that data in my back pocket going into race day I thought the 11.00 index was mine for the taking … boy was I wrong.
In high school, I had a shop teacher that passed on the idea that we never made mistakes, that we had “teachable moments” that we could choose to learn from to avoid future problems. I experienced one of these teachable moments during my first pass of the three index runs. I went through my normal process but as the tree dropped I realized I never armed my nitrous and just mashed the throttle when the light turned green, running a pedestrian 12.60.
The teachable moment here was that since there was no win light to worry about and the reaction time didn’t matter, I could have collected myself, armed the nitrous, and then made the pass to get my desired ET. Instead, I let my instincts take over and cost myself a shot at winning the 11.00 index. After that pass, a nice reminder note was made and placed on my dash so I wouldn’t forget to arm the nitrous!
What makes drag racing great is how you can go from the lowest of the lows to the highest of highs in just one pass. After my little nitrous issue, I made sure my second pass it was armed and ready before I inched towards the tree. On this pass the car laid down its best time ever with a 10.901 at 124 mph, and it hiked the left front wheel high and hard! That was backed up by a 10.94 pass on my third attempt. Was it good enough to win the 11.00 index? Nope, but the performance of the car more than made up for it.
Thinking Sunday would be even better I rolled the car up for a test hit in the bracket portion of the race only to experience the limp mode issue again. Going into the first round I did my best to guess at a dial-in since I had no data from the day, and was put on the trailer when the limp mode issue occurred again. The insult to injury was compounded by a Service Engine Soon light that appeared during the run. Currently, I’m trying to troubleshoot the issue and hope to have it figured out so I can get more laps in this season.
I’ve been to many big races as a part of a radial tire crew and covered many in my professional life, but actually racing in one is totally different. Talking with John Maro, a competitor in the CSC class at the All-American Nationals, he agreed the experience is different than your average race and throughly enjoyed it.
“This was my first time racing at an event like this since I’ve normally done nothing but test and tunes. It’s was a lot of fun and seeing that this was sponsored by Chevrolet brought me in. Coming to this event has influenced me to get into racing more and try other classes in the NMCA,” Maro noted.
If you’re looking for a way to get some experience racing at a national event but don’t have much track time then check out the Chevrolet Performance Street Car Challenge. You’ll get to have some fun, make some passes, and feel like you’re a big-time racer.
Photos By: Leanne Wagner