Every once in a while an epic automotive event occurs, which sends your head spinning so wildly, it’s no wonder it remains attached to your body. Luckily for us gearheads, this event happens annually on March 9-11, 2012 at the abandoned El Toro Marine Corps Air Station in Irvine, California. It attracts some of the baddest street cars ever built to one area of Southern California for an all-out war on the asphalt with three separate events.
Vehicles and participants line up in each of their run groups.
What’s more, it occurs over three days, which means the opportunity to flog your project car or even daily driver on the track has just multiplied. Yeah, we’re all-in. Born from a group of seasoned muscle car enthusiasts, this band of mafia-like individuals has created a season of full-tilt autocrossing events, spread across the country just for you.
Tired of the park and sit rhetoric, which naturally occurs at every other traditional car show event, the American Street Car Series couldn’t be more of a polar opposite.
The American Street Car Series (ASCS) has landed a full-fledged assault on those traditional car events with tire-shredding, triple-digit blasts and rotor blazing autocross and open track events that match any American made muscle car against the other. The ASCS is growing, too, with more and more of these events popping up all over the country. Their events speak volumes to the die-hard, pro-touring.com individuals out there who itch at the very chance to throttle down, legally.
All vehicle makes and models are invited, however, American powered muscle cars are preferred.
In an effort to build support for the sport, the ASCS was created to bring like-minded people and their vehicles together to enjoy the hobby, get some seat time and push the envelope. If you aren’t having fun behind the wheel of your project car, there’s something wrong. Creating life-long friendships and a sense of camaraderie to some extent is what the ASCS is all about.
When ChevyHardcore.com was offered up the opportunity to tag along as a participant and to cover the event for the Run To The Coast III (RTTC), we jumped at the chance. It all began on Friday with the ever important drivers meeting. From there, the participants were broken off into groups. With a swollen right foot from nonstop throttle stomping, the malay didn’t end until Sunday afternoon until we arrived at the TCI Engineering facility for a hosted luncheon after our cruise.
We only wish we could devote more time and space into this event. It truly is something you must see to believe. While we can’t cover all of the competitors, make sure to browse through our entire RTTC III gallery. Who knows, you may be looking at the inspiration to your next project car.
After a quick tech inspection, our Nova was given a running group and number. Our first event would be the Speed-Stop Squared course.
Game Day – Drivers Meeting
Bright and early Friday morning, the drivers assemble with their vehicles on the grounds of the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station. Before the racing begins, the anticipation rises, you can feel it in the air. Waivers are signed, running orders are assigned and the door card numbers are proudly added. Nervous conversations began to brew as fellow drivers meet for the first time, tire pressures were checked and for some, last minute additions were installed to pass a rigorous tech inspection. We were all anticipating the drivers meeting with eager ears. When do we race?
Our tech inspector made sure we had all the necessary safety equipment, including a helmet, which is necessary in all of the events.
All kidding aside, the drivers meeting is probably the most important aspect of the RTTC. The idea is simple: Have fun, stay in your assigned areas and don’t break the rules. Sounds pretty straightforward, right? Unfortunately, previous RTTC events led select individuals like Johnny Hunkins, Editor of Popular Hot Rodding, to overstep their boundaries and pass a fellow participant after it was clearly outlined that this was not to be tolerated. The drivers meetings are designed to keep everybody safe and to keep everybody racing.
Bill Howell, Yancy Johns and Brian Finch led the meeting and outlined the weekend of events along with a planned cruise to the TCI Engineering facility on Sunday. For Saturday night, Doug Renner, a part-time RTTC cheerleader/Baja 1000 driver turned autocross superhero, took the mic and invited all the RTTC participants back to his house for a west coast tradition of street tacos to seal the day of racing. Thankfully, the taco party was graciously sponsored by JCG Customs and remained a highlight of the event for hungry racers. For those who wanted to stick around on Sunday, a full cruise to the TCI Engineering facility was in full swing with a planned stop at the NHRA Museum in Pomona, California.
Without manufacturer participation, events like Run To The Coast wouldn't be possible. Here, all the vendors were thanked by the participants before the weekend of events.
After our specific run group was chosen, we broke off into different camps. While our group headed over to the Speed-Stop Squared course. Sounds confusing, right? It’s basically a slalom-style drag race. In short, the ASCS created a completely new competition for RTTC. The Speed-Stop Squared event matches up participants, side-by-side in a drag race-style blast down a coned off course.
Before our run-group was allowed to compete, each group was given a quick overview of each track. In this case, we reviewed the Speed-Stop Squared course.
Once you hit the end, each car makes an opposing hairpin turn and enters a slalom course. From there, its another short fight to the end where each car must make a complete stop in a box.
It matches your drag race skills with cornering and braking. Over shoot the stop-box or end up last in the box and you’re out.
Before we could begin our competition, the course was explained and each participant took a test lap to get familiar with the course. Once we made our test lap, it was balls to the wall action.
Our project Nova was matched up against the Newman Car Creations’ ’55 Bel Air. The Bel Air strutted its stuff and easily pulled a win once the straights turned into the twisties for the return to the finish line. Our Nova ran a best time of 23.310 seconds while the Newman ’55 ran a 22.300.
Hobaugh's Camaro was on a mission: Dominate the competition.
Our project Nova was competitive during the straightaway passes, however, it was no match for the Newman Creations '55 Bel Air on the slalom.
Not far behind was Nick Licata in his 4th-Gen Camaro who pulled off a best, 22.360. Licata was having a blast, although “Black Betty” was having some 3rd gear transmission issues but wasn’t letting that keep ‘Betty’ from a couple wins during the Speed-Stop Squared.
Hobaugh’s LS-powered, Maeir-built chassis was hanging tough. Just check out the stance of this ‘Maro! Brian yanked out a blazing 21.890, which landed him third fastest in this particular event. The Spectre Camaro, driven by Brandy Morrow managed to squeak by with a best time of 23.340 in their ’70 Camaro.
Licata’s LS3-powered 4th-gen Camaro was battling some third-gear issues, however, managed some great passes and rolled away his competitors in the slalom section.
Brian Finch (left) and Mike Maier (right) duked it out for the top spot during the Speed-Stop Squared challenge. While Finch took the win in the exhibition category, Maier took the overall win.
Clearly putting everybody on notice was Brian Finch in his LS-powered ’69 Camaro. Although Finch was running in the Exhibition class, he certainly set the bar. Finch knocked out an amazing 20.332 second pass, which was nearly a full four seconds faster than the slowest competitor. To put things into perspective, Finch was still over a half second quicker than the next fastest competitor, Mike Maier, who was piloting his race-prepped ’66 Ford Mustang. Officially though, Maier was the fastest competitor with 20.990.
It was obvious that all the participants were looking for some real, hardcore track time with their vehicles. It’s one of the most anticipated events during RTTC III. This year, ASCS took full advantage of the abandoned airstrip and mapped out a full road coarse for both Friday and Saturday of the event. After a short hot lap to get familiar with the track, each vehicle is started separately to give everyone a fair advantage.
Renner's slammed Camaro was shifting through a 6-speed stick, but an open-differential left the car swimming for traction.
Though Brian Finch scorched the course with a 1:37.9 time in his ’69 Camaro, it was under the Exhibition Class. Again, Finch set the bar, though Kyle Tucker’s second-gen Camaro wasn’t far behind with a 1:38.0 time with the official win in that category. Shutting the back door, Brain Hobaugh wasn’t far behind with a 1:41.1 in his stanced-out ’73 Camaro.
Although the road course was deep with contestants, only about 16 seconds separated the top finishers from the middle of the pack.
Kyle Tucker dove deep into each corner, wheeling the DSE-equipped '69 Camaro.
Aaron Raymond, #74, performed well in his LS-powered Camaro with a road course time of 01:56.8. #77, Keith Smith, landed a 01:51.4 time in his second-gen Camaro
Don’t be fooled by Doug Renner. To hone his driving skills and tame his fierce competitive nature, Renner also moonlights as a valet attendant at a swanky Beverly Hills Hotel. Like a switch, he’s all-game as soon as the helmet chin strap is secured. Setting the inside tire of his 6-speed-hammering ’69 Camaro on fire, Renner finished with a respectable 1:49.7 minute pass in the middle of the pack.
Not far behind, Steven Rupp roped in a 1:50.5 finish with Bill Howell at 1:50.6 and Nick Licata not far behind closing in with 1:50.7. Our project Nova had gotten into a habit of spitting out the supercharger belt and wasn’t noticed until it’s driver noticed it was down on power. Unfortunately, our official times were submitted and we landed a 39th spot overall with a lazy, 1:57.5 minute finish.
RTTC is just as much about fun as it is about competition. Above, Dave Pozzi (#60) shared piloting duties with owner, Steve Rupp. Below, bringing smiles to the event was Renner and his lead foot after a botched recovery on the Speed-Stop Squared course. Just check out all that tire smoke!
RTTC III is filled with three, ultra-fun events. If you didn’t get your time to shine during the Speed-Stop Squared or Road Course event, there was still one avenue left; the autocross. Never raced you project car before? No worries, the autocross event is as much for the pro’s as it is for the beginners. With a planned course in place, each run group would lines up to wait for a chance to strut their stuff.
If you’ve ever wondered why autocrossing and events such as RTTC are catching on, it’s all about seat time. Sure, drag racing is fun but it could be hours before your class is even in the staging lanes. Autocrossing is rapid-firing event, where you could get as many as 10-15 chances on the course to better your time. Though Brian Finch once again set the bar with an unheard of, 38.739 second pass in the Exhibition Class, it was Mike Maier in his ’66 Mustang who officially clipped the fastest run with 39.073 seconds.
Close behind were Brian Hobaugh’s 73 Camaro and Kyle Tucker’s ’70 Camaro with 39.461 and 39.864, respectively. Rounding out the top five for the Autocross section, Jay Weir blasted through with a 40.593 second pass in his ’72 Nova, outfitted with a complete Speed Tech Performance setup.
Jay Weir piloted the Speed Tech Performance ’72 Nova and it’s the nicest we’ve ever seen. And it looked as good as it performed.
Showing up in what appeared to be a lightly modified ’67 Nova wagon was Adrian Mancilla. Out of the gate it wasn’t anything, however, that was until Mancilla starting carving out the course on three wheels. That’s right, three wheels! Mancilla’s lightly modified ’67 was actually a Hot Rod To Hell test vehicle. It’s possible the suspension was just a little loose. Who cared though, the look of that car dipping the rear bumper and yanking the front tire was awesome. Mancilla finished out his fastest lap with 45.189 while our project Nova managed a slight lead, finishing with an official time of 45.091 seconds.
The Hot Rod to Hell Nova let it all hang out, literally.
Cruise To NHRA Museum And TCI Engineering
After two full days of racing, it was finally Sunday. While some participants opted to hit the road home, some die-hard RTTC members actually tagged along for the Sunday cruise and luncheon to TCI Engineering. Up early for the cruise, participants were psyched to get out on the road. Our first stop was over to Pomona, California for a quick pit-stop and photo opportunity at the NHRA Museum.
Ready to roll out, the cruise party was just about to begin!
If anything, the cruise was just an excuse to mash out on the open road. At one time, the cruise group was taking up all four lanes of the freeway with the speedometer needle buried. Was it illegal, yes. Was it worth it, you bet!
Like a mob of lawless Cowboys, the cruise group thumped its way through Southern California and onto our final stop at TCI Engineering for some catered BBQ and a complete facility tour from the boys at TCI Engineering. We ended our three day event there, made our goodbyes and hoped to see everyone back again next year.
The cruise participants all posed for a photo opportunity in front of the NHRA Museum in Pomona, California.
Our day of competition and cruising came to an end as we finalized the weekend at TCI Engineering's facility for a BBQ luncheon.
Thank You To ASCS And RTTC III
We honestly can’t thank the ASCS gang enough. This group of event promoters work tirelessly across the country to give us, the enthusiasts, what we truly deserve and a place to really wring out our project cars. What’s more, they do it with a smile and a handshake. There’s probably even a little laughing in there as well.
Bill Howell (left) with Brian Finch (right), share some afternoon laughs at the end of the 16-car Speed-Stop Squared shootout.
The ASCS truly has created a group of memorable events, and they’re the ones we look forward to every year when it comes to town. We’ll be back with some better parts and hopefully see the same faces and smiles again next year.