Typically, car enthusiasts tend to gravitate to one form of motorsport or another. When it comes time to build their car, it has already been decided what that car will be used for. Straight line performance and road course handling don’t really go hand-in-hand, and for Randy Wheeler, the decision had to be made whether to build his 2014 Camaro to attack autocross courses or chase every tenth of a second on the drag strip. His decision has garnered him a world record for a manual 5th-gen Camaro.
First Taste Of Love
Growing up in a military family, Wheeler has lived all over the United States. Spending time living in eastern North Carolina placed him deep in NASCAR country. Naturally, Wheeler spent many weekends watching Dale Earnhardt Sr and Junior. He was instantly hooked on fast cars and has been a die-hard “Chevy Guy” ever since.
Wheeler grew up enthusiastically watching racing. It wasn’t until 2016 that he was able to get involved in racing his own vehicle. By then, he had joined the Marine Corp, started a family of his own, and settled down to make Fort Smith, Arkansas, his home. There, he came upon Reaction Motorsports, a local autocross group that gave Wheeler his first taste of racing. A year later, he ventured to the local drag strip and quickly realized that quarter-mile racing was where he belonged. Although, he continued to compete in autocross events up through 2018. Eventually, the decision to continue building the car for one discipline or the other was necessary.
Straight line racing is one of my love languages.- Randy Wheeler
The Path To Greatness Takes A Team
Wheeler gave up autocross to pursue making the necessary modifications to help the car get down the quarter-mile as fast as possible. Going quickly around curves and going fast in a straight line require different plans of attack. With his decision made, a game plan was put together. Over the course of five years, modifications were made in incremental steps. Wheeler says he enjoys the process. He appreciates seeing the benefit of each change on its own before making the next one.
Wheeler describes himself as a self-taught novice mechanic that uses Google and YouTube to learn from. Although, admittedly, he leans on professionals for the big jobs, and luckily he has come to call the guys at Gwatney Performance Innovation (GPI) family. Wheeler was introduced to GPI through a mutual friend in 2017. Wheeler and Ryan at GPI hit things off, and since then, they have been responsible for building and tuning his Camaro.
To chase records takes horsepower. GPI has done a great job in keeping things relatively simple and dependable while increasing the power of the LS3 that now sits in the engine bay.
A Recipe For Records
The OEM crankshaft is slinging stock-length rods with fly-cut pistons. This combination keeps the engine at 376 cubic inches. GPI performed the machine work and porting of the factory cylinder heads. In conjunction with the fly-cut pistons, compression is now running at a healthy 12:1. To button up the short block, GPI installed one of their SS4 camshafts. The LS3 topped off with a Holley Hi-Ram, Nick Williams 103mm throttle body, and 85 lb-hr injectors.
Somewhat surprisingly, Wheeler is still running the stock IRS rearend and axles. The factory manual transmission has been upgraded with a McLeod RXT Twin Disc clutch and MGW Flat Stick short throw shifter. Following the recipe of keeping things simple and reliable, most of the suspension was left as is from General Motors.
Wheeler did install BMR upper and lower control arms in the rear along with BMR’s rear Xtreme Anti Roll Bar and Strange double adjustable coilover shocks. To help bring the Camaro to a halt, Strange Pro Series II rotors and calipers handle things in the rear while the stock Brembo brakes remain up front. Wheeler opted for polished Race Star 92 Drag Star wheels in the front that measure 18×5 and roll on 185/50R18 M&H Racemaster tires. He went with the 15×10 Race Star Recluse wheels out back and mounted Hoosier 29×11-15 slicks to get the Camaro to hook.
The Fruits Of Labor
On the dyno with tuning by GPI, Wheeler’s combination makes 572 and 468 lb-ft of torque at the wheels. To date, he has gone as fast as 10.92 seconds in the quarter mile at 121.96 miles an hour. This makes Wheeler and his Camaro the fastest naturally aspirated manual 5th Gen in the world. He’s been able to capture championships at Camaro Fest in the NA SBE class and the Stick Shift Shootout class.
Not Satisfied Yet
Not to sit on his laurels, Wheeler is confident the car has more in it. “She has a little more left in her on the current setup, maybe two or three tenths in better DA,” Wheeler quips. His new goal is 10.5 seconds. We hope to see Wheeler and his Camaro at the upcoming LS Fest East event in Bowling Green, KY. With good weather and a little luck, Wheeler will soon be re-setting his current world record.