We cover many events here at Front Street throughout the course of the year, and there are usually several moments which stick out as special for one reason or another. Through my journalism career, I’ve been exposed to many different facets of the automotive enthusiast spectrum. From sport compact performance to diesel drag racing and Pro Mods, the wide range of performance vehicles that find their way in front of my camera provides me with an endless source of awe-inspiring content to present to you, dear reader.
During the 2018 event season, I was able to cover several events which are near and dear to my heart for one reason or another, and each of those events presented me with something special that I thought was worthy of sharing again.
The Yellowbullet.com Nationals is special to me for several reasons; I’ve been a member of the automotive forum which spawned the event for years, and many of my friends from that period of my life attend the race as competitors, crewmembers, or fans. But perhaps the most important reason is that the YB Nats still offers the old-school Outlaw 10.5 class as one of its premier offerings, and the class has always been one of my absolute favorites to watch. Outlaw 10.5 is full of big personalities and show-worthy drag cars which are capable of sub-4-second eighth-mile passes, the equivalent of high-5-second quarter-mile passes.
Two cars in particular caught my eye in Outlaw 10.5 this year: Blake and Joe Copson’s amazing C7 Corvette—the Root Beer Rocket—and Tim Essick’s Brown Sugar S550 Mustang, but we’ll get into Tim’s Mustang in a moment.
The Root Beer Rocket was on a mission at the race, and with the help of master tuner Josh Ledford, Blake Copson was able to rip through a field filled with past class champions and event winners. Normally, winning this event would be a significant accomplishment for any racer.
When you factor in the idea that 2018 is Blake’s first season—and this was only his third real event behind the wheel—AND that he needed several things to go his way during the course of the event, the fact that he not only broke into the 3-second zone for the first time over the weekend and beat some of the stiffest competition in the world to take his first event win here is nothing short of extremely impressive.
When I talked with Blake in the pits during the weekend, I learned that he is an incredibly gracious young racer who is appreciative of the opportunity he has to drive this car. Seeing a racer come of age before your eyes is without a doubt a special moment.
I have a bit of a personal stake in this one, as Tim Essick is a longtime friend of mine whom I admire greatly. His ability to overcome obstacles in his path is like few other people I’ve met, and while there surely are many racers who possess these traits, Tim’s abilities stick out to me because I’ve been able to witness them in person.
When Tim approached me at the 2017 Yellowbullet Nationals about the new car he was building, I told him was highly interested in featuring it once it was completed, and shortly before the 2018 edition of the race we touched base to plan a photo shoot. I showed up at the race early Friday morning, headed right to Tim’s pit, hopped on his golf cart to go scout a location, and then the torrential rain began. As the rest of the weekend was jam-packed with race action, we called off the planned shoot with a semi-open-ended commitment to revisit it after the race.
Shortly thereafter, we made a plan to shoot the car a few weeks later at his home, which is where 99.9% of the car was constructed, and I made the four-hour trek to southern Maryland to capture this car in its element. It was unique and special to me because it’s not every day—or ever—that I have an opportunity to do this.
Most drag car features are shot at the racetrack, because the photographer and racer are not from the same area and need to make the best of the situation to get the photography done. Seeing the car in a completely different light, in the middle of a suburban development, was a neat experience for me.
Photo: Wes Taylor for Front Street
Seeing Tim win the World Cup Finals in this amazing machine, and publishing the article less than 12 hours after he appeared in the Winner’s Circle, gave me a sense of satisfaction like few other articles have in my 16-year career as a drag racing reporter.
I’ve heard from several of my photojournalist peers about how much they enjoyed seeing the car in a different environment, and it has easily been the most popular article of the year here on Front Street for good reason. Check it out—you won’t be sorry as there’s a killer 16-minute video complete with in-car footage from The Racing Vids embedded in the article.
There’s no secret I’m a Ford guy. In fact, everyone around the Front Street offices make it a habit of picking on me for it, but I’m totally OK with that. As a result of my fascination with fast Fords, and previous employment opportunities, I’ve been on-site for many of the notable quick-and-fast Ford performances at the dragstrip over the last two decades.
I was privileged enough to be at the Street Car Super Nationals earlier this fall, where Greg Seth-Hunter took his MMR-backed Outlaw 10.5 car and put it solidly into the 3-second-zone in the eighth-mile, a feat which is shocking and extremely impressive. Why, you ask? Well, it’s simple. Most Outlaw 10.5 cars are using engines which are well over 500 cubic inches—and some are as large as 900 cubes or more in the case of nitrous-injected cars—yet Seth-Hunter’s Coyote-based GenX powerplant from MMR is a puny 351 cubes fed by a pair of Garrett turbochargers.
I’ve been to the last several editions of SCSN and watched as Seth-Hunter has whittled down his elapsed times; in 2018, he finally achieved what the team has worked so hard to accomplish by cracking into the 3s. Considering Outlaw 10.5 cars only broke into the 3s on the East Coast recently, and Seth-Hunter has done so with a legitimate car at the elevation of Las Vegas, this performance is really impressive to me. Look for an upcoming feature on Greg’s car right here on Front Street.
The Coyote engine platform continues to impress, and MMR is at the forefront of its development thanks to their own race programs and their involvement with racers such as John Urist, Haley James, and Frank Varela.
We have a ton of great events on tap to cover during the 2019 season and plan to be your source for car guy—and car girl—content to satisfy all of your automotive desires. Stay tuned right here to Front Street!