One of the highlights of my racing season each year is the opportunity to attend the Comp Cams Street Car Super Nationals presented by FuelTech, held at The Strip At Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It’s one of the last events of the year, attracts a wide range of competitors across sixteen (!) race classes, and there’s something to enjoy for everyone who has even a passing interest in drag racing. Whether your interest lies in watching quarter-mile Pro Mod racing or you prefer analyzing the technical aspects of bracket racing, SCSN has it. Fifteen years in, promoter Mel Roth is doing something right.
As The Strip is one of only two four-lane dragstrips in the country, Roth has a unique advantage over every other heads-up racing of this style—he can direct track prep guru Kurt Johnson to prepare each pair of lanes differently, optimizing track conditions for the slick tire and radial tire classes alike. I particularly appreciate this aspect of the race, as it keeps the racing action consistent across classes and tire types despite the challenging differences in track preparation for each tire type. They began running the race across all four lanes in 2018 and continued in 2019, and I have to say that I wish more tracks had this opportunity. I talked to so many racers about personal-best short times and passes that there’s not enough room in this article for me to talk about them all.
I also mixed things up this year by bringing along an additional photographer, Bryan “Anvil” Donald, who made the plane ride down from Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada, to assist me in seeing the event from another perspective. Anvil has never shot a race of this magnitude as the types of cars you see at the Street Car Super Nationals don’t compete much at his home track, and I was interested to see and hear what he thought of the event. We’ll get into that down below, and then present his gallery of photos for your enjoyment.
But first, the race. Oh, what a race it was! The Street Car Super Nationals presented ten heads-up classes, three of which were No Time-style classes.
With twenty-five cars hitting the track in Pro Mod, and some killer performances happening on the sticky track in Vegas’ cold fall air, we were bound to see something special. Justin Jones and the rest of the Pro Mod field didn’t disappoint in qualifying, with an insane 5.518 put up on the board from Jones to lead the pack—a track record for a supercharged doorslammer—followed closely by Randy Merick’s 5.55 bomb. This is in the quarter-mile, folks. And last year’s winner Ed Thornton qualified third at 5.60 with a monster 273.16 mph hit! But during eliminations, the number-five-qualifier—Aaron Wells, winner of the Mid-West Pro Mod Series title in 2019 along with the Mid-West Pro Mod Series NHRA Shootout—had the most consistent car, and he won over Merick in the final round.
Another notable achievement came for Pro Mod racer Mark Luton of MMR, who captured the Ford-powered quarter-mile record with a 5.67 at 265 mph during qualifying but lost to Gil Hildebrand in the first round of Pro Mod action when the silver Mustang got loose under power.
As I’m a numbers nerd who likes to dissect timeslips, I don’t quite get the appeal of drag racing without showing the elapsed times. I do, however, see how No Time racing hearkens back to the days when drag racing was contested from stoplight to stoplight on the rural roads of America. With 44 cars in Big Tire No Time, 45 cars in Small Tire No Time, and 22 cars in the Limited Small Tire class, it’s evident that the West Coast has something to offer fans of this type of racing. Part of the appeal of drag racing is that it has something to offer people who like many different forms of racing.
One of the most impressive performances of the weekend came from Oregon’s Gil Hildebrand, who entered not one, not two, but three classes in an attempt to get as many hits as possible on his car. The car wasn’t a perfect fit in all three (Pro Mod, Outlaw 10.5, and Big Tire N/T), so Hildebrand had his work cut out for him. Hildebrand had a solid showing across the board with the help of several crewmembers, including Ryan Hausmann, Kyle Pettis, and Mikey Rees; he qualified #1 in Outlaw 10.5 and eventually captured the win in Big Tire over class stalwart Roger Holder and 42 other entrants. Between all three classes, Hildebrand made 21 passes on the car throughout the weekend. That’s pretty freaking amazing for a 481X-based twin-turbo car that would normally see maybe eight passes at most during a race—not only the number of laps, but also the maintenance required to keep it running. Credit goes to his team and the gang at Pro Line for building him an engine combination capable of taking that much abuse.
For the last couple of years, I’ve been watching as my friend Darce Laws campaigns his super-cool turbocharged Oldsmobile 442 at the Street Car Super Nationals. Darce makes the 800-mile trek from his home in Casper, Wyoming to Las Vegas, and in years past has even driven the car on the Strip. He’s also been on the TV show Pinks with the car and raced in the Rocky Mountain Race Week with it. Darce has been chasing an elusive 4-second eighth-mile pass for several years now; this year, he finally locked it down, and I locked down a super-sweet feature shoot with the car on Saturday afternoon. Stay tuned for more on this fun little toy.
Not only does Meg Ramsey pilot her own Mustang in the Limited 235 class, but she also lends a hand to hubby Krusty when needed. Meg knocked down a semifinal finish to go with a 5.24 pass at over 133 mph—both goals of hers for the season.
In his first outing to the Street Car Super Nationals, Rob Goss went wire-to-wire in X275; a 4.368 secured him the number-one-qualifier spot over John Urist, then he ran the table during eliminations. With the help of crew chief Bruce Maichle and Southern Speed’s Wade Hopkins making the tuning calls, Goss crushed the competition, carding a 4.360 in the final round over Clint Downs’ redlight start.
Other heads-up winners included Eric Halvorson in Outlaw 10.5, Ronnie Hobbs in Radial vs. the World, Brian Manske in Small Tire No Time, Dan Dagata in Limited 235, Jason McLean in Outlaw 8.5, Jason Gagnon in Xtreeme Drag Radial, and Rick Hart in Limited Small Tire. There was so much happening that not a moment of boredom set in despite several oil-downs and other action-stopping events.
Attending the Street Car Super Nationals was mind-bending, from both a fan’s perspective and a photographer’s perspective. Check out my gallery, then scroll to the Q&A with Anvil afterward, and browse through his photos below that. If you have the opportunity to hit this event in the future, add it to your bucket list. It’s worth the trip!
Q&A With Photographer Bryan “Anvil” Donald
Front Street Media: Describe your initial reaction upon entering the track for the first time—this place you had heard so much about, filled with racers you’d only seen through pictures?
Bryan Donald: A facility such as that one at once instills a hefty sense of marvel, given its history and lore, and a walk through the pits enhances that tenfold, with the brightest of minds, the most interesting characters, and the fastest, most beautiful cars you’ve ever seen. It’s a far departure from a track in small-town Canada.
(L–R) Pro mod car owner Camp Stanley, Bryan “Anvil” Donald, Tracey Allen
FSM: You don’t see much Pro Mod-style racing at your home track, especially not with so many cars at one event. What went through your mind when you were on the wall for Pro Mod?
BD: I’ve shot a small, select group of Pro Mods before, so I knew I’d be in for a treat in Vegas. I certainly wasn’t disappointed, with row after row of the loudest, rankest, fastest group of cars I have ever had the pleasure to shoot. Each pass was more exhilarating than the next. My ears were constantly ringing, which went along nicely with the pounding in my chest.
FSM: What did you find to be the most challenging part of shooting this event?
BD: For sure, the most difficult part of the weekend was getting the settings right for changing conditions. Learning how to shoot fast cars at night was daunting, but a rewarding and valuable learning experience.
FSM: Would you do it all over again?
BD: You’re damn right I’d do it again! Nothing like a top-notch facility, great people and the world’s best cars to draw you back in.