Grudge racing is the easiest way settle rivalries between drag racers. Someone has something to prove, both guys think they are the fastest, and there’s usually an insane amount of money on the line. Welcome to Mega Race. If you watched last year’s Mega Race, you saw Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws, represented by Big Chief Justin Shearer, beat Richard Rawlings’ Gas Monkey Garage team with hired driver, Alex Laughlin behind the wheel. Both camps had to build new cars for the event, and in the end, Street Outlaws took the win beating GMG in two races.
Fast forward one year, and the grudge lives on. In 2018, Gas Monkey Garage has something to prove. Richard Rawlings returns to the track with the same Dodge Demon and Alex Laughlin behind the wheel to avenge last year’s loss to Street Outlaws. But this year, the GMG team is met by a different competitor- Ryan Martin and his Fireball Camaro. Currently, Ryan is sitting at the top of the 405’s Top 10 List, effectively making his Camaro the fastest street-raced car in the country.
Though lining up against anyone with the title “fastest anything” can be extremely intimidating, GMG wanted to redeem themselves, proving they can do more than just build show cars.
Ultimately, the race, which airs March, 5th on Discovery Channel, comes down to two people: the drivers. One misstep, one inaccurate correction, or simply being a split-second late on the tree can be the difference between winning and losing. History has shown how critical these small details can be, and both drivers arrived to Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park with something to prove to their fans, their teams, and themselves.
Alex is an accomplished NHRA driver in both the Top Alcohol Dragster and Pro Stock ranks. Top Alcohol is the premier Sportsman class, and Pro Stock is arguably the most competitive and difficult class to compete in. His success behind the wheel is undeniable, which makes Richard Rawlings’ decision to bring him onto the GMG team an extremely smart one. The young driver shows poise and experience that rivals many veterans. Combine this with an extremely high level of professionalism, and you have a skillset seldom matched in the racing world.
Alex came into Mega Race with a lot riding on his shoulders. Last year’s Mega Race came down to who left the starting line first, and unfortunately, Alex was on the wrong side of the light. This year, Alex and the GMG team have the chance to redeem themselves, but they would face a new opponent.
“Going into this year’s Mega Race, I know we are in trouble,” explained Alex Laughlin. “Our chassis just isn’t built for the power we are making. We have made some improvements, but I’m not sure if it’s enough. I know the hundreds of hours I personally have in working on the car can’t be wasted, so we have to make the best with what we have.”
Per the rules, Alex and GMG can make improvements to the existing chassis of their Dodge Challenger Demon, but it has to be the same car from the previous year.
“After last year, we made more improvements to the shocks, struts, and chassis,” Laughlin tells us. “We even beefed up the 4-link. My plan is honestly to just be able to classify our car as ‘competitive’ against the Fireball guys.
“I caught a lot of flak, and still do, about getting left on in the first Mega Race,” he explains. “Originally, when we set the car up, we put the transbrake button on the left side of the steering wheel. The button on the right side in my Pro Stock car triggers the parachutes. The thought was, ‘since I didn’t have much time testing in the Mega Race car, we certainly didn’t want me to be confused at the top end and hit the transbrake instead of the chutes.’ Leaving using a button with anything but your dominant hand is a lot harder than you’d think. Try throwing a baseball with your less dominant arm.”
Ryan made a name for himself racing in the X275 class, arguably the most competitive class in the radial racing world. After acquiring the Fireball Camaro, he transitioned into the Radial vs the World class, which incorporates extreme amounts of power and the highest levels of technology, while still racing on DOT-legal radial tires. Ryan’s experience on track has successfully transferred to the street, as he has taken control of The List in Oklahoma City. Though his talent is evident on the street, his years of track experience make him and the entire Fireball team lethal on a prepped track.
Ryan knows the stakes are high given the success of the 405 last year. “Going into this race, I know that I need to win,” explained Ryan Martin. “The 405 was represented well in the first Mega Race. I had to overestimate [Gas Monkey Garage’s] capabilities to make sure I bring enough to win. I am confident, but not enough to take them lightly.”
With the 405’s List always evolving and progressively getting faster and faster, Ryan and team Fireball work diligently to stay on top of their game.
“I want to continue to make my program stronger,” Martin added. “We spend a lot of time testing throughout the off-season. Being on top for most of the year, I know that people were going to step up and get even faster.
“Going into Mega Race, we made several changes to the Fireball Camaro,” Martin tells us. “We added larger turbos to make more power. This will allow us to take full advantage of the prepped surface in Phoenix. We changed the torque convertor to a slightly tighter version with a different profile to accept the power. We will also run tires that we know are going to work well on a prepped surface. We also plan on adding a more aggressive boost curve to accelerate the car faster.”
“I really can’t take Gas Monkey lightly, Martin tells us. “I know they will be out for blood and trying to do whatever it takes to make sure they don’t lose again. So our mindset is that they are going to be even faster than before and we have to work even harder in order to win.”
Gas Monkey Garage rolled into Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Chandler, Arizona with the familiar late-model Dodge Challenger Demon we all watched the GMG team build a year ago. The chassis started life as a Top Sportsman car, but was not built to the same level as today’s chassis. Per the rules, the body and chassis remain the same. But GMG was allowed to strengthen the chassis to handle the increased power from this year’s engine. The Challenger is equipped with a screw-blown 500ci billet Hemi that is capable of making nearly 5,000 horsepower. It is backed by Bruno/Lenco transmission. If you are unfamiliar with this, the Lenco is an air-shifted manual transmission commonly used in the Pro Mod and Outlaw 10.5 classes. The Bruno Drive allows you to blend the best parts of a manual transmission with the benefits of an automatic. It uses a torque converter instead of a clutch commonly found in manual transmissions. This is beneficial because it takes much less maintenance between runs, and it eliminates the clutch-tuning factor. The power is then transferred to a stout Mark Williams 9-inch floater rearend housing, which spreads power equally to the massive Hoosier slicks.
The Fireball Camaro started life as a production 2010 Camaro SS. The chassis was built by Bill Gilsbach Racecars for 10.5 Outlaw competition. Under the hood lives a 572ci 481X build by the brain trust at ProLine Racing. The billet powerplant is force-fed air by a pair of 102mm Precision Turbo and Engine turbochargers. Since this event is being held on a prepped track, the cars be pushed harder on the starting line, so team Fireball swapped the 88mm turbos they usually run on the street for larger 102mm units. Power is transferred to the drivetrain via a billet bolt-together torque converter from Pro Torque. The gear changes are handled by a two-speed TH400 from M&M Transmission. A PST carbon fiber driveshaft transfers power to the 9-inch rearend. On a prepped track, the Fireball crew relies on Goodyear slicks to get down the track. These give them the best blend of traction and wheel speed.
Both drivers have an extreme amount of respect for the other, but each possess the drive and desire to win, taking this from a friendly match race to an all-out grudge race. Alex Laughlin is fueled by the need to avenge last year’s defeat, while Ryan Martin has the reputation of the 405 sitting on his shoulders. Each has something to prove and it goes far beyond pride or ego. Both have the machines to win and the crew to get the job done.
Following the same format as last year, the winner will be decided in a best-of-three race format. Both teams are allowed to test at the track at Wild Horse Pass the day before. As the sun goes down in Arizona, the action will heat up as both drivers look to take home a win. Oh, and there is much more than just bragging rights on the line. The winner will take home a massive cash prize. It’s no secret that Richard Rawlings and the Street Outlaws are not shy about putting big money on the line, but you’ll have to watch the show, which airs March 5th on Discovery Channel, to see exactly how it all goes down.
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Source: Hot Rod
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