It’s Saturday morning, sometime around 2 AM and we’re somewhere outside New York City. We’ve been driving for twelve consecutive hours, but we’re not tired, actually quite the opposite is true. It could be the 1.5 litres of Redbull or perhaps the multiple Venti Light Foam Caramel Macchiatos coursing through our veins, but more likely it’s the
cocaine fact that we’re mere hours away from one of the largest Sport Compact drag racing events on the continent.
Pulling into Raceway Park early Saturday morning, we are immediately greeted by the song of high revving engines, shortly followed by a beautiful bouquet of race fuel and tire smoke. Sliding around the road course, some weekend warrior drifters are out for an early morning stretch. Continuing into the park, we see a collage of automotive art. We spot a well known Subaru Forester, having been featured by multiple stance blogs across the Internet we quickly realize the caliber of vehicles in attendance for this event.
After paying the tariff and entering the park, a long line of VIP & Luxury themed cars making their way toward the BLACK 2 show are putting on the final touches before rolling in. Not something commonly seen in the far north east, our necks break as we roll by. Lexus, Infinity, Acura, and even Audi are all represented, and all perfectly tucking beautifully detailed wheels.
Bringing both quality and quantity, BLACK 2 attracted vehicles from as far away as Canada to showcase the unique style of the VIP and luxury automotive scene. Presented by Liberty VIP and Luxury Abstract Wheels, the caliber of every single vehicle present was second to none. Even the less than ideal weather and occasional rain shower couldn’t dampen the spirit at the show. With DJ’s spinning, atmosphere at the show was chill to say the least, feeling like more of an opportunity to get friends from far and wide together for a season ending meet and greet, rather than a competitive event.
In a world filled with big bodied saloons, one fresh ride in particular that caught our eye was a pearl white Lexus SC430 coupe repping Liberty VIP. From the rich, perfectly executed two-tone diamond stitch leather interior, to the beautiful paint and body work shrouding a set of gorgeous Weds Kranze Bazreia wheels, this car is definitely a game changer in the North American VIP scene.
Another car that stood out to not only us, but to the masses as well was the fan favorite award winning big bodied F50/Q45 also donning the coveted Liberty plate. Sitting on a set of very agressive, and very concave 19-inch, negative offset Luxury Abstract Grassor-C’s, the stance of this car was simply gangster. Having been finished just a day before and towed directly to the show by Dreamakers Kustoms, the crew at Liberty really pulled out all the stops to get this car ready for it’s debut at BLACK 2. Tragically having never even seen his masterpiece, the owner Brendan Kennedy was killed in a motorcycle accident just days after the show. Our sincerest condolences go out to Brendan’s friends and family in these toughest of times. We’re sure he his smiling down, knowing his creation will bring joy to so many enthusiasts throughout the automotive world. Rest in Peace.
Moving along from the BLACK 2 show and into the pits of the Fall Nationals event, organized chaos takes over as crews try to ready their machines for the upcoming qualifying round. With classes for All Motor, Outlaw Front Wheel Drive, Pro Stock, Quick 32, and various indexes of bracket racing, competitors from across the continent including California, Canada and Puerto Rico migrated to Englishtown to battle it out.
With such a diverse field of competitors, no matter what your personal preference, naturally aspirated or forced induction; front wheel drive, rear wheel drive or even all wheel drive, there was something for every enthusiast. Aside from the teams participating, there were also plenty of vendors on site to ensure you were covered in your favorite racing swag. Booths from industry pros such as Full Race, EAT SLEEP RACE, K-Tuned and Urban Racer just to name a few were able to supply everything from decals to EFR turbo systems and everything in between.
With the Ridgeline “Icebox” keeping our refreshments cool in the parking lot, and our camouflage beer mugs [read: fountain pop cups] in tow, we set out for the grandstands to take in some of the best sport compact drag racing of the year. Cool autumn air made for ideal conditions as the all motor guys who were already squeezing every last thousandth of a second out of their cars tried to break through that elusive 9 second barrier. As the day went on and track conditions improved, Outlaw Front Wheel Drive and Quick 32 times also improved as the racers tried to secure their place in the elimination round the following day. Aside from occasional track preparation breaks to clean fluid spills from broken equipment or an intermittent rain shower, we had a full day of racing with few delays. However, the best was still to come the following day.
On the way back to the hotel, only having eaten greasy track food all day, we decide a real meal is in order. Since our hotel is also home to the local chapter of Hooters, we decide that this would be a great starting point to our evening. Upon ordering our first drink, we quickly discover two things; 1) They offer 99 cent draught beer, and; 2) This will not be our last drink. Then and there the fate of our evening has been decided. As our modest party of four quickly grows to thirteen, and the beer is flowing like wine, the entire bar quickly finds out who we are and what we came to do. After drinking the bar out of Blue Moon, yes, we emptied their keg, natural progression takes over and we’re on to mixed drinks and shots concocted from all sorts of poison. Having a great waitress certainly helps to keep us interested in buying drinks all night, but aside from being ridiculously cute and having a great personality, she is definitely working her ass off to stay ahead of our rowdy bunch. By the end of the night we are even able to talk her into getting us the Blue Moon beer tap as a memento to remember our crazy night by. Making a great first impression from both ends, it’s a sure bet that this will be an annual Saturday night stop on our trip to Englishtown.
As expected, the next morning comes early, and with some of us still feeling the effects of the festivities that lasted well into the early morning hours we are reluctant to drag ourselves out of bed. However, the action at Raceway Park was getting underway early and wouldn’t wait on us, so after a quick shot of grease courtesy of McDonald’s we set out. Upon arriving at the track we see that the crowd from the day before has grown significantly and the sun is shining; it all comes down to today. With the races already underway, we quickly make our way to the crowded bleachers and grab a seat.
The All Motor Shootout is up and we watch as our friend and long-time local racer Ken Vallis from Fredericton, New Brunswick slips into the 10′s for the first time with his K-series powered Honda CRX. After being dogged with transmission problems the previous day, Ken and his team swapped out broken parts and worked late into the night to be ready for the first round of eliminations. Setting a new personal best of 10.969 at 128.64 miles per hour, Ken was unfortunately eliminated after meeting the ever quick Loan Nguyen in the Clutch Masters car, but we look forward to watching Ken go continuously faster as he works out his gremlins and gets more seat time on his impressive setup.
If somehow you could pull yourself away from the racing action, the annual Fall National car show was also taking place adjacent to the pits. Properly fitted wheels and beautifully shaved engine bays seems to be everywhere as we move through the show. Wild color combinations also seem to be gaining popularity as we notice a number of cars sporting non-matching bays to compliment their impressive engine setups. At the end of the gathering we find an old school section of the show, multiple Toyota Corolla AE86′s, Datsun 510′s and even an R30 Skyline are being showcased, so if your fancy is classic Japanese autos, this is the place to be.
With the daylight quickly giving way to dusk, and the elimination rounds narrowing, it is truly something to watch as these guys hot-lap their cars in effort to get to the final round before the quickly approaching 7:30 PM noise curfew, all while putting on a spectacular show for the spectators. With a 32 car field, and the qualifying time to enter the class well into the 8 second range, the Quick 32 class would be something to watch as high horsepower front and rear wheel drive monsters make their way down the track, some straighter than others. The fastest time of the day is set by the Pica Motor Import RX-7, also becoming the fastest Rotary powered vehicle in the world with a blistering time of 6.838 @ 206.67 miles per hour. In the Outlaw Front Wheel Drive finals it would be Kevin Kempf from Speed Factory all the way out of California edging out Rick Everly with a 8.878 @ 174 miles per hour. As the curfew closes in, we watch as Jake Gavio meets Jose “Pepsi” Bello in the All Motor Shootout semi-final round. As the tree burns green, Gavio sets a new All Motor record in his F2K Civic Coupe, running an insanely fast time of 10.134 at 134.55 miles per hour, taking the win over Bello to advance to the final round facing Loan Nguyen in the aforementioned Clutch Masters car.
Unfortunately, before getting to the final round of eliminations, the night closes in and the noise curfew is in place, limiting the non-muffled cars from running. Although slightly disappointing, we are still left with a very satisfied feeling overall as we had just witnessed some of the best Sport Compact drag racing in North America. Completely exhausted from the events of the past three days, we pack up and head back to our hotel, contemplating an encore stop at Hooters, but deciding against it as the 14 hour drive the following day hangs in the back of our minds. Ordering a pizza, and reminiscing about the events of the past 72 hours, one by one we succumb to the exhaustion and lights out for all comes early.
There is really no way to sum up an event like this in words that will do it any real justice, you just have to experience it first hand. Between the BLACK 2 event, the Fall Nationals racing or the car show, there is so much going on at an event like this. Even if you just use it as an excuse to get out and meet some of the people you read about on the internet or in magazines, that is what makes an event like this enjoyable for both the participants and the spectators. I’ve personally never seen such an amazing display of comradery as you do between these guys. If you enjoy any of the facets of automotive life mentioned above and you can only take in one event next year, be sure give some thought to attending this one. We promise, you will not be disappointed!
See you next year, Englishtown, NJ!
Photographed exclusively for Stance East by photographer Colin Busby.