When the phone rang in 2011 from a good friend of mine in Minnesota, I had no idea what he would want to talk to me about. He had just finished attending an event in Brainerd Minnesota called “Powercruise” which was in the USA for the very first time. He went on and on about how epic of an event it was, how you could do nearly anything you wanted in your car, and how much fun everyone had. His excitement about the event more or less convinced me then and there that I would attend the event in 2012 with the Monster Camaro. Of course driving 18 hours over 1100 miles one way would be a different problem I would have to sort out then.
Flash forward to 2012, and it’s a month before the event. Even 3-4 weeks out I was not sure if the car was going to come with me or not, although I had already committed to being there myself regardless. I did some research and information seeking and found that towing the car up myself was the most economical solution, at a fuel cost of around $400 each way under a full load. Once I knew I was driving, my wife, and my good friends Will and Josh decided to come along with me for the event.
My 2011 Silverado LT has an upgraded towing package that enables it to pull 10,000lbs, but I simply did not trust the stock brakes with that load. The great guys at STOPTECH who are a sponsor of the Camaro hooked me up with a new set of 380mm 6P Big Brakes for the truck. The guys over at Whiteside Customs in McKinney installed the set for me. When we got the brakes on the truck we found that the stock wheels would not fit! We made an emergency run over to a wheel distribution warehouse in Grand Prairie and picked up a set of American Racing 20” wheels just to get it back on the road. Not my first choice of wheels at all, but they were a fit for the stock tires and would go over the brakes. Later I would learn how good of a decision it was to upgrade the brakes.
I rented a 20’ trailer from the good people at Ellis Trailer Supply in Dallas. The rate for an entire week was only $400, which I can tell you all is a super cheap bargain. Check them out if you are in DFW and ever need to rent an enclosed trailer for your car.
The day before we left, I took the Camaro in the trailer to Showroom FX detailing in Addison for the Master Steve Pastor to detail on the Monster Camaro. I already knew that the car would never be the same again after Powercruise, so I wanted to make sure it looked its best for photos. Steve spent 4 hours detailing the car out and polishing the wheels up. I am very impressed with his detailing work and ability’s and would tell anyone in the DFW area to check him out for high-end details.
From Showroom FX I reloaded the car and took it to my suspension sponsor, LG Motorsports. The guys at LG are world famous for Camaro and corvette performance parts, and designed and installed all of the suspension parts on the Monster Camaro. The point of the trip to LG was to have their expert technicians get the car on the lift and check for loose bolts, dialed in suspension, and all fluids. Turns out the drivers side lower control arm was extremely loose, and thanks to the technician we got everything all fixed and avoided would have been a terrible track accident later in Minnesota.
Finally loaded and prepared, we all got in the truck on Wednesday morning at 6am and started the long haul up to Minneapolis. It took us 18 hours total with gas stops (5) and food/pee stops (2) to get to MSP. On the way there in northern Iowa, we literally came within 5 feet of hitting a 150lb deer on the highway. We spotted her on the side of the road, and she darted diagonally in front of the truck. With little time to make a decision, I slammed on the brakes and activated the ABS system. The deer ran just in front of the truck so close that we could see its eye lashes. Had a hit the brakes a moment later, or had the stopped 5 feet shorter, we would have had a exploded deer on the front of the truck and likely done serious damage. I choose to believe that it was the stoptech brakes that ended up being able to stop my truck and its 8800lb tow-load in time to not have a collision.
We arrived late in Minneapolis and crashed at our good friend Troy’s house. Troy runs ricekiller.com in Minnesota, a website I founded in 2005. Troy and his wife Rachel are my best friends in the state and always have an open door for me when I travel. To me, they really embody the statement you hear up there called “Minnesota Nice” which is basically a northern version of “Southern Hospitality”. I actually think the people in Minnesota are much nicer than people in Texas.
We didn’t get to stay in Minneapolis long before we had another 2 hour drive north to Brainerd, where you will find the Brainerd International Raceway. BIR is a world class racing facility with multiple road courses, a drag strip, skid pad and camping grounds. Of all the racing facilities I have had the opportunity to see in my limited time in the car community, BIR is easily the most well rounded of all. They have everything you could ever need to hold a car event, which is why it is the perfect home for Powercruise.
Oh yes, Powercruise. You recall in the first paragraph when I was talking about this event was described to me to be epic and that it was new to the USA. Well, in case you live under a rock, Australia is a nation of power loving car fanatics. Back in the 70’s when muscle cars died in the USA many of them hid out in Australia, never ceasing to be produced or being popular. You could argue that perhaps there are more car loving gear heads in the nation of Australia than any other place. Well of all of the crazy gear head fuel driving psychos in Australia, the craziest of them all, a man named GUP decided to create an event called POWERCRUISE. In Australia car enthusiasts of all shapes could come to the event and roll race, drag race, burnout, skid, drift and party all weekend. Basically its like a Woodstock for cars without the drugs and hippie music. Imagine a giant road course filled with every car at a huge car show? Imagine then if they could all do whatever they wanted on the track! Cruising, roll racing, powerskids and general shenanigans. Oh yeah, anything goes at Powercruise!
My friend Troy had rented a Condo from BIR which was actually extremely nice. Not many tracks allow you to stay overnight, much less have luxury condos for rent, but like I said BIR is a very nice track. The rooms are around 1500 square feet, which is more like a house. There was more that enough room for me, my wife and the two Texans I brought to crash in the condo without impeding on anyone. Still, this was once again a very kind offer from our host Troy, who like I said make a point to represent “Minnesota Nice” any chance he can get.
The Monster Camaro was fortunate to be on a brand new set of 295/30/R18 R6 Road Race slicks from Hoosier. The new tires turned out to be a big advantage on the race track where the back side of the road course provided many chances for people to test their suspension tires and brakes. I cannot be more happy with the STOPTECH brakes, LG suspension and wheels and Hoosier tires I was running on at the track. For a large convertible, the Camaro is surprisingly agile and is able to best most of the cars it ran into in regards to handling and braking.
Once we got settled into camp, the resident hoon came up to introduce himself. Dan Pennell, an Australian who had the ultimate job of actually moving to the United States several months ago to personally promote the show was more or less running the gig. Dan looked to be about 1-2 years ahead of any of us in style, sporting arm to shoulder tattoos, modern glasses, a Jesse James style flat billed hat and a goatee. To top this all off, he talks with a accent right out of Crocodile Dundee or a Outback Steakhouse commercial, but with a lot more profanity and car lingo. Basically, Dan is the coolest Australian I have ever met. The only thing I would have added is possibly a giant knife or some teeth on a necklace for effect.
When the event got rolling on Friday I was thankful we had taken the extra step of bringing a 4-Wheeler up to Minnesota from Texas. BIR is such a large track you almost need powered transportation to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time. The Powercruise event is in fact several events, organized by time. You get a nice little time-schedule that explains where to be and when, and what is going on. The main attraction is the actual “Power-Cruise” which is when they open up the road course for 2 hours at a time for any participants with a teched in car to hop on the track and basically do whatever they want. Between those sessions they had practice for drifting, drag racing, burnouts and powerskids all of which had PAID prizes for the top finishers. As we all sat in the stands on Friday evening watching the burnouts, I began to think to myself “Hey, I could win this!”. Every car that came out got lots of cheers for awesome noise and smoke, but the biggest applause was reserved for anyone who actually managed to pop a tire or break something. When you heard a loud POP and see a tire flying though the air, the crowd went NUTS. As I saw this again and again, I thought to myself “Man, if popping a tire makes them go ape crazy, I wonder what blowing up a motor would do…”
At 6pm or so each night of the event everything shuts down and all the people at the event start a huge party. Since BIR allows camping, everyone just stays in tents, a RV, in a truck bed or wherever they want. Remember how I said Woodstock? Yeah, imagine thousands of car people all camping out at a huge race track! Every night it was a party until around 3am. Oh my, I hope no-one took pics.
Saturday came and so did the crowd. Not everyone could make it on Day 1 Friday because of work or whatever, so Saturday was the largest event day. I spend the day on the track giving rides to Monster Camaro fans (several of which drove up hundreds of miles to meet me and see the car) and preparing for the burnout contest. The car handled great on the track, and I was just wearing a huge grin on my face the entire time. Once the final cruise for the day ended and the burnout championship was about to begin, I became very nervous.
My friend Adam had given me a set of 1998 Camaro V6 wheels with their original tires. In this way I would be able to do an epic burnout and not damage my new Hoosier tires or LG wheels if they blew up. I knew everyone was bringing their a-game, so I wanted to one-up the bar and do something no-one else would do: blow up my LS1. I knew this would be a really controversial decision and its one I thought a lot about. The LS1 that was in my car was a newly built Heads/Cam/Exhaust LS1 by True Street Motorsports. The car made 400hp to the wheels and ran great. However in the big scheme of things, the engine is worth perhaps $1500 on the street and that’s fully assembled. The heads of the engine belong to another sponsor and many of the components on the engine would need to be reused on a new one. So as I thought more about it I came to a conclusion that busting the motor would be something like a $800 total loss, which I decided would be worth it if someone managed to get great video or pictures from the event. So it was decided, my goal was simple. Burn BOTH tires to shreds, and BLOW the motor all at the same time if possible. Powercruise stops any burnout once a tire pops or if there is fire, so I would be very lucky if I could pull off all 3.
The Epic Burnout and Blown LS1
As I waited to get in, I felt like a cage fighter about to enter the ring. All these nice cars in front of me would enter, and then limp back out 2 minutes later with their tires missing, hissing smoke, covered in soot and in some cases missing pieces of their fenders. The crowd roared in approval as they saw more and more destruction, stomping their feet on the bleachers to make a avalanche of noise. To me it was a simple mission: put on the best show possible and hope for fire. Oh yeah, fire would send them over the top.
My turn was up, and I pulled into the ring, which was in fact just the burnout area for the dragstrip. I could not help myself to let loose the tires a little even before the turn started, which was a direct result of me being so pumped up on adrenaline. I was shot a “no-no” finger by a staff member and then staged up. I was ready, I had “Tornado of Souls” by Megadeth on the system, ready for me to begin. Once he dropped his hand and told me to start, I pressed play and the guitars roared, drowning out the sound of my own engine in my car. As I spun and spun I could hear the poor LS1 hanging in for dear life. Bouncing off the rev-limited again and again I spun and spun in what was basically a cloud of thick smoke. Every few moments I could see the wall and figure out where I was, and then I was in the dark again. The rush I felt as I did this in front of the huge crowd was indescribable. Minutes passed, and I decided I wanted everyone to be front and center when everything blew, so I took the car back towards the front and held the brake a little to slow down the movement. I saw the AEM gauge reading around 245 degrees water temp before the explosion came. The car blew. I didn’t know it until later, but giant flames had shot out of the underside of the car as the piston had flown through the bottom of the block and allowed oil to escape. When I got out of the car and let the fire crew come over, I felt as if I had done the best burnout I could possibly do. I was very proud, very excited. As I looked back over, I realized that I had accomplished my goal and melted both the tires to shreds and the engine seemingly all at the same moment. The car literally could not have done the burnout for a second longer.
It was all high fives and fist bumps coming back into the pits, but even more people seemed to be in absolute shock that I very obviously just killed a LS1 motor for the spectacle of it. When I looked under the hood I was able to see the pressure had blown the radiator hose off, which is what had killed the motor. The motor itself was able to hang in there until coolant had stopped flowing into it at all, which was I suppose seconds before it blew up. Prepared, we towed the car back to its trailer with the 4 wheeler and let it cool off. Saturday night we partied again.
Sunday I took it easy and rested, watched the other competitions and packed up. I was just exhausted! It was the most car-related fun I had ever had in such a short amount of time. It goes without saying for me that I was planning on my return to Powercruise as soon as the car was strapped down in the trailer. At the awards Sunday we all crowded around to see who would take home trophies and award money. I will be totally honest, I know that I gave the burnout contest my best effort based off what I though was the intention (crowd response) and was proud of my results. I was not able to see many of the other competitors compete since I was strapped into the car waiting in line. As it would turn out, I did not place in the burnout contest (yes, there were THAT many more badass burnouts!), and crowd reaction is only one of the things you were judged on. As I later found out, the burnout is a respected art in Australia and something they take VERY seriously. You get points for amount of smoke, sound, control, style, crowd response and lack of brakes. Basically, you gotta be a badass to win the burnout contest, and there were several there who took me to school! Sure, popping both tires and an engine is a lot of spectacle for a crowd to see, but showing skill it does not. Any monkey can get out there and hold down the gas on the rev limiter, but it takes talent to have a controlled, long burnout that is awesome to listen to and watch. As I later watched my own burnout on video, I realized how in-experienced at it I truly was. The people who won, earned it. In fact, most of the winners who took home trophies did not pop their tires! Note made! You do NOT have to blow up anything on your car to have a real shot at winning, you need to control your car, make a ton of smoke, and put on a good show all at the same time. If anyone in the world would know how to put on a burnout contest it would be the Australians so you know they know their stuff. I don’t regret blowing my LS1 at all, in fact its reassuring to know that next year I can go out and shift into 2nd, do a lower RPM burnout and have just as much of a shot at winning.
When it was all said and done, I drove back home exhausted, happy, excited and anxious. I was exhausted because of the amazing time I had had, happy because the pictures and videos from the event were just amazing, excited because I knew that my real engine, a Thompson Motorsports forged 408 was waiting for me back in Texas, and anxious because I would have to wait 12 more months before I could have this much fun again!
I want to thank everyone who helped me prepare for this trip, Powercruise, Troy Schultz, Louis Gigliotti, Mike White, Steve Pastor and Ellis Trailer, as well as everyone in Minnesota who made the trip so amazing once we got there, all my facebook fans, Rachel, GUP, BIR, RKC Minnesota, and my friends Josh and Will. I am so thankful for the opportunity to participate in this incredible event and be able to do ridiculous things like blow up a LS1 without any real-world affect on myself. I hope the spectacle was as fun for you guys to watch as it was for me to do it, and than you catch me again in 2013 at Powercruise #3!
To Troy, without you none of this would be possible. You brought RKC to Minnesota, and because of that, made the relationships that eventually connected us all as friends and to the people with Powercruise. I would have never known about the event if it was not for you, nor would I have ever driven 1100 miles from Texas to visit a land with 10,000 lakes, and 10,000 places for one billion mosquito’s to lay eggs. You and what you have helped to build are the reason I keep coming back to Minnesota, and I want to say thank you so much for everything you have done.
**PS – The Monster Camaro was NOT damaged physically in the burnout contest, and the wrap was NOT burned or singed. The LG wheels and Hoosiers were NOT used for the burnout contest and the LS1 block was damaged, with many parts of the engine remaining usable. The car is currently getting a new Roll-Cage by House of Hot-Rods in Mansfield Texas and is then getting a new forged Thompson Motorsports 408cu engine for the 2012-2013 Season.**