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Gallery: Cutting Corners At The NMCA Fontana Autocross

I’ve come to the conclusion that car shows are boring. I can walk only so many rows of glimmering trailer queens parked on a freshly mowed lawn before I start to lose my mind. I find myself daydreaming of taking one of those babied beauties out and stomping on them, their owners chasing after me flailing their lawn chairs in the air.

The funny thing is that I don’t think I’m alone. In fact, I know I’m not…

Prior to the day's festivities, John 'Typical Hollywood-Handsome Airline Pilot' Hotchkis walked the drivers through the class structure, rules and points scoring for the Autocross and Speed Stop courses. The crowd swelled to over 50 cars over the weekend, including Dan Weishaar's B5 Blue '68 Road Runner and this wicked matte gray '69 LS-powered Chevelle and was finished just in time to make its maiden voyage at this weekend's event.

The late-model Camaros came out of the woodwork over the weekend, with several battling it out for the Modern Muscle class supremacy. With plenty of performance goodies added to their already-stout-from-the-factory platforms, the racing was neck-and-neck for the two days.

Former Hot Rod Magazine Editor Rob Kinnan's Factory Five '34 coupe bested the other only classic Ford for the Street Rod class title. Rob's #13 is touting some serious Blue Oval power and put up a good fight on both the Speed Stop and Autocross course.

Call ‘em what you like, the pro-touring crowd, the autocrossers, or g-machines, these guys don’t gather together in donut shop parking lots at the crack of dawn to swap tales of yesterday; these guys and gals mean business. The pro-tourers build cars worthy of all the gilded prizes and blue ribbons you’d expect of a hoity toity car show, but flog the living daylights out of their cars.

While all the noise was coming from the drag strip a way off, a crowd of over 50 cars were lined up in the far end of the parking lot at Fontana’s NMCA/NMRA event for the first-ever West Coast Shootout. Sponsored by Hotchkis and Baer Brakes, the two hosted an Autocross and SpeedStop Challenge that really put these machines through the paces.

Car Craft Technical Editor Jeff Smith has been campaigning this flat blue '65 Chevelle for quite some time, being one of the first g-machines. StangTV Editor Mark Gearhart came into the pack hot and ready to win, taking 7th place overall and really ripping up the course in his supercharged and sport tuned '11 5.0L GT.

The details in these cars make them just as impressive as the fast times they turn in. It takes quite a bit of nerve to build a sweet ride as these cars and then happily flog them unmercifully without a care for the aesthetics. So many trailer queens are babied into being completely useless paperweights. Not so with these autocrossing machines. They talk the talk and walk the walk without fear.

Bruce Cambern and his '05 Ford GT put up a heck of a fight and walked away with a class win. Cambern's GT puked all over the Speed Stop at this past spring's Run To The Coast, and vowed to return in fine form, which he did with relish. This GT really is a sight to behold, particularly considering how rare and expensive these supercars are.

Taking place over the July 15th weekend, the Hotchkis Autocross and Baer Brake Systems Speed-Stop Challenge welcomed groups of fifth generation Camaros, hot rods, muscle cars and a couple imports (but we won’t talk about those guys here). Drivers entered in one of several classes, including Modern Muscle, Street Machine, Muscle Machine, Truck, Street Rod and Turn & Burn, allowing everyone present a good place for their car and driving skill to be fairly ranked.

The Speed-Stop Challenge was the perfect blend of drag racing and braking skill after the 600-foot mark. But it wasn’t just skid testing, drivers had to bring their cars to a halt within a 20-foot wide and 40-foot deep “stop box.” Sounds easy, especially for you guys with ABS? Yeah, it wasn’t. Several cars blew through the marker lights, screeching to a stop a hundred feet past the “end zone.”

It's all about the ponies, but not more than is necessary. So many think that more power makes for a shoe-in win, but the right balance is what spells a true winner. Competitors have discovered that showing up with 1,000-horsepower doesn't mean much when they can't keep their wheels planted to the ground. Be it a late model swap in a classic, a conventional V8 in a hot rod, or modern muscle, finding the right balance is key.

It's been only recently that the second generation F-Bodies (Camaros and Firebirds) have really come into the limelight of autocrossing. Thanks to companies like Hotchkis and Detroit Speed, the 2nd Gen has risen to the top of a sea of 'belly button' muscle cars.

Not all the action was at the far end of the Fontana Super Speedway parking lot. There was plenty of NMCA/NMRA drag racing action going on just a short distance away. We had to stop at the 1320 and check out what was making all the noise!

Others simply pitched their cars sideways, eroding years off of their tires, enveloping the crowd in a plume of blue haze.

The Hotchkis Autocross course was equally as challenging, with tight S-turns, sharp hairpins and long sweepers, the cone course keep drivers on their toes (literally) as practiced footwork paid off in spades. Hotchkis’ sponsored H-Team was in fine form as were magazine editors Mark Gearhart of StangTV.com, Rob Kinnan, former editor of Hot Rod, and Jeff Smith, technical editor for Car Craft. Oh yeah, and Camaro Performers’ “Bad Penny.”

The three days of mayhem created quite a bit of competition. In some classes, the results ridiculously close; Deanna Marengo inched past with the win in the Muscle Machine Class with a 36.25 compared to Kyle Newman’s 36.47 who earned 2nd place.

The Modern Muscle class was a hotly contended one as well, as its 20-plus-entries battled for supremacy. Bruce Cambern snagged first place with his ’05 Ford GT supercar, earning most of his lead during the SpeedStop Challenge – not to mention walking away with the best autocross lap time overall.

For most, spartan is the name of the game. The less doodads, superfluous accessories and niceties adds up to extra weight and more things to fix when all that is needed is to get up and go. Many go without center consoles, air conditioning, radios and other amenities that are otherwise unnecessary. Just like the original Super Bees and Road Runners, the philosophy of 'less is more' reigns supreme here.

The battle of Chevrolet vs. Ford (with the few and far between Mopar sprinkled in) sprouted up, pinning modern Mustangs against classic F-Bodies, and late model Camaros against vintage pony cars. But it was all in good fun.

No truer words were written...

That gorgeous copper-and-black Hotchkis-equipped C-10 pickup you keep seeing all over the place is owned by Rob Phillips, who walked away with his first class win on Saturday and came back swinging on Sunday with a lightning fast time of 38.01.

Winners for each class took home Hotchkis sway bar sets, Nitto Tires, Centerforce clutches and discounts on TCI, NMCA and K&N goods, not a bad haul. It’s great to see people not only chewing up the quarter mile, but actually getting their muscle cars to snap through the turns and putting on the skids in record time.

I grew up hearing, “Muscle cars were meant to just go straight.” And frankly, I’ve always hated that statement, particularly as I look at an original magazine advertisement of the then-all-new 1969 Dodge Charger R/T leaning hard on its Magnum 500s through the corners, with the words in bright orange letters reading “We’ve got you cornered.”

Clearly, these cars were meant to do everything, and thankfully, with today’s technology, the pro-touring movement and the performance aftermarket has retained that spirit.

Enjoy nearly 550 pictures from the event!



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