If you want to become great at anything, the path to your ultimate goal won’t have any shortcuts. Instead it will be littered with challenges and obstacles. Virginia racer Brent Austin is a self-built champion because he steered his ship onto a difficult path and powered through everything in front of him. That grit has pushed him from an unknown in the no-prep world to one of the most feared men in this wild-west form of racing behind the wheel of the Megalodon Camaro.
Brent was attracted to all things mechanical growing up, specifically those automotive. His father and brother were both into building cars and hot rods, so that added to his fascination.
“I remember when I was growing up, my dad would save for a year to buy a set of rocker arms, then another year to buy a carburetor. He had a family to take care of, and things were different back then. I looked at that as a kid and thought I would never have the ability to build a car, but I figured out if I got other people to pay me to build stuff, I could have something of my own,” Brent says.
During his youth, building hot rods was all the rage, and Brent wanted to be a part of that. Knowing that if he wanted to have a car of his own, he would be required to do much of the work himself. This set in motion his path in life. Brent decided he needed to learn how to build an entire car himself, so he got to work.
“I learned that I could never afford the things I wanted unless I taught myself how to do it, so that’s what I did. I taught myself how to build engines, transmissions, and eventually chassis, too. That led to me opening my own chassis shop, Bad Boy Metal Shop. I used what I learned and did everything at the shop, from the front of the car to the back. Some guys say they can build a car, but I literally did it all,” Brent explains.
I used myself as a guinea pig to figure out how to do stuff, not my customer’s cars.
When Brent started his own shop, the idea of doing general automotive work was something he had zero interest in. He had spent years learning to build cars with his own two hands and the performance side of things was where his heart was. It was difficult starting a chassis shop when nobody knew his name or his work, but the challenges and rewards of building race cars is what motivated him to stay the course and follow what he enjoyed doing.
“The funny thing is that I didn’t step foot onto a drag strip until I was 19 or 20 years old. I street raced. Don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t good, but it was different times. I enjoy the challenge of drag racing and trying to take a car as fast as you can from A to B. It’s great to learn to tune a car and get a hold on a combination to make it work. It’s awesome to get a bunch sticks of straight tubing and create a hot rod. That’s what drew me in, the challenge of making all of that happen,” Brent says.
Being a craftsman that can take some tube and create a car is an artform that gives Brent joy and purpose. He learned many lessons the hard way, but wouldn’t trade that for anything because it’s how he learned to build every aspect of a racecar.
Every racer has to start somewhere when it comes to their first car, and for Brent, his drag racing origins are rooted in a 1968 Nova that his father owned. One day Brent’s father pulled he and his brother aside and asked them what car of the three that he had in the driveway they’d want to own. Since Brent’s brother already had his driver’s license, he wanted one of the running cars.
Brent selected the Nova, which was sitting on its frame with no driveline or suspension under it … but it didn’t matter to him because that’s the car he wanted. The sentimental attachment Brent had to the Nova was deep since the family had owned it for so long. He saw something in the car nobody else did, and he was ready to create his first racecar.
“The car, at one point, had a big-block in it. My mom took us to school in it, so the car meant something to me. It was the first race car I built for myself, and it was a mess at times. I took the hand-me-downs from other people when it came to parts because I wasn’t building chassis yet. It was mine and I was trying to make something out of it. It was the first car I went down the track in. This was the experimental car at my shop. I bet I wore that 4-link out many times trying to figure stuff out,” Brent says.
Finally having his own car to build, Brent wasted no time going to work. He learned to make many parts by hand on the Nova because he had to. The only big tools at his disposal were a hammer, cutting torch, and a stick welder, but he learned how to become a true craftsman with these, and they helped to forge his love of the building process.
“I put a three link in the car in my driveway as a project. Every time I came home to work on it, I would have to re-level it because it was on gravel. I mini-tubbed it with just a cutting torch and stick welder. I caught it on fire while doing the job because I forgot to pull out the rear seat. I made a set of wheels for the car myself because I needed them and didn’t have the money to buy some fancy wheels,” Brent explains.
Before Brent and the Megalodon were terrorizing the no-prep world with ear-splitting burnouts and uber-quick passes, he was racing at your typical drag racing events. What brought him into the no-prep world was the lack of good local facilities that prepared the surface of the track. He would have to travel out of state to get good data, and with the less-than-ideal conditions at his local tracks, he decided to give no-prep a try.
“The first big race that drew me into no-prep was Bounty Hunters and that $50,000 purse. I showed up and had to race my way into the big show since nobody knew who I was. It was so exciting because for once in my life I was going to jump and try something crazy like this event. I had a great time, won the first round, lost in the second round and loved it. The feeling it gave me to race at that level for that amount of money was intoxicating,” Brent says of his first no-prep experience.
At the Bounty Hunters event, Brent noticed something else: the seeds of growth taking hold for the no-prep style of racing. He had really enjoyed the event and knew others would, as well, and that would start to attract some big teams that had significant support. That didn’t bother Brent at all because victory tastes a lot better when you experience success from your own hard work with something you built yourself.
“It means so much that I can do everything with my own car, from the building to tuning side of things. When I line up against a big-money team, and if I can click off a win, that really means you did something. Those teams have a lot of backing, so you have to earn those wins, and it’s a great feeling to beat them,” Brent says.
The weapon of choice that Brent wields on a no-prep surface is his 1969 Camaro known as Megalodon. Brent will be the first one to tell you that the car reflects the real version of him: it’s loud, scary, and it’s aggressive. When you ask Brent about the car, he will tell you it’s not pretty and is all business, much like the prehistoric monster it is named after.
“With drag racing, you’re talking a lot of testosterone, money, loud cars, and the need to win, so that brings out a different character in people. Drag racing was a release, and my car is a reflection of me. It’s loud, obnoxious, and I want to scare people with this car. Hell, I want to scare myself with it. If your car doesn’t scare you, it ain’t fast enough. That’s how I look at it. It’s what I like,” Brent explains.
I want to become the fastest man on a no-prep surface, period.
Brent came into the no-prep world relatively unknown and has earned a reputation of being one of the toughest in the game. The rise from obscurity to a heavy-hitter isn’t something he was looking for, but something that he now enjoys.
“You can be feared or respected, and I would rather be feared. It’s that simple. To be at the point now where people don’t take me lightly and have to put a big tuneup in their car to race me is great. That’s the satisfaction that I’ve done my job and can race at this level, thanks to what I’ve done. This all came from my own two hands. I wasn’t winning all that much to start with, but being at that point where people don’t want to race you is a great feeling,” Brent says.
Now that Brent has cemented his place in the top level of no-prep racers, he’s able to look at what he’s accomplished and really enjoys it. The journey to drag racing stardom isn’t something that he planned, however, it’s a role that he has happily learned to accept and doesn’t take it for granted.
“Growing up, I never would have thought I would be sitting on the starting line at Bristol with my own car, racing for almost a quarter of a million dollars. To be able to compete at these big tracks that I thought I would have never been a spectator at or seen other than on TV is awesome. To race at this level when you get invited to these events with just 32 of the best and I’ve earned my spot, that’s a big deal to me. To race these teams and beat them when I can is a pretty cool deal,” Brent explains.
Winning the single biggest paying drag race ever at Bristol last season was a career highlight for Brent, but he isn’t just going to sit back and relax — he’s got some big goals for Megalodon, and he’s ready to keep pushing towards them.
“I want to become the fastest man on a no-prep surface, period. I want people to hate it when I show up. It doesn’t offend me because I want to be that guy. If they invite me to the next No Prep Kings season, I want to win it all. That’s my goal. My car is getting faster, and I’m finding ways to make it faster. That’s the path I want to stay on.”
Brent Austin is the definition of a self-made man professionally and in the racing world. Smashing the competition with a car he built and maintains is what he lives for, and that won’t ever change, as he intends to take a bite out of the competition behind the wheel of Megalodon for many years to come.