The inaugural Summit Racing Equipment Midwest Drags, the newest drag-and-drive style event on the block, is in the books, and if this year’s edition is an indicator of what’s to come, there’s a bight future ahead for racers in the Eastern half of the country.
The three-day event, which visited three racetracks in two states and traversed more than 350 miles of backroad and highway driving through scenic central Indiana and Ohio, presented competitors with a unique and challenging format.
Midwest Drags promoter Jay Heidenrich–known in the industry simply as Heid–imagined a format with a greater challenge to entrants: a mixture of 1/8- and 1/4-mile venues, where every racer is required to turn in a pair of timeslips—not just one and done—at each venue before pulling up anchor and hitting the road. Conversely, awards were given for both average elapsed time and speed in each category — and in order to be named an official class champion, one must top the charts in both categories. But the juice is worth the squeeze: the Midwest Drags awarded the highest payouts ever for a drag-and-drive event.
Oh, did we mention the unique array of categories that mark a departure from the more established drag-and-drive events…classes like Manual Shift Clutch, Street Diesel and Unlimited Diesel, Super Street Hard Tire, and even a category designed specifically for H-pattern shift cars?
The Midwest Drags kicked off on a rainy-turned-blistering-hot Wednesday morning at the Wagler Motorsports Park in southern Indiana, before competitors navigated to the Muncie Dragway, located 90-minutes Northeast of Indianapolis. From there, they turned East, trekking 200-miles to the fabled Summit Motorsports Park in Norwalk, Ohio for the finale, part of the annual Super Summit spectacular.
Michigan’s Clark Rosenstengel was the event’s overall and Unlimited class champion, clocking a 5.07 to the 1/8-mile and a 7.75 best in the quarter in his twin-turbo Camaro to earn a sizable $5,000 payday from sponsor Delta PAG. In all, 43 cars completed the three-day trip and turned in their six total timeslips, as a handful of competitors fell by the wayside due to attrition at one of the three tracks.
Among the unique elements that Heid went to great lengths to institute for the Midwest Drags — results were posted to the web in real-time as each competitor submitted their timeslips, adding a layer of strategy not present at other drag-and-drive’s, wherein a competitor could survey the speeds and elapsed time of their competition and stick around to improve their standing.
Manual Shift Clutch: John Milner 9.566, 118.47 mph
Daily Driver: Nathan Hines 10.170; Zach Wright 108.51 mph
Modern Muscle: Craig Douglas 9.047, 127.07 mph
Street Diesel: Rick Fletes 9.122, 120.85 mph
Unlimited Diesel: James Rowlett 13.501, 86.44 mph
Unlimited: Clark Rosenstengel 7.266, 155.48 mph
Super Street Hard Tire: Justin Brangers 10.025, 128.82 mph
Super Street No Forced Induction: Terry Miller 7.708, 146.37 mph
Super Street 275: Nathan Walters 7.325; Scott Keplinger 153.52 mph
Super Street 295/315: Doug Kayser 9.755, 112.41 mph
Here’s just a smattering of the cool stories and even cooler cars that were part of this year’s Midwest Drags.
The dedication of diesel class champion Rick Fletes cannot be disputed: the California native drove his unique Duramax diesel-powered Chevelle 2,600 miles from his home to take part in the Midwest Drags. All told, he expects to put 5,500 miles on the odometer by the time he pulls back into his driveway.
“I’v been wanting to do this kind of racing for a decade,” Fletes shared. “I’ve been driving this car for 10 years, and we just haven’t had the time, the opportunity, the time off of work, or the money to do it. Or the car wasn’t ready. I saw this event shared on Facebook and decided, ‘this is it, we’re doing it.’ I told my wife I had already registered and we’d figure it out from there.”
The engine is a 2004 LB7 (first generation Duramax) with a bone-stock rotating assembly and cylinder heads. Fletes made some piston modifications and sourced higher-quality factory LBZ rods. A SoCal Diesel camshaft, balancer, flexplate, and pushrods all provide additional strength to the combination, as do ARP studs throughout. An HT 67.7mm single turbo feeds into a Wagler Motorsports intake manifold.
“What makes it go fast is the fuel and the turbo,” he says. “Then we spray some nitrous on it when we want to go a little faster. I don’t typically engage it until second gear.”
Fletes, who actually has a camper he typically pulls behind the car at events on the West coast, loaded up all of the essentials — including the race wheels and tires, two spare Gear Vendors overdrives, a spare Turbo 400, a second turbocharger, and all of the necessary tools — into the backseat, trunk, and a hitch-mounted rack and with his wife as co-driver, trekked East to Indiana.
Fletes clocked his career-best run in the car last month in Sacramento at 9.89-seconds and 136 mph, weighing in at a hefty 4,450-pounds with Rick in the car. He won the Street Diesel class with a best 1/8-mile time of 6.88 and a 9.92 in the quarter, at 138 mph, following its wheels up launches.
Fremont, Michigan’s Clark Rosenstengel claimed the Unlimited class championship and the cash that went along with it, thanks to a 5.07-second best on day one, an 8.75 (1/4-mile) on day two, and a low-elapsed-time 7.75 at 180 mph on the final day at Norwalk.
Rosenstengel’s 2010 Camaro is no joke, with power from a 427 cubic-inch mill built by Steve Morris Engines, paired with twin 83mm Bullseye turbos. The power is backed up by a Rossler Turbo 400 transmission and a Neal Chance converter.
Nevermind its 7-second laps at the dragstrip, Clark has been 232 mph with his Camaro in the standing mile. The car sports COPO Camaro-style suspension, along with the full factory interior. And, with A/C and all the street trimmings, he says he drives it rather often. Clark’s Camaro is a two-time class champion at Drag Week, so its pedigree was only furthered at the Midwest Drags.
While it may not be the quickest nor the fastest street-driven vehicle out there (yet), Brian Kohlmann’s 1931 Chrysler CM6 coupe may be the wildest creation to ever to take part in a drag-and-drive event.
Powered by a 489 cubic-inch Keith Black Hemi, Kohlmann pumps 80-percent nitromethane — yes, the real deal CH3NO2 — through it at the track, before switching over to a pump gas fuel system for street driving. The gasoline fuel system, with a 17-gallon standalone tank in the rear of the car, operates via electric fuel injection, while the nitro setup, with a front-mounted fuel cell, runs on mechanical fuel injection. There are likewise two separate ignition systems, each set up for their respective fuel so that Kohlmann can quickly switch over, hook up his trailer, and go. The radiator, water pump, and battery are all positioned in the trunk.
A Bruno-Lenco transmission setup sends the power back to a Dana rearend to keep it all-Mopar.
“It’s actually a very rare body style,” the Franksville, Wisconsin native says of the beautiful car. “These cars were very expensive at the height of the depression as compared to a Ford. It’s very unusual to see one out in the public, let alone at a racetrack.”
Kohlmann has been in the low eights thus far, with a goal of running in the 6-second zone once the combination is ironed out. Kohlmann struggled on the opening day of the Midwest Drags as the car popped and banged through the early part of several runs before he formally ended his tour before it truly began. Determined, however, to iron out his machine and put on a show for the fans, Kohlmann trailered the car to the final two stops and made additional runs to support Heid’s event.
Brian Anders’ Chevette may be small, but it’s indeed mighty. The Inwood, West Virginia native drives this 1977 Chevette that’s powered by a 427 cubic-inch small-block Chevrolet on E85. Anders trailered the car 10 hours from his home, but motored right through the highway portion of the Midwest Drags with his pull-behind trailer and his son, in tow. With 3.50 gears, aftermarket brakes, and a 9-inch rear, it’s designed to go and do so with comfort and efficiency.
“It drives like a Cadillac,” Anders says. “Everybody always ask how it drives, but honestly, it’s a one-handed car. I’ve been 9.19 at 158 in it with one hand on the wheel wondering if I should pull the parachute.”
All-steel with factory glass, it tips the scales at 2,865-pounds (minus the trailer hitch). Anders plans to run Drag Week for the first time later this year.
Anders purchased the car over a decade ago, and two seasons ago he cut the cage apart and re-did everything to upgrade the chassis to near-7.50 spec. Anders drives the car routinely, including on the 47-mile trip to his day-job.
Brian Havlik’s ’55
The Midwest Drags marked a bit of redemption for Cedar Rapids, Iowa racer and car builder Brian Havlik.
Havlik originally built this car in 1998, just out of high school, and sold it after Drag Week in 2006 to former NHRA standout, and the first driver Funny Car driver into the 4-second zone, Chuck Etchells. He built another car and later sold it, as well. When Etchells passed away in 2016, the opportunity presented itself for Havlik to buy it back, and that’s precisely what he did.
The Pro Street-style, backhalf car has since been rebuilt and was taken to Drag Week last year, where, during the highway driving portion of the tour, on a rainy rush to the next track, the wheel studs sheered off the driver’s side. The incident taco’ed the quarter panel and did enough damage to end Havlik’s trip and necessitated considerable paint and bodywork.
Havlik debuted a fresh new 565-inch big-block at the Midwest Drags and ran it naturally-aspirated, with nitrous oxide on tap when needed. Havlik made a best lap of 6.44 at 107 mph on the 1/8-mile on day one, but bowed out of competition early with mechanical woes. Havlik was part of a group of Canadian and upper Midwest racers who all met up at Norwalk days before the Midwest drags kickoff and actually drove their cars in a convoy the nearly 400 miles from Norwalk to Wagler before the event had even begun.