Everyone has their own reason for getting into the sport of drag racing — they can range from the need to go fast to something more personal that’s tied to their family. For Danny Garbarino, drag racing represents a positive change in his life that came from his decision to better himself. His nitrous-fed 1969 Camaro is more than just a racecar — it represents his road to atoning for a troubled past.
To understand how Danny found his way into the ultra-competitive world of high stakes no-time racing, you have to look back at his childhood. His father owned a shop in Detroit, Michigan where he repaired and sold cars. Since the family business was tied to the automobile, Danny found himself with a wrench in his hand at a very young age learning how cars worked.
“Dad would always have engines and transmissions laying around that we would work on. It’s just been in my blood since a very young age from being around my dad. My father would take me to work when I was still very young and have me disassemble engines in the shop. He would just give me some wrenches and have me go at it,” Danny explains.
Danny was always interested in drag racing, but could never afford it. His best friend of 21 years, Dave Strange, had a racecar of his own and Danny looked up to him, which further inspired him.
Dave and Danny now both race on the same team, known as Wild Side Racing, but things weren’t always this good. Danny struggled with substance abuse at one point in his life. Eventually, he made the choice to get clean, and drag racing has helped him on his road to a better life.
“I was into drugs and alcohol for a good portion of my life but I decided to get sober in 2007. Ever since I made that choice my life has gotten better. The sport of drag racing, this car, my friends, and my family have all helped me stay in a good place. Without them I don’t know where I would be today,” Danny says.
Before Danny purchased his Camaro there were a couple of other cars in his life, and each of them has played a role in his journey to a higher level of racing. After first owning a third-generation Camaro for over 15 years Danny was ready to step up to something quicker. His friend Dave was right there with him when it was time to start looking for his first real racecar.
Drag racing is like two championship fighters going at it and trying to prove they are the best.
“About seven years ago I purchased my first real racecar: a 1966 Nova with a small-block under the hood. I called Dave and asked him to go with me when I went to look at the car. I wanted to be sure I was getting a good deal. It was just a basic bracket car and everything checked out so I bought it. We took the car to Dave’s house and ended up putting nitrous on it. After just one pass with the nitrous I was totally hooked and wanted to start going faster,” Danny explains.
The Nova was precisely what Danny needed to focus his energies on something positive. He worked hard at making the car the best it could be so he could go no-time racing with his friends. The only problem was that Danny wanted to go faster, a lot faster, and the Nova just wasn’t going o suffice to meet his goals.
“About two years ago I purchased this Camaro to replace the Nova. It was another former bracket car but it had a roll cage in it and was better overall. When I bought the car we put nitrous on it right away, just like the Nova, but it still wasn’t fast enough. I wanted to run with the fastest guys at the track like Jonny Quick and Motor City Jimbo. I had no idea at the time how far the car would progress and that it would get to the point it is today,” Danny says.
To reach the next rung on the performance ladder Danny knew the Camaro would need some updates and improvements. He started looking around for some assistance and found it in the form of Jimmer Kline at Go Fast Productions. Jimmer assisted Danny in taking the Camaro from a basic bracket car to a 7.50 SFI-certified racing machine with a four-link rear suspension. A new 762 cubic-inch Fulton powerplant was purchased and found a home under the hood of the Camaro. To help with tuning, Danny reached out to Corey and Justin Swanstrom to get the car battle-ready.
What drove Danny to invest so much time and money into his f-body to be competitive in the no time world? The answer is simple: it’s the feeling he gets when attending a no-time race. For him, it’s like nothing else in the world and it motivates him to be the best.
“I’ve never been a bracket racer, I’ve only ever raced with the clocks off. The excitement of no-time races like the old Payso events is what really drew me in. There is so much electricity in the air around those events with the clocks off and racing heads-up. You get to see guys try to hustle each other for advantages on the track, the betting that goes on around the racers, it’s just a really unique environment to race in and I love it. It all just hooked me right away,” Danny explains.
The no-time racing vibe is just part of what attracts Danny to this style of racing. He’s also an extremely competitive person and racing with the clocks off just amplifies that. There are no excuses to hide behind, no chest thumping over a timeslip — it’s about doing what it takes to turn on the win-light.
“If you’re the fastest person at the track, line up next to me and show me you’re the fastest — that’s what makes no-time racing exciting. When two real racers put money up and their pride on the line to show who is faster it’s awesome. There’s something magical when the starting line is packed, the heaviest hitters are there, and the racing is good. It’s got this underground feel to it, almost like the best parts of street racing but at the racetrack,” Danny says.
No-time racing is a car show with horsepower and it’s just exciting to me.
Drag racing has been very therapeutic for Danny as he navigated the waters of life after deciding to become sober. The car represents his successes with something that just wouldn’t have been possible with his old lifestyle. He hasn’t had alcohol or used drugs in over 13 years and he doesn’t intend to look back.
“I guess it’s being able to start something, finish it, and be successful at it has been what attracted me to drag racing most. I hit bottom in my life years ago and came back but I’ve had other friends who weren’t so lucky. For me to be able to start something like this and see it through has been important. When I put my mind to something I’m going to see it through until it’s done and go from there. That’s the way I am with anything and with this car. The car is redemption for my past. This car is a representation of what my life has become after a rough past. I do what I can to help others just like how I’ve received help,” Danny says.
Danny sought out the best people to help him with his Camaro and used the best parts available to reach his racing goals. Just one look at his Camaro and you can see how much pride he takes in the appearance of the car. To make sure his Camaro has enough power to match its good looks, the 762 cubic-inch Fulton engine has been meticulously serviced by Grumpy at Sea Performance Engines. Nitrous is supplied through an Induction Solutions system that is controlled by an MSD Grid unit. The power is applied from the engine via the Rossler transmission and PTC torque converter back to a PST carbon-fiber driveshaft. The four-link suspension is tied to the fabricated 9-inch rearend that’s filled with Strange Engineering parts by a set of Menscer Motorsports shocks.
It has been a long road for Danny both in life and at the dragstrip. The assistance of friends and family has made everything easier and allowed him to be successful. He is grateful for those who have been there for him and recognizes that none of this would have been possible without them.
“I want to thank my wife Jennifer for putting up with me; she’s very patient, to say the least. And Dave Strange, Jimmer Kline, Big Country, and his team, Motor city Jimbo, Mark Crank, Johnnie Quick, Team Wild Side Racing, Go Fast Productions, and Race Car Specialties.”
Danny Garbarino has experienced some difficult situations in his life that would cause many to give up. His Camaro has provided him with a way to seek redemption and stay on a positive path at the dragstrip. If you’re looking for someone to root for at a no-time event and you see Danny’s Camaro you won’t be disappointed in the effort he puts in to win.