$10K Drag Shootout: The Finalists Tell All!

We’re drawing ever-closer to the Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout, and with our 10 finalists announced, it’s becoming more and more of a reality. But in the end, only three teams — and the Dream Team sponsored by COMP Cams, which will be chosen by an expert drag racing panels in the coming weeks — will traverse to California this summer to go head-to-head for drag racing superiority. Oh, and $10,000.

We’ll soon whittle the finalists down to five, and that’s where you come in. We want to hear what you have to say … who you think deserves to make the cut, and ultimately, into Horsepower Wars infamy. But first, what do these teams have to say … about their chances, their plans, and most intriguingly, about each other? Who would they boot out of the final 10, and who has the best chance — besides themselves, of course — of winning the whole shebang at the Shakedown at the Summit in Ohio this September? We asked, and they answered.

See what these teams are all about and what they have to say, and then tell us who YOU would like to see in the final five!

Stinky Pinky Racing

Driver: “Disco Dean” Karns
Hometown: Fairborn, Ohio
Crew: Dean Karns, Sr., Dan Davies, Brian Sorells, Jimmy Bowling

Anything that Ohio’s “Disco Dean” Karns and his Stinky Pinky squad lack in mechanical prowess, they more than make up for with excitement and charisma. Except they don’t lack in the mechanical department, making them a definitive challenger for the final three in the $10K Drag Shootout.

Karns, known for his bracket and no prep racing exploits — and his affectionately named racecars like Stinky Pinky and the Pink Taco — has a larger-than-life personality that he isn’t afraid to bring to life. Not just a drag racer, Karns has done it all in his years, from remote-controlled racing on a national scale, to earning Lowrider car-jumping national titles. Now a drag racer through and through who makes his hobby go-round by way of his Tint King business in Fairborn, his crew, which includes his father, Dean, Sr., Jimmy Bowling, Dan Davies, and Brian Sorells, have all the talent and knowledge to pull off a racing build in a matter of days and on a strict budget.


There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final 3?

Watch us work. Mechanical ability is one thing, entertainment is another. You ask what makes us stand out? Pink cars, wild hair, cars with personalities of their own. If you are obsessed with drag racing and want to do it full-time, you had better make sure you can grab people’s attention. Sponsors, fans and definitely your competitors. This is something we do not have to work too hard at fortunately. We think we will be in the final three because if you do not think you will win, then you’re not a racer to begin with. We’ve been outgunned before, but we don’t compete to lose. Racing is fun. Winning is imperative.

We think we will be in the final three because if you do not think you will win, then you’re not a racer to begin with. We’ve been outgunned before, but we don’t compete to lose. Racing is fun. Winning is imperative. – “Disco Dean” Karns

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the biggest chance of winning and why?
Team Bigun. Eric Yost with Lyle Barnett driving. Purely based on drag racing results. There are a couple teams like Boddie/Dow Brothers that really shouldn’t be discounted either.

Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.

It’s all very circumstantial. The main focus first and foremost will be having a completed and running car. Anything can happen in a drag race if you make it to the stage beams. The best car does not always win, so keeping it simple is the first rule. After that our plan is to have multiple plans. Without knowing what car we will end up with and what used parts will be available to spend the $3,000 cash on a couple months in the future, you had better have a flowchart set up with multiple paths. Different driveline configurations, best combination of power adder reliability, economy and power for the engine that fits the circumstance.

Disco is a staunch blower supporter. Jimmy can’t pick if he is a blower guy or a turbo guy. None of us are really nitrous guys other than to spool a turbo. But with nitrous being provided for the competition, circumstance may force us to be flexible on power adder.

The best car does not always win, so keeping it simple is the first rule. After that our plan is to have multiple plans. – “Disco Dean” Karns

Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened? 
I don’t know if strange is the right word. But when I flipped Stinky Pinky 1 last year grudge racing Birdman, earlier in the day a complete stanger gave me a prayer cloth to keep with me in the race car. I did that day, and I cannot help but think that’s why I was able to race another day.
 
Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final 3? And tell us why. You need to be specific based on your own opinion and that of your team. (We realize this is controversial. Yes, it’s TV.. and you can’t pick someone randomly and say “Because I don’t know them. 

Everyone in the top 10 is talented. There are a couple teams that have experience building a variety of cars but do not seem to have that much experience racing or winning on the level that some of the others have. West Bend Dyno is one of them. They are diverse. They have a little experience in drag racing, but from what we have seen they also do Pro Touring and other types of builds. We don’t see any winner’s circle pictures. Like we said they are not the only ones, however, some of the other teams that may not have collected many big checks, also seem to have more experience in builds on a budget. So in this case, West Bend Dyno seeming fairly professional, makes us think this competition may not be for them.

Redline Renegade Warriors

Driver: Dominic Friguglietti
Hometown: Bloomington, Illinois
Crew: Matt Bell, Chuck Burkhart, Greg Levey, Brian Edwards, Dominic Friguglietti


Our second finalist, Matt Bell’s name should be a familiar one to small-tire drag racing followers around the nation — the Illinois native has made his mark on the sport over the last decade, campaigning competitive and winning machines in NMRA Drag Radial, MX235, and most recently, Limited Drag Radial. The self-made business owner pilots one of the quickest LDR cars in the nation, and owns and tunes one of 235/8.5-inch tire racing’s quickest machines that’s piloted by $10K Drag Shootout teammate Brian Edwards.

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final 3?
 
We believe our team has the drive and dedication to push through to get the job done no matter what obstacles we have to overcome. We have a strong, diverse group of people with many different talents. We are racers through and through, and we do whatever it takes to win.

We believe our team has the drive and dedication to push through to get the job done no matter what obstacles we have to overcome. – Matt Bell

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the biggest chance of winning and why?

We believe Eric Kenward and Team EKR, other than us, have the best chance of winning, because like us they are fighters and we have seen them work hard at what they do.

Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.
 
Our approach will be dependent on what vehicle we have to start with. Once the vehicle is determined our strategy involves organization and planning; we obviously have to stay within budget, and need the car to not only make as much power as possible but be able to make it down the track safely. We will have to make sure the drivetrain and chassis are sufficient and safe to handle the power.

Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened? 

We have had our fair share of racing stories, most recently on a trip home from racing in Georgia our hauler developed an exhaust leak and was catching the carpet on fire as we were going down the road. We had to pour water on it constantly to make it home safely. We have been at races and spun the car around without hitting the wall, found new tires and swapped all four tires between rounds, broke an oil pump in two and made three passes before realizing it, stayed up all night taking the motor apart and repaired and went out and won the race. We have to keep bologna and cheese and coffee to keep Chuck from being grumpy.

On a trip home from racing in Georgia our hauler developed an exhaust leak and was catching the carpet on fire as we were going down the road. We had to pour water on it constantly to make it home safely. – Matt Bell

 
Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final 3? And tell us why. You need to be specific based on your own opinion and that of your team. (We realize this is controversial. Yes, it’s TV.. and you can’t pick someone randomly and say “Because I don’t know them. You’ll know plenty about them… you can read all about them).
 
We think the team Stinky Pinky Racing doesn’t deserve to be in the final three because we do not believe they have the ability to stay on task and accomplish the goal. They have lots of fans and can make a lot of drama, but we don’t believe they have what it takes to get the job done. They will be too busy talking about it and taking selfies.

Team EKR

Driver: Eric Kenward
Hometown: Vero Beach, Florida
Crew: Bill Clary, Kevin Smith, Christian Morillo, Tim Bishop, Donnie Polly


Florida’s Eric Kenward is a familiar name in drag racing, particularly if you follow small-tire racing in and around the South, where he’s been a player — and a series champion — in a number of venues over the last decade and change. As a driver, Kenward won an ORSCA title in 2009 and added another to his resume in 2016 when he drove to the NMCA Xtreme Street championship. The automotive shop owner has high performance cars and racing in his blood — something he hopes to share with the younger generation as an instructor and through programs just like Horsepower Wars. Kenward brings a team of well-rounded car guys with him, including welders and vehicle assembly experts who can give one of the best drivers in our final 10 lineup a legitimate chance at winning the Drag Shootout.

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final 3?  

I believe we can stand out because of our humble approach and let the outcome of our build do the talking. We are used to racing with a budget in the heads up ranks, this is what we believe sets us apart in this competition. More with less!

Our team is built of guys I have raced with and against. It should be a bunch of fun — no big egos to work against us. – Eric Kenward

 Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the biggest chance of winning and why?
I think team Bigun has a good chance with the knowledge that team has.
 
Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.

We have discussed several option with differant combos and have a very good idea on what to build for our power. The only issue we see is what cars we have to select from. 
 
Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened?

Our team is built of guys I have raced with and against. It should be a bunch of fun — no big egos to work against us. Kevin Smith and I have raced together for a long time and we have raced with several patched-together parts. We had the whole front end of my Malibu that Kevin was driving held together by duct tape after a wheelie and steering-related accident at SGMP. Bill Clary and I used to be rivals and stay on the other side of the track from each other. I believe we always had respect for each other, but we did not race together until last July and he picked the wrong race to come help at. The engine was apart several times We work hard and fast to get the job done.

I think team Bigun has a good chance with the knowledge that team has. – Eric Kenward

Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final three? 
I don’t think there should be a dream team … all the other teams in this competition are every-day working people that I can see. I don’t think a corporate sponsored team should be able to be involved. They are on payroll and all the other teams have to sacrifice pay and travel expenses to be involved with this competition.

West Bend Dyno

Driver: Dameian Shepard
Hometown: West Bend, Wisconsin
Crew: Brad Riekoff, Brian Jankuski, Tony Bruggink, Brian Wohlfeil

Wisconsin native Brad Riekoff and his team from West Bend Dyno Tuning have the passion to go with their experience, which could go a long way to success in the Drag Shootout. The 42-year old Riekoff clawed his way into the high performance business the hard way, working tirelessly to turn his passion into a career. In 2008, he opened the doors on West Bend Dyno, and it’s been a high-speed ride from there,now serving clients all over the nation. Riekoff has tabbed a host of employees that are well-rounded in the construction and advancement of high performance and racing machinery, including an engineer, lead fabricator, and EFI tuners. Will it be enough to make the final cut and, ultimately, to earn the $10,000 winners prize from Horsepower Wars?

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final three?

Every member of our team has been a gearhead since childhood, with a passion for horsepower. Most of our team has experience in all kinds of racing. Making things go fast is what we do every day. Our driver is well-versed in all sorts of drag racing with a street racing bias. When it comes down to it, we can talk the talk and walk the walk. Our team will not disappoint. We have a well-rounded group of guys with the will and determination to do what it takes to win this competition.

Talking trash about another team, without knowing them personally isn’t something that we normally practice. However, once we are face-to-face with our competitors, we should have no problem speaking our minds. – Brad Riekoff

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the biggest chance of winning and why? 

We would have to pick Team Boddie/Dow Brothers Racecars. Judging purely from reading about them, they seem like a well-rounded solid team with plenty of experience.

 Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.

We have already begun planning assignments for each team member and what areas they will be covering with back-up assignments. Not knowing what is in store for us will demonstrate our abilities to adapt, focus, and work together as a team. Sheer determination is our most endearing quality.

Managing parts cost with reliability should be a key point for success.  Fortunately, we provide this to our customers on a regular basis. Probably the most valuable tool in our arsenal is years of experience in may different areas of the performance industry.

Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened? 

I honestly don’t even know where to start. Most of the guys have some quirks and some of their habits really shouldn’t be shared publicly. However, there are some cleaner habits and stories about each crew member.

Brian Jankuski has the unique ability to answer a question with a question and specifically end most of his sentences with the word “yah?” We think Brian was born Canadian and just doesn’t know it yet. Don’t let his phrasing fool you though, Brian has the nickname “Professor” for a reason.

Brian Wohlfeil has a strange love for Latex gloves. He is normally in front of a computer instead of a toolbox, so the mystery remains. – Brad  Riekoff

Brad has a weird ability to see things before they happen. We are all convinced Brad has Automotive ESP. Another weird habit is hyper-fixation; he has been known to shut down our entire operation if something is out of place. Don’t park a car crooked in his parking lot! Brian Wohlfeil has a strange love for Latex gloves. He is normally in front of a computer instead of a toolbox, so the mystery remains. Tony Bruggink has one of the funniest, dry senses of humor that we have ever seen. Most of the time, he will crack a joke and you will be 10 steps away before you realize what he said and how damn funny it was!

Dameian Shepard, aka Snoop, is definitely the smack-talker of our group and is a blast to be around. Snoop can be racing for some high stakes and still has the ability to make it fun no matter what happens. Snoop will race you with a nitrous car and then let you disconnect the bottle, just so he can beat you again without breaking a sweat.

Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final three?

This has to be one of the hardest questions to answer. Talking trash about another team, without knowing them personally isn’t something that we normally practice. We would rather help another team in need. However, once we are face-to-face with our competitors, we should have no problem speaking our minds.

If we must pick a team that looks like it doesn’t belong, I would say it’s us! We have been the underdog in competition before and would love to challenge the high-profile teams in this top 10. It’s time for some new players in this game. West Bend Dyno will be going home with a new car and 10K!

Redneck Bracket Racers

Driver: Tim Slone
Hometown: Vero Beach, Florida
Crew: Brody Quick, Keith Quick, Austin Slone, Dennis Barnhart


Brody Quick and his team that hail from Alabama and Tennessee bring youth and exuberance to the mix…and plenty of racecar-building experience, too. Brody, a 19-year old, second-generation drag racer, tends to the family tire business with his father, Keith. But when the two aren’t working, they’re plying their craft and chasing their racing passion. The father and son duo have constructed a pair of Chevrolet Camaros they bracket race in the South, and it’s there where they met the gentlemen that are part of their Horsepower Wars crew, including driver Tim Slone and his son, Austin. Tim is an accomplished bracket racer, and has plenty of engine-building pedigree to boot, while Austin has done his share of time behind the wheel, as well. Collectively, this team of five has an impeccable amount of experience building, maintaining, and winning in the sport of drag racing, and that could just parlay itself into success in the $10K Drag Shootout.

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final three?

Our team stands out because we can relate to the average working person. We all have every-day jobs and are practically self taught in every aspect of working on cars. I think that will make us stand out to the viewers because they can have someone to relate to to cheer for. I feel like we also stand out because being self-taught and not very known allows us to bring the so called, “underdog’ role. And who doesnt like to cheer for the underdog? That makes us stnd out as a fan favorite. We are ultra competitive and take some things serious, but we ultimately like to have fun, and in this instance, our team is a must-have for this competition. If you are looking for a team that mixes well together and can get the job done, plus put on a good show for TV, you’ve found it. Personally, I enjoy the spotlight and being the center of attention. We are super excited to be able to show the world what a few blue collar guys from the southeast can create when given the opportunity.

The Dow Brothers Racecars/Team Boddie doesn’t deserve to be in the finale. Their resume talks about a triple-turbo Nova and small-tire, big-block nitrous cars that yes, they go fast, but those aren’t budget cars. – Brody Quick

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the biggest chance of winning and why?

Other than our team we think that Disco Dean Karns and team Stinky Pinky Racing have a very good chance to win. Given that Dean has already made appearances on “Street Outlaws” makes him a fan-favorite already. He is very well known for his no-prep racing and people either love him or hate him but none of that stops him. We have also personally seen what Disco and his team are capable of because he bracket races with us so we are very familiar with them.

Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.

We have already begun planning out how to execute our build. We have looked at multiple options on our build with changing motor parts, using power adders, or even swapping motors. We don’t want to give away our secrets but after searching through Summit’s website we are confident that no matter what option we decide to go with, we will be able to complete the build and be one of the fastest teams in the competition. Each individual on our team has their own role in the build process, whether it be the chassis fabrication, motor specialist, transmission assembler, or wiring tech. The time span is honestly our least priority because we are used to only having a few hours after work to fix things on our own cars and we are very efficient at doing that, so given 10 full days we are extremely confident in being able to complete the build.

Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened?

Sometime in mid-summer of last year Austin had a new dragster that he flung a rod out of making a pass late at night. We decided that it would be a good idea to take a pick up truck and open trailer an hour-and-a-half south to Brody’s house to pick up another car so Austin could race the next day. We arrived at Brody’s around midnight only to find that he had the front end torn apart on his ’84 model Camaro because he was putting tubular control arms on it and had left it for the weekend to race another car. It took us about 2.5 hours to re-asseble the front end and cut the springs to get the ride height correct. We made a quick stop at Waffle House around three to eat something and then made it back to the track around 4:30 a.m. Fast forward to 7 a.m. and we were pulling the blown motor out of the dragster because someone was on the way to buy it. We got the motor pulled, sold the dragster, and managed to race that day going a few rounds and making a little money.

The time span is honestly our least priority because we are used to only having a few hours after work to fix things on our own cars and we are very efficient at doing that, so given 10 full days we are extremely confident in being able to complete the build. – Brody Quick

Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final three?

The Dow Brothers Racecars/Team Boddie doesn’t deserve to be in the finale. Their resume talks about a triple-turbo Nova and small-tire, big-block nitrous cars that yes, they go fast, but those aren’t budget cars. Those cars have countless amounts of dollars poured into them. They put that “it isn’t uncommon for us to be racing a $40,000 or larger single event,” but to us it sounds like all the events they are running and the cars they are used to building are done with endless amounts of money, and that is not what this competition is about. It is about balling on a budget, not flaunting all the money you have to build a fast car.

Team Bigun

Driver: Lyle Barnett
Hometown: Mooresville, NC
Crew: Eric Yost, Pete Harrell, Jason Smith


The Bigun team truly needs no introduction. North Carolina native Eric Yost heads up this squad that includes some of the most well-known names in small-tire racing. Yost, who owns and operates Customs by Bigun, with a host of top-flight builds to his credit, has quite the resume of his own on the track, having won Drag Week and Rocky Mountain Race Week in his famous patina Camaro. The team’s driver, Lyle Barnett, is one of the most well-liked and respected drivers in all of radial tire racing, having competed in Radial vs The World and, more recently, in Jason Digby’s world-beating, 4.1-second Leaf Spring Dodge Dart. The team also includes Jason Smith, along with Pete Harrell, a renowned tuner who guides Barnett’s Dart and many other elite drag racing machines. This is a group that has it all: starpower, talent, excitement, and a win-at-all-costs attitude.

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final three?
We stand out because this competition is within our wheel-house. We think we will succeed in making the final three and winning the competition with our experience, know-how and creativity. The other finalists are very qualified but I would put our team up against anyone because we can do more with less.

A few years ago at SGMP we may or may not have been the culprits in putting Brad Edwards’ golf cart up on top of four trash cans. – Eric Yost

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the best chance of winning and why?

Out of the other contestants, we think that Eric Kenward or Matt Bell’s teams are going to be competitive. They both have had success in small-tire drag radial events. They seem to be good but maybe not as good as we are.

Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.

We have never missed a deadline and feel confident that we can build the fastest drag car within the rules that have been given. With our skill-set we know that we can make a lot of what we need and penny-pinch for the other items that we have a budget for.

Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened? 

Our tuner, Pete, is a professional saxophone player and is known to play in bars and does the national anthem at events. A few years ago at SGMP we may or may not have been the culprits in putting Brad Edwards’ golf cart up on top of four trash cans. We have plenty more stories … we like to have a good time.

We think that Eric Kenward or Matt Bell’s teams are going to be competitive. They both have had success in small-tire drag radial events. They seem to be good but maybe not as good as we are. – Eric Yost

Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final three?

We think all the finalists are very qualified and to be in the top 10 is a honor.  We should all be proud.  Any of the teams deserve to be in the top three at this point.

Team Boddie/Dow Brothers Racecars

Driver: Jay Boddie
Hometown: Los Banos, California
Crew: Russ Wullenwaber, Cole Dow, Ben Boylan Jr., Cody Dow, Nick Stewart

Grudge racing superstar Jay Boddie headlines the Team Boddie and Dow Brothers Racecars squad out of California, which is headed up by diesel performance shop owner and fabricator Rus Wullenwaber of RPM Motorsports. Boddie, of course needs little introduction; he’s traversed the country competing in grudge and small-tire, heads-up races behind the wheel of his familiar Chevrolet Nova. He also regularly hosts grudge events on the West coast, and has even appeared on Street Outlaws on occasion.

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final three?
Our team is amongst some of the most loved and talented groups of individuals in all forms of racing. From sled pulls to circle track, drag strip and the street, we have a reputation that lays down the glue for our combination. I wouldn’t say that we necessarily deserve anything. It is a honor to have made the top 10, and know we have what it takes to be selected as the final three and win. The blood, sweat, tears and smiles we have been through together as a team and race family, solidifies the foundation required to compete, complete, and crush the competition in such a unique event.

It’s not uncommon for all of us to be having a blast in the pits after events, whether it’s chasing each other around shooting fireworks at one another while in pit vehicles, sneaking the Smart Car tow vehicles onto the closed dirt circle track surface for quick heat races after the drags, or just giving each other a hard time. – Russ Wullenwaber

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the best chance of winning and why?
First and foremost, there are quite a few decorated teams in the top 10. We all have our accolades and different accomplishments but it’s going to take a lot of creativity and budget skills to accomplish what we all need to make the fastest car in only 10 days. I know for a fact that none of us have ever done this with such a small budget in such a short amount of time. I mean it sounds like we totaled our street stock or bomber this evening, and we are trying to win the demo derby championship plus Best Appearing Car by next Saturday night. If we had to pick a team that we think would be our biggest competition, it would be “Team Bigun”. Lyle knows what it takes to climb from the bottom to the top, and his team are very well known in the small-tire world. The group of guys he has put together are top notch and know what it takes to build a winning combination, no doubt.

Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.

Each person of our team has been specializing in their trades for 20-plus years. We all have built racecars, trucks, engines, and parts with no set budget. We have also built for customers who eat the “bones and all” trying to make every penny count. We are very familiar with stretching the dollar on our own projects, as well, seeing that every one of us started at the bottom with no handouts into a very competitive industry. Plans with our budget will be divided up into the percentage of importance based of off what vehicle we are building and after we size up the competition. We as a team have been throwing scenarios at each other since before we were even accepted as one of the ten finalist teams. There are tons of “what if’s” and endless variables that can make or break a build, and coming into this competition prepared mentally and physically with several game plans is a must. Being on such a short timeline for an entire ten day build, it is going to be great knowing that each member of our team is well-versed in several areas, and not limited to one specific. This will ensure that the build keeps flowing with time, even if there is a stall in one area of the project waiting on parts.

If we had to pick a team that we think would be our biggest competition, it would be “Team Bigun”. Lyle knows what it takes to climb from the bottom to the top, and his team are very well known in the small-tire world. – Russ Wullenwaber

HW: Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened?

Cole, Ben, and Cody have won enough turtle wax at a car show to polish this race car for the rest of its life. The quick story behind that is our parents would take us to a car show each night of the week where they always had games. One of the games was the “Potty Toss” where you would stand at a certain distance away from a toilet and throw toilet paper into the toilet and win door prizes. The most popular prizes were car washes and turtle wax. It’s not uncommon for all of us to be having a blast in the pits after events, whether it’s chasing each other around shooting fireworks at one another while in pit vehicles, sneaking the Smart Car tow vehicles onto the closed dirt circle track surface for quick heat races after the drags, or just giving each other a hard time. We all have nicknames and we all make fun of each other. We create new memories that we laugh and joke about each weekend, whether here in California or racing on the East coast. Sometimes it only takes one word to start a riot of laughter amongst us. As far as habits, I think I’ll leave that for Cole … that guy can sleep anywhere. The guy works literally non-stop, so sleeping next to a car on the hot concrete after five days of non-stop racing is a very familiar sight.

 Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final three? 

We as a team think that the “Dream Team” does not deserve to be on the final three. Even though the team members are unknown as of now, being cherry picked by a big name sponsor of the event one by one “might” give them a huge advantage over a veteran team that has grown together. It could also backfire on them if they have not worked together in the past. Having team members that don’t know where they fall into place might eat up a bunch of valuable time. Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians could lead to a bunch of issues in the build process.

Farm Town Racing

Driver: Rick Fletes
Hometown: Galt, California
Crew: Mike Raque, Colton Thomas, Matt Verdin, Ralph Willis

California native Rick Fletes heads up a collection of friends of employees of his repair shop and custom automotive business, RF Garage, that possess all of the knowledge and experience one could need to build a fast car on a tight budget and an even tighter deadline. Fletes, a drag racer in his own right who has guided several of the cars that he’s built with his own two hands into the 9- and 10-second zone, has compiled a team of welders, fabricators, master mechanics, machinists, and electrical gurus to provide him a chariot in which to win the $10,000 winners’s prize.

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final three?

We are not hand-picked teams … we are your average ‘Joe’ that can get after it. We have the talent, motivation, and determination to get the job done within the rules outlined. We are drag racers and have been for decades … it’s what we do! Most of our builds, if not all of our builds, have been on a budget. Our team will bring a completely different dynamic to the competition. It’s in our nature and life experience to build and construct fast-running machines on a very small budget.

Watching High-end race teams competing with endless resources starts to get old. It resembles that of a fantasy than reality. – Rick Fletes

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the best chance of winning and why?

There were two California teams, us and Team Boddie/Dow Brothers. And we are friends with all of their crew. We’ve raced together, against each other, even built cars together. We’re sticking with Cali versus the country! If we don’t make it, we are counting on Team Boddie/Dow Brothers to bring home the win. The Dow Brothers are going to be tough to beat; that crew should be able to make it happen.

Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.  

Building a car with a limited budget is no stranger to anyone on our team. It’s been a factor for most of our builds we have ever completed. Our team will be building multiple cars and multiple combinations on paper in preparation for this competition. Our years of racing experience enables us to recognize the differences between theory and reality when building a car from paper to real life.  You can go fast with less, it’s possible.  We’ve done it, more than once.  And some of the teams already in the top 10 list have NO concept of what a budget is, much less actually working together to make the project a success.  Also, consistency goes a long way.  You don’t always have to be the fastest car to win, most the time it’s the one that finishes the race………

Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened? 

So the latest story pertains to us selecting our team name, we couldn’t agree on one and didn’t want to use my shop name (RFG) or Mikes shop name (Galt Machine and Welding).  We wanted a name that fit the team, not just an individual.  One of the names suggested was, Spicy Rick and the Boys Gringos (both were suggested), lol. And although we laugh about it every day, as Colton refers to me as ‘spicy’ Rick daily, which he has been doing for several months now, Matt put in his two cents and we went with Farmtown Racing … true story.

Our team will be building multiple cars and multiple combinations on paper in preparation for this competition. Our years of racing experience enables us to recognize the differences between theory and reality when building a car from paper to real life.  – Rick Fletes

Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final three?

Selecting who doesn’t deserve to be in the final three is a difficult decision. However it came down to Team Bigun. Watching High-end race teams competing with endless resources starts to get old. It resembles that of a fantasy than reality. I believe the common viewer would rather watch the average Joe compete in a battle of blood sweat and tears then someone who has countless wins in dozens of racing categories. I know I would.  Granted, this build will be different as we are limited to a budget and rules set by HPW.  It would be interesting to see a high-end race team function within these rules, time will tell.

Dirty Jersey

Driver: “Big Daddy” Dwayne Gutridge
Hometown: Toms River, New Jersey
Crew: Mike Rozman, Freddie Felt and Regas Anagnostou

In drag racing, names don’t come much bigger than the one and only “Big Daddy” Dwayne Gutridge, one of the original pioneers of drag radial racing in the late 1980s and early 1990s. If there’s a car magazine, Gutridge has graced it; if there’s a small-tire Mustang race, he’s won it. And chances are at some point you had the poster of his barrier-breaking, seven-second Mustang on your bedroom or garage wall. To put it simply, he’s earned his status as a legend.

Gutridge, a lifelong ‘car guy’ who owns and operates Big Daddy Performance in New Jersey, has assembled a team of close friends with the talent and experience to put a competitive ride under him on-time and on-budget.

There are a lot of tough teams in the final 10, what makes you think your team can stand out from the pack. Why do you deserve to be in the final three?

Team Big Daddy and The Dirty Jersey Crew is a blend of talent from diverse backgrounds. We all share qualities that make us unique, yet cohesive. One of those qualities shows in our work by always putting in 110-percent into everything we do. Whether individually with thoughts or collectively with new ideas, our underlying goal is shared: to win!

The journey and path that I’ve taken to get here hasn’t always been the easiest. Many times I’ve stood alone and that has helped me to learn and overcome a lot. I’ve always focused on my abilities and the people I surround myself with. If I’ve chosen you for my team, it’s not just because I like you, it’s because I know what you can bring and you’re a viable asset. When you’re after high stakes, there’s no room for likes and dislikes, it’s about getting the job done and this is just another piece of what has made me so successful on my road.

We got Stinky Thumb, Farmer John Racing and Red Back Racing … maybe I should change to Watermelon Racing. – Dwayne Gutridge

Who on the final 10 list do you think – other than your team – has the best chance of winning and why?

I believe every team has the opportunity of winning or they wouldn’t have made it this far. One thing that I have learned through the years is not to underestimate anyone, especially your competition. That being said, I think Bigun with Lyle Barnett.

Tell us a little bit about your team’s approach and strategy given the rules that have been released? What will you do with your budget to ensure that you guys are able to finish the car and complete the build.

I’ve assembled my guys and put them where they are their strongest. I’ve given them all a budget that they will use to come up with a plan. I’ve given them a top five list to present to me. I build cars, I use Summit because I own a business and spec out jobs all day long. We’ve all had to meet a budget and deadline. If you’ve ever raced or been in a championship hunt, you have been there. It’s experience combined with knowhow. It’s the ability to recoup from a crash during qualifications, have your car towed back to the shop, build an entire new car and make it back before eliminations and win the race, all in the same day (the car only had a cage in it, so I swapped the rear, trans, engine, gauges, fuel system, suspension, parachute, line loc, everything). That’s not luck, that’s determination combined with knowhow. My point: the real strategy depends on the car and engine choices that we will have.  My team, my strategy.  

Tell us a few stories about your team and crew. Crazy stories, funny habits, strange things that have happened? 

My team are a bunch of characters. Freddie, the Asian persuasion, is the comedian … he has slay jokes. While Regas is the one who follows you around with a rag and 409 cleaning up every spot there is yelling about keeping everything clean or having cookouts and bonfires. One time right after 9/11 they gave Regas and me a very hard time about flying to PRI. They detained him for a long time. Regas sends you pictures of empty bottles, papers, or tiny crumbs left on the floor. Regas would wear sandals on the starting line until the track ate them up. Regas likes to dance. Mike is the quiet one, never tells jokes, always working … and never wears shorts, sneakers, or short sleeve shirts. If he’s at a wedding he’ll wear a suit and work boots. I’m not sure how he’ll survive in California. As for me, I am the ball buster, the character. I am getting the best that you have to offer. I am the no-excuse guy … like let’s make it happen. I sing all the time and I need to hear music while I am working. Here is one for you: I fell asleep in the hotel parking lot in Ohio at a NMRA race and my crew wrapped me up in toilet paper in my truck.

Mike is the quiet one, never tells jokes, always working … and never wears shorts, sneakers, or short sleeve shirts. If he’s at a wedding he’ll wear a suit and work boots. I’m not sure how he’ll survive in California. – Dwayne Gutridge

Who do you think on the Top 10 final list doesn’t deserve to be in the final three? 

I say none, zero, or anybody who has been on a TV show already. Honestly we really haven’t had enough chance to really get to know any of the teams. With a small budget of 10-grand, with 3-grand in cash and 7-grand in Summit Bucks it’s a tough task. So I don’t know who doesn’t belong in the top three, I just know who does: Team Big Daddy and The Dirty Jersey Crew.. Bringing the Noise! We got Stinky Thumb, Farmer John Racing and Red Back Racing … maybe I should change to Watermelon Racing.

The Horsepower Wars $10K Drag Shootout will pit four teams of five crewmembers against one another in a 10-day buildoff, with just $10,000 in cash and Summit Racing store credit to build the quickest and fastest drag racing machine possible. Horsepower Wars is made possible by a host sponsors, including Royal Purple, Comp Cams, TCI Transmissions, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, E3 Spark Plugs, Fragola, Diablosport, Mahle Motorsports, DynaBatt, ProCharger, Weld Racing, ARP, BMR Suspension, QA1, PRW, Covercraft, and of course, Summit Racing.

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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