Speed, adrenaline, and pure theatrics -
By Fergus Ogilvy:
Grudge racing has dominated the drag racing scene in the southern US States for decades.
But in recent years, the Internet has conquered every part of its frenetic life, particularly Facebook postings that have expanded its Southern origins (Georgia, Florida, and the Carolinas) westward to the Mississippi and north to the shores of Lake Michigan.
To its masses, its chief dynamic is straight forward: betting. There is no maximum amount—when a dollar changes hands it’s a Grudge race.
An addictive quality, the money won and lost, sometimes in sizable proportions, is only surpassed by pride or poor judgment of its car owners, entrants, drivers, and spectators: such an adventure, such potential for gain, such drama. Still, in the rapid passing of a one-eighth mile, the prospects of returning home $10,000 poorer are agonizing!
A strictly cash economy
In their pre-race negotiations, a Grudge racer attempts to learn as much as possible about his rival, his racing history, and the competitiveness of his car. They operate with “stips”, an abbreviation for stipulations that specify what is allowed: small block-powered car on 28/10.5 tires with a cast intake manifold and a single 4bl or dual 4bl carburetors. If your opponent has a history of swapping engines, the stips might have a clause that allows his rival to view the engine before the race.
When all is settled, perhaps a week in advance of the race, the deposits of the two opponents are sent to a third party, a neutral person known as the “DP” man—a further abbreviation for Deposit man. The deposit acts as a contract between two people who have agreed to race. At the track, before the race, the full wager is handed over to the Deposit man, who is entrusted with the monies and the responsibility of enforcing the stipulations and the dispensing of all the money to the winner.
Grudge race cars are mostly nitrous oxide-assisted; they also compete in Shoot-out events. These are organized by a promoter who guarantees to pay a sum of money to the racers, if sufficient cars are entered for the event. A typical arrangement might pay the first four places: $3,000 to the winner, $1,000 to the runner-up, and $500 each to third- and fourth-place finishers.
Alternatively, they draw chips, like poker chips that specify a number and a letter L or R, which signifies the left or right lane. The two racers that draw number 1 are paired for the first round and similarly with number 2 and 3 and so forth.
These pairings introduce further potential for monetary gain, which might vary from $500 to $2,500. So during the drivers’ meeting, racers will ask the promoter if he has any objection to their placing Grudge race bets with their first-round opponents. Usually there are no objections.
Both Grudge racing and Shoot-outs operate as No-Time events, the objective is to shroud in mystery as much racecar detail as possible. Obviously, should a potentially lucrative match arise, it’s in the racer’s interest that many of his performance details remain unknown.
Atlanta racecar preparation specialist, Scott Milner says, “You’d be forgiven for thinking Grudge racing attracts questionable individuals but often it’s the opposite, for their racing world is more organized than you’d expect. “ More important, their word is their bond. “If you don’t pay your bet,” he explains, “you’re finished. Word gets around and no one will race you. A stain on your name means your Grudge racing days are over. Most people do what they say they’ll do.”
Drama and comedians
For some, though, the most annoying aspect of Grudge racing is the theatrics of the spectators, particularly those crowded around the rear of the cars preparing to leave the line. Chaotic scenes to some, perhaps, but for those engaging in the histrionics it is the most enjoyable aspect.
Accomplished Grudge racer Jonathan May says, “It can be organized chaos, but there’s nothing personal in their sometimes hostile negotiations. It’s just business—as they call it. I see it as comical.” For most of us, trash talking is a curious endeavor and Grudge racing, for good or ill, has its share of outlandish comedians.
As in most racing categories, the Grudge game has fostered a diversity of machinery, frequently in resplendent condition. There may be some that give the appearance of a backyard special in a deceptive effort to help betting chances. But heroic failures don’t exist as there is always a car that can be matched with yours.
But the racecar most lured to the starting line, at least in the State of Georgia, is the Fox-body Mustang. Produced from 1979 to 1993, the abundance of these vehicles and their conversion to racecars has spurred an industry endowed with dyno cells, chassis tuning departments, and spray painting booths that remain busy throughout the year.
Supremacy, unsurprisingly, is the objective but trumpeting your success can be detrimental to your racing prospects. Nonetheless, Internet bench racers can adeptly calculate an eighty percent win ratio when they see it.
A visit to Coupe Performance facilities at Covington, Georgia—one of the most successful preparation shops in the country—would reveal around 50 racecars, all with their hoods shut to the visitor’s prying eye.
Founded by Scott Milner in 2001, he acknowledges the Fox-body has an OEM rear suspension that resembles a competition 4-link system. Therefore, it’s eminently suited to competition. The car is also relatively light with a plentiful supply of racing components available.
Milner’s company builds an astonishing 15 to 20 cars from scratch each year and, in addition, services 60 to 70 others.
Hammerhead Performance Engines
Snellville, Georgia 30039
Contact Greg Brown
Covington, Georgia 30016
Contact Scott Milner