Special Motorsports Event - 2012 Lingenfelter Weekend in Ohio

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By Steve Purdy
Michigan Bureau

The last time this reporter attended a drag race was probably in the late 1980s, so when invited to the Lingenfelter Performance Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park near Norwalk, Ohio, I was intrigued to make the trip. Not only would I see some serious drag racing but first-rate autocross and a bring-what-you-like car show as well.

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For the past few years Ken Lingenfelter, owner of Lingenfelter Performance Engineering, has hosted a customer appreciation weekend but decided now is the time to open it up to all racing fans by hosting a much larger event. With three days of competition they conspired to bring together enthusiasts of racing and high performance products, whether their customers or not, to play, play, play with their race cars, street cars and each other.

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Arriving midday on Saturday (day two of the event) I signed in and just hung out in the grandstands while a series of dragsters drew up to the starting line, smoked their tires a bit beyond the line to heat them up, then backed into position for the start. Even though I was probably 50 yards away at the top of the grandstands I could feel the ground vibrate as they revved those powerful engines holding the revs right where they needed as the lights sequenced to green. Then the low roar suddenly exploded as they sped down the quarter mile, reminding me I had forgotten my earplugs.

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After lunch I wandered out to the far side of the paddock where a large, fast and challenging autocross course entertained another kind of racer – those who eschew straight-line speed preferring to zip in and out of a zig-zaggy race course defined by orange cones in a big paved lot. The average time to complete this course was just over 36 seconds and the competition was tough, mostly between the Corvettes and Camaros, many sporting Lingenfelter performance enhancements. Even though I’ve driven many autocross courses with varying levels of success these guys were a good measure beyond my skill. A ride through the course with accomplished autocrosser, Todd Ruppke pointed that out vividly as he charged his Camaro through the course leaning, squealing and sliding with what felt like reckless abandon but was really a fully controlled run. With all that torque and sticky tires it’s tough to keep a balance between roaring acceleration and semi-controlled slide. If it were not for a tight seat belt I would have been in his lap.

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This Lingenfelter event comprises the last event of Optima Battery’s Ultimate Street Car Invitational Qualifier, wherein competitors who have won in one of nine events throughout the year get to compete for the championship near Las Vegas just after the annual SEMA show in November. The competition involves racing, rallying, braking and acceleration, style and design.

A variety of vendors fleshed out the paddock, including Corsa Performance Exhausts. With manufacturing facilities in nearby Cleveland, Corsa partners regularly with Lingenfelter, including being installed on all of the latter’s cars. In the paddock they were selling and installing their performance exhaust systems and they provided a portable dynamometer on a trailer to measure performance before and after installation. PR guy, Paul Santiago, speculated that the Dodge Challenger Hemi they were working on as I watched would realize an increase of 12 horsepower and 15 pound-feet of torque. It was both fun and instructive to watch the skilled Corsa technicians work under the car.

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Also in the paddock Lingenfelter’s wife, Kristin, displayed a line of clothing for racing enthusiasts that she has designed and manages. Starting out with a few hats and shirts she has expended into other lines of apparel.

In the grass just outside the drag strip grandstand show cars gathered for the third leg of the event. A variety of mostly performance cars compete there for prizes as well. I missed the big day for the show – Sunday – and not many had gathered on Saturday as I left, perhaps because of the seriously threatening skies to the west.

The Lingenfelter Performance Nationals will be an event to keep an eye on in future years as we expect it will grow. The partnership with Summit Motorsports Park is a good one giving them plenty of room to grow. Keep track of this motor head’s event at www.lingenfelter.com.

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