Minnesota may be the land of 10,000 lakes, but on the weekend of July 17th-19th, it was the land of the street machine as the O’Reilly Auto Parts Street Machine Nationals took over the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. Sprawled out of 320 acres, the fairgrounds were one of the most beautiful and unique venues we have been to all year. Cars were parked along the curbs throughout the grounds like it was a small town cruise-in and the attendees had plenty of room, and opportunity, to fire up their car’s engine and go for a cruise through the show grounds.
This was the first year that we were putting on the autocross at this event and we were excited to make the autocross bigger and better than it had ever been before. In previous years it had been held inside a small stadium which severely limited the size of the course. This year, we were able to get the event moved to the newly repaved parking lot right next to the main entrance and build a truly awesome course that gave the drivers an opportunity both to really stretch their cars’ legs. This new spot also had a great area for spectators to camp out on a grassy hill to watch all of the exciting autocross action.
Each day of the event saw a full field of cars and drivers enter the autocross, vying for their chance to take home bragging rights over their friends, one of our class awards, or the coveted Hotchkis Cup. This show hands down had the widest variety of cars we have ever had at an autocross, with everything from ’69 Camaros to brand new Z06 Corvettes, a turbocharged ’67 Malibu, a Triumph Spitfire, and even a Superlite SLC.
The competition each day was very close in every class. On Friday, the top times in the Modern Muscle class was separated by just a few seconds, but it was Joe DeLeonb that took home the top spot with a time of 43.47 in his ’03 350Z, beating out Jeremy Schlicther’s ’02 Corvette. In the Classic Muscle class, Jim C and his ’67 Mustang took top honors running a 44.394 while Felipe Gonzala dominated the compact class in his Miata with a 44.57. In the Street Machine Challenge class, Nick Abernathy fought a hard battle to lay down the quickest time of the day of 42.987 in his 2015 Z06 Corvette.
On Saturday times continued to get faster and faster as more rubber got put down on the course and the drivers started to figure out the line. In the Modern Muscle class, driver Andy Larson managed to just squeak by Friday’s winner and put down a time of 42.706 in his 2002 Corvette. In the Classic Muscle class, Jim C once again took home top honors in his ’67 Mustang laying down a 44.101 lap. In the compact class, it was a close battle between a Mitsubishi Evo and a Triumph Spitfire, but Dustin Rogers was able to find just a little more speed and take home the win in his Evo with a 41.955 to the Spitfire’s 42.469. In the Street Machine Challenge class, Nick Abernathy was once again able to keep his competition at bay and take home the top time with a 41.488 run in his Z06 Corvette. But the big shocker of the day came at the announcement of the Hotchkis Cup award. The person that won the award for the quickest 2-day average hadn’t taken home any of the class trophies over the past two days, but he was able to maintain a much more consistent pace which helped him edge out the runner up. Looking at the scores, it was just one bad lap by Nick Abernathy that caused the tables to turn and let Ryan Buck and his ’63 Nova take home the glory and the cup.
On the final day of the event there were so many people itching to try their hand at the autocross that we had to shut down registration because of the limited run time allotted for the day. Still we had over 50 cars turning the fastest laps of the weekend. In the Modern Muscle class, Andy Larson held on to his title from the previous day and managed to find a couple more tenths on the track, pulling off a 42.52 run in his ’02 Vette. In Classic Muscle, it was Ben Bjorneberg and his ’84 Monte Carlo that would take home the award thanks to a 44.872 lap. In compact, Bryce Paustis drove the wheels off his 2015 Mitsubishi Evo ticking off one of the fastest laps of the weekend at 42.097. But the real battle of the day was in the Street Machine class. Nick Abernathy, Ryan Buck, and Andrew Chenoweth were pushing hard to see who could clock the quickest time in the short 3lap day. Andrew pushed his Hotchkis-equipped Dodge Challenger into the 41s, but Ryan was able to find just a hair bit more speed and just barely dip into the 40s. But Nick Abernathy drove like a man possessed and pushed his Z06 Corvette to a blistering 40.136 lap, taking home the award for the class and top time of the day.
Adding to the fun factor of the weekend, the guys from Meguiar’s came out to join us and brought special treats for all of our drivers. Not only did all of our drivers get goodie bags stuffed full of awesome Meguiar’s products, but the class winners also got a huge detailing kit so that they could keep their rides shiny between races.
Don’t forget to check out the event video and photo galleries below, and we’ll see you at the next events!
Thanks to all of our sponsor for helping to make this series a success: