These are happy days for vintage-Corvette fans, as Chevrolet’s flagship two-seater currently holds the top spot in a very competitive field: the Pure Stock Drags. This race is for American performance cars that are as close to stock as possible, while remaining driveable. The event takes place each year on the second weekend after Labor Day in the boonies of central Michigan, and it draws muscle cars of all kinds: 442 W-30s, SS454s, Hemi Mopars, Cobra Jets, GS455 Stage Is, GTOs, 440 Six Packs, Boss Mustangs—you name it. All the heavy-hitters are there.

The lower ranks are casual. Everyone is invited to come out, have fun, and run their best time, whether fast or slow. But the upper echelons are loaded with experienced racers who take their fun seriously. Every year they get faster, and every year they’re out to knock off the top dog. And in recent years, a Corvette has held a mortal lock on the top spot they’re all gunning for.

The format of the Pure Stock Drags is unique. Cars must be in factory trim with OEM engines. Modifications for service—reasonable overbores, turned cranks, and so on—are OK, but the cams, valves, valvetrain, carbs, exhaust manifolds, drivelines, and even the wheels and tires have to be stock. No DOT sticky tires, porting or port matching, stroker cranks, or oversize valves are allowed. Each car gets an exam at registration, and a few of the eyebrow raisers get a closer inspection at the Heavy Tech tent. Any car can be P&G’d at any time if monkey business is suspected.

Other than that, Friday is open track. All runs are recorded, and each car is paired with the one running nearest its e.t.’s for a best-two-out-of-three shootout Saturday afternoon. It’s a fun weekend, and you’ve never seen so many great muscle cars running in one place.

We’ll note right up front that this story has a happy ending, but let’s not get too hasty: There’s a lot of good racing to cover before we reach the finals. We’re going to cover the seven Corvettes that raced at the 2012 Pure Stock Drags, taking a look at each one’s configuration, performance, and how it did against the competition.

For more information on the 2013 event, visit www.purestockdrags.com.


01 | 1969 Corvette—Best 2012 Event E.T.: 13.15 @ 106.50

Owner: Devin Conlee
Engine/HP: L71 Tri-power 427/435
Transmission: Four-speed
Axle: 3.73:1
Weight: 3,538 lbs

You know it’s a good day for Corvettes when the slowest one on hand is an L71 Tri-power running very low 13s. Devin Conlee and his 427 “triple deuce” square off against Bob Witt in his ’69 AMC Hurst SC/Rambler, a potent muscle car that actually qualified a tick quicker.

Round 1: Both cut excellent lights, but Conlee’s Corvette has the traction and uses it to step out front with a healthy lead. That’s the way they go through the traps: the Corvette by an easy car length.

Round 2: They swap lanes. Both come off the line hard, but again, the Corvette strides through the first 60 feet and opens up a lead. The SC/Rambler comes on strong, but Conlee hits all his shifts clean, and there’s just no catching that 427. Corvette sweeps this one in two straight.

1969 Corvette 427/435 vs. 1969 AMC SC/Rambler 390/315

Round 1 Round 2
Corvette 13.25 @ 104.65 13.22 @ 105.34
SC/Rambler 13.48 @ 104.65 13.37 @ 105.39


02 | 1966 Corvette—Best 2012 Event E.T.: 13.04 @ 105.34

Owner: Donny Brass
Engine/HP: L79 327/350
Transmission: Four-speed
Axle: 4.56:1
Weight: 3,272 lbs

This super-sharp Milano Maroon ’66 coupe is the lightest Corvette at the party, and thanks to owner Brass’ driving skills, the svelte midyear can really fly. He’s up against Steve Rehberg’s ’70 Ram Air IV GTO Judge. Both cars are four-speeds, but the Pontiac is a lot heavier. In the traction-limited world of stock racing, that can actually be an advantage at the critical launch.

Round 1: Rehberg is an experienced GTO pilot, but he gets a little trigger-happy and redlights Round 1 away. Brass has already won, but he pours on the coal anyway, rocketing to a 13.12.

Round 2: Rehberg cuts a quick light, but by the time they pass the tree, Brass has got a fender on him. The Corvette’s well ahead at mid-track, but the Goat is coming on strong. It’s not to be, as the Vette flashes through the traps first, despite the Poncho’s higher mph. This one’s through in two.

1966 Corvette 327/350 vs. 1969 GTO Judge Ram Air III 400/370

Round 1 Round 2
Corvette 13.12 @ 104.78 13.28 @ 103.15
GTO 14.17 @ 103.16* 13.59 @ 104.95
*Redlight


03 | 1971 Corvette—Best 2012 Event E.T.: 12.20 @ 117.11

Owner: Jeff Morgan
Engine/HP: LS6 454/425
Transmission: Four-speed
Axle: 4.30:1
Weight: 3,644 lbs

Here’s one for ages. Is the LS6 faster in the Corvette, down-rated to 425hp, or in the heavier SS454 Chevelle with its huge 450hp rating? Qualifying times are nearly identical: 12.58 (Corvette) and 12.56 (Chevelle). Jeff Morgan’s got short 4.30 gears in the Corvette, while Dale Waligora’s got nearly-as-steep 4.10s in the Chevelle. This should be good.

Round 1: Waligora kicks things off with a redlight. Both drivers abort.

Round 2: Waligora cuts the better light, but Morgan is battling back as they clear the tree. The Chevelle’s a beast in the first half, but the Corvette has a powerful top-end charge. At the traps, it’s the Chevelle first, despite Morgan’s quicker and faster numbers. Time for a tie-breaker.

Round 3: The Chevelle is again off the line first, thanks to Waligora’s superb 0.097 reaction time, and this time he’s quicker through the first 60 feet. Morgan uncorks his best run of the meet, but it’s not enough to run down the fleeing SS454.

’71 Corvette 454/425 vs. ’70 Chevelle SS454/450

Round 1 Round 2 Round 3
Corvette 16.40 @ 69.95 12.47 @ 115.56 12.49 @ 115.69
Chevelle SS 14.44 @ 69.47* 12.66 @ 110.67 12.37 @ 111.75
*Redlight

04 | 1969 Corvette—Best 2012 Event E.T.: 11.89 @ 121.55

Owner: Jim Johnston
Engine/HP: L88 427/430
Transmission: Four-speed
Axle: 4.56:1
Weight: 3,468 lbs

It would be hard to overstate the driving skills of Jim “JJ” Johnston. He holds the record for lowest-ever e.t. at the Pure Stock Drags (11.43 @ 125.50), set last year in his Cortez Silver ’69 L88-spec Corvette. He’s up against another ace: Jim Spetzman and his ’69½ 440 Six Pack Super Bee.

Round 1: Johnston redlights, a rare foul for the Corvette pilot.

Round 2: Spetzman launches first and wheels the Bee through the 60-foot beams with a 1.97, putting the Vette in an early hole. Johnston, nursing a weak clutch, can’t reel in the Mopar fast enough, and Spetzman emerges victorious.

’69 Corvette 427/430 vs. ’691⁄2 Super Bee 440/390

Round 1 Round 2
Corvette 15.79 @ 68.25* 12.35 @ 118.18
Super Bee 12.58 @ 90.98 12.19 @ 114.69
*Redlight


05 | 1969 Corvette—Best 2012 Event E.T.: 11.80 @ 117.37

Owner: Ed Keim
Engine/HP: L88 427/430
Transmission: Automatic
Axle: 4.56:1
Weight: 3,450 lbs

Keim, the No. 6 qualifier, pulls his sweet L88-spec ’69 Vette to the line against Jim Keyes, original owner of a clean and exceptionally strong Hemi Coronet R/T. Both cars are automatics with 4.56 gears. The Corvette is 366 pounds lighter, but as we’ve seen, that can work against you.

Round 1: It’s a clean start, and they’re dead even at the 1-2 shift. The crowd reacts as the win light goes on for the Hemi Dodge, which appears to have somehow out-muscled the L88.

Round 2: A pair of excellent reaction times—an 0.042 for the Corvette, and an 0.063 for the Dodge. These guys can drive! It’s another nail-biter as they streak toward the big end, but it proves to be a replay of Round 1: Keyes’ Dodge edges Keim’s Vette by a fender.

’69 Corvette 427/430 vs. ’67 Dodge Coronet R/T 426/425

Round 1 Round 2
Corvette 11.92 @ 116.12 11.88 @ 116.92
Coronet R/T 11.79 @ 120.41 11.79 @ 121.40


06 | 1969 Corvette—Best 2012 Event E.T.: 11.60 @ 119.66

Owner: Larry Kirkum
Engine/HP: L71 427/435
Transmission: Automatic
Axle: 4.56:1
Weight: 3,422 lbs

Infiltrating the ranks of the L88s is Larry Kirkum’s extra-stout triple-carb 427. He’ll need everything the Corvette can muster to fend off Rick Mahoney’s ’68 Hemi Road Runner, a purpose-built racer with a Ray Barton engine.

Round 1: Scott Tiemann drives the Road Runner, cutting a smokin’ 0.007 light to put half a car length on Kirkum’s Corvette. They’re both under the 2-second mark through the 60-foot beams, but the Hemi stays ahead and takes the win.

Up in the tower, Kirkum gets DQ’d: His 11.60 e.t.—his quickest of the event—violates the rulebook’s anti-sandbagging provision, which prohibits racers from running more than 0.3 second quicker than their qualifying time. Kirkum qualified at 11.92, so he’s out.

Round 2: This shootout is already in the books as a win for the Road Runner, but these guys came to race, so they line up again. Kirkum redlights, but both racers stay in it all the way down track. The Road Runner’s got the Corvette’s number today, though, and gets there first.

’69 Corvette 427/435 vs. ’68 Road Runner 426/425

Round 1 Round 2
Corvette 11.60 @ 119.60* 12.35 @ 118.18
Road Runner 11.54 @ 123.88 11.63 @ 106.18
*Disqualified


07 | 1969 Corvette—Best 2012 Event E.T.: 11.53 @ 121.88

Owner: Julie Pennington
Engine/HP: L88 427/430
Transmission: Automatic
Axle: 4.56:1
Weight: 3,414 lbs

Julie Pennington is about as far from the high-strung, type-A racer as you can get. But don’t underestimate her: Husband Terry built and tunes this Monaco Orange ’69 L88-spec Corvette, which has proved virtually invulnerable in competition. Julie held the event’s low e.t. record here for years, and she’s the number one qualifier this time around. Her opponent is Jim Jarrett in a fine-looking ’69 427 COPO Camaro.

Round 1: Jarrett comes off the line hard, but Pennington cuts an excellent 0.021 light and rips through the first 60 feet in 1.85 seconds. The Camaro’s got a good run going, but this one’s all Corvette, as Pennington backs off and coasts to an 11.64.

Round 2: Jarrett improves his reaction time, but Pennington’s already well out front and opening up a lead. Again, she’s got the Camaro covered, coasting through the beams for the win to become this year’s “Top Gun.”

’69 Corvette 427/430 vs. ’69 COPO Camaro 427/430

Round 1 Round 2
Corvette 11.64 @ 105.16 11.63 @ 106.42
COPO Camaro 11.69 @ 119.14 11.76 @ 118.28

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