After months of anticipation since Hoonigan’s Jon Chase called out Roadkill’s Mike Finnegan for a gasser vs. gasser showdown at the NHRA Winter Nationals, the weekend finally arrived and Jon’s Tri 5 by Fire and Mike’s Blasphemi rolled into the parking lot of Auto Club Raceway at Pomona to get ready for an epic grudge race. Neither team was without issues. Mike Finnegan and his crew members David Newbern and Mike Cotton had road tripped across the country with Blasphemi in the back of his new ramp truck, but after the dyno session at Horsepower Connection in Lake Havasu City, Arizona with tuner Brian Macy as well as Merlon Johnson and Steve Darnell from WelderUp Vegas turned into a four day debacle they had to resort to running the car sans coolant to keep from making a coolant and oil slurry in the motor.
It’s no secret that an online loan was taken to build a “tri 5 by fire”. Read more here.
Luckily, they had just cobbled together a new fuel system that allowed the car to run on E85, which both made more power, putting down a whopping 1,070 horspower at the rear tire, and helped to keep the now bone-dry engine a little cooler during runs.
With Blasphemi set on kill, team Finnegan managed to make a couple test hits (Click here to see how that went) on Thursday as Jon Chase and team Hoonigan thrashed on their car in the pits to get it ready. Jon’s car was also plagued with issues leading up to the day, and after hurting their Magnuson-supercharged and nitrous equipped race engine only a few days before the event, they were forced to swap in a junkyard fresh 5.3L LS while their LSX was rebuilt by the guys at CPR Engines. Things were definitely shaping up to be interesting as both teams quietly discussed strategies to edge out their competition, and with the stakes being public shaming by way of beard shaving, neither competitor wanted to take that loss.
On race day with Blasphemi prepped and ready, Mike and his crew jumped over to the Hoonigan pit and started helping get things wrapped up on the Tri 5 by Fire, proving that real racers are willing to help their opponents in order to get an honest run at them down the strip. With both cars put together enough to go racing, they were called to the staging lanes to line up in front of thousands of fans for the first round of a best two out of three battle of the beards. Jon was having issues with his line lock and opted to drive around the water box, forgoing a burnout while Mike in Blasphemi unleashed the music of our people as he ripped a massive burnout before rolling his car into the beams. As the lights dropped both cars lurched forward, and while Jon technically had the faster reaction time, it was Mike who pulled ahead, taking Jon to “Gapplebees” when the Tri 5 by Fire bogged on the line. Blasphemi managed to run a 9.1 second pass pulling the chute and coasting for the last hundred or so feet of the run while Jon ran a 13.5 second pass in his car.
With the first round in the books and a solid win in the bag for team Finnegan, Jon knew they needed to make some serious changes in order to have any chance of staying in the competition. Lucky for them, CPR Engines had just delivered their refreshed LSX and with the engine still quite warm from their previous run, a large number of hands descended on the car as they ripped the junkyard engine from between the front frame rails. With the help from some mechanics from Ken Block’s own rally team, they had the old engine out and on the ground in less than thirty minutes and started swapping over all the necessary parts to the race engine. Meanwhile in Finnegan’s pit they were celebrating and spending time with fans as the car seemed to be functioning perfectly.
Just a couple hours later and Jon’s Tri 5 by Fire now had a much more serious power plant under the hood. They loaded it up to get dyno-tuned at Accelerated Racing Solutions as team Finnegan put Blasphemi away without servicing the car that evening. Round one had been fairly definitive, but with so many changes being made there was really no way to know what round two on Saturday would bring. Would the new engine in Jon’s car have enough power to rival Blasphemi? Would their chassis setup even be able to put the power down? Or would Mike’s car live up to its reputation as a breaker of speed parts and give up round two due to a failure? We’re pretty sure neither driver slept very well that night with the consequences of what the next day might bring for their facial hair haunting their dreams.
We awoke to a dreary and rainy morning at the track, but despite the weather, team Hoonigan was in high spirits after their engine swap and seemed fairly confident they had something for Blasphemi that day. After the rain subsided both teams prepped their cars for the second and possibly final round of the race as fans young and old gawked at the spectacle before them. With noon fast approaching, the NHRA officials called the cars to the lanes just as Mike went to spin his engine over for the first time that day. At that point, Blasphemi’s starter decided to expire. After a trying a few quick fixes to no avail, they were forced to tow the car to the starting line, hoping the golf cart had enough guts to pull-start the massive Hemi under the hood. Anxiety was high and the members of team Hoonigan looked on like vultures circling a kill, but after years of experience with whimsical repairs on Roadkill Finnegan didn’t seem all that bothered.
Then it was time. Everything had to go just right for Mike and his team. They had never attempted to pull start his car, and with no cooling system, they had to do it at just the right moment so the car wouldn’t have to idle too long and risk overheating the engine. Jon had it easy, simply firing up his machine and cruising to the starting line as Mike and his crew pulled Blasphemi up to speed before he released the clutch and started turning the engine over. It took what felt like an eternity, but after about fifty feet, the 528ci Hemi roared to life as everyone from Hoonigan swore under their breath. It looked like we had ourselves a race!
Blasphemi rolled into the water box and after a brief hesitation as Mike struggled to get it into gear, he ripped a glorious burnout in front of tens of thousands of fans that had filled the grand stands. Jon then laid down a short burnout before rolling up to the line for a do-or-die pass that would decide the fate of his beard. The cars staged, the lights dropped, and it was the Tri 5 by Fire that jumped to an early lead as Blasphemi bogged severely off the line, but just a couple hundred feet into the run, Jon’s clutch failed, leaving him with only first gear, allowing Mike to run him down and leave him in the dust despite laying down one of the worst passes he’s ever made in Blasphemi. It certainly wasn’t pretty, but Mike cruised to victory with an 11.2 second run as Jon coasted through the clocks with a 20.6 giving team Finnegan a clean, two-round sweep as the cars stopped in front of the stage at the top end of the track.
Hilariously the NHRA had set up a barber’s chair which Jon sank down into to await the shearing of his beard as Mike and his crew were awarded an impressive handmade trophy for their win. They interviewed an awestruck Finnegan who stated, “I have a horrible relationship with this car — it’s the most unreliable gasser ever — but for once it lasted long enough to win something, and for that, I’m thankful. I thank the NHRA because, never in my wildest dreams would I have ever think I would be on this drag strip in front of this crowd.”
At this point Jon began to say his farewells to his facial hair telling everyone, “I’ve had this beard for ten years!” It was Jon’s own mother who stepped up for the first cut, taking a section right out of the middle as everyone laughed and Jon cried a little inside. Then Mike was handed the clippers, and adding a little insult to injury took a couple swipes for himself before jumping in his car for a parade lap in front of the packed grandstands. It was a moment we’re sure Mike will never forget as thousands of fans cheered while Top Fuel cars blew by on the strip while he rolled down the return road at the NHRA Winter Nationals standing out the door of a car he built with his own two hands.
All in all, it was a great weekend for the competitors and the fans alike. Although Jon lost his beard in the end, he got to race his car down the strip at an NHRA event in front of countless people. Even though he ended up with a cold chin, it’s hard to say anyone’s a loser in that situation. Be sure to click through the gallery to see all the photos of the action and be sure to stay tuned for even more coverage of the Kall Out Kings showdown.
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