Let's face it, the King of the Street, or KOS, racing series was tailor made for gearheads who believe a little too much is just enough. The premise is simple: create cars that run heads-up on the dragstrip, limited only by certain tire sizes and engine parts, yet remain capable of driving on the street. Unlike today's drag cars, which are normally purpose-built for on-track use, the cars running in the KOS are street machines that are evolving into eight-second beasts complete with steel bodies and real glass. In other words, they are required to be D.O.T. legal (at least in letter if not in spirit).

The result covers the gamut of performance. Since engines must remain under the hood except for the scoop, most racers rely on big inches or nitrous to make power, though centrifugal supercharging (in which the blower is mounted along the front of the engine instead of on top of it) has gained a proponent or two. When you couple the narrow tires, heavy musclecar-era bodies, heads-up racing, wheelstands, and destructive nature of nitrous oxide running amuck, you concoct a recipe for keeping the fans on their feet.

The KOS program first began in 1993 and has gone through several phases to arrive where it is today. Run by nitrous product builder Richard O'Malley, there are two classes: Super Street and E-Z Street. The series was a booked-in attraction at Mopar-oriented events in the eastern U.S. in 2001, with events held at Rockingham, North Carolina; Englishtown, New Jersey; Bristol, Tennessee; and St. Louis, Missouri. NMCA and NSCA regulations are the same, allowing competitors to run those programs on weekends when the KOS series isn't racing.

Super Street is for the heavy hitters, using three different weight breaks: one for normal aspiration, one for nitrous, and one for supercharging. The frontrunners in this division are presently capable of hitting times in the high-7/low-8-second zone, with speeds exceeding 170 mph. E-Z Street offers a more economical variation for heads-up competition, limiting racers to big inches, plate nitrous systems, and cast heads and intake manifolds. Those cars are running in the low-to-mid nines. This is, of course, just a brief summary of the rules; a complete listing can be found at the group's Web site www.wave-net.net/omalleycomp/kos.

The 2001 season has experienced healthy fields and solid performances. None is more interesting than the quest for quicker times, the truly addictive numbers of drag racing. In July at Bristol, 2000 KOS Champion Bill May drove to an unreal 8.03 at 178 mph during the weekend. He ran 7.99 two weeks later at the NMCA race in Joliet, Illinois, followed by a 7.96 at 180 mph at the KOS finale in St. Louis, and ended 2001 with a blistering 7.82 at the NMCA finale in Atlanta. May is one of the long-time competitors in the Super Street division of KOS racing and debuted a new car this season after surviving a spectacular at-speed wreck in his '71 'Cuda in the KOS season finale at Virginia Motorsports Park in October 2000.

However, May's new car was something of a departure from his original E-Body. This is a '99 Avenger with more in common with Pro Stock than typical street performance cars. Rules revisions that originated in NMCA competition allow late-model conversion entries to compete, and the Indiana-based machine certainly doesn't suffer from the flat, air-stopping noses typical of all muscular Chrysler models except the wing cars.

"I couldn't be happier with the car," May states with a grin, "and nobody has said a lot about the car in a bad way. This just made sense for me to go racing this way, and I hope to be in the 7.60s with the best of the NMCA guys. I like racing with these KOS guys, though; it's like a big family reunion when we get together."