Bill May-2001 Super Street Champ
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.
Alex Mayes-2001 E-Z Street Champ
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.
Bill May vs. Mike Robbins-Bristol 2001
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."
Todd Vanada with trouble
Truth be told, in many forms of racing, May's decision to go with new technology may have created some ill-will, but the competitors behind him have been, for the most part, gracious about his switch. In this regard, the KOS program has indeed created something of a family during its almost decade-long existence, and these racers enjoy the camaraderie as much as anything else.
"This is a chance to get out here and race heads-up," says Bernie Ewing, whose '68 Charger is just beginning to get converted to KOS trim. "We might not have a big chance of winning, but we have a lot of fun hanging out."
Miss KOS South, Annette Crawford
B-Bodies look great, but face an uphill battle going heads-up with May. However, Mike Robbins and Leon Hudson may still have something left for him, especially in the event that May deals with traction problems due to the lack of rear overhang on the Avenger. Robbins is piloting a '71 Demon stuffed full of B1 parts that cranked out a string of 8.10s at the 2001 finale during the Monster Mopar Weekend in St. Louis, while Hudson is using a W8-style Comp motor in his '65 Barracuda that's knocking on the door of the 8.20s. These heavy steel cars leave the starting line in almost violent fashion as the 10.5-inch tires grapple with a minimal traction footprint.
That tire rule is the one equalizing factor in the KOS series; regardless of how the car cuts the air, it still has to get power to the pavement. For a comparative example, NHRA and IHRA Super Stock cars use a wider tire than this. So there's a delicate edge as to how much power can be applied to the tarmac. May must deal with the fact that the Avenger doesn't have the traction-aiding overhang found in the earlier cars, but has the advantage of up-to-date suspension geometry.
If Bill May is the king of Super Street, Andy Mayes is the king of E-Z Street. The College Grove, Tennessee, racer has blasted all the way down into the 9.10s (9.14/150 at Rockingham in the spring) in his '70 Challenger. Like just about every other competitor, Andy sees the racing as a great deal of fun.
"These are great guys out here," says Mayes. "This is like one big family, and we enjoy just getting out here and racing heads-up."
SS racer Leon Hudson
Battling Mayes are several other spirited racers, though none have had the success he's had. Chris Fairchild has been down in the 9.30s with his '69 Barracuda, with the others also in the 9-second zone. To a person, they all mention the need to remove more weight out of the cars; under the rules, the only fiberglass allowed is the hood and the decklid. As in all forms of racing, the quest for better performance never stops.
For O'Malley, the just-completed season was a good one. There were no major incidents (Sheila Bowman's fire at Rockingham being the worst), the cars were going quicker and faster, and parity wasn't a major problem. However, with the performance margin increasing, O'Malley is keeping a close watch on things.
Scott Koffel thrashing on Tony Marclewicz's entry
"I'm concerned about some of these things; we've tried to make the rules identical to NMCA, so these guys can run in more than one place. If the cars go too quickly, I don't want anyone being in danger. Look at Earnhardt's deal; our guys are going faster, and those cars are stronger than ours. The safety rules will have to catch up."
Of course, having trophy queens the stature of Miss KOS South, Annette Crawford (pictured on page 18) doesn't hurt the program. O'Malley has gotten contingency support from a number of companies (Moroso, Nitrous Works, Nitrous Express, and Ray Barton Racing Engines), with Ross Pistons as the title-rights holder for Super Street and A&A Transmissions the title-rights holder for E-Z Street. The per-event payout totals $3,000 ($1,300, winner; $700, runner-up; $350, two semi-finalists; $75, four quarter-finalists). For someone getting started in KOS racing, these are the words from the wise.
E-Z racer Lloyd Price
"Figure out the combination you want first," says Mayes. "Plan on spending some time getting the nitrous system dialed-in. We've all come through that part of it. Then just come on out here and work your combination. There are always places to find more horsepower. Race here and elsewhere as much as possible."
For Super Street, the commitment will require a scienced-out system capable of pushing that big A-, E-, or B-Body into the 8-second zone. Parts attrition is a given; at Bristol, Tony Marculewicz had a nitrous starvation problem that trashed a fresh engine in his Duster. Still, he was philosophical about it.
"These things are all part of it," he said as the team loaded up the wounded beast. "We'll go home, Scott (Koffel) and I will figure out what happened, and we'll be back."
What the new year will bring to KOS is uncertain, though entertainment is a given. Obviously, the fans like the musclecars, and May's credible effort in the new car makes one hope the older-bodied machines aren't retired in favor of more competitive late-model vehicles. Regardless, the KOS class offers Mopar fans a look at what they might end up with if they had the desire and resources to build the baddest Mopar street car possible.
KOS Win Box
Overall 2001 Champ
Super Street: Bill May
E-Z Street: Andy Mayes
Win: Bill May
RU: Chris Fairchild
Win: Leon Hudson
RU: Bill May
Win: Bill May
RU: Mike Robbins
St. Louis SS
Win: Mike Robbins
RU: Chris Fairchild
Win: Andy Mayes
RU: Lloyd Price
Win: Andy Mayes
RU: Todd Vanada
St. Louis E-Z
Win: Andy Mayes
RU: Vance Vanada