Nashville was the place to be over the weekend of July 26 and 27. The "home of country music" hosted a pair of events on either side of J Percy Priest Lake that turned it into the center of the tuner universe for a couple of days. Hot Import Nights put on its dog-and-pony show at the Music City Motorplex on Saturday night, while 40 miles away in Gladeville at the Nashville Superspeedway Import Alliance held its own gig and hosted the hottest time trials series in North America, the Redline: Time Attack!
Redline had just wrapped a successful contest six days earlier in California, and was making its inaugural swing into the Southern motorplex. With it came some 25 drivers and their cars, a brigade of the region's best and brightest.
They joined an Import Alliance festival that appeared to cover all elements of the subculture and included a car meet, drag racing, drifting exhibitions, an exhaust sound-off, dynamometer testing, and of course the ever-present vendors. Organizers estimate several thousand had come through the gates by the end of the affair on Sunday evening.
Greeting event attendees was 90-degree heat and stifling - but geographically customary - humidity. An early rain squall on Saturday made the track slippery but didn't do much to cool things down. Storm fronts continued to linger in the area for both days, but none would interfere enough to matter.
The entry list for the time attack reflected a handful of names that also made Round 2 at Gateway in April (the series' other heartland stop), folk like Luke Russell in the Unlimited AWD Top Speed Impreza, who won both his class and overall at the earlier event, and James Elterman in his Modified AWD Takata STi, the second-place finisher in his category by just 0.3 seconds.
Joining them were hot shoes that have been on several of the tour rosters, including U-FWD's Chris Rado, coming off of time attack wins in the previous two weekends (at Willow Springs with Super Lap Battle and at Cali Speedway with R:TA!), and RWD player Scott Bush and his G35, who's collected a few podiums himself in both Unlimited and Modified classes at several events.
While Bush is a force to be reckoned with whatever run group he's in, he did have a spate of bad luck in the run-up to the contest. Reports circulated that his BC Racing Infiniti had an alignment issue with the rear wheels, each sporting about a half inch of toe out.
But that wasn't the only problem. Bush's team took the G's wheels and new tires to a local shop to be mounted, and the shop proceeded to tear the bead and destroy the tire, apparently unfamiliar with mounting competition rubber. As everyone would learn later, though, it takes a lot to take the fight out of Bush.
In other hardship news, Top Speed's Doug Wilks put serious mileage in getting to Nashville, despite his shop being a relatively short drive away in Atlanta. Wilks drove from Atlanta to Knoxville in his Honda Fit to pick up a set of Hoosier A6s from the warehouse of the Southeastern US distributor, and then headed back to the shop to load up the rig for the drive from Atlanta to Nashville. That's over 900 miles for all four legs.
The adversity was understandable. Much was at stake for Top Speed, which could lock up the U-AWD Championship with a first-place showing in Round 5.
Many pilots shined on Nashville's 1.8-mile roval, but none more brightly than Russell in U-AWD. For the second time this season, he and the Top Speed Subaru Impreza led all competitors to garner both Unlimited Class and Overall Championships, laying down a decisive 1:03.702. Russell nailed the fast time in the second session of the challenge, destroying a record in the process. Nashville Superspeedway's old mark for a "street car," which was an SCCA record for a unibody vehicle not of a tube-frame, was a 1:04.095.
Surprisingly less than two seconds behind him, and one of the two fastest from the entire weekend, was Rado and the World Racing Scion tC. Rado took his second Redline U-FWD crown in a row, and third time attack victory in as many weeks. His 1:05.526 was exceedingly fast for a FWD car.
While the Unlimited drivers put up impressive times, their physical numbers were few. Luckily the Modified and Street classes provided lots of action.
In particular, M-AWD had some intense drama. While Elterman in the Takata STi aced the Modified Class trophy with his 1:06.633, the three guys beneath him on the table were in a scrap for second and third. In the end, Robert Fuller in the Forged Performance Evo 9 just barely edged RobiSpec teammate Taylor Holland in his Evo 9 for second place by a tiny 0.002 seconds, Fuller's 1:09.565 to Holland's nearly identical 1:09.567. Paul Szuba, who wound up fourth, missed Holland's mark by less than 0.4 seconds in the P&L Motorsports/Enduratech STi.
In Street Class, Michael Ostby impressed everyone in the GT Motoring RSX with a 1:11.998, becoming the first FWD car to ever win the class overall. While Ostby kicked ass in S-FWD, competition also heated up in Street RWD category. There, Jeff Bender in the Tri State Racing Z edged Gregory Haye in the GT Motoring/Bridgestone S2000 by less than 0.3 seconds, Bender's 1:14.087 to Haye's 1:14.352.
As for Bush and the beleaguered BC Racing G, his luck made a 180 flip. He earned top honors in both Mod RWD, with a 1:08.418, and Unlimited RWD, this time with a 1:07.200. The two marks also qualified among the five fastest at the event. Not too shabby.
The series now gears up for the final two contests on the 2008 schedule, starting with Round 6 at Summit Point Motorsports Park in West Virginia, set for August 16-17.
Overall and Unlimited Class Champion
Luke Russell, Top Speed Subaru Impreza Brighton 1:03.702
Modified Class Champion
James Elterman, Takata Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1:06.633
Street Class Champion
Michael Ostby, GT Motoring / Bridgestone Acura RSX Type S 1:11.998
10 Fastest Times, All Classes
1 Luke Russell, Top Speed Subaru Impreza Brighton, U-AWD 1:03.702
2 Chris Rado, World Racing Scion tC, U-FWD 1:05.526
3 James Elterman, Takata Subaru Impreza WRX STi, M-AWD 1:06.633
4 Scott Bush, BC Racing Infiniti G35, U-RWD 1:07.200
5 Scott Bush, BC Racing Infiniti G35, M-RWD 1:08.418
6 Robert Fuller, RobiSpec/Team Philthy/Forged G35, M-RWD 1:09.297
7 Sharif Abdelbaset, Forged Performance Nissan 350Z, U-RWD 1:09.302
8 Robert Fuller, Forged Performance/RobiSpec Evo 9, M-AWD 1:09.565
9 Taylor Holland, RobiSpec Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, M-AWD 1:09.567
10 Paul Szuba, P&L Motorsports/Enduratech Subaru STi, M-AWD 1:09.953
Unlimited AWD Class
1 Luke Russell, Top Speed Subaru Impreza Brighton 1:03.702
Unlimited RWD Class
1 Scott Bush, BC Racing Infiniti G35 1:07.200
2 Sharif Abdelbaset, Forged Performance Nissan 350Z 1:09.302
Unlimited FWD Class
1 Chris Rado, World Racing Scion tC 1:05.526
2 Ross Miller, PTuning Scion tC 1:10.247
3 Chris Roaden, Precision Motoring MINI Cooper 1:15.828
1 James Elterman, Takata Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1:06.633
2 Robert Fuller, Forged Performance/RobiSpec Mitsubishi Evo 9 1:09.565
3 Taylor Holland, RobiSpec Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution 9 1:09.567
4 Paul Szuba, P&L Motorsports/Enduratech Subaru WRX STi 1:09.953
5 Michael Manning, Top Speed Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1:16.133
1 Scott Bush, BC Racing Infiniti G35 1:08.418
2 Robert Fuller, RobiSpec/Team Philthy/Forged Infiniti G35 1:09.297
3 Scott Kell, Vision Performance Nissan 240SX 1:11.120
4 John Davet, Porsche 911 GT3 1:11.918
5 Matt Shaw, Classic Porsche Restoration Porsche 968 1:14.316
6 Thomas Tetrezsil, Precision Motoring Nissan 300ZX 1:17.767
7 Josh Krawchek, Tri State Racing Honda S2000 no time
1 Ross Miller, PTuning Scion tC 1:10.537
Street AWD Class
1 Scott Siegel, Top Speed Subaru Impreza WRX STi 1:12.644
Street RWD Class
1 Jeff Bender, Tri State Racing Nissan 350Z 1:14.087
2 Gregory Haye, GT Motoring/Bridgestone Honda S2000 1:14.352
3 Josh Krawchek, Tri State Racing Honda S2000 1:15.517
4 James Hoekstra, Fuji Racing/Rota/Spec Mazda Miata 1:15.847
5 Jeremy Sweeney, Porsche 911 1:15.916
6 Carter Thompson, HPP Vettesport BMW M3 1:16.664
7 Chris Laughary, Virtual Racing Simulator BMW M3 1:20.186
Street FWD Class
1 Michael Ostby, GT Motoring / Bridgestone Acura RSX Type S 1:11.998
2 Nicholas Bender, Tri State Racing Honda Civic Si 1:15.448
3 Gerardo Uribe, Don Beto Auto Acc. Honda Civic 1:23.411