Each year we get to attend a couple Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series (CPCS) races, and we always love the down-home feel and friendly competition. Turns out, we’re not the only ones, even the racers feel this way. So, in an effort to see more guys and gals getting out on track to have some fun, we checked in with a CPCS racer so he could tell you guys just how easy it can be to go racing and make it a family affair.
Shawn Calabrese has been competing in CPCS races going on 11 years now. He still remembers when it was the LSX Challenge Series. Shawn is a young guy at 33, so 11 years ago, he was even younger at 22. That’s right, while in college, Shawn was driving his daily driver to the track, swapping on skinny front tires and hitting the strip. Then, he kept getting faster and faster so he eventually needed a trailer, but that’s how it goes right? The key thing to remember here, however, is that Shawn started racing on a shoestring college budget, and in his daily driver. “Yea, I first bought the car for just car shows and cruise-ins, something to have some fun in. I watched an LSX race and got hooked. Then I started driving my car to CPCS events, just swapping on skinny front tires and having a blast,” Shawn told us. Shawn’s car of choice was, and still is, a 2001 Pontiac Trans-Am Firehawk (a real one). It was a six-speed manual transmission that Shawn loved rowing through the gears at the strip on the weekends and competing in NMCA’s Street King class. Now, Shawn competes at the top level in the same class, but with an automatic now that he’s more serious. Just last year, Shawn almost won the championship being only 15 points shy.
For those looking to get started drag racing, and if you’re a Bowtie fan. Shawn says to look nowhere else but to the NMCA’s Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series that features all makes/models as long as they’re LS/LT powered. “The entire CPCS community is like a family. We all help each other out,” Shawn told us, who is now a proud father with a newborn,”That’s how it progresses, you know? First, I’m racing in college in my daily driver, now I’m looking at motorhomes! I love having my wife there, she’s become good friends with other racers’ wives. Now we’ll get to take our boy.”
Shawn spoke to us about how customer-oriented the NMCA is, saying they work to please you, “Yea, it’s not so strict - it’s a much more fun atmosphere. All the racers talk to each other because we’re so passionate about LS/LT engines and racing. It’s not just about the competition, but making friends and having fun. The NMCA has worked hard to create that atmosphere.”
Speaking of family, Shawn’s dad, who is now 72-years-old, competes on the weekends with Shawn. “I finally convinced him to race again. He used to race throughout the ‘70s. Once he saw how easy it is to get out and have fun, he joined me back in 2010,” Shawn said. His father raced to a championship last year in LSX Rumble piloting a 2010 Camaro SS. Shawn told us that’s the third time that car has won a championship. Shawn won a championship in it and his father has won two.
Shawn gave us a couple pointers to pass on to all you potential drag racers out there, “The best thing to do is just get out there. You don’t need a lot, just make sure your car is track-ready, fresh fluids, good brakes, etc. Start by making a lot of passes learning the tree, focusing on reaction times and how best to launch your car. Then you can concentrate on weights and dialing in the car.” Above all, Shawn told us, was to hang out and have fun, talk to other racers for pointers and just get as much seat time as you can. Performance modifications can wait until you really learn your existing car and how best to drive it.
A great class to get into with the NMCA and CPCS is Rumble. Rumble is a class with easy-to-follow index-style rules and is open to everyone and every combination. This class is for participants wishing to run slower than 11:00-second ETs with no electronics or transbrake permitted. For all the rules, click on NMCA’s page right here. In addition, all Rumble class competitors may compete for no additional charge in NMCA’s True Street class. “True Street is really for street cars. We get to participate in a 30-mile cruise with 30+ cars, which is a lot of fun to cruise around the rural parts surrounding racetracks with other like-minded racers,” Shawn excitedly told us. In True Street, reaction times don’t count so it’s a great way to dip your toes into drag racing. You get to pay for one class and essentially get into two. Even if you don’t make it past the first round you’re still guaranteed 9-12 passes for the weekend (includes test and tune passes).
We asked Shawn what his plans are for the 2017 season, “Go to all four races of CPCS! Both my dad and I will be running. It’s a great series to jump around to. Sundays are quick, which gives competitors an early start to get back home.” Shawn concluded, “The main reason I do this is to have fun with family and friends, I mean, I get to race with my dad! I hope to carry on that tradition on with my son.”
If you’re looking to get into some friendly competition, we don’t feel it’s ever been easier thanks to NMCA’s Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series. We have a dedicated site on the series where you can see the latest points standings, bragging rights, photos, our latest articles on the series, class rules and much more. Visit that site right HERE.
We hope to see more fresh faces on track soon and would like to say a huge thank you to Shawn for spending the time to talk with us.