As a car enthusiast who loves anything and everything that rolls on rubber, I have a great interest in all types of racing. As a young child my dad would take me to Kansas City International Raceway (KCIR) to watch test and tunes and grudge nights. In 2011, the owners sold the track and it ceased operation—I’ll refrain from any rants about the politics involved—but it represents my early exposure to hot rodding, car culture and drag racing. Those nights at the drag strip gave me my earliest taste of how cars mean more than generic transportation.
“The bad thing about this sport is that the only thing that limits you is your wallet. We’d all have a top fuel car if we could afford one.”
Sometime in the early to mid ‘80s my dad, his friend Dennis, Dennis’ son Denny and myself, all attended The Summer Nationals at KCIR. That event ignited the eternal flame within me that burns for all things hot rod and drag racing. Watching Don Garlits and Shirley Muldowney race top fuel dragsters and seeing Don “The Snake” Prudhomme fly through the traps in The Pepsi Challenger gave me a thrill like nothing I had ever experienced before. Gene Snow won in top fuel at that race. I’ll never forget the ground shaking rumble that accompanied every car in the pits and down the track. I got to witness the legends of drag racing live and in person
Our Own Hometown Legend
Although Kansas City lost its dragstrip, top notch drag racing still exists in our quiet metropolitan area in the form of Larson Race Cars. Larry Larson builds some of the fastest race cars in drag racing for customers all over the world in the eastern Kansas City suburb of Oak Grove. Kansas City’s claim to fame in the global drag racing community? Larry Larson’s 1998 Chevy S10 pickup. At the time this writing, the truck has a best quarter mile elapsed time (ET) of 5.95 seconds at 244 mph. For those who might not be familiar with drag racing, that is incredibly fast! It’s a record pass for a street legal car.
Larson’s S10 is not only “street legal,” he drives it on the street. The truck participated in Hot Rod magazine’s Drag Week last year, driving over 1,000 miles between passes in a week’s time. It’s been driven to sanctioned racing events and recently won an NHRA Top Sportsmen race. To my knowledge, it’s the first time a street legal vehicle has won in the Top Sportsman class. Larson even drove the truck to the Paola, KS, car show this year. All of this while maintaining one of the top race shops in the country.
Larson Race Cars opened its doors in 1996, but like most of us, the fascination started early on. “I’ve always been a car guy, but started doing it professionally in ’93 or ’94,” he says. Even early on in the business, the cars built at the shop were fast. And just like today, they continuously got faster. “The first one I did was for a friend of mine. It was a ’68 Camaro basically built to be a fast bracket car.” The Camaro started out in the 8.50s (ET). “By the time he was done, about two years later, it was running 6.70s,” Larson adds.
The real fun for a car enthusiast who likes to go fast usually starts at the age of 16 with a driver’s license, but Larson’s love of racing started in the form of motocross. He competed through the late ‘70s and ‘80s and enjoyed it. “Then they moved the circuit around and the closest track was about 180 miles away, so I ended up buying a car and getting back into cars,” he says. “I had a ’74 Nova when I was in high school and then got a ’69 SS396 Camaro right out of high school.” The modifying began with the usual 18 and 19 year-old stuff back then, he adds. “We ended up swappin’ in an LS6 motor in the Camaro and then moved on.”
In 1988 he acquired another legendary car that he still owns now, a ’66 Chevy II. It retains a street legal status as well, and for five years reigned as Hot Rod Drag Week champion with passes in the 6.90s. It did not pull a trailer with spare parts as many of the contestants do, but was a rock solid car that drove the 1,000+ miles with relative ease. This year, Larson and the S10 are entered for Drag Week again, and being a proud car enthusiast who was born and raised in the Kansas City area, they are my pick to win the unlimited class.
Established and Busy
Larson Race Cars services customers all over the world. With customers shipping vehicles to Oak Grove from as far as Australia, the shop’s reputation for building race cars continues to grow. Larson helps customers in the role of crew chief, as well. “I’m out quite a bit with customers testing and helping them at races,” he says. “I’ve been out as many as 28 weekends a few years ago. It just kind of depends.” Larson has been out racing the S10 at least seven or eight times this year as the month of July comes to an end.
Larson and his crew of three along with wife, Sherry, thrash on race cars and run the business relentlessly. “We’ve got a Pro Mod car in here that was in a crash and we’re in the process of getting it back together and built for a customer out of Canada,” Larson says. When I asked Larson about anything that might be in the hopper for his next build, he chuckled. “I don’t need any more projects right now. That was a long tiring summer last year. I’m just trying to get some enjoyment out of the S10 right now and we’ll see what comes in the future.”
The S10, built by Larson Race Cars and driven by Larry Larson
Engine – 3000+ horsepower, 620 cid 5.0” spread bore big block Chevy built by ProLine Racing Engines
Fuel Injection: Fuel Tech Valve Springs: PAC Racing Springs
Block/Heads: Brodix PB5000 Oil System: Peterson Fluid Systems
Crankshaft: Callies Intake Manifold: Hogan’s Racing
Dampener: Innovators West Throttle Bodies: Accufab
Connecting Rods: GRP Turbos: Precision Turbo Gen2 98’s
Pistons: Diamond Fuel System: Aeromotive
Piston Rings: Total Seal Ignition: MSD
Camshaft: Crane Fasteners: ARP
Valvetrain: Jesel Water Pump: Meziere
Pushrods: Smith Brothers Starter: Meziere
Valves: Victory Alternator: PowerMaster
Gaskets: SCE Hoses & Fittings: Fragola/Jiffy-tite
Oil: Lucas Oil Filtration: System 1
Air Intake: AIRAID
Chassis and Drivetrain – Designed, engineered and fabricated by Larson Race Cars
Transmission: Rossler Pro Mod 400 Street Shocks: Ride Tech
Transmission Case: Reid Racing Radiator: C&R Racing
Shifter: Precision Performance Products Rod Ends: FK
Flexplate & Starter: Meziere Fuel Tank: Rick’s Tanks
Torque Converter: ProTorque Exhaust Components: SPD
Overdrive: GearVendors Street Tires: Mickey Thompson
Driveshaft: Dynotech Engineering Alcohol: VP Race Fuels
Rearend: Strange Aluminum Pro Mod Safety Equipment: DJ Safety
Wheels: Weld Racing Data Logging/Instrumentation: Racepak
Wiring: Smart Wire Batteries: Optima
Race Shocks/Struts: Kinetic Engineering/Penske