Some of the racers that attend the Street Car Takeover come to compete, and they come to compete fiercely. Some of the classes involved pay out big money, but the racers don’t get upset. Of course, anytime you get street racers together there’s bound to be some smack talk, but for the most part, the Street Car Takeover events promote the thing that we all want, a place to get together with like-minded people and have fun with cars. “I think that’s why people love coming to our events, everyone’s out there having fun,” says Justin Keith, co-owner of Street Car Takeover. “Everyone comes back, they’re in the pits laughing and just hanging out. It’s just a very laid back environment at our events.”
Kansas City Car Roots
Street Car Takeover started as a car show put on by local street racer and drag racer (and owner of one of the baddest ass C7 Corvettes on the road) Justin Keith as KC2K13, a car show in the parking lot of the Blue Springs Side Pockets. KC2K13 drew a large crowd and the service writer from Cable-Dahmer went on with his life and work. “I got a call later on in the year from Kyle and Chase (Kyle Loftis and Chase Lautenbach of 1320Video) and they asked me, ‘How would you like to do something like the show you did, but around the country?’” Keith says. His first thought went to his job, a 60 hour a week position that left little time to put on car shows throughout the country, but he agreed to go to Omaha to meet with Loftis and Lautenbach to discuss the idea further, but their idea had a twist. Instead of just organizing car shows (sometimes called meet ups for Street Car Takeover events) around the country, they wanted to do a car show on Friday (free of charge) and have a drag race on Saturday. This would become the format for the Street Car Takeover.The three met in Omaha and came to the conclusion that Keith and Lautenbach would handle the event and Loftis and 1320Video would cover it. Much like 1320Video, Street Car Takeover began as a fun thing for a couple of serious street car guys to do. “We never thought it would turn into a full-time gig for either of us,” Keith says. “We were basically like, well it would be cool to put on an event, we could participate in it and it would cover all of our expenses to go have fun. That’s how it started.”Street Car Takeover represents today’s and the past’s, street car culture essence. While it does have classes for purpose built race cars, for the most part it’s for the person that drives the same car to work that they run down the track. If you love cars, love racing, but aren’t a millionaire or backed by a large corporation, you’ll love Street Car Takeover.
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2014 saw Street Car Takeover put on five events, one of which was a solicited partnership with an existing event. The events went so well that Keith and Lautenbach realized that Street Car Takeover had the potential to become something bigger than originally planned. Rather than five or six events a year, Street Car Takeover could go nationwide with three times the number of events the two put on in 2014. The initial events also brought another much need ingredient to the recipe for Street Car Takeover success.Aftermarket companies took notice of the numbers that the events were taking in and wanted to partner with Keith and Lautenbach. “We ended up getting a ton of big sponsors like Nitrous Outlet,” Keith says. “They contacted us and wanted to be our title sponsor.” The two owners gave Nitrous Outlet a number and the company agreed, just like that. It was the moment that solidified Keith’s and Lautenbach’s notion that Street Car Takeover’s huge potential was in fact, real. With the addition of more large-name sponsors, supplemental sponsorship from throughout the racing and aftermarket community and the partnership with 1320Video, there was no limit to what Street Car Takeover could achieve in the years to come. Keith and Lautenbach stood at a crossroads with the event at the beginning of 2015, continue Street Car Takeover as a fun thing to do four or five times a year, or roll the dice and work to grow it into something bigger than they had originally imagined.
Full Time Fun
For Keith, the turning point came at the St. Louis event in 2015. Five thousand people showed up for the event and almost 3000 paid to get into the track event on Saturday. For the first time Street Car Takeover made Keith and Lautenbach a sizeable profit, nobody complained, the racing went well and everyone at the track was happy. “At that point I told Chase, ‘I’m quitting my job.’ And I did. I quit my job two weeks later,” Keith says. Quitting his service writer position at Cable-Dahmer Chevrolet came out of necessity for Keith. He had worked there for eight years, had a long list of customers and was busy from bell to bell all day. To stop during work hours to attend to Street Car Takeover was not an option. “It was just impossible,” he says. “I can do so much more with the events now; I can concentrate full-time on it.”For 2016 Street Car Takeover has planned 15 events all over the country and tracks and cities continue to contact them wanting the event brought in. “It’s more important to Chase and I that we have 15 solid events rather than just 30 events all over the country,” Keith says. “We want to make sure we get our formula down, and down well, before we add anything more than what we’re doing right now.” While Keith and Lautenbach get help at the events, Street Car Takeover remains for the most part a two man show. To add more events to the schedule without any full-time employees would stretch the two thinner than they are already. At this point, they’re at capacity until the funds for full-time employees to travel open up.
Worth the Price of Admission
Twenty dollars a head might seem like a lot to pay to get into a street car event, but that price often offers up to 12 hours of both roll-racing and drag racing, burnout contests, a car show and more. “This year we’re going to have a mobile dyno at pretty much every track, so people can watch that too,” Keith says. The diversity of cars at the event makes it unique, as well. Have you ever been to a drag racing event where you saw an exotic, say a Lamborghini or Nissan GTR race a tubbed out, tube chassis muscle car? You have a good chance of seeing that at Street Car Takeover. The track manager at this year’s Phoenix event told Keith that they were the only event that attracted the crowd and clientele that Street Car Takeover brings in. “That’s what’s cool about our events. You can pretty much see anything and everything.”
No-prep events definitely bring the big draws these days. Crashes and big payouts excite spectators and drivers, but Keith and Lautenbach made the decision to leave that to the no-prep promoters. While they did consider trying out a few no-prep events, it doesn’t fit in to what they are doing and what they want to accomplish. “A lot of the guys that come to our events don’t drag race every weekend,” Keith says. “They’re bringing out their $100,000 Corvettes and GTRs and stuff, they want a prepped surface and I understand that.” There’s also a logistical reason that Keith and Lautenbach decided not to jump on the no-prep bandwagon. “A lot of the big tracks that we go to, NHRA tracks, they don’t do no-prep events because it’s a huge liability,” he says. “A lot of their insurance companies don’t even allow it.”
Although the racing event takes place at a prepped track and has classes for both roll-racing and drag racing, Street Car Takeover tries to maintain a true street race feel to the event. “We don’t do qualifying and I pair up all of our racers,” Keith says. Once drivers for a class enter the staging lanes, they draw poker chips out of a bag and matching numbers race. The red chips get lane choice. From that point on it becomes a ladder and lane choice is decided by a coin flip. “It’s completely random,” Keith says. “We try to keep it as street race as possible, just like you watch on Street Outlaws, they do the exact same thing.” The racing is heads up, but the classes and rules help to keep it competitive.Anyone can race, but if you’re looking to compete for a payout, you should probably have an 11 second car, at least. “We try to have different classes that pretty much anyone fits in that at least runs an 11 second quarter mile or faster,” Keith adds. “I would say our biggest class is our 11 second index class because a lot of the cars that come to these events fit into that time range.” One of the funner classes at the event is the “street racer” class. Racers in this class must complete a 20 mile cruise before competition begins. It’s the main class of the event and represents the roots of Street Car Takeover. “It’s pretty cool to watch those guys go out and do a street cruise and then come back and bust off a seven second quarter time, knowing that they are a true street car,” Keith says.Roll-racing offers a few advantages to drivers. The main advantage in my opinion comes in the form of less stress on transmissions and less chassis fatigue. Having a high-power car revved up at a dead stop and letting everything loose at once puts stress on parts. A roll-race gives the car a cushion that doesn’t unleash the torque of a launch. Also, many fast cars might not be set up for drag racing, whether it’s a rear-end gearing or tire issue, but if they can get a rolling start, their inherent performance can shine. “It’s actually real simple and works surprisingly well,” Keith says.Keith dries up the water box and cleans everything up first and then backs the cars up as far as he can. Track officials then give him the go ahead. “The cars go through and actually start at the light,” he says. “Typically I’ll have two big flags on each side of the track that run parallel so it gives a good visual of the starting line to the drivers and they race all the way to the quarter mile line.” Races typically start between 30 and 40 MPH. After completing the race, drivers receive who won and their MPH from the timing booth. Keith says shut down room is not an issue due to the fact that a rolling start allows drivers to cover more ground quicker and less time to reach top speed. Trap speeds for roll-races are comparable to traditional drag race trap speeds, he adds.
The Street Car Takeover’s evolution doesn’t appear to be slowing down anytime soon. With big time sponsorship from aftermarket players like Nitrous Outlet, Pro Charger and Aeromotive already onboard, it’s just a matter of time before the national event becomes a place that sponsors flock to. They’re actually in the process of signing a deal with Edelbrock, one of the oldest and most notable names in aftermarket performance that dates back to hot rodding’s roots in California. But it’s not just the bigger names that Street Car Takeover looks for. “We also have Vasco Speed and Performance, they’re a local shop and that’s what we like, we like to support people like that,” Keith says. “We like to support shops that are trying to grow and trying to get their name out. It’s a great way for them to venture out and get seen by a lot of people at our events.”In addition, Keith and Lautenbach look to different avenues when it comes to the future growth of Street Car Takeover. Powerblock TV might be in the future for them at some point down the line. Street Car Takeover wants to rent out a city street and run all the classes that run at the current track events and televise them. “We want to give that racer a true street race that’s safe and sanctioned,” Keith says. It would include medics and a safety staff on-site, but would have the feel of a true street race, on the street. “We think that would be really cool. That’s one thing that we’re really trying to get done right now,” he says.For car enthusiasts who don’t like going to the drag strip, Street Car takeover wants to do an airstrip event in the future. If a car doesn’t get off the line good, or has a big top end speed that takes more than a quarter mile to get to, these events are perfect. Standing half-mile events and flying mile events that resemble the land-speed racing of Bonneville and the dry lakes. “We don’t want to compete with any of the other events because we are friends with a lot of the guys that do the runway events,” Keith says. “It would probably be us partnering up with another event that already does it. We got stuff like that in the works right now with a really big airstrip event.”At the time of this writing, Keith had already spoken with the City Council of Blue Springs where the Kansas City car show/meet up event is held. “We’re about ready to outgrow that location so we’re going to be looking for a bigger location to have the pre-meet at,” he says. “Those are the stressful things that happen on a daily basis. We’re outgrowing stuff that we’ve been going to and we’re needing to change locations, and have more insurance and everything else.” While Keith, Lautenbach and Street Car Takeover view growth as a great thing and very much love what they do, there are pains that come along with that growth. “We’re just trying to get through these humps and we’ll keep on chugging along,” he says.
With mechanics and bodymen on both sides of the family for multiple generations, it was inevitable that Bob ended up a car guy. A writer and editor by trade, the family man has an obsession for classics, customs, hot rods, street rods, racing, imports, muscle, antiques and anything else with an engine that rolls on rubber.