For decades, autocrossing was the domain of geeky car nerds with underpowered imports. Real men drag raced, or sometimes road raced—if they had that kind of money. Then something funny happened: as production car handling got better, a gap emerged between muscle cars of yore and even the most pedestrian of commuters. Inevitably, that gap became so enormous it begged the question: Are muscle cars damned to the same fate as prewar restorations, coming out into the light of day only for the occasional Shriner’s parade?

Somewhere along the path to perpetual lawn chairdom, a big bunch of us decided collectively that we still wanted to drive our cars. Check that—I mean beat the holy crap out of ’em. Suddenly, those weenie import guys seemed to be onto something with their autocrossing. Now we’re playing catch-up, and the Goodguys Rod & Custom Association is helping us do just that with their autocross events that they hold in conjunction with most of their car shows.

About four years ago, Goodguys began holding autocrosses at selected events, testing the waters to see if hot rodders would bite. They sure did, and not only that, it created a huge throng of spectators—something nobody expected. Once again in 2011, Goodguys is holding autocross events at all venues large enough to hold them (that’s most of them right now). We’re proud to say that Popular Hot Rodding has joined forces with Goodguys to sponsor five of those, and we’ll be giving away a custom embroidered winner’s jacket to the street machine pilot with the fastest lap time at each of those events.

As popular as the Goodguys autocross has become, it’s still a work in progress. As spectators become participants and participants become aware of their cars’ shortcomings, there is a steep learning curve. Those 15-inch bias-ply tires, drum brakes, and tiny (or no) sway bars were fine back in 1969, but they really stink when you’re carving cones. Likewise, as manufacturers discover—then join—the Goodguys autocross, they become more aware of new product opportunities, and areas that they could improve upon. If you’re getting the idea that this is all hugely fun with guys trading stories, competing, and learning cool tricks and tips from manufacturers and car builders, you’d be right.

The cool thing about autocrossing is that it gives guys a taste of real speed and handling in a competitive environment without the risk associated with driving on a full-on road course. Lap times are short—usually well under a minute—which means tires, brakes, and engines are seldom at risk, even in the least prepared cars. The worst that can happen is hitting a cone—in which case your ego is hurt, and you suffer a 1-second penalty to your lap time.

The first PHR-sponsored Goodguys Autocross took place at the Spring Lonestar Nationals in Dallas, held March 18-20. When the dust settled, Brian Finch of Hermitage, Tennessee, won the jacket, with a best lap time of 39.557 from his LS3-equipped ’71 Camaro. Congratulations to Brian, who now has a target on his back going into the next PHR Autocross at Nashville on May 20-22. See you then!

“Somewhere along the path to perpetual lawn chairdom, a big bunch of us decided collectively that we still wanted to drive our cars.”