Go to most cars shows and you’ll hear annoying overloud ’50s music pumping through a cheesy PA system, punctuated by the occasional rump of a “fairgrounds” motor that’s never seen the burnout box of a dragstrip. And while a Goodguys show certainly has its share of lounge chairs, colorful brag plaques, and Cabbage Patch dolls Velcro’d to the front of chrome grilles, you’ll find something not found at any other car show: the sound of tortured tires and engines at redline.

As I made my way through the encampment of trailers and easy-ups that sprang up over night in the vast parking lot of LP Field—home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans—I followed the acrid odor of tire smoke like a homing beacon. The PHR Street Machine Autocross at the Goodguys 7th Nashville Nationals (held May 18 - 20) was largely hidden from the main show by Nashville’s famous Shelby Street pedestrian bridge—a natural vantage point from which incredulous non-showgoers could view the strange goings on of maniacal drivers sliding around cones in classic muscle machines. It was a special day for a bike ride if you lived in Nashville.

Approaching the huge knot of high-octane machinery, I noticed a lone ’72 ’Cuda hanging well back from the action, its driver sniffing out the window like a bear on the scent of honey. He looked undecided: that honey would taste good, but those bees might sting. Knowing how Mopars were traditionally under-represented at most autocross events, I decided to make a detour and have a chat with the E-Body owner. I proffered to the total stranger: “You know you can run the autocross for free if you’re attending the show, right?” He seemed unconvinced. I decided to bait the bear. “They almost never get any Mopars. I hear the announcer is a Mopar lover, and he sometimes gives a cash bounty to the first Mopar to run a lap. You oughta try it.” The guy rubbed his chin, as if seriously considering it. I waved goodbye.

There was indeed honey to be had on the tarmac at LP Field, and there were plenty of bears trying to get a taste. Whenever you talk about Nashville Goodguys, you’re going to have to tend with the biggest bear in the territory: Brian Finch, and his ’71 Camaro. Finch’s DSE-equipped F-body is so dominant in autocross competition, they made a rule just for him. Starting in 2012, if you win the Street Machine autocross class at any event, you automatically graduate to the Pro class. Finch won Nashville handily with a best lap of 33.979, while his DSE stablemate—Ryan Mathews in DSE’s new ’66 Mustang test vehicle—landed the top spot in the Pro category with a 33.970. It was the first public debut for the DSE ’Stang, and it absolutely laid waste to the Pro field. If you’re a serious Ford guy, you’ll be wringing your hands in anticipation of DSE’s radically improved setup for first-gen Mustangs. Look for the exclusive reveal of these race-tested bolt-on parts right here in PHR.

As for the Mopars, RPM’s Curt Ukasik made the maiden voyage in the Goodguys Missile ’71 Challenger—the 2012 Goodguys giveaway car. Call it a baptism by fire. Ukasik wheeled the 392 Gen III Hemi six-speed Mope around the course—forgive us—like a bear with a bee sting. Midway through the first lap, mechanical problems brought him to a stop. Some quick repairs got it back on track later on for a best lap of 38.881. And as for that ’72 Cuda? He must’ve gotten off the fence; the lone ’Cuda ran the slowest timed lap of the event with a 53.481. On the bright side, it was the third fastest Mopar (second fastest if you don’t count the AMC) in all of Nashville. If he plays it right, he’ll have bragging rights, and the honey that goes with it.