The heat topped 100 degrees well before noon on Saturday, July 7—just ask anybody there and they’ll tell you it was definitely not a “dry” heat. To those local car nuts who missed being at the Ohio Expo Center & State Fairgrounds for the Goodguys 15th PPG Nationals, the elevated mercury was a convenient excuse to stay at home. Too bad for them; the resulting low attendance made for a wide-open venue that rewarded those who did brave the tarmac. The Pro Touring proponents who lined up to challenge the short yet tricky autocross circuit quickly found out that the record-breaking heat was more of an inconvenience than a hindrance to performance. No heat-related mechanical failures were seen on the Street Machine autocross, and the elevated temperature only seemed to accelerate the deposit of grippy rubber over the course.

At stake was a nicely embroidered Popular Hot Rodding jacket—the irony of which did not escape those who faced the scorching 151-degree asphalt. Perhaps we should’ve put up for grabs a couple of tickets to the local water park—at least we might’ve gotten a Mopar or two to partake. Unlike the other four PHR Street Machine Autocross events this year (Del Mar, Texas, Nashville, and Scottsdale this November, in which the fastest qualifiers in each are the automatic winners), the Columbus event has a run-off elimination for the four fastest cars—those being the ’63 Corvette of Mark Rife, the ’70 Camaro of Josh Leisinger, the ’66 Mustang of Kenny Edwards Sr., and the ’72 Corvette of Danny Popp.

Popp showed handily why he is considered the best in the biz when he “popped” off a best lap of 33.757 seconds during time trials. That performance later translated into a win during the four-car elimination run-off. Speaking of lap times, we’ve been asked if the autocross length is consistent from track to track, the same way a quarter-mile dragstrip is. While it would be nice to be able to compare performances at one venue to those at another, each autocross is different due to terrain and space constraints, so lap times can only be compared to lap times at the same course.

The PHR Street Machine autocross, however, was not the only autocross action happening at Columbus Goodguys on the weekend of July 6-8. The Street Machine of the Year (SMOTY) competition was also underway, and this competition requires all cars up for the award to be driven through the course at a pace of the car-owner’s choosing. The lap times of these cars are recorded, but do not enter into the scoring equation for the competition; their participation is only meant to prove that the cars are performance worthy. Nevertheless, the fastest car through the course for the SMOTY competition was the “Producer” Mustang, a ’66 fastback built by Ringbrothers and owned by Gary Bauers. The Ringbrothers Mustang ran the course in 35.579 seconds, and also outright won the SMOTY competition. Look for a feature on this magnificent car in the near future.