By Mary Lendzion
Photos by NMCA and courtesy of Steve Griswold
Steve Griswold had high hopes going into the 18th Annual NMCA World Street Finals presented by Chevrolet Performance and featuring the Chevrolet Performance Challenge Series last fall at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indiana.
He was definitely dialed in for the 8.50 index in LME Street King, and he had a chance at clinching the class championship, but his hopes of doing that were dashed in the first round of eliminations.
That’s when he turned on the red light, stayed in the throttle to see what his car could clock and went into the wall on the left when he took his foot off the gas pedal at a galloping 155 mph in his car which has independent rear suspension.
“The Z06 rear-end bound up and locked the left wheel, and the front left corner of my car went into the wall first, and then the whole left side of my car slapped against the wall,” said Griswold. “Thank God that I didn’t hit Ron Roberts, who was in the right lane.”
While Griswold was able to walk away from the wreck, he had several broken ribs, and his crew chief, Richard Brannen of Brannen’s Auto Works, and fellow racers, helped load his car into his trailer. He was too sore for several days to access the damage to his car, but when he and Brannen finally did, they were quick to dive into action, as Griswold decided that he didn’t want to be sidelined.
They removed everything they needed to remove from the car to take it to Eriksen Chevrolet in Illinois, not far from Griswold’s home, where the frame, which was compromised on impact, was straightened. Meanwhile, RPM Transmissions in Indiana overhauled his Z06 rear-end.
“My combination makes a lot of horsepower, and it was asking a lot from my Z06 rear-end that we had for a few years and had so many passes on,” said Griswold, who was grateful to fellow racers and fans who called to offer support.
Some suspension components under his car also took a beating, and Griswold and Brannen went with new driver’s side TRZ upper and lower control arms and a new spindle, and sent the driver’s side rear axle to the Driveshaft Shop to be repaired. Menscer Motorsports rebuilt his Afco shocks.
Griswold made several phone calls to secure replacements for the whole front nose of the car, as well as the front left fender, left door and left rear quarter panel.
“I sanded and smoothed them before Richard and I put them on the car,” said Griswold.
While Griswold’s 388 cubic-inch LS engine built on a cast iron block by Brannen and fronted by a ProCharger F2 was not damaged on impact, they decided to replace it with a new engine built by Brannen. It’s also a 388 cubic-inch LS engine, and it features a Concept Performance aluminum block purchased from Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center, a Callies crank, Cam Motion cam, Diamond pistons and Callies rods, and it’s topped with a custom aluminum intake from LME. Griswold’s go-to ProCharger F2 fronts the new engine as well.
They backed it with Griswold’s Powerglide by RPM Transmissions and converter by Neal Chance, installed an aluminum wing purchased from Carlyle Racing before welcoming Edwards Creative to the shop to lay on the car a fresh wrap boasting Clairco Racing.
“Our new engine is 100 pounds lighter than our old engine,” said Griswold, whose car rolls on Mickey Thompson slicks.
When the work was wrapped, Griswold and Brannen loaded the rebuilt car into the trailer and headed to a track rental at Orlando Speed World in Florida to begin the shakedown process in late February.
‘I made a partial pass to start, just to make sure everything felt good, and then I made an 8.24 at 167 mph pass with a mild tune-up, and that’s the quickest the car has ever been,” said Griswold. “The car was driving as straight as a string, and if we could have kept testing, we’re confident we would have broken the 8-second barrier.”
More than pleased with the progress, they headed over to the 18th Annual NMCA Muscle Car Mayhem presented by Holbrook Racing Engines in March at Bradenton Motorsports Park in Florida, where they pulled a little power from the tune for the 8.50 index in LME Street King. Griswold lit the board with an 8.55 to qualify in the fourth spot, and made it all the way to the final round of eliminations before arriving at the Aerospace Components Winner’s Circle in his rebuilt car with a better reaction time than his opponent and a lifting 8.62.
“I was so happy that believe it or not, I slept with the trophy next to me that night,” said Griswold, with a laugh. “After all of the work we did, the car has never felt better, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Now, Griswold has his sights set on securing his second win of the season at the upcoming Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center NMRA/NMCA Power Festival presented by HPJ Performance, May 28-31, at World Wide Technology Raceway in Madison, Illinois.