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Shawn Calabrese enjoys family, friends, and fierce competition in the Chevrolet Performance Stock class

Posted By: Steve Baur
Written By Steve Baur
Photography by Kevin DiOssi

 
Since the first LSX Shootout in Memphis, Tennessee, Shawn Calabrese, and his father, Tom, actively participated in the LSX racing game. From then on, this duo almost always races together, which makes the trials and triumphs of racing all the more enjoyable.
 
The younger Calabrese began in the 5th-Gen Camaro Challenge and Proform Rumble categories behind the wheel of his father’s Camaro, before progressing into LME Street King and MagnaFuel Open Comp with his own Pontiac Firehawk. Eventually, the allure of competing in the heads-up Chevrolet Performance Stock class was just too tempting to resist.
 

The former pro motocross racer and current construction senior superintendent contemplated his options, as his Firehawk was already a 10-second machine. He would still have to swap out the engine for the sealed Chevrolet Performance DR525 engine required for the class and its chassis was only suited for street duty. Ultimately, he ended up buying a car that was already built for the class.
 
“I talked to Daren [Poole-Adams] when he brought it out,” Calabrese said of his meeting Poole-Adams at the 2016 NMRA/NMCA All-Star Nationals at Atlanta Dragway. Poole-Adams built a Fourth-Generation Pontiac Firebird for the class but hadn’t raced it very much. “I ran into him at the PRI Show and told him I’d be interested in buying it.”
 
By the following summer, the pair struck a deal and Calabrese brought the car home to Florida. 
 
“He sold it to me for a smoking deal with a promise not to flip,” Calabrese told us. “I couldn’t have gotten into the class otherwise.”
 

Having purchased the car toward the end of the 2017 NMCA season, Calabrese’s first race in it was at the World Cup Finals: Domestic vs. Import race in Maryland, an event where many an NMCA and NMRA racer compete in what is often the last racing opportunity of the year. While he qualified for the 32-car field, Calabrese, unfortunately, went out of competition in the first round.
 
Going into his first full season of Chevrolet Performance Stock with the Firebird, Calabrese decided to swap out the automatic for a G-Force Racing Transmissions G101-A manual, which was something only one other competitor attempted.
 
Calabrese employed noted NMCA Xtreme Street racer Eric Kenward and his shop, Eric’s Automotive in Vero Beach, Florida, to make the necessary changes. As the project was still underway when the 2018 season began, Calabrese missed the first race but made his class debut at the second race held at Atlanta Dragway.
 
“We tried it out for three races, but kept breaking output shafts,” Calabrese explained of his brief experience running the manual transmission. “I wish I could have gotten a similar clutch to what Nate Stymiest is running. Mine just shocked the transmission and broke it rather than slipping.”
 

With work keeping him busy most hours of the day, Calabrese had little-to-no time to test between events to work the bugs out and optimize the combination, so he decided the best road was to switch back to an automatic transmission.
 
“The first CPS season was an eye-opener; a little tougher than I thought it was going to be,” Calabrese said of his 2018 venture into the Chevrolet Performance Stock realm. “It’s a different cup of tea than running Open Comp and Street King. In heads-up, it’s mostly the car. I went into it not knowing much about [torque] converters and slippage.”
 
With the automatic back in the car, Calabrese proved to be consistent, though the tough level of competition saw Calabrese regularly qualifying in the lower half of the field and going out first round in his few years in the class. That would eventually change, however, and in 2020 at the inaugural NMRA/NMCA Power Festival at US 131 Motorsports Park in Martin, Michigan, Calabrese not only got out of the first round, but he won every round and eventually, the race.
 
“It was surreal,” he recalled. “We almost didn’t go because of the weather, but I had put a lot of testing in and thought I had finally got something. It was the first race with the new Performance transmission. At the St. Louis race, Ronnie Hackelton steered me toward Proformance, and Coan is doing the converters for me. We still qualified last, but I treed everyone during qualifying. The first round was my first-round win in the class. Getting that win with my dad there was special. With the year of Covid, I was so stoked and just drove 18 hours straight home!”
 

After the 2020 finals in Indy, Calabrese dropped his Firebird off at fellow LSX competitor Kurt Anderson’s Autokraft Race Cars and Restoration in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, for a few updates/upgrades.
 
“I met Kurt at the second LS fest,” Calabrese said. “He got me fine-tuned and taught me how to run Open Comp. Once I started running the series, he started running the whole series as well.”
 
Anderson built a new cold-air intake, swapped in a new 9-inch rearend, and worked to get weight out of the car so Calabrese could drop more weight at the World Cup events, and move weight around for CPS competition. “He changed a lot over to chrome-moly, and swapped in the Midwest chassis front subframe.”
 

Beginning in 2020 and continuing the trend in 2021, the class elapsed times became tighter and tighter among competitors, and the changes Calabrese made not only kept him up to speed but also improved his performance in eliminations in 2021.
 
There’s no denying that competing in the Chevrolet Performance Stock presented by Scoggin Dickey Parts Center class was an uphill battle, but for Calabrese, the experience is much more than the competition itself, as he’s surrounded by racers that have become friends as well.
 
“I just pulled up next to Kevin [Lumsden] at Indy in 2016-17, and we just hit it off,” Calabrese told us. “We were both running Firehawks. The three of us just started pitting together after that. We get to work on our hot rods together, have some beers in the pits, and our wives all get along well.”
 

His father, Tom, is usually with him as well and he also competes in TorqStorm Superchargers True Street and Proform Rumble. More recently, Calabrese’s wife, Amy, has spent more time at the races as well.
 
“Amy has been coming since she’s been on maternity leave from work with our 4-month old, Declan,” said Calabrese, whose older son Nicholas visited every NMCA track, and also to the World Cup event. 
 
“It’s coming full circle, starting with my dad, and now I’ve got my 4-year-old and 4-month-old traveling with the family,” Calabrese told us. “We’re going to take Nicholas to the Frank Hawley Drag Racing Junior Dragster program in February to see how he does.” 
 

Looking toward 2022, Calabrese is focused on testing in the off-season.
 
“I was so happy I got the win last year. I have no major overhaul plans this winter, so I’m going to concentrate on testing and trying new converter things,” Calabrese said. “Having this winter weather in Florida is a blessing. The last couple of winters, the car has been apart. You need to put in the dedication. I didn’t realize how much those guys go through.”
 

The Details

Owner/Driver
Owner/Driver: Shawn Calabrese
Hometown: Orlando, Florida
Occupation: Construction Senior Superintendent
Class: Chevrolet Performance Stock presented by Scoggin-Dickey Parts Center
Crew: Wife Amy, sons Declan and Nicholas, Mom and Dad, Kurt Anderson, and Kevin Lumsden
 
Powertrain
Engine: DR 525 sealed crate engine, Gen IV V-8
Engine builder: Chevrolet Performance
Displacement: 376 cubic inches
Block: LS3 (P/N 12623967): Cast aluminum with six-bolt, cross-bolted main caps
Bore: 4.065-inch (103.25 mm)
Stroke: 3.622-inch (92mm)
Crank: Nodular iron (P/N 12685659)
Rods: Powdered metal (P/N 12607475)
Pistons: Hypereutectic aluminum (P/N 19207287)
Cylinder heads: Aluminum L92-style port; “as cast” with 68-cc chambers, 2.165 intake / 1.590 exhaust valves (P/N 12629063)
Valvetrain: Chevrolet Performance hydraulic roller
Camshaft—Brand: Chevrolet Performance (P/N 88958770)   Type: Hydraulic roller Specs: Duration: 226-degree intake / 236-degree exhaust, Valve Lift: .525-inch intake/.525-inch exhaust
Carburetor or EFI system: Factory EFI, RacePak V300
Power-adder: n/a
Fuel brand and type: VP Racing Fuels C10
Spark plug brand: NGK
Headers and exhaust: American Racing
Transmission: Turbo 400
Transmission Builder: Performance Transmission
Clutch/shifter/torque converter: Coan torque converter
Rearend: TRZ Fab 9-inch
Differential: Strange Engineering
 
Chassis
Body and/or chassis builder: Autokraft Race Cars & Restoration, EKR Racing, LS1 Excitement 
Suspension (Front): Midwest Chassis K-member, AFCO shocks, BMR control arms
Suspension (Rear): Afco shocks, TRZ torque arm and control arms
Brakes (Front) Brand: Strange Disc/Drum: Disc
Brakes (Rear) Brand: Strange Disc/Drum: Disc
Wheels (front) Brand: RC Components Size: 17-inch 
Wheels (Rear) Brand: RC Components Size: 15x10-inch
Tires (Front) Brand: Mickey Thompson Size: 17x4-inch
Tires (Rear) Brand: Mickey Thompson Size: 30x10-inch
Body modifications: Hood and air scoop
Fiberglass/Carbon body components: VFN hood
Safety equipment: RJS harness and net
Estimated or verified engine horsepower and torque: 525 horsepower (Factory rated)
Vehicle weight: 2,620 pounds
Quickest et: 9.91 seconds
Best 60-foot: 1.26 seconds (CPS trim)
Fastest mph: 132 (CPS trim)
 
 

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