Rewind: Be-Grudge – WCHRA big and small tire classes brought intensity and fun to the Four-Wide Nats in Vegas

This story originally ran in April 2018

Drag racing has always been a sport of movement. From the very beginnings of standing quarter-mile competition, people have devised different ways to traverse the drag strip. The trend continues today, and one of the hottest segments in the sport is grudge racing. Unlike class racing where records are prized and everyone’s performance is out in the open to see, grudge racing is a different scene.

Times are not shown on the scoreboards, engine combinations are often kept secret or even made to be misleading, and the one thing that speaks louder than all else is cash. Grudge racing is not as much about the trophy as it is about the hustle, and with shows like the Discovery Channel’s Street Outlaws continuing to grab millions of viewers a week, more and more people are finding the grudge scene and exploring it.

Grudge racing is not street racing. Grudge racing is not no-prep racing. Grudge racing is the most pure form of drag racing that exists today and harks back to the early days of the sport. The only things that matter are a green light and a win light. That’s it. It’s gritty, it’s fun, and it is very different than the world of national event style competition.

That being said, the NHRA is paying attention and for the second time in the western states, grudge racers took to the stage at an NHRA national event. This time it was the Denso Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. Cars from the big and small tire categories of the West Coast Hot Rod Association took to the track in a four-wide format for bragging rights, some self-raised cash, and a cool one-off Wally style trophy to signify their accomplishments in the exhibition.

Why the heck would NHRA do this? The logic seems simple to us. These are racers that fans would otherwise never get to see. These are racers who compete at the track where the national event is being held. These are racers that could help support the track by drawing more fans back to see different events outside of the nationals. These are also racers who have their own following. It’s a huge win for an organization that has been accused of tone-deafness before, and it is a huge win for the racers who get to have some fun and show off in front of a crowd that they otherwise would not be able to compete in front of.

By all accounts, the event was a smashing success with the racers getting a once in a lifetime shot to run grudge style four-wide and the fans seeing cars and craziness that they had never seen before. The NHRA will reportedly continue this exhibition series throughout the season, and there’s some more no-time action planned in Charlotte as well as some of the stars of the No-Prep world scheduled to compete in Houston. The program seems to be gaining steam as time goes on.

The commitment shown by Danny and Rachelle Topol of the West Coast Hot Rod Association was awesome. Racers traveled from California, Nevada, Montana, and Idaho to compete.

In the small tire category, Ryan “Toaster” Jones took the victory in his single turbo 400ci LSx-powered Nova besting three other competitors in the final.

In the big tire category, Giuseppe Gentile, driving a twin turbocharged Big Block Ford-powered Mustang, grabbed the top honors. Gentile was piloting the car that is owned by Bob Remillard.

Here’s more of the story in photos and captions:

Las Vegas four wide Grudge 1
To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time in modern drag racing history that there have been grudge cars run four wide. The contest was held on Friday. This is a photo from the first shakedown pass on Friday morning.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 2
Steve Kuhls’ 1966 Chevelle is a fan favorite because of its mostly steel body and rumbling nitrous engine. Kuhls won an NHRA grudge exhibition last year at Sonoma in this car.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 3
Big tire competitors Troy Baugh and Kevin Crain wait in the staging lanes. Baugh’s car has a ProCharger-equipped 565ci big block Chevy while Crain’s has a centrifugal blower as well – but his is force feeding a Hemi.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 4
Las Vegas’s own Frank Yee was in competition with this wicked Mustang. Using a turbocharged modular Ford V8 engine, Yee was in it to win it and almost did.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 5
Ryan “Toaster” Jones has long been known in the western states as one of the baddest men on small tires. His reputation is well founded and truthful as he laid ‘em all out and took top honors in the small tire category.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 6
Victor Brum’s third-generation Camaro was an anomaly in the race as it has no power adder. There’s a tightly wound big block under the hood, and it carried Brum to the finals where he came up a little short.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 7
That’s what a big tire car looks like, and the back end of it is what everyone else saw in the big tire final as Giuseppe Gentile drove Bob Remillard’s car to a win. This car was destroyed in a wreck two years ago, and it got back to its winning ways shortly after being rebuilt.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 8
Here’s the action end of Kevin Crain’s Mustang. Fans love grudge cars because they look like, well, CARS!


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 9
From left to right this is Kevin Crain, Troy Baugh, Giuseppe Gentile, and Mary Baltzell lined up for a shakedown pass. With no time on the boards, it isn’t qualifying; it is just an opportunity for racers to tweak their setup before eliminations.


Las Vegas four wide Grudge 10
The vastness of the newly widened Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway was not intimidating or scary to these grudge racers. They put on an awesome show and exposed fans to a form of drag racing they may have never seen in person. Look for more of this from NHRA in the future.


2 thoughts on “Rewind: Be-Grudge – WCHRA big and small tire classes brought intensity and fun to the Four-Wide Nats in Vegas

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  1. Thank you for the article Danny and I started planning this as soon as we started construction on the 4 wide. I presented it to NHRA and they agreed and Danny went full throttle setting it all in play. Once again great artical on a great group of racers!

  2. It was a blast, Vic and I always want to support these racing events in order to keep racing going. we really had no business racing with those other cars with their blowers and nitrous motors, but we were able to give them a little something . We went around 4 cars to the finals! So while we came in 4th In a way we still feel like we won . And who gets to go to 4 Wide school to learn to stage? Me! 😊. Thanks again Danny and Rachael your the best , it will not be forgotten anytime soon!

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