This is what happens when budget builds compete against cars more than 10 times their value | $2000 Challenge recap

By J.A. Ackley
Feb 21, 2023 | $2000 Challenge, Low-Buck Racing | Posted in Features | From the Feb. 2023 issue | Never miss an article

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

Can ingenuity, hard work and some horse trading beat out simply plopping down the Benjamins? 

This fall’s $2000 Challenge provided the platform to answer that question. For the first time in the event’s 20-plus-year history, it pitted two types of cars against each other: ones built to our traditional $2000 price cap and ones built without any budget constraints. 

The open end of the competition attracted many hi-po favorites: Corvettes, Porsches, a Viper and even a Tesla. Then add in a slew of Miatas, Civics and BMW 3 Series.

On the budget-conscious side, entries included a tricked-out Subaru microcar, a Nash Metropolitan, a couple of pickup trucks and, yes, more Mazda Miatas and BMWs–including a Miata powered by BMW.

When you view the competition solely based on the entry list of cars, it doesn’t seem like a fair fight. However, hardcore GRMers know that those in the pricy cars should take their penny-pinching competition seriously.

In both autocross and the drags, the over-budget cars did win overall.

But that’s only part of the story.

On the autocross course, a low-buck yet radically reimagined Subaru kei car ran a time that was within a tenth of the Tesla. Down the drag strip, a trio of high school girls finished third in an ex-cop car. 

Sure, the over-budget cars may have won overall, but the $2000 Challenge cars gave them a run for their money. For a more detailed look at what these low-budget warriors drove, read on.

1st: Nocones Garage, 1968 Subaru LMP360

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 46.193 sec.
Drag E.T.: 14.477 sec.
Concours Score: 22.00 pts. 
Budget Spent: $1973.62

Dan Cummings turned a discarded Subaru microcar–offered via the GRM forum–into his take on a modern prototype racer, complete with functioning aero. Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

Did Subaru ever wonder if one of its kei cars would become a low-budget prototype racer? You’d need a fairly wild imagination to think so–and Dan Cummings has one. 

This year he worked to take advantage of a readily available, no-cost performance enhancer: air. This included adding rear diffusers, a multi-element rear wing, a flat underbody, a front wing element and a long center fin. Most of those parts were built out of materials you can find at your local home improvement store: insulation, plywood and picket fencing. 

The additional aerodynamic elements certainly bolstered this creation’s performance, bumping it from sixth place last year to the $2000 Challenge winner. The car wasn’t done yet, either. Dan hopes to enter it in our Tire Rack Ultimate Track Car Challenge this coming October.

  • 1st in GTN$ ($250 Summit Racing gift card)
  • Challengers’ Choice ($500 Tire Rack gift card)
  • 1st in GTN$ Autocross ($500 Tire Rack gift card)
  • 1st in GTN$ Concours (CRC SmartWasher BenchtopPRO Kit from CRC Industries)
  • 2nd in GTN$ Drags ($200 Summit Racing gift card)

2nd: Wreck Racing, 2001 Chevrolet S-10

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 46.897 sec.
Drag E.T.: 14.310 sec.
Concours Score: 20.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1888.90

Better than studying? Georgia Tech’s team has been joining us since 2004, with this year’s mid-engine Chevy truck again showcasing the group’s usual creativity and innovation. Photography Credit: Dave Green

Georgia Tech, a cornerstone of the event since the team’s 2004 debut with a mildly modified VW Golf, didn’t bring any ordinary Chevrolet S-10. For starters, power came from a mid-mounted Acura V6. And then there was the rocker arm suspension, composite bodywork and constantly evolving aero. 

“We added electric power steering from a Toyota Prius, meaning we could chop the knuckles to gain quicker steering,” says the team’s president, Kyle Socha, of their latest modification. “The car handled much better this year than last.” The crew of students also added a supercharger they could bypass in less than 15 minutes. Consider them “most improved” since last year, when they placed 35th after their car broke during a pre-drag race burnout.

  • 1st in GTU$ ($250 Summit Racing gift card)
  • 2nd in GTU$ Concours ($100 Gas Card from CRC Industries)

3rd: Corses Historique, 1985 Chevrolet Corvette

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 48.233 sec.
Drag E.T.: 13.219 sec.
Concours Score: 20.25 pts.
Budget Spent: $1981.60

IMSA is bringing back its GTP moniker, previously used for the pinnacle of American endurance racing back in the ’80s. Longtime aerodynamicist Steve Stafford showed his low-buck take on the theme. Beneath his custom, swoopy bodywork sits C4 Corvette running gear. Photography Credit: Dave Green

Steve Stafford, who works as an aerodynamicist for an OEs motorsports department, loves playing around with bodies and honoring history. Last year, he dressed up this 1985 Chevrolet Corvette chassis as a 1923 Bugatti using industrial shrink wrap fitted around an aluminum skeleton. 

This year, Steve used foam and fiberglass to create a tribute to an ’80s IMSA GTP racer. “The shrink wrap was a little too flexible at speed,” Steve says. “This year, the bodywork was plenty stiff.” He also tweaked various areas of the body to improve aero, including the splitter, radiator exit, diffuser and rear wing. It seemed to work. He moved up from seventh overall to a podium finish.

  • 1st in GTU$ Drags ($250 Summit Racing gift card) 
  • 3rd in GTU$ Concours (case of assorted products from CRC Industries)

4th: Litty Kitties Racing, 2013 Ford Taurus

Class: GTW$
Autocross Time: 49.433 sec.
Drag E.T.: 12.469 sec.
Concours Score: 18.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $1734.78

Kaitlyn Ortengren is no stranger to the $2000 Challenge, as she’s been joining her dad and brother for years. This time, though, she assembled her own posse and revived a crashed police car. Photography Credit: Dave Green

What happens when you pair a trio of high school girls with a crashed police car? Performance, as shown by Kaitlyn Ortengren, Teresa Pearlman and Samantha Sentell. 

“Me, Teresa and Sam decided to make an all-girls team,” Kaitlyn says. “We thought it would be a great activity.” Previously, Kaitlyn’s dad and brother have entered the event.

The girls found an ex-police car that had been hit in a rear wheel. They repaired the damage–the flares and graphics hide some sins–and removed hundreds of pounds of unneeded police gear. The trio, wearing matching team shirts, performed well, especially on the drag strip, where they earned top time among the $2000 Challenge participants.

  • 1st in GTW$ ($250 Summit Racing gift card)
  • 1st in GTW$ Drags ($250 Summit Racing gift card)
  • 1st in GTW$ Concours (CRC SmartWasher BenchtopPRO Kit from CRC Industries)
  • 2nd in GTW$ Autocross (CRC SmartWasher BenchtopPRO Kit from CRC Industries)

5th: 3Face Racing, 1986 Porsche RX-44

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 47.224 sec.
Drag E.T.: 14.914 sec.
Concours Score: 16.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1901.17

Photography Credit: David S. Wallens

The mashup of a Porsche 944 with an RX-7 may seem a bit weird, but there’s logic behind it. “It’s a Wankel engine, invented by a German guy,” says the team’s David Brown. “So it’s a German car with a German engine. People always make fun of the RX-7, saying it copied from the 944.” To help increase breast cancer awareness, the team painted the intake manifold pink.

6th: Cutcliffe Racing, 2003 BMW 325xi

Class: GTW$
Autocross Time: 47.990 sec.
Drag E.T.: 14.440 sec.
Concours Score: 15.25 pts.
Budget Spent: $1954.99

Photography Credit: Dave Green

“The guy who built it bought it from Copart rolled, so I think he was cutting off all the pieces that were dented,” reasons Robbie Cutcliffe, a longtime $2000 Challenge entrant. “I bought it about 10 days [before the event].” Robbie enjoyed the performance of the car: “It’s light. It’s fun. It’s fast.”

  • 1st in GTW$ Autocross ($500 Tire Rack gift card)
  • 2nd in GTW$ Drags ($200 Summit Racing gift card)
  • 3rd in GTW$ Concours (case of assorted products from CRC Industries)

7th: The Blockbusters, 1986 Pontiac Fiero

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 49.175 sec.
Drag E.T.: 14.154 sec.
Concours Score: 16.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1891.70

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Put together a group of engineer coworkers from Schaeffler, the bearing giant, and this is what you get. After a 10th-place finish last year, they went back
to the drawing board for improvements. 

“We wanted a little more power and we wanted to handle a little better,” Zachary Gnabah says. To upgrade the handling, they went with the rear suspension off a 1988 Fiero. “The problem is it was one year only,” he explains. “We found a cradle too rusted to use and manufactured our own.” 

To shed pounds, they removed the sunroof and replaced the stock gas tank with a front-mounted cell. Lastly, they added some zing with a new camshaft in the 3.4-liter L32 engine.

  • 1st in GTN$ Autocross ($250 Summit Racing gift card)
  • 2nd in GTN$ Concours ($100 Gas Card from CRC Industries)
  • 3rd in GTN$ Autocross ($100 Lamin-X gift certificate)

8th: Basura Blanco Racing, 2003 Toyota MR2 Spyde

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 46.660 sec.
Drag E.T.: 14.675 sec.
Concours Score: 12.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $1892.23

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Despite the lack of bodywork, this MR2 still carries a license plate and gets driven on the street–and Andy Surprenant continues to evolve it. The two-seat Toyota debuted three years ago while still wearing its original bodywork. It showed up naked the next year. 

This year’s big upgrade was a new engine, a Toyota 2ZZ as originally found in the Toyota Celica GT-S, Pontiac Vibe and Lotus Elise. The change seemed to work, moving him from 11th last year to 8th place.

  • 1st in GTU$ Autocross ($500 Tire Rack gift card)

9th: McSpool Garage, 1999 Mazda Miata

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 50.952 sec.
Drag E.T.: 16.281 sec.
Concours Score: 19.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1765.02

Photography Credit: Dave Green

“It has a BMW M54 with a single turbo, with a full BMW driveline running on E85,” Mikey Hoffstetter says of his WWII-themed Miata. To make room, he put the radiator in the trunk. “There was a lot of trial and error in figuring out how to make it run. The ECU and wiring harness is very custom.” But there is a bright side to using the M54. “A lot of BMWs have this engine,” Mikey adds, “so it’s easy to find, with a lot of tuning and support for it.”

10th: Trigonia Racing: 1996 BMW E36

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 51.467 sec.
Drag E.T.: 13.312 sec.
Concours Score: 16.25 pts.
Budget Spent: $1400.00

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Sure, it may not win on looks, but it’s chock full of ingenuity: a 4.8-liter LS out of a Chevy Express van plus a Turbo 400 found in a friend’s attic. The creation weighed only 2300 pounds, with driver, and has close to a 50/50 weight distribution. “This car was purposely made as disgusting as possible to prove a point that it doesn’t have to look nice to work well,” says builder Dale Wagner.

  • 2nd in GTU$ Drags ($200 Summit Racing gift card)

11th: Cedarville Racing, 1957 Nash Metropolitan

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 52.992 sec.
Drag E.T.: 16.741 sec.
Concours Score: 22.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1996.11

Photography Credit: J.A. Ackley

From prop to top spot? That’s what the students at Cedarville University hoped to do with this car. 

The Nash body, once used as a prop for “Greased Lightnin’” in a high school production, was found abandoned in a field. The team put a custom tube chassis underneath it, stuck a Honda D-series engine in the middle, and mounted a Honda Civic front suspension in the rear while designing a new setup for the front. The team, made up of engineering students, documented every step. 

Jay Kinsinger, associate professor and lead for the project, admits the group may have not been ready for last year’s debut, as evidenced by an alternator that broke loose. So the team meticulously went over the car, added a roll cage and installed a turbo.

  • 1st in GTU$ Concours (CRC SmartWasher BenchtopPRO Kit from CRC Industries)

12th: Iron Oxide, 1970 Pontiac Firebird Esprit

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 50.981 sec.
Drag E.T.: 13.849 sec.
Concours Score: 16.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $1810.34

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Jonathan Breidenbach bought this Firebird for $800 so he could grab the front sheet metal for another project, deeming the rest of the car too rusty to save–until he decided to enter it in the $2000 Challenge. 

Another Firebird, this one just $50, donated a nose good enough to reconstitute the chassis. The paint and filler were stripped, and the bare sheet metal was topped with matte clear to prevent any more rust. 

“There are not a lot of these early muscle cars running these types of events,” Jonathan says, referring to autocross. “We put some stiff springs in it and wide, sticky tires. I wouldn’t say it’s optimal. It’s a little too heavy, a little too rudimentary, but it’s got good power.” The power showed well on the drag strip, and the car’s autocross time was certainly respectable.

  • 3rd in GTU$ Drags ($50 Summit Racing gift card)

13th: Hogtown Speed Shop, 2005 Volkswagen GTI

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 48.798 sec.
Drag E.T.: 15.199 sec.
Concours Score: 14.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1379.29

Photography Credit: Dave Green

“We rescued this car from a stance life and turned it into a proper track car,” explains Tucker Ryals. “The wheels were at absurd angles, and it bounced down the highway. We bought it for $1900, mainly because it was on jack stands. When we bought it, it had no wheels. It was somebody who needed money fast, and the first thing they sold was the wheels.” This rescue ran well, finishing third in its class.

  • 2nd in GTN$ Autocross (Trakkrats Stringstick)
  • 3rd in GTN$ Drags ($50 Summit Racing gift car)
  • 3rd in GTN$ Concours (case of assorted products from CRC Industries)

14th: Dollar General Lee, 2000 Honda Insight

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 49.402 sec.
Drag E.T.: 15.202 sec.
Concours Score: 14.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1846.90

Photography Credit: Dave Green

You can K-swap anything, right? That was the thinking behind this Honda Insight.

For the car’s 2022 appearance, Tyler Elfers made three changes. First, he swapped the off-the-shelf engine mounts for self-fabricated ones to save money and replenish the budget. Second, his team attempted to add a turbo. “We couldn’t get the ECU to add the additional fuel,” Tyler explains, “so we effectively had a fancy exhaust system and a ‘naturally aspirated turbo.’” Lastly, his crew installed a limited-slip differential.

15th: Maroon Racing, 2004 BMW 325i

Class: GTU$
Autocross Time: 47.929 sec.
Drag E.T.: 15.802 sec.
Concours Score: 12.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1916.48

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Maroon Racing’s David Brown is on a quest to get more people involved in motorsports. That includes folks like his brother, Mel. “His first-ever track event was a Lemons race–no autocross, no karting, no rallycross, no track days. We just strapped him in and sent him out on track with over 100 cars,” David says. “The Challenge was only his third event.” 

David initially bought this car for another purpose: “To fix a wagon that my son wrecked,” he explains. “I got it really cheap, but I ended up getting the pieces to fix [the wagon] separately, so the car sat for four years.”

16th: York Sports Car, 2001 Acura Integra GS-R

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 49.547 sec.
Drag E.T.: 15.584 sec.
Concours Score: 11.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $911.51

Photography Credit: Dave Green

“It runs,” Blair Warner says of his Acura. “That’s 90% of it.”

The car he intended to bring wasn’t completed in time. “We threw this on the trailer, came down and threw some stuff at it in the hotel parking lot,” Blair explains. “It’s my daily and it works. I drive it 40 miles a day. We put on shocks, springs and sway bar end links on the front and a big rear sway bar.”

  • 1st under $1000 (Trophy and $250 GRM store gift card)

17th: PLB-MR2, 1986 Toyota MR2

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 52.615 sec.
Drag E.T.: 17.286 sec.
Concours Score: 14.33 pts.
Budget Spent: $1960.00

Photography Credit: Chris Tropea

Everybody deserves a second chance, right? That applies to parking lot builds, too. 

In 2018, this team arrived at the $2000 Challenge host hotel with an MR2, its engine blown and a supercharged replacement at the ready. “It ran like crap,” admits Chris Nonack. “We didn’t have any of the right supercharger accessories or wiring.” 

The MR2 returned this year, untouched since the previous run, and the team again got back to work in the parking lot. They found a new engine harness, a proper fuel pump and the necessary supercharger accessories. A pickup truck in the paddock kept the MR2’s lawn mower battery charged. 

“The fact I got to do competition runs and place rather than barely getting it to run was very satisfying,” Chris says.

18th: Maroon Racing, 2001 BMW 330Ci

Class: GTW$
Autocross Time: 50.338 sec.
Drag E.T.: 16.944 sec.
Concours Score: 10.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $977.17

Photography Credit: Dave Green

What car offers plenty of performance and costs little to prepare? That’s the question Maroon Racing asked when trying to find a suitable vehicle for attracting newbies to the sport. Their answer? The E46-chassis BMW. 

When the team hosted its own track day this past fall, in fact, they put newcomers in E46 BMWs. Dwayne Hutchinson left that event hooked. “After the track day, he started looking for cars,” the team’s David Brown reports. “He bought this car last week.”

19th: Team LoPrep, 1994 Acura Integra LS

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 52.907 sec.
Drag E.T.: 17.541 sec.
Concours Score: 14.25 pts.
Budget Spent: $1557.60

Photography Credit: Dave Green

This car looked sharp–under the graphics inspired by Acura racing legends RealTime Racing was mostly original paint–but it wasn’t always so clean. “It was sitting on the side of a driveway in the weeds at a family friend’s house,” says Greg Cooper. He bought it for $300, but it needed serious TLC. “It was full of ants and it smelled like someone chain-smoked in it for years. Every jamb and gap was packed with rotting pine needles. We used rubber gloves and masks at the spray-and-wash place, much to people’s attention.”

20th: Proteus Bois, 2001 Audi TT

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 52.788 sec.
Drag E.T.: 16.121 sec.
Concours Score: 12.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $1916.88

Photography Credit: Dave Green

“I’m a big Audi-Volkswagen fan. I own a bunch,” says Nick Weaver. “I’ve always wanted to do a Mk1 TT track car. It’s all-wheel-drive, pretty lightweight and can be modified easily. It has the recipe for a fun car.” 

Nick added a bigger intake and turbo inlet pipe as well as a short-throw shifter. He also tuned the ECU, upgraded the diverter valve and added coil-overs. “It put a smile on my face,” he said after the Audi’s $2000 Challenge debut.

21st: Problematic Racing, 2004 Chrysler Crossfire

Class: GTW$
Autocross Time: 52.171 sec.
Drag E.T.: 15.730 sec.
Concours Score: 10.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $1000.00

Photography Credit: Dave Green

“Buy on Friday, sell on Sunday” should be the motto for Jonathan Whitaker. “I brought my ’93 Cobra to compete out of budget, but I still wanted to compete within budget,” he explains. “The fact [that the Crossfire] survived with no issues, it far exceeded my expectations. We drove it 2 hours there, made six autocross passes and six drag passes, drove it to the hotel and back, and then drove home. That was extremely impressive.” What might be even more impressive is that he sold it for $1100, turning a $100 profit.

22nd: Team Flipper, 1991 Nissan NX2000

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 51.561 sec.
Drag E.T.: 19.069 sec.
Concours Score: 9.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $891.98

Photography Credit: Dave Green

“It’s been sideswiped, rear-ended, on fire, lost all of its oil, lost all of its coolant. It’s been through a few motors, and I don’t know how many owners,” Milad Mozayyani says of the Nissan known as Flipper due to a roll-over on track some 20 years ago. 

He bought the car when it came up for sale on Facebook; it was located just 20 minutes away. “I’m hoping to keep that legend alive,” he adds.

23rd: Zebra Butt Racing, 1965/1982 Ford/Toyota Mustang/Supra

Class: GTW$
Autocross Time: 60.500 sec.
Drag E.T.: n/a
Concours Score: 15.50 sec.
Budget Spent: $960.27

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Two legends in Grassroots Motorsports lore came together: Michael Stamps, aka Stampie on our online forum, and the Suprang. After five years of work, Sean Korb unveiled the Suprang at the $2000 Challenge back in 2004. 

An abandoned 1982 Toyota Supra donated its front and rear suspensions and five-speed box to the 1965 Ford Mustang. Dellow Conversions, out of Australia, supplied the necessary transmission adaptor. 

Stampie recently took ownership of the Mustang, although he didn’t record any runs down the strip. “The solder joint on the fuel tube [was] coming out,” he says. “We tried to J-B Weld it, but no luck, and the part wasn’t available locally.”

  • 2nd in GTW$ Concours ($100 gas card from CRC Industries)

24th: Amerikote, 1993 Nissan 240SX

Class: GTW$
Autocross Time: n/a
Drag E.T.: 14.889 sec.
Concours Score: 13.75 pts.
Budget Spent: $1755.57

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Many people have a dream car, and this 240SX was Anthony Vallancourt’s. “I always wanted one, but they started to become increasingly more expensive,” he explains. “I saw this one at a mechanic’s shop. It had a mechanic’s lien on it, so I got it cheap.” He says the car has a “stock engine, an eBay turbo, and a lot of hopes and prayers.” Anthony scored a respectable drag time, but he DNFed in the autocross.

  • 3rd in GTW$ Drag Racing ($50 Summit Racing gift card)

25th: MadMaXRATI Racing, 1988 Merkur XR4Ti

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: n/a
Drag E.T.: 20.230 sec.
Concours Score: 12.00 pts.
Budget Spent: $1429.91

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Finally, this Merkur received some love. “I bought it as an abandoned car, and then I abandoned it,” Wyatt Fletcher admits. “I attempted to bring this car here five years ago, when I had bought it, but there were many fiascoes–including Hurricane Irma. Someone loved this car at one point and put European Cosworth parts on it, disc brakes, sway bars.”

Wyatt scrambled to get the Merkur going in the paddock, finally making a run on the drag strip. He hopes to have this car in better shape next year.

26th: BP Racing for Autism, 1996 Pontiac Firebird

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 71.012 sec.
Drag E.T.: n/a
Concours Score: 12.25 pts.
Budget Spent: $1689.64

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Eric D. Zimmerman wanted more oomph out of the Firebird he ran last time, so he swapped out the V6 for a 5.3-liter V8. “I could definitely feel the difference in power,” he says. However, he had to hold his horses, forgoing any runs on the drag strip. “We overheated a bit,” he adds, “because of air pockets in the cooling fluid and a lack of ventilation in the engine compartment. We got something to work with for next year.”

27th: Civic Doody, 2003 Honda Civic

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 52.234 sec.
Drag E.T.: n/a
Concours Score: 10.50 pts.
Budget Spent: $1301.95

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Does a racing seat make you faster? That’s the only mod Matt McFarland made to his Honda Civic. He bought it three weeks before the event and blew a head gasket before the drag runs.

28th: Ranger Danger, 2001 Mazda Ranger

Class: GTW$
Autocross Time: 56.300 pts.
Drag E.T.: n/a
Concours Score: n/a
Budget Spent: $1383.00

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Don’t call it a Ford, Drew Jackson says, “because I don’t work on Fords.” What makes this Ranger special is that Jackson oval tracked it the weekend before. “We raced it in the Danger Ranger 9000 at The Freedom Factory with Cleetus McFarland,” Drew explains. “A buddy [had] crashed it, and it sat in his yard until the race this year. He’s like, ‘Hey, you can have this.’ I did a little tweaking and got a fourth.” Drew’s a longtime racer on dirt and paved ovals, but this $2000 Challenge was his first autocross. Unfortunately, a transmission fluid leak ended his weekend early.

29th: Man Bun Racing, 2002 Chrysler Sebring

Class: GTN$
Autocross Time: 56.529 sec.
Drag E.T.: n/a
Concours Score: n/a
Budget Spent: $300.00

Photography Credit: Dave Green

Chris Rodrigues hoped to enter this car in a demolition derby, but necessity called. He bought the car for $300 from a friend who had begun to strip it and earned the ire of his HOA. “My daily broke, so I started driving it,” Chris says. “I hated it [as a daily], but I had so much fun at autocross that I shredded my front tires. I had a backup set of tires, but we couldn’t get one of the lug nuts off.”

Over-Budget Challengers

Photography Credit: Dave Green

What if you had even more people at the party? That would be fun, right?  

That was part of the reasoning behind opening up the $2000 Challenge to cars not limited by a budget. Would the low-buck cars top the field? Would the unlimited cars give us a bit of a benchmark while also introducing new people to the event?

The over-budget side of the field attracted some seriously quick cars, with the University of Florida’s FSAE team–third overall at the latest Formula SAE competition–posting the day’s fastest time of 41.337. Other standouts included a Cayman GT4 and Robert Palmblad’s 400-plus-horsepower Miata. And that Honda Insight entered by Ryan Dutra? It’s a past $2000 Challenge car built by Georgia Tech.

Photography Credit: J.A. Ackley


  • Exhibition 
    • 1st: Gator Motorsports, 2022 Gator Motorsports-F22: 41.337 sec.
  • Autocross Top 3 
    • GTU
      • 1st: Lou Hudyman, 2020 Porsche Cayman GT4: 44.190 sec. ($500 Tire Rack gift card)
      • 2nd: Caitlin Dunlap, 2000 Chevrolet Corvette: 45.701 sec.
      • 3rd: Carlos Morales, 2015 Porsche 911 GTS: 45.853 sec.
    • GTW
      • 1st: Robert Palmblad, 2008 Mazda MX-5: 44.881 ($500 Tire Rack gift card)
      • 2nd: Michael Simmons, 2021 Tesla M3P: 46.101 ($200 CravenSpeed gift card)
      • 3rd: Kyle Younger, 1998 LS1-KART: 46.282 
    • GTN 
      • 1st: Jeremy Randolph, 2022 Subaru BRZ: 48.149 ($500 Tire Rack gift card) 
      • 2nd: Ryan Dutra, 2001 Honda Insight: 48.244 ($200 RockAuto gift card from ACI Automotive) 
      • 3rd: Adrian Fernandez, 2014 Volkswagen Golf GTI: 48.869 
  • Drag Racing Top 3 
    • GTU 
      • 1st: Jonathan Whitaker, 1993 Ford Mustang Cobra: 9.840 (Millermatic 211 MIG welder from Miller)
      • 2nd: Bill Cuttitta, 2013 Dodge SRT Viper GTS: 12.619 
      • 3rd: Jasmine Black, 1994 Ford Escort GT Turbo:13.116 
    • GTW
      • 1st: Michael Simmons, 2021 Tesla M3P: 11.541 ($250 Summit Racing gift card)
      • 2nd: Justin Brammer, 2008 BMW 135i: 12.545 
      • 3rd: Kyle Younger, 1998 LS1-Kart: 12.579 
    • GTN
      • 1st: Mitchell Maulfair, 2002 Mazda Miata: 13.732 
      • 2nd: Ryan Dutra, 2001 Honda Insight: 13.826 
      • 3rd: Travis Turner, 2021 Mazda MX-5 RF: 14.902

University of Florida, currently fielding one of the top FSAE cars in the nation, posted the weekend’s fastest autocross run. And for those looking to maximize their own car’s performance, we again offered a crack team of pro drivers: Alan McCrispin, Mike Casino, Dan Shields and David Marcus. Photography Credit: J.A. Ackley

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