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Question: How many car shows have you been to that are still around after 20 years? Ok, maybe that is a question for older folks, but think about it. It’s rare for a car event to have the staying power to be around that long. March 18-20, 2022, marked the 20th anniversary of Musclecars at the Strip (MATS) at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Since taking over what had been an all-Mopar event a few years ago, event promoter Phil Painter has expanded the show by opening it up to Chevy and Ford muscle cars, both classic and modern, and has added more offerings. 2021 was a bit of a strange year due to the pandemic, but instead of canceling the show, Phil went with the flow. He moved the event to later in the year and held it at night, so it wasn’t so hot for spectators. It was a bold move with mixed support, but at least he tried. The drag racing and autocross had a solid turnout, but the car show attendance was down slightly. The 20th Anniversary edition saw the numbers rebound across the board, and they added another offering to participants.
Originally a Mopar-only show, Musclecars at the Strip is now open to all muscle machines, old and new. Cue the Mustangs!
Musclecars at the Strip partnered with Vertical Mile Rally to offer a cruise through the Valley of Fire State Park, and about 25 cars participated. After a quick driver’s meeting, the group made their way north and stopped for a few photo opportunities along the way. Upon paying the entrance fee for the park, the group meandered their way through the unique geologic formations of the bright red Aztec sandstone outcrops nestled in gray and tan limestone. Once out of the park, the group could stretch take in the rest of the sights on the way back to the track, where everyone was treated to some live rock music.
There was a strong turnout of cars for autocross, with the most vehicles MATS has ever had on the massive layout set up by Racin’ Byrds. Cars were grouped into ten different run classes to keep things running smoothly. Chassis and suspension companies Speedtech and Total Cost Involved (TCI) Engineering brought out some heavy hitters to show off their designs, but the average Joe could still go out and try their hand at the carving the cones. It was fun to see some of the older machines getting a workout. One thing you can say about autocross — it doesn’t matter what you’re driving, you’ll always have fun!
Now here's something that you won't see everyday: a near-perfect, super-low-mile 1978 Dodge Magnum XE. David Henriksen ordered this car new and has kept it in top-tier condition.
Meanwhile, the drag strip was busy all weekend with classes for everything from bracket racing to heads-up action. There was a “Battle of the Brands,” a “Mopar vs. the World” competition, and some match racing of the world's fastest Hellcats. A strong breeze blew all weekend, making it tricky for the bracket cars to run on the dial and maybe a little sketchy on the top end of the track.
With rain predicted on Sunday, some car show participants decided to keep their cars at home or in the trailer. Around mid-morning, the prediction came true, and a short rain shower blew through, changing the gloomy gray skies to blue. While the drag racers waited for the track to dry, some autocrossers took the shower as an invitation to practice their drifting skills. However, it didn’t take the sun too long to dry everything up, and racing resumed as usual. During the afternoon, the car show awards were given out on the main stage as the autocross racing wrapped up, and prizes were also given out. The rain shower delayed the drag racing eliminations slightly, with the finals taking place after sundown.
Musclecars at the Strip is a terrific event, taking place at the right time of year to be in the desert. You couldn’t ask for better weather (other than the freak rain shower). The Las Vegas Motor Speedway is a top-class facility with everything needed to put on this type of event. The hard work, dedication, and passion of Phil and his crew really shine through. It’s a good reason you should have MATS 2023 on your schedule!
Define "overkill": Take one 1980s Dodge Rampage, stuff it full of Hellcat V8 and big tires out back, and put John Rambo on the hood!
Chevrolet did not make an El Camino in 1955, but Kristine Caster from Fountain, Colorado did. This car started life as a four-door wagon.
The Welderup crew brought a couple of their grizzly creations out to the show.
The autocross course got many to push their cars to the limit. This G-body Buick was performing a different kind of "G-body Shuffle" through the cones.
Jason Wilhelm of TCI drove this gorgeous 1969 Chevrolet Camaro to the fastest overall time in the autocross.
The action was strong on the strip as well. The "Miner Threat" Dodge Coronet danced on the bumper a few times on the way to a runner-up finish.