Behind the scenes of Discovery Channel’s ‘No Prep Kings’

Arby heads Stateside to take us behind the scenes of an episode of Discovery Channel's 'No Prep Kings'

Photographers: Mark Arblaster

I ticked a big one off the bucket list recently with a trip to Boise, Idaho in the good ol’ US of A for one of the No Prep Kings rounds, presented and produced by the Discovery Channel.

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past handful of years, Street Outlaws is a television series originally founded in ‘the 405’ in Oklahoma, and it’s grown into a worldwide drag racing phenomenon. America’s List, Cash Days, End Game and No Prep Kings (aka NPK) are all spin-off shows that see the quickest of the quick slugging it out in different formats, with a mix of turbo, nitrous and screw-blown cars on unprepared roads and race tracks.

No-prep racing has become enormously successful for the Discovery Channel. At Boise alone, Discovery had over 70 staff on the ground to capture every moment of the two-day event. We were lucky enough to tag along with Joe Woods, aka ‘Dominator’, to watch this incredible spectacle unfold. Joe runs plenty of Aussie hardware in his Dodge Dart, including a Noonan Hemi mill and Haltech ECU.

We arrived early on Friday and had pit access hours before the VIP spectators were allowed to enter. All the big names were there racing, with the exception of ‘Daddy Dave’ Comstock, who had kicked the rods out yet again, and, of course, ‘Big Chief’ Justin Shearer, who decided to sidestep the No Prep Kings series.

Speculation has it that Chief has chosen not to partake in this series as he’s no longer the central character. Many would argue that while he is an excellent racer, his Pontiac simply doesn’t have what it takes to run with the growing fleet of ProCharged Hemi-powered cars.

The price of fame seemed to be weighing heavily on some of the prominent racers, who appeared to have had more than their fill of the public. Ryan Martin, to name one, seemed to do everything he could to avoid the crowds over the two days, which was disappointing to see. Others, however, were more eager to embrace the entire experience, mindful of the fact that they’ve all risen from nothing to now have a gig in the spotlight.

It was awesome to see stars like Kye Kelley, Lizzy Musi, Darryl and Jerry Bird, Joe Woods, Scott Taylor and Shawn ‘Murder Nova’ Ellington, to name a few, standing out front of their pits chatting with folks, selling merch and signing autographs.

The weather was fine, the stands were packed, and the spectator line-up to get in literally stretched out of sight. As expected, the racing was just awesome, with over 50 low-four-second cars vying for the 32-car field.

Unlike many cars in Australia – particularly those with blowers – every car at NPK was started off the key; there were no remote starters or golf carts with battery packs. And almost every car we saw was water-cooled, at least in the heads. It’s all evidence to support claims that these really are built as street cars.

There were many standouts, and I’ll do a column on Dominator’s Dodge Dart in a future issue, as it’s significantly supported by Aussie businesses. But seeing Dom’s wife and three children (aged 10 to 14) service the car was incredible, given that many of the bigger teams had hefty support crews to turn the cars around. Removing valve covers, setting valve lash, refuelling, ProJacks – his kids did it all!

While the Bird brothers are often portrayed on TV as short-tempered racers who are quick on the whinge, Darryl and Jerry were happy to chat about the new 960ci Buck Racing Engines combo in their Ford Probe. They talked candidly about tune-ups and where they got it right and wrong, and were really down-to-earth people.

It was incredible to stand shoulder-to-shoulder on the startline with some of the biggest names in racing and watch the best of the best get it on. One of the standout moments of the meet was when Californian racer Jermaine Boddie drilled the big-talking Justin Swanstrom on the tree and put him on the trailer in the third round. The crowd went ballistic and treated him to a standing ovation.

There are some really solid people involved in NPK, and one of the true gentlemen is Scott Taylor, who was racing his new Camaro, ‘Track Doe’, currently powered by a ProCharged Hemi. Despite not having one of the newer and more popular Pro Line Hemis, he made it into the final at Boise.

In the next few months he’ll be making the switch to a Pro Line Hemi, mainly because it makes an extra 250rwhp. It’s staggering that 250rwhp makes such a difference at this level, especially at a changeover cost of close to US$80,000. The obvious benefit of changing to Pro Line is the knowledge and experience of their team and tuners, but the downside for Scott is going from having the engine in the car plus a spare to just having the one motor.

Spare short motors are available for around US$40,000, but all drag racers in the US are fighting a massive shortage of parts like blocks, cranks, rods and pistons. It’s crazy that with the non-stop filming commitments these guys have, a racer as prominent as Daddy Dave doesn’t even have a spare short motor.

All in all, it was a killer meet. If you’ve ever wanted to lock in one of those great life experiences in drag racing, NPK certianly qualifies, although with the current exchange rate, it wasn’t exactly cheap. Two of us jetted in from Tulsa to Boise, and with the cheapest car hire available and three nights’ accommodation, it was AU$2500. For the full fan experience, you’re looking at AU$235 for a two-day pass to the VIP stands, and AU$63 for a ‘405’ snapback cap.

Money well spent, we reckon, but if you’re thinking of going, maybe wait for the dollar to bounce back a bit.