There are certain things that just go together in the wide world of car culture: RWB kits and Porsche 911s; Japanese mountain roads and drifting; TE37s and everything. And then there’s what I witnessed at Florida’s Palm Beach International Raceway during ‘Street Beast II’.
If you caught my first story a few days back, you’ll already know what this event was all about. If you didn’t, now would probably be a good time to check it out. Immersing myself in Southern Donk culture surprised me on many different levels; I went in not really knowing what to expect, but left with a real appreciation for the cars and people in this unique custom automotive sub-genre.
As I mentioned in Getting A Taste Of The Donk Life, there were two different sides to Street Beast II.
The first was the most obvious; with custom paintwork and ridiculously-large wheels there’s a lot of ‘show’ to a high-end Donk build, so it’s only natural that proud owners would want to display their latest creations at a big event like this.
The other side came as a welcome surprise. The event artwork promised a “Car Show & Grudge Race,” but to be honest, I wasn’t even sure what the latter was going to entail as I headed down to Miami.
As it turns out, 1/8-mile drag racing is a big part of this scene, but unlike the official side of the motorsport there are no reaction times, ET or trap speeds to take into account. Whoever crosses the finish line first wins.
While reputations can be made or lost on the strip, this side of Donk culture is more about the money. And it’s not just the owners and drivers that are out to make a quick buck.
I mentioned in the first story just how passionate Donk owners and those that follow this scene are about the cars, and up in the stands I met Torri who was in the middle of an argument about whether the last car that had gone down the strip was running a 303ci or a 383ci V8 under the hood. He was happy to give me a quick rundown on the ins and outs of grudge race betting.
Of course, the most important thing is betting on the right car, and Torri had some pro tips for me. For the most part it’s looking out for the telltale signs of a serious racer: the purging of nitrous lines, confidence in pre-stage and staging, and the sound of the engine. Most important, however, is being familiar with all the racers.
Although I didn’t place any bets, I did witness some people take Torri’s advice and have success, while others that chose to bet against him ended up losing many times. And these weren’t $5 bets either, many were over $500.Settling A Grudge
Grudge races don’t happen by chance, and Zell, the owner of this ’73 Impala coupe was happy to explain how the match-ups come to be.
Let’s say you’re running your mouth online (usually social media) about how fast or good your car is. That’s all fine and well, right up until the point you start claiming that it’s quicker than someone else’s. Words are exchanged and one party challenges another to a grudge race with an entrance fee/purse. The more talk the bigger the outlay, and Zell said he’s personally witnessed a few $50,000+ buy-in races go down.
Another way to instigate a grudge race takes a little more courage, and that’s to do it in person. Most owners walk in groups and each group has numerous ‘hype men’ that encourage the crowd and trade light-hearted insults with those from the other side. These hype men are sometimes to blame for the quick escalation of prices and bets on races, but other times it’s the words exchanged between drivers.
After my quick introduction to this side of this scene, I dashed off to the staging area where racing was about to begin. It’s here I was presented with a sight I could never have even imagined: Donks in the burnout box warming up the tires on their 28 to 32-inch rear wheels.
Of course, there’s a big difference between smoking a pair of bags and getting a car down the strip quickly, but my first clue that some Donks have been built with 1/8-mile racing in mind came when this Monte Carlo walked all over a 4th-gen Camaro.
The atmosphere around the place was absolutely incredible. During the evening I met Ky who is an aspiring photographer, and also watched some Three-card Monte being played.
I watched a few close races throughout the night, but one stood out above all others: the Camaro-eating Chevrolet Monte Carlo versus a Chevrolet Corvette Grand Sport. If I had put money on this race, I would have lost it all.
As both cars staged up, in my mind the race was already won. Yes, the Donk was quick, but the Grand Sport is a serious late-model performance machine packing a 6.2-liter/376ci LT1 V8 good for 460hp. It can also go 0-60mph in 3.9-seconds and hit 175mph.
The Corvette got the holeshot, and at this point I thought it was all over for the Monte Carlo. But then, with its front end lifted high, it started to pile on some serious speed.
The 1/8-mile is short, but it’s all the room the Monte needed to get the job done. Is this even real life?
I wasn’t the only one who was shocked by what I had just seen, but thankfully I didn’t have any money riding on the race. Some that did totally lost their shit over it.
As I made my way back through the car park, I reflected on everything I’d seen at Street Beast II. As I said previously, this isn’t a scene that will appeal to everyone, but it’s a small slice of car culture that I’m pleased I made the effort to check out in person. I’d definitely do it again too.
If there’s anything I learnt, it’s that you should never judge a Donk by its candy paint and oversized wheels alone…