Speed Talk: Drag Week Legend Jeff Lutz Adds to Ever-Growing List of Accomplishments
Just two weeks before this article was written, Jeff Lutz had a “break the ...
Just two weeks before this article was written, Jeff Lutz had a “break the internet” moment when he drove Mad Max, his street-legal pro mod-style Camaro to his first 3-second run on radials en route to a semifinal finish in the ultra-competitive Radial vs the World field at Outlaws Street Car Reunion IV in Memphis. Those in attendance were impressed by how quickly Lutz and his team made the transition to radials. Lutz is quick to point out that he did have help from a few guys, notably one who’s made the big-tire-to-small-tire transition himself in Justin “Big Chief” Shearer. Along with Chief, Lutz had help from Midwest Street Cars ace mechanic Monkey, as well as one Jeff Lutz Jr, who’s building an impressive list of his own accomplishments. That’s the thing about Jeff that everybody who knows him can agree on: Lutz is going to run quick with whatever combination he’s chosen. In fact, he’s built his legacy on putting enough power into any given platform and making it work well enough to run up front.
Looking back on Lutz’ list of titles and accomplishments, it isn’t filled with personal bests and event wins, but is instead full of points championships and world records. Relatively unknown at the time, at least to the general public, Lutz made his impact immediately felt in the NMCA by taking home the points championship in Pro Street – the class currently known as Pro Mod under the NMCA sanction – in 2013 in the same Camaro that we all know now as Mad Max. Back then the car wore a retina-searing yellow paint job, but basically the same beast that Jeff wheeled into the 3-second zone in Memphis. The 2014 season found Lutz jumping into the shark-infested waters of NHRA Pro Mod with the Camaro, and Lutz again made his presence felt by claiming the record for turbocharged cars in the class with a low ET of 5.78 at 252 MPH, a mark that would still be competitive in the class today.
Two thousand fourteen also saw Lutz begin his reign over the grueling week-long slugfest that is HotRod Magazine’s Drag Week. For those unfamiliar with the Drag Week format, the cars all have to drive to the track, make as many runs as they wish – with a minimum of one, of course – then drive to the next track and repeat the process the next day. At the end of the week, the competitors’ ET’s are averaged over the 5 days of racing to determine the winner. Each year, the Drag Week route requires the cars cover over 1,000 miles under their own power before the competition ends. Competing in his sinister matte black 1957 Chevy in the top-tier Unlimited class, Lutz showed up on a mission in ’14 and walked away the overall winner with an average ET of 6.84 seconds and with an average speed of 212 MPH.
In twenty-fifteen, Lutz and his crew outfitted the Camaro from the NMCA Pro Street campaign – now covered in a matte black paint job to match the ’57 Chevy – with everything needed to complete the thousand mile Drag Week route, but a mechanical failure between day 1 and day 2 prevented him from making it to the second stop on the tour. This setback lit a fire under the Lutz crew to get the job done in 2016, especially after ripping off a 6.05 ET at 251 MPH on day 1 that still stands as the quickest run in Drag Week history, so they set about finding any and all weak links in the Camaro to ensure it was ready to roll when the next route was announced.
This go ’round, Lutz laid it all on the line and absolutely demolished the previous best weekly average by a half-second and 20 MPH when he turned in a weekend average of 6.19 seconds at 240 MPH! That win didn’t come without a little drama after a failed wheel bearing left Lutz hammering on the side of the road late into the night to get the car back up and running. He also had to pull the pan and replace a couple of the main bearings before he was able to make his pass at one of the stops along the route. However, Jeff simply pushed through the adversity and relied on his expertise to knock out the repairs and get his runs in and in the process, laid down a gauntlet that will be ridiculously hard to top, even for Lutz himself.
With the title of Drag Week King firmly in hand for another year, Jeff and crew set out to establish themselves as the quickest street legal car on the planet, a feat they achieved by pushing Mad Max to an insane 5.85 ET at the World Street Nationals in Orlando last November, putting him atop the list of street legal hotrods and adding another item on Lutz’ list of accomplishments. And if that list weren’t long enough, he has also spent some time on the Street Outlaws Top 10 list, putting the Camaro on the street for a while and reaching as high as #5 on the show. He’s proven time and again that he knows what it takes to go out and run up front, despite jumping into some of the most competitive classes in racing. Lutz sets lofty goals and goes after them relentlessly, pushing himself and his cars to the limit, doing what it takes to get the job done.