Occasionally — occasionally — the job we do surprises us. Take the recent ImportExpo/Clean Culture show we covered at Pocono Raceway. Yes, Toronto-based ImportExpo/Clean Culture has been around for years, and in that time owner Bret Zheng and George Melita and Nick Terzo from Clean Culture have developed quite a name for their brands in the caliber of events they organize, predominantly in popular East Coast areas — DC, New Jersey, Boston, FL, etc. They've even begun traveling west in recent years, to the same sort of reception one would expect from mainstays like Wekfest or AutoCon. When we saw that ImportExpo/Clean Culture's Pocono Raceway stop coincided with a recent trip we took back east for a couple weeks, we figured why not stop by. There's got to be some decent tuners willing to travel to the comparatively middle-of-nowhere show, right?
But damn, were we surprised.
OK, so yeah — Pocono Speedway is in the middle of nowhere, over 100 miles from New York, Philly, Baltimore, and DC. It's located 1,800 feet up in the Pocono Mountains, which while beautiful is very much NASCAR country. It's why the "Tricky Triangle" speedway was built, after all. But one thing Pocono has is lots and lots of room, complete with generous infield parking and three infield "roval" courses (which combine road courses with sections of the speedway) to go with it. And as it turns out, if you (or ImportExpo/Clean Culture, that is) build an event there that utilizes all this facility has to offer, they will come.
The moment we turned off SR-115 and onto Long Pond Rd., we knew this was a good event. Sounds of cammed V8s, big-turbo inline-6s, and overtaxed SR20s at full crack around the infield drift course of the event could be heard in the distance, and the line to get into the infield ran a couple hundred cars deep, well outside of the venue. Two hours later (Pocono has only one road into its infield) we were inside, and our suspicions were confirmed when we were greeted by an ultra-clean pair of turbocharged RSXs, single-turbo RB26DET-swapped Datsun 240Z (Forsberg?), widebody GT-R, and brand-spankin-new Civic Type R, all from Vinyl Kings and Elite Autoworks NY.
Right across from them sat an ARC'd-out EVO IX and Danny Rasilo's flared, slammed, shaved/tucked, and otherwise built GH Subaru WRX STI. And we weren't even technically in the show yet.
Once inside a group of R34 Skyline GT-Rs led by Angel Diaz's blue beast (with some R33 and R32s thrown in the mix), NSXs, and JZA80 Supras greeted us on the right, and on the left began the more "public" area of the show.
The widebody trend is alive and showing no signs of slowing out West, so it comes as no surprise the same holds true here. Honda, Scion, Subaru, Nissan, Mazda, BMW, Audi — you name it, it was flared.
Especially impressive showings came courtesy of Clean Culture, V Race Works, Camber Gang (if you're into that sort of thing), and more.
Every bit as impressive, stylish, and in many cases quirky were the cars further toward the back of the paddock. Slammed/flush/wide trends continued, but in typical East Coast fashion there was a bigger presence of performance modification than simply cosmetic enhancements, and we got the impression the vast majority of cars were driven to and from the event. Hundreds of miles.
There were even some real rarities that would never fly in California, like this turbo/AWD JDM Nissan Sunny GTI-R "historic vehicle" — one of the ugliest, coolest cars we wish we could drive everyday.
While the show was happening in the paddock area, area drift wheelmen and grip enthusiasts switched off on two of the track's three infield courses, in either open drifting sessions or for recreational hot-lapping.
Some of the participants you'll remember from our Street Driven and Hyperfest coverage earlier this year (like Formula D Pro 2's Chris Cotrupi), or from Northeast and Mid-Atlantic events like US Drift or NASA (Khoi Ha and his awesome STI). But most were probably like most of us: enthusiasts down for a reasonable drive into the mountains, in search of a pleasant surprise and a damn good time.
Moral of the story: Don't judge a book by its cover. Or an import event in what seems like the middle of nowhere.