No matter how smoky hot drifting is, how fast time attack gets, or how crazy the show scene is, to me the epitome of the import scene was drag racing in Cali back in the mid '90s. What went on in the Golden State during that era was what I consider the golden age: A youth demographic getting into a scene that was only a sub-cultural blip on the mainstream radar. Street races were prolific, Battle of the Imports was packed, and Hondas had the market on lock. This was an era before corporate dollars, and when engine tuning was more art than science. Back then, Hondas breaking the 13-, 12-, 11-, and 10-second barriers was like witnessing miracles. Turning four-cylinder FFs into fast-ass FFs was like turning water into wine, or Eliot Spitzer into a loyal husband.
Out of all the drag racers from that era, there is only one who still puts it down in a Honda to this damn day. A member of one of the most respected crews in Los Angeles, Cyber, who has done more damage to naturally aspirated four-bangers than Debbie did Dallas, and the world record holder for the quickest and fastest all motor four-cylinder-Jeremy Lookofsky, an industry icon. Herpes ain't got nothing on the longevity of this dude. After reminiscing about the old JG days, Hondas, and the drag racing scene, I flip the recorder on with L' Natural himself, as he candidly reveals how he almost got shot over a street race, about crashing into the walls at 130 mph, whether import drag racing is dead, and what a naturally aspirated 9.33 @ 146.66 pass feels like.
It's been a minute; I think the last time I saw you was at the NHRA event in Englishtown. That's when Shawn Hillier got sick on the plane.
[Laughs] Yeah man, that was a rough flight. All I remember was that Hillie left his seat for some chick and as he was trying to seal the deal he lost it and yacked in a fuzzy blanket. That's what he gets for selling out the team. [Laughs]
What've you been up to since?
Been at my shop, Drag Cartel, and been trying to keep the family life alive-we just sealed the deal with ERL as their sole turnkey Honda K-Series dealer, and I've been keeping the drag car updated and my motor designs as fresh as the DVS kicks on my feet.
So how's it feel to be a world record holder?
I'm stoked about the 9.33 @ 146.66 mph pass up at Englishtown. I actually ran that back in May of 2007 when you were at E-town. It's a great accomplishment, but a hard one to keep. Everyone wants what they don't have.
What did that pass feel like?
It's insane. It's kind of like getting high. You know a good one from a bad one. Racing is the same. As soon as I left the line, the car hooked and went straighter than it ever had before and I was in high gear before I knew it. Deep down inside I knew it laid down a killer number, but not that good. The tough part was duplicating that within 1 percent to back it up. We did it on the next hit and I knew it had to be my weekend.
So what are you doing to best that time?
It's funny you ask; we just finished at the dyno with our new motor and a TWM induction setup. It made 380 whp with 240 lb-ft of torque running methanol on a Dynojet. We have a Cartel experiment going on where we test individual changes to see if there are benefits. Hopefully by the time this hits the stands, we will be deep in the 9.20 second range and 2008 will be the year of the 8s.
Word. Let's get back to your roots, what were your Valley days like?
They were the good old days. My best friends today are from the 818 [area code for the Valley-CJ]. My first car was a lowrider; a Suzuki Samurai on deep-dish KMC wheels with a crazy sound system. As time passed I stepped into a compact Ford Escort, but still kept it in the lo lo family. We used to roll to Sepulveda Blvd and the Sylmar street races. This is where my passion for speed came into play. For the life of me I could not get that damn Escort to go fast, so I sold it for a Honda CRX.
You rocked a Samurai and an Escort? Hilarious! The CRX, is that the infamous L'Natural?
Yeah, that's her, Ol' Stella. She put Shawn Hillier and myself on the map as all motor icons. I set more records and accomplished more goals with that car than my current one. It's been in almost every magazine.
What was your first street race?
Canoga & Lassen [cross streets up in the Valley-CJ]. I raced an Integra from Sokudo. It was against Sheng Chao, the legendary icon and owner of JHP USA. I was from Cyber Racing, a crew recognized in the Valley. For a while, I think Wicked and us had the industry on lock. Anyway, we smoked that fool and went home with what I thought was big money at the time: $20. [Laughs]
Crazy street racing stories?
I have two. I watched a dude die on a street bike at the Sylmar races. Some dumb young newbie made a U-turn at the end of the quarter-mile and he T-boned him. The idiot in the car tried to leave and I remember the crowd fucked him up. The second story takes place the very next night. No one learned; they all came back for some more street action, including myself, and an argument broke out about a race that took place a few weeks back.
What was the argument about?
There was a street race between two big names back then. One from the Eastside and one from the Westside: old man Tony Fuchs from the crew I rolled with. It was supposed to be heads up; naturally aspirated motor-to-motor race, but Tony was notorious for hiding nitrous in his car. He'd hide a Sneaky Pete in his dash and squeeze that shit through a hole in the firewall. Back then he was running a carbureted B18, so the inlet was open to the atmosphere. The nitrous would fill the bay and go into the engine. Anyway, the Eastsider caught wind of Tony's tricks and rolled up in a rage, literally with a MAC-10 and all. Let's just say the entire place cleared out. [Laughs] That's what street racing was all about back in the days, getting that extra edge on the other dude, and hoping you live through it. Your first event at a sanctioned track?
First event was Battle of the Imports up in Palmdale, Calif. I remember I had to sleep outside the gate 'cause it used to get so mobbed up. I was in my CRX with an LS motor on DFI, all gutted, no heat, unprepared. I remember staging and wondering what water was doing on the track before the lights. I had no idea about the burnout box. The only water on the streets was rain. I was nervous as hell and there were all kinds of chicks in the stands. The light turned green and I spun the shit out of the stock tires and let off. I think I ran a 15 or 16. I was dazed but hooked. I went back in line and waited the five hours for another 15 seconds of fun. Those were the days.
Why all motor?
The original goal was that it was supposed to be cheaper. Drag turbo kits were bank for an 18-year-old with no real job, so I had to go normally aspirated. As we tried to gain power, we found out it was way harder than going turbo. Back then if you built your motor, it was to handle boost. We decided to build the motor high compression and see what we could do normally aspirated. We saw huge gains and continued with cylinder head development. So you can say that it wasn't a goal, but it ended up becoming one.
Your favorite motor?
I would say that the K-series is my favorite motor, but I can't forget what put me on the map: the H-series. In the '06 Si, we were the first to run 9s all-motor on an H-series, and I don't think anyone has since then.
Why did you switch from the CRX to the '02 Civic?
We wanted to build a better car. We started to hit limitations on the CRX chassis for tire size, traction, and so on. The new Civic had a longer wheelbase and better lines, and we were able to build the suspension to fit pretty much any tire size and motor configuration we wanted. Basically, it was a chance to start fresh and make a new statement. In 2006 when we changed to the K motor and updated the front end.
The one turbocharged car you'd want to race down the track?
Steph's '01 H-series turbo maniac Civic. It ran 8.12 @ 184 back in 2001 and fools still can't beat that record today.
The worse on-track accident you've been involved in?
Back in 2004, at Englishtown, N.J., at the top end of the track the passenger side control arm broke and spun me out in a 360. I ran a 10.20 and was going 130 when I hit the wall. I hit so hard I blacked out for a minute. The driver door was so banged up that I had to crawl out the passenger-side door.
Any major injuries?
I was more shook up than anything. I was more worried about how I was going to fix the car for Sunday. Come Monday, however, I felt like an 80-year-old man.
Can't believe you walked out of a 130mph crash. How was the car?
It ended up taking two months and $20 grand to rebuild. The crash was a real eye opener. You never think you'll crash and that it only happens in TV. During the rebuild process, we looked at safety more; before it was all about weight.
Money question: Is drag racing dead?
Drag racing is at a standstill for sure. It's only going to move as fast as we push it. Everybody in the industry needs to work together and stop being selfish.
What do you think of the NOPI/NHRA deal?
It's definitely a smart move, but executed wrong. NHRA should've kept its roots with the drag racing portion. NOPI is more lifestyle oriented. But with the two of them under one roof, it could be what the scene really needs. I'm hoping it'll bring it back to how it was in the '90s.
How can drag racing come back?
Everyone needs to support it. Either by coming as spectators or entering their car instead of sitting behind their computers talking shit and e-racing. We need everyone in the industry to pull.
Your thoughts on drag racers turning to drift and time attack?
It's something new and exciting, but them bitches will be back. It's a choice. They're doing it for their own reasons.
You ever think about drifting or trying time attack?
I'm down with time attack. It's all about making power and driving the car...not dancing around for points like in drift. To each his own I guess.
So is there a Drag Cartel time attack car ahead?
Thoughts have crossed my mind. I need to make some time to go out to one and check it out. Hopefully, I'll get Rado on a good day and go out for a hot lap in his Scion. But I'd build a Honda. Besides the two Honda drag cars, what else do you have?
My passion for lowriders never went away, I have an OG '67 all-original Impala, that's my weekend car. I built a badass chopper with famous builder Jesse Rooke that's painted to match my current drag car. I also have a show '07 Honda Fit, and I have a custom '08 xB as a daily.
Besides racing what else do you do?
I hang out with my daughter. I ride motorcross, snowboard, skate, and anything extreme to take my mind off of work.
Is there a racer that you respect?
The one dude you'd love to spank at the track?
No one. I'm already number one.
Your fondest memory drag racing.
Locking up the '06 championship title in Pomona, Calif. It was at my backyard and all my friends and family were there. There are no words to describe how I felt. I would love to do it again.
The secret to your success?
It all starts with physical labor. Doing it all yourself with hard labor. Knowing every nut and bolt on the car and engine. By keeping it all in-house you're able to keep R&D gossip to a minimum. On a technical level, cylinder head and cam design. My crew, James and Shawn, they keep it real. They're down for the cause and they love winning as much as I do. And all sponsors, boss man BD the owner of DVS Shoes, American Honda, Rockstar, Sean at ERL Performance, JE Pistons, Torco Race oils, ACT, Mac tools, Supertech Valves, TWM Induction, Crane Cams, K&N Filters, Alpinestars, and Portflow Designs.
And finally, do you Mr. Lookofsky, live your life 9 seconds at a time?
[Laughs] I'm going home and renting Fast and Furious tonight. To answer your question, no.