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 |   |  Jeremy Lookofsky Interview - Eight-Second History Lesson
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Jeremy Lookofsky Interview - Eight-Second History Lesson

Jeremy Lookofsky: Setting the all-motor precedent for nearly 20 years.

Aaron Bonk
Oct 28, 2013

Photography Courtesy of Jeremy Lookofsky

You know Jeremy Lookofsky as the one to break the eight-second barrier under the guise of natural aspiration, but the all-motor icon's recurrently bore the title of the world's quickest and fastest since 1998. The Honda drag racing veteran first did so 15 years ago when his H-series-powered CRX, L'Natural, driven by Shawn Hillier, posted its record-setting 12.24 e.t. at 109 mph. Lookofsky and Hillier were later the first in the 11's and completed the first back-halved Honda by the end of the decade, resulting in one of the few naturally aspirated FWD cars to eclipse the 10-second mark. In 2000, Lookofsky embarked on building an entirely new chassis, one that would later be powered by a 420hp K-series engine and make history once again: a carbon-fiber-bodied, tube-frame Civic--second only to Stephan Papadakis'--of which its shell was acquired through a partnership with American Honda. In terms of import drag racing, Lookofsky's seen it all, done nearly as much, and is arguably the longest standing participant to have continually made appearances at the strip for nearly two decades. He's even done his part introducing action sports to sport compact drag racing, securing a sponsorship with DVS Shoes in 2003. Although still actively racing, Lookofsky admittedly does so purely for fun, today he earns his living through the two companies he's founded and continues to oversee: high-performance K-series parts company Drag Cartel, and marketing and vehicle customization firm Cartel Customs.

HT: You've got to be the longest standing participant in professional import drag racing. What's kept you in it for so many years?

JL: I think the main things are the audience and the fans. I've seen the stands packed, I've seen them slim out, I've seen it to where there's a rained-out event and there's still people banging on the trailer door [saying], "Are you gonna race on Monday?" Those are the things that keep me in it.

HT: What else has kept you motivated?

JL: Obviously, the car and the motor. I have a big drive for motorsports. I love the feeling. You get on a plane and you have no worries. You're leaving LAX at midnight on a Friday because you have a Saturday race and you're not gonna sleep for two days. You don't think about it. It's like, big deal. But if you go to sleep at two o'clock on a Tuesday and you know you've got to be to work on Wednesday, you're stressed out. When you're going to do something that's for fun, that's your dream, you don't need to sleep.

HT: Let's go back to the beginning. How does the Honda story begin for you?

JL: I [had an Escort] and was into lowriders. I was in this crew from the San Fernando Valley [California], the Untouchables, which was pretty big. We had some of the baddest cars around. One guy who was in the crew with me, Santiago Lopez, bought an Integra. He was like, "Yo, let's go to the street races in San Fernando." I was wet behind the ears, man, and was like, "I don't know... Am I gonna get jumped?" I didn't know what to expect. I followed him out there in my Escort and he was just mobbing. I couldn't keep up! I was like, "What's this dude got?" We got to the spot and this gas station was packed with cars. I don't want to say it, but it was a bunch of street-racer, gangbanger asians. I started thinking to myself: What am I doing here? I watched a couple of races, went home, and started researching parts for my Ford the next day.

HT: Just to clarify, this was 1993 and not everybody had Internet access. What sort of research were you doing?

JL: Mostly catalogs, V-8 shops, and calling around. There weren't really import shops.

Jeremy lookofsky interview 02 Photo 2/6   |   Jeremy Lookofsky Interview 02

HT: You and Tony Fuchs were often together at the street races and at the track. How did that relationship begin?

JL: He worked at his father's business, Underground Ford, and I would take my [Escort] there for service. He started Tony Fuchs Racing [out of] two of the bays. A couple of guys from Redline, who nobody probably even knows, [worked there], like Collie, Nohaku, Junior Asprer, [and] [Brian] Buddha [Kim]. I guarantee you people don't know these names. They wouldn't know them if they walked past them at a race. But these are the founders. These are people who were building cars before me. I would always see [Tony] working on his Integra. He went out and bought a brand-new Integra and ripped everything out of it while still making payments. I remember a couple of times he was late and was like, "They're gonna come take my car." I was like, "Take your car? There's no car left." We just started talking and he was like, "Everybody's got a Honda." I ended up selling my Escort to a buddy, and between what I owed and what I had left, [there] was just enough to put down [on a brand-new Civic]. All those crazy body kits were popular back then, so I had that big whale tail on the back and I put a bolt-in rollcage [in it]. That was when parts just started to become [available].

HT: So when did things get serious for you?

JL: I went back to the street races and kept seeing this company's name on cars: JG [Engine Dynamics]. I was like, "What is this JG shit?" Sure enough, I thumbed through the Yellow Pages and found this [place] in Alhambra. I went down to JG and I didn't know anything. I felt like an idiot. Javier Gutierrez came out of the back and was like, "I heard you wanted to get your car a little quicker. These guys saw you at the street races, and we're all about that." Nobody had that Civic yet [so] I left my car there for a month for R&D.

HT: Your brand-new Civic?

JL: [My] brand-new car. I went home and my mom was like, "Where's your car?" [I said,] "I'm putting a new motor in it." [She said,] "What do you mean you're putting a new motor in it?" She was like, "You just got that car 12 days ago!" No plates...I didn't even have insurance yet. I was like, "Mom, it's free. They're gonna use my car to prototype parts. I want to be a race car driver." She looked at me like she was gonna kill me [laughs]. Needless to say, my car didn't come back in a month. That was my first experience with an import tuner shop. Four months goes by and they finally got my car figured out. I got the car back and it ran like shit. It was so lopey. We ended up making 11 or 12 hp out of a cam and a cam gear.

HT: Was that one of JG's early cam gears that were basically modified stock ones?

JL: Yeah, right.

HT: What happened next?

JL: I tinkered with that car some more and then met up with my buddy, Shawn Hillier. He was like, "Man, Jermz, everybody's doing these motor swaps. B-series GS-R, man. It's the shit." He ended up converting his car. It was like driving a V-8. That motor was God. That motor back then was $5,500. That was a lot of money in 1995 for a 17-year-old kid. That was during the whole era of major jacking. Friends were stealing friends' cars because they had to have that motor. You'd go to the street races and fools were pulling guns, saying, "Gimme your car." I remember when Shawn put that motor in we went to the Compton and Long Beach street races and were smoking everybody. Fools were trippin'. The next day we went somewhere and he pulled his computer out of his car and brought it inside. He was like, "Dude, someone's gonna steal my car." I was like, "You're being paranoid, homie." At that time I was living in an apartment, I was gone for a couple of days, and my coupe got jacked. I was like, "Dude, we were just talking about this two days ago."

HT: So this must've led to you getting the CRX, no?

JL: I started thinking about power-to-weight ratios and how I was tired of making payments. I wanted to sink my money into the car, not the payments. I ended up buying an '88 CRX. I bought it from one of the original guys from Cyber, Sam. It was a 1.6L, carbureted with a Gude Performance cylinder head and cam. Tony had built the bottom end. The story of how I ended up buying that car is funny. Sam got discouraged because Shawn beat him with his B motor. Sam spent a year building that motor, probably $8,000, and got smoked by five cars. Two days later he was like, "I'm done. I'm broke. I'm over it. I'm going to college." I bought the car for $3,500 with no motor.

Jeremy lookofsky interview lookofsky LNatural 03 Photo 3/6   |   Lookofsky’s L’Natural went through a number of changes over the years before retirement, its yellow-on-red flame scheme arguably being one of the more short-lived.

HT: What did you do to the CRX first?

JL: I put an LS motor in that car. This was about 1996. [It had] welded mounts [and] a cut and soldered jumper harness. That thing was a rocket ship, man. That's when I started the whole [naturally aspirated] deal. I started doing the cylinder head and the cams and that thing just sounded so amazing. I ended up breaking the motor--blowing it up. I started doing some research and nobody had done a Prelude swap. I found a Prelude motor out of Santa Barbara from a junkyard for like $1,200.

HT: Why the H-series? What made you think it would even work?

JL: The main reason I went Prelude was because it was the big-block of four cylinders. It had monster torque. It was just the shit to have. And nobody had done one.

HT: The two of you didn't know what each of you was doing, but Stephan Papadakis was starting his own Prelude swap around the same time, wasn't he?

JL: Yeah. I looked up to Steph. He worked at JG around that time. Steph was very secretive, just like he is today. He hasn't changed in 20 years. I think that's been part of his success. I picked up the motor, made the mounts with my buddy in his garage, and had no clue how to get it to start. Everybody was like, "This guy, Dr. Charles [Madrid], he'll do it all. He can make it happen." I talked to him about it, and he was like, "Oh, my god. This is gonna be fucking sick!" He loved challenges like that. The dude was freaking out. I took it [to him] and we couldn't get it fired on a stock [Prelude] computer, so we ended up going to a straight stand-alone system. We ran old-school [Accel] DFI with DOS software [laughs]. It was like guessing in the dark. It made no sense. So, while we were doing ours, little secret Papadakis over at JG was doing his [laughs]. He got his car to start three days before me. Charles and Steph would always talk, and he was like, "Hey, Steph, I've got this car over here. Don't tell anybody about it, but it's got a Prelude motor in it." Steph was like, "Oh, yeah? What'd you guys use to get it running?" [Charles said,] "Well, we haven't got it running yet. That's the thing. We put DFI on it." Steph was probably thinking in his head: "Son of a bitch," [laughs]. He said, "Well, I got mine running three days ago and I'm [using] DFI." [Steph] came over and helped get my car running. [He] learned the computer. We couldn't figure it out. He's always been that kind of person. He went another route with his, obviously. I couldn't afford any of that, so I was like, I'm just gonna stay NA. It was already fast.

HT: Was there any other specific reasons that led you to the Prelude swap, especially when GS-R swaps like Shawn's were already proven?

JL: Two reasons: I was broke, I got a deal, and it was a challenge. We had no idea if it would work. The first time we tried putting it in the car, we had to hammer the framerails. It was too wide. We had to notch [the car]. I was like, "Oh, my god. What did I get myself into?" I didn't have a computer, I didn't have a harness, I didn't have shifter cables. I had no clue. I was thinking some of my other stuff would convert over from the B, but no [laughs]. Honestly, it probably spent a year at Pit Crew trying to get this thing running.

HT: Besides Stephan, there weren't any resources in terms of figuring that swap out. Can you elaborate on some of those challenges?

JL: There were no chat boards. We learned the hard way. We bought things, we returned things, we made things. There definitely was no guide like there is today.

HT: How important do you think JG Engine Dynamics was to the development of early Honda performance?

JL: Javier had an open-door policy. From the day I met him, he [had] open arms. We learned stuff, and we blew up a lot of motors there. I think, if anything, we taught him things. I think he would take it to the next level. We'd spend hours and days there. Shawn quit his job and went down there for five months to work on his own motor and his own car. Javier was like, "You need a shop? Build your car here." He was great with that kind of thing. He had a great group of people around him, a great bunch of followers, and a bunch of people who believed in him. I've got nothing bad to say about the dude. Without him, I wouldn't be here. He helped me build my first Prelude motor. I couldn't afford it. He was like, "Dude, you're going out there, you're racing, and people are watching you. You're the first one with this [setup]." There weren't many places to go, to be honest. There was JG, Gude, DPR, or you just did it yourself and didn't get anywhere.

HT: Tell us briefly about JG's dyno. They were one of the first to offer tuning services for Hondas.

JL: They used a Clayton dyno, which used a water drum and had a big thermometer-looking deal that showed the horsepower. It's not like what you see today with a Dynojet where it's all computer-generated. It was like, "Did you see the needle? How long did it stay there?" I don't think people realize how we were measuring power and torque back then.

HT: What was being part of a crew like Cyber like? Talk about your rivalry with Wicked.

JL: I was honored. I came out of a bitchin' car club, the Untouchables, and then I went into this race crew. If you had a Cyber sticker on your window, they'd be scared to race you at the street races. If you went to the mall, you didn't have to worry. People knew not to fuck with your car. It sounds like a movie, but it's the truth. People would be like, "Oh, they're from [Cyber]. Don't fuck with those guys." Going back to Wicked, we were both big dogs. They were always the rowdier group, always causing problems or getting into fights at the end of the day. It's kind of crazy because Shawn was part of my team but he was part of Wicked. That was the San Gabriel, [California] crew-Viet Lam, Charles, Andrew Yang, [and] a lot of guys from up north, like Loc Tran. I don't want to say it, but we were scared of them. Those dudes were crazy. The crazy part is that we were whoopin' their asses. Steph was probably the fastest out of Wicked and Tony was the fastest from Cyber. It always ended up, Sunday night, Palmdale, LACR, Tony and Steph at the freakin' finals. It was always like, shit, if we won, we had to pack up and get out of there because they were gonna kick our asses or flip our car. Sometimes I want to bring back Cyber. I really want to put it on my car just for the hell of it.

Jeremy lookofsky interview tony fuchs and lookofsky CRX 04 Photo 4/6   |  
Cyber Racing teammate and likeminded drag racing history maker Tony Fuchs (left) alongside Lookofsky (right). Together, Fuchs and Lookofsky held titles of the world’s fastest turbocharged and naturally aspirated Hondas, respectively.

HT: Your CRX had large OHC decals on it early on. Tell us about that.

JL: [That was] Our House Customs. Everyone would say it meant overhead cam [laughs]. It was the Valley shop. I was partners with my cousin. He was the style guy and I handled the performance part. Wheels and body kits were our bread and butter. As I was building all these cars, I started learning stuff and creating relationships and opening accounts with all of the race [companies]. The funny thing is that the first shop we had was in Simi Valley, [California]. We moved to the Valley and now I'm back in Simi Valley with my race shop.

HT: Why did you chose the naturally aspirated route and what's made you stick with it for all these years? Have you ever owned a turbocharged Honda?

JL: I'm definitely an NA guy from ground zero. I started building [another] car in 2002. That was gonna be our turbo car. I bought a coupe with a carbon body and we started building a chassis. In 2004, it was really close to being done and then we started seeing the downturn in the industry. I ended up selling the car to a buddy of mine who lives in Hawaii.

HT: What specifically appeals to you about naturally aspirated engines?

JL: The actual challenge. I started following Pro Stock stuff where gearing and traction comes into play, and driving, catching the light. Those were all things that we had to really learn. Even today, it's still a challenge. Trying to find 10 hp is almost impossible sometimes. Trying to be the first to run an eight; starting at 400 hp to 407 to 412 to 418.

HT: Where did the nickname for your CRX, L'Natural, come from?

JL: My buddy Ed Eng gave me that name. He was shooting for Import Tuner [at the time]. Everybody used to think that I looked like a Mexican [laughs]. They thought I dressed like one. They used to call me Lopez [laughs]. I guess it was from my lowrider days. Ed wrote an article on the car, gave me that name, and it just stuck.

HT: What are some of the different engine configurations that the CRX had?

JL: When we first bought the motor it was just a straight H22. As we broke motors, we came to find out what an H23 was. It was a bigger motor, so it was a no-brainer. We were doing things that nobody was doing, like the H23 with the H22 head and adding the manual tensioner. We were the first to build a stroker motor with a deck plate on a Prelude. This was V-8 stuff that we were [doing]. The first stroker motor that we did was with Darren [San Angelo] at R&D Dyno. We were done at that point with the JG stuff. Javier was falling off the map and we ended up moving on. We ended up going to a company called Moldex [Crankshaft Co.] and got a billet crank made. We made a 2.6L deck plate Prelude motor. This was never heard of. Even to us it was new. We go to put this thing together, tried to rotate the motor, and because the stroke was so big, everything crashed [laughs]. We went back to the drawing board and learned about notching sleeves and clearancing the bottom end in a mill. I didn't even know what a mill was. Nobody knew what we had, man. We were racing Skunkworks, they had the B motor, and we were bangin' them all the time. They just couldn't figure it out. We were first in the 11s and those guys were just stuck. We were dominating. It was always L'Natural versus Skunkworks. We were always going at it.

HT: Tell us about Team California and how that all went down.

JL: I was brought into Team California [because of] Cyber and Tony. You had to be a top dog [and] have something to contribute. Chris Jewell [was behind] Team California, who people [might] know from Competition Clutch. He was running Clutch Masters at that point. Team California was an honor. We were the first ones to throw cars on a trailer and go to Atco, New Jersey, to race. It was a huge event. I was blown away by it. [I] felt like a rock star, dude. There were so many girls, bro, it was crazy. Chicks everywhere. Chicks wearing nothing, chicks kissing you, grabbing you, whatever. My girlfriend at that time, who's actually my wife today, we broke up multiple times because of groupies--not calling me--but paging me. You had a pager or you had to give 'em your mom's home phone number [laughs]. There was no way around it.

HT: Team California was an interesting dynamic that was supposed to introduce import drag racing to the East Coast. The roles have reversed quite a bit over the years, haven't they?

JL: Exactly. The East Coast was a day late and a dollar short. Now I have to travel 3,000 miles to do any competitive racing. Anything local is just all about fun. It's definitely not something we ever thought would've happened.

HT: How else has professional drag racing changed for you?

JL: There's no more NHRA Sport Compact [series] to where we're following all these rules or [have] big title sponsors. It's all self-funded now. I've got a great group of sponsors who we've held onto for 10 years: Supertech, Brian Crower, JE Pistons, ERL, and ACT since day one. We're not getting six-figure checks like people think.

HT: Are there any particular track experiences from that era that stand out for you?

JL: Let's take a bad one. I remember traveling all the way to Virginia, firing the car up in the pits to warm it up, the throttle cable stuck, and we dropped a valve. Never made it on the track. That was the worst feeling in the world.

HT: Back-up engines weren't as common as they are now, were they?

JL: There was no back-up. There were no tools [laughs]. We didn't have room. Whatever fit in the car, that was it. We didn't have a trailer that we could pull a spare tranny or spare motor out of. Those days were crazy, but that's what made it fun. You were racing with everything you had and your friends' money. Everybody chipped in.

HT: Tell us about some of the CRX's milestone moments.

JL: Definitely running 12s. It was a chase to the 11s and we were first. Hitting 10s.

HT: Where is the CRX now?

JL: The CRX [stayed] with me for a long time, even after I built my new car, [but] I sold [it] in 2010. I needed money. That was the worst mistake I ever made. At the time it looked like a great opportunity. This customer bought a K motor from me, I fabbed up the car for [it], put the motor in, and shipped it to him. All he had to do was get it running and I would have a Drag Cartel CRX in the street class. Dude tears it down, paints it, and ruins the whole plan. Last year I tried to buy it back [from the person who bought it from him] and he hit me with some stupid number, trying to hold it over me. From what I've heard, the car's just sitting. Man, I'll pay anything fair value for that car. I just want to restore it.

HT: Tell us about your current car.

JL: A big inspiration for the new car was Steph. The dude's always been an [innovator]. He built the first tube chassis [Honda]. [He] built his new car around the time I was just getting into the Honda family, and they extended the same gratitude to me as they did [him]. Steph built his car one year and the next year [Honda] offered for us to build a car. Believe it or not, there was some financial support there. They paid for the body [and] helped with some of the chassis. It was a short relationship, but it was there [laughs]. The point of the new car was to be the first in the nines. That was my goal. The car took a little bit longer to build than we anticipated and it took a lot of time to get it figured out, so we missed that boat. There was just no technology for FWD tube chassis cars. We've cut the front end off five times just because of suspension geometry.

HT: Let's talk about your relationship with Shawn Hillier. How has he been involved with your program?

JL: Shawn drove my car. I was the owner [and] the brains behind figuring out the motor. Shawn was building his car, but he could never really build a full race car. He was more of a street race guy.

Jeremy lookofsky interview lookofsky and tony fuchs 05 Photo 5/6   |  
Lookofsky (left) and teammate Tony Fuchs (right) with the win.

HT: Were you just not interested in driving the car at that point?

JL: You know, man, I was a little intimidated. I knew a lot more about the mechanical side than the driving side and Shawn wanted to drive, so it kind of worked out. When we built the new car, I did all of the testing and that's when I fell in love. I think Shawn drove the new car for a couple of races and then he went to the dark side and drove for Skunk. Our friendship was terminated. I took it personally. I cried. I'm not gonna lie. They couldn't beat us, so they took away our driver.

HT: You and Shawn have since partnered up again, though, right?

JL: Oh, yeah. We've since reconciled our differences [laughs]. He looks back on that with regret. He crew chiefs for me and works with us two days a week.

HT: From those early days at JG, did you have any idea of what was in store for you in terms of racing and owning your own business?

JL: It's a dream come true. I lock my door every day and go home feeling blessed. We R&D, build, race, and test everything. We're selling proven products. Knowing that I've helped somebody achieve their goal of 300 hp in a street car is amazing. Today you can go to my website and drop 30 grand and we'll ship you a motor. You didn't have that [back then]. You had to build it and break it three times to make it to the track once.

HT: What do you think it is that makes '80s and '90s Hondas so special?

JL: Honestly, they were just tuner friendly. All of those cars, even today, are sought after. You go back east and everybody racing has a '92-'95 hatchback. I built an '06 Si for SEMA. That thing was a tank. Yeah, it came with a great motor, but nothing around it was tuner friendly. You couldn't even change the radio [laughs]. I remember when buying my Civic, the radio was an option. Passenger-side mirrors were options [laughs].

HT: Are there any current Hondas in particular that you're excited about?

JL: No. It's sad. [But] you've also got to look and see if there's any other auto manufacturer that's building anything that's worthy. Emissions, crash testing--there really is nothing out there. If they were to do a rebirth of the '92-'95 Civic, you would have waiting lists for days for that car. All these car companies are doing their own rebirths; Honda needs to do it. That would be sick, right? When they do it, make sure I get my two percent [laughs].

HT: You do a lot of work with Scion now. Has that changed your perspective on Honda, for better or worse? What sort of comparisons can you make between the two?

JL: I put them on two different levels. I used to think Honda was God. I think Honda still has a leg up on Scion as far as the performance side and upgrading. Maybe not now so much with the FR-S, but if you [compare] the tC to a Civic, style-wise, I'll take the tC. Knowing what I know, I can make the Honda faster, but that's a tough one.

HT: How was Drag Cartel, and then later, Cartel Customs formed?

JL: Drag Cartel is our race program, which we founded in 2004 when we were racing in NHRA to protect our assets. It was a 1,000 square foot facility where we stored our race car and had a small office. DVS Shoes, who was our biggest sponsor, had us build marketing vans for them. Before people even knew what sprinter vans were, we were doing them for all their dirt bike riders. We built an '06 Civic Si and brought action sports to SEMA. I was the first to build something for Rockstar and to bring an energy company to this lifestyle. [All of this] started taking off while drag racing started tapering off in 2006. In 2007, I got a couple of notices from sponsors because of the economy [saying] that our contracts were done. I had a rig, a truck, a trailer, a race car, rent, and no income. I created Cartel Customs and started beating down doors.

HT: More recently, let's talk about the events that led to you being the first all motor driver into the eights. How challenging was that process for you?

JL: My goal was to be the first in the eights and then maybe take some time off. From 2010 to 2012, it took two years to make 20 hp; two years and a lot of money. I probably sunk $60,000-plus into that. It's crazy because you can call and I can sell you a 400hp motor now. Before I'd be really confident selling a 380hp motor, but now I know I can sell you a 400hp motor. Our 420hp motor, I'm not gonna lie, it's on edge. I wouldn't sell it to anybody. It's a time bomb.

HT: Tell us about that record-setting pass. Were you nervous that you wouldn't be the first?

JL: There were a couple of cars that could've done it... Awh, I wouldn't say a couple. There was nobody. I ain't gonna lie [laughs]. We did it in October 2012, in Englishtown New Jersey, on a Saturday night. We knew rain was coming on Sunday, so we had three shots at it. First pass we broke the shifter cables. I've never broken a shifter cable! I guess I must've yanked the shit out of it. Normally, we wouldn't have brought cables, but I brought everything from the shop for this race. There was nothing gonna stop me from running that eight. Nothing. Next pass out we went 9.001 [with a] shitty 60-foot. I was like, "I just can't catch a break." We knew the tires on the car were hammered. We had new tires in the trailer, which we would normally break in but were like, "It can't get any worse."

Jeremy lookofsky interview LNatural CRX 06 Photo 6/6   |   Jeremy Lookofsky Interview Lnatural CRX 06

HT: So it all came down to just one more shot?

HT: Yeah. We waited until the end to line up so that we could have a single run. We were there for one reason. We weren't there to race anybody or to win a race. We decided to do two burnouts to break in the tires. We did a crazy burnout, backed up, turned on the water pump to cool the motor off, and it wouldn't cool down. The starter was like, "Hurry up!" trying to rush us to the lights. I did another small burnout and my guys lined me up. It was 9:40 at night, really cold, and no one even in the stands. Once I launched the car and pulled Second gear, I totally forgot where I was. I blanked out. I ended up short-shifting from Second to Third. I told myself, "It's over. I fucked up." I held Third gear a little bit longer, clicked Fourth, and got down to the end of the track and turned around. The car was so hot from those two burnouts that I had to wait at the back of the track for it to cool down. I was kind of sad, to be honest. I didn't think I ran the number, and then I saw all these people standing out on the track screaming. I had no radio, no contact with my guys, and they were coming as fast as they could on their golf cart. They were like, "You did it! 8.96!" I jumped so high. I was in tears of joy, screaming.

HT: Besides what you've accomplished on the track, what do you consider your major contributions to the Honda performance industry?

JL: I bring honesty. There's not a lot of honesty in this industry. I think that's what's helped me and my company grow--not taking people's money and not sending people product. I'm not gonna lie, we are the most expensive shop in town for K-series parts, period, [but] you buy Cartel or you buy crap. We brought all motor to what it is today. I have kids who were 8 years old watching me back then who are now my customers. It makes me feel old, but we brought it and we kept it alive. I don't want to sound like a dick, but since day one, we were the team to follow. We've always had the cool factor. Anybody who feels I'm wrong, you're trippin' [laughs].

HT: Any final thoughts?

JL: I consider myself a legend in this industry and it's an honor. We might be closing the chapter on this conversation, but racing will always be a part of me. I'll always be a team owner of some sort, supporting the new generation. As long as I have the dedication for this and there are people buying my parts, I don't think this will ever end. You'll be back here in 10 years and we'll be talking about the next generation. Hopefully, my shop's five times the size then [laughs].


Drag Cartel Industries
Simi Valley, CA 93065
By Aaron Bonk
415 Articles



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