Written by Steve Turner
Photography by Kevin Diossi
As the call to the lanes echoes from the speakers, the pressure is on. Racing a 1,200-horsepower turbocharged Camaro is no simple task. The team has a plan. Before Isaac Reed fires up the 427-cube LS, there are things to attend to. His son Michael checks the tire pressure, while his wife Tammy runs down a printed and laminated pre-race checklist, marking each item with a dry-erase marker before the team heads to the staging lanes ready for whatever awaits them.
“Any problem is expected to be investigated and counter-measured, so that’s kind of why I am so critical,” Reed says of his auto industry-bred attention to detail. “What can we do to make sure that never happens again. One of the runs when we were learning and just starting to take the car out, we kept forgetting to turn the CO2bottle on. It wasn’t long after that I came home with a laminated list.”
Pulling to the starting line a camera documents every action as Reed calmly runs through his process. From burnout to staging and shifting to dropping the ’chute, he tries to follow the same process each time. The racing is precise, but it the thrill of that turbocharged push out the back door never wanes, nor does the passion to compete. Reed not only races heads-up with the Camaro, but he competes in another form of racing requiring endurance and mental toughness.
“I have done several Iron Man events, and local stuff, so I am also racing in the triathlon scene too, so I try to do it all,” he said. “For the triathlons, I have a laminated sheet that I check off before race morning because there are a lot of little things that you can easily forget that will drastically affect your race. It’s along the same lines (as the drag racing list).”
While that dedication to process comes from his work as a manager for an automaker with exacting quality standards, it was a nearly pilgrimage to the Circle City that fostered a love for the competition that is heads-up drag racing.
“My dad and I always had a love for muscle cars,” Reed explained. “My dad took me to the US Nationals every year in Indy and loved it ever since.”
Eventually, he started bracket racing in a 1963 Nova SS. He experienced some success racing this car, but he still craved the competition of heads-up racing. As such he set out to build a fast, competitive machine.
“The overall competition of true heads-up drag racing is really where it’s at. I dabbled in the bracket racing, but I found very quickly that it wasn’t satisfying my itch,” Reed said. “Then the desire came to do some heads-up racing, and I slowly started transitioning from a bracket racer to where I wanted to land as a heads-up drag racer.”
Thrill of Competition
While the draw of running faster and competing heads-up was undeniable, the man who fostered Reed’s love for drag racing also inspired this race car build.
“This build was always a dream for my dad and I to build a car together before I lost him as a child. Once I had a son of my own I wanted to do this lifelong project with him,” Reed told us.
Doing so meant making some sacrifices. Without the benefit of sponsors, he started construction on this 1998 Camaro Z28. With the support of his family, they skipped out on some traditional activities like vacations and dining out to direct that money toward building a competitive racer. Despite those sacrifices, the process still took a long time to complete.
“It took a total of two and a half years from the start to getting it, really, where it needed to be,” Reed said. “There’s a lot of stuff that normal families would do that basically got put on hold — from vacations to going out to dinner. It took a joint effort between my wife and I being on the same page about things and where we wanted to go with it and what it was going to take to get there.”
As you might imagine, putting that much time and expense into a race car would be impossible without an understanding spouse. Fortunately, Reed’s better half grew up around dirt track racing, so she knew all to well the effort and expense required to create a competitive race car.
“She is basically the rock. A lot of people’s wife’s are not as open,” Reed said. “If you want to buy a $10,000 set of heads versus a used set that is a couple thousand dollars, we built the car to be competitive so that was the direction. This is what we need. Basically there was no complaining. If this is what we need to be competitive, that’s what we need.”
With that kind of backing and a lot of dedication to the program, Reed’s vision became a reality. Powered by a Dart block-based, 427-cube LS, this fourth-gen Camaro packs a big Precision turbo that pushes it to four-digit horsepower. It’s backed by a RPM-prepped Turbo 400 automatic and follows the orders of a Haltech engine management system.
In 2017 Reed and his team took his dream creation into battle with the NMCA’s top-notch racers in the Edelbrock Xtreme Street and Real Street Shootout ranks.
It took a while to sort out the gearing and rein in the car’s wheelies, but Reed and his team stuck with it. In addition to his racing program, Reed runs triathlons, so he knows all about preparing and persisting. Eventually he and his team dialed in the gearing and suspension to rein in those aggressive launches.
“Staying calm and making sure everything is done before we get to the line,” he said of the essentials of a solid pass. “It’s a big rush to have a successful run with this car.”
Along the way to dialing in the car, Reed started running in the Real Street Shootout against other LS-powered machines. He found the fellow competitors welcoming and helpful, which was a refreshing change from the cutthroat nature of some heads-up classes. However, eventually life had to take a front seat. Building a house, changing jobs, and such kept Reed away from the track for a while.
With those things settled, he plans to return to racing on the regular. Real Street would be his preferred path, but that depends on how he modifies the car to meet the latest rulebook requirements.
“Real Street really fit me well because it seems like all the main guys in that category really meshed well together. Everybody seemed like they were trying to help each other. It’s not like a cutthroat-style program,” Reed said. “When I struggled, there were other Real Street guys that would come over and offer help and do anything that I need them to do. It was really nice, kind of like a welcoming, open-arms approach.”
Though he might step up to a faster class, time will tell. Whichever class he ends up pursuing, Reed says that it’s important to keep your mind open and know “How to listen and never think you know everything there is to know.“
Class: Real Street Shootout
Crew: Chris Anderson, Kevin Mitchell, and family
Car Make/Model/Year:1998 Camaro Z28
Engine Builder:Carlyle Racing
Displacement:427 cubic inches
Cylinder Heads:All Pro
EFI System:Haltech tuned by Patrick Barnhill at PTP Racing
Power Adder:Precision Turbo
Headers and Exhaust:Custom by Jared at Carlyle Racing
Transmission Builder:Rodney Massengale at RPM Transmissions
Torque Converter: Pro Torque
Brakes (Front): Strange Engineering disc
Brakes (Rear): Strange Engineering disc
Wheels (front): Weld Racing
Wheels (Rear):Weld Racing
Tires (Front): Moroso
Tires (Rear):Mickey Thompson
Body modifications: Sheetmetal wing, parachute
Body components:Fiberglass hood
Safety equipment: SFI roll cage, Kirkey seats
Vehicle Weight:3,100 pounds
Quickest ET: n/a
Best 60-foot: n/a
Fastest mph: n/a