Drift, drag, and dirt at LS Fest West

Brandan Gillogly

Last weekend’s LS Fest West 2023 brought out more than 1000 vehicles—and even more spectators—to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where this homage to the General Motors V-8 encouraged participants not only to show off their engines, but put them to the test. Vehicle owners had plenty of opportunities to do so, with a burnout contest, two autocross tracks, a 3S (Speed, Steer, Stop) shootout, a drifting competition, several classes of drag racing, dyno testing, and short-course off-road racing.

We’ve previously heaped praise on GM’s LS-series V-8s and their direct-injected LT successors, and Holley loves them too. The aftermarket company is one of the biggest proponents of LS swaps and is a major purveyor of LS accessories and performance parts. So, why are all of these enthusiasts and racers LS-swapping their cars? The answer is—and has always been—because LS engines are lightweight, compact, abundant, reliable, and affordable. Holley and other aftermarket manufacturers have made swaps easier with engine mounts, oil pans, and accessory drives that fit dozens of chassis, as well as speed parts to make far more power than these engines ever did from the factory.  That makes it relatively easy to find an engine from a wrecked pickup or SUV and get it into the drift, drag, or daily ride of your choice. Here are some of our favorite LS-swapped cars in action.

Brandan Gillogly

Participants could line up and run their LS-powered car or truck on this portable chassis dyno, and the results covered the spectrum, from 300-hp daily drivers to drag cars that produced more than 1000 hp. This turbocharged 1973 Celica, owned and raced by Steve Groenink, put down 1163 hp.

We’ve shown LS Fest East drifting before, but LS Fest West brought out so many competitors that a qualifying session was required in order to whittle down the field to a 32-car bracket. As the sun set on Saturday’s final competition, Ben Hobson took the event win in his LS-swapped Nissan.

Participants could drag race in both quarter-mile and eighth-mile competitions. Plenty of daily-driven cars posted times in the 11- and 12-second range, but several track-prepped cars were much quicker, with Steve Groenink’s Celica, shown on the dyno above, recording 7.93 E.T. at 189 mph.

Beyond its four-wide strip making it a drag-racing landmark, Las Vegas is also a well-known off-road racing hotspot. The nation’s two most prestigious off-road races are centered in Sin City, as the Mint 400 is just down the highway and the Best in the Desert series runs from Vegas to Reno. It only made sense for LS Fest West to feature some of the most entertaining off-road racers in action, and the one-on-one sprints over jumps and whoops delighted the crowd.

If you feel like you’ve missed out on celebrating all that is LS, make your plans now for LS Fest Texas and LS Fest East. There’s still time to get your LS-equipped project car up and running, so get those wrenches turning!

Read next Up next: Auction Pick of the Week: 1970 Mercury Cougar


    That Mercury Capri foxbody caught my attention. Don’t usually see them at all, let alone drag racing.

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