Alas, all good things must come to an end and the 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour is no exception to the cruel laws of nature. As quickly as it arrived, the ultimate rolling car show vanishes again into automotive myth, only to make its return for another brief period of bliss this next summer. The final leg of the journey took place in one my my favorite cities in the world, Kansas City, Kansas, at the Nascar Speedway. The last time I visited this landmark of internal combustion I was just five years old. I don’t remember much, but what I do remember, is a nice view of turn four, a three foot long piece of licorice shared with my grandfather, and a stark declaration from the same man, that if the drivers had any genuine guts they’d be making their passes in figure-eight fashion. This was the way he and his brother’s (Harry and Gerry) had for decades. Nothing but providence and poetic justice can account for the fact that the Power Tour’s last stop would take me to this memory filled arena, but my tour’s last stop would return me to my grandfather’s garage.
More on that later however, for now we turn back to progress of the SEMA YEN Team and our Power Tour mission. Our next step in the process of reaching out to young enthusiasts and future industry members lead us to Johnson County Community College and to visit their automotive tech department and facility. We were met there yet again by a handful of students and staff members, ready to dialogue about ways to break into the aftermarket industry and how to put their top notch training to good use. I comfortably speak for the whole YEN team when I say that this aspect of our journey was surpassingly rewarding and inspires us to continue similar efforts of our own accord.
Photos & Words: Michael Phillips
After our final school visit was completed, we made our way with some haste to the KC Speedway, and there were greeted by excited and energetic crowds, determined to end the epic tour with a bang. The irony of it all is that the event quite literally went up in smoke, thanks to a burnout contest which helped to conclude the festivities. Throughout the parking lot and entry grounds of the raceway were spread the final efforts of the sponsors and vendor booths, the last grandiose of the main stage and its hosts, and above all, a decisive and authoritative spread of some of the nations most hot-rodded cars and trucks, built and driven by the backbone of the nation, for more than 3000 tour miles.
Some of the hot-rods we had seen all week seemed to gleam with fresh luster, and roar with renewed vigor. Something to the effect of absence creating fondness in the heart, seemed to work its magic a few hours early. It was as if the knowledge that the end was upon us, breathed new life into the various carburetors and fuel injection systems, spread through that local concrete kingdom. A good deal of lasting friendships and even more long-living memories were formed and forged throughout the week, finally being sealed by the close of the last day.
While an air of sadness might seem appropriate for the ending to such an experience, it would be better served to view it as just a short break, before the Power Tour continues next summer. This time it will be beginning in KC where it left off. The inclusion of a year’s worth of downtime means current rides will be built stronger, new customs will be created all together, and if we get our way, the Slam’d rides will lay even lower!
Like I alluded to earlier, my family has long resided in Kansas City and this last tour stop afforded me the opportunity to see a few of its members. After spending the night there, I made my way down to the very last stop on my own Power Tour quest, to seriously small town America, Wheatland Missouri. There lives very little in Wheatland, other than some fair diner food, nicely prepared Amish goods, and a county jail just big enough to seem viable. What also lives in Wheatland however, is my grandfather, one of the few people ultimately responsible for my relationship with cars. A long time hot-rodder, dirt track driver, and SEMA member, my grandfather has never known a life apart from the industry. When I was a kid he raced the Double Zero dirt track, figure-eight car and as I grew older he continued to race and build anything with a eight American cylinders. Visiting his shop now, was the absolute best way to end my experience with the Hot Rod Power Tour. As I reflect on my week’s mission of reaching out to the next generation of enthusiasts, I cant help but realize that I was simply passing a torch, my grandfather helped light for me.
Thank you all for following along with our Slam’d journey and coverage of the 2016 Hot Rod Power Tour!