Shorty’s ZX-14 has an under-seat tank that holds just a few ounces of VP race gas to keep weight at a minimum.
Riders burnout in a sticky solution called VHT, which adds tremendous amounts of traction to an otherwise standard street.
A well-selected combo of parts help the infamous racer cut 8.40s at the strip and take names on the street. An air shifter aids with quick shifts and the reversed brake setup and low-profile oil pan help with the slammed stance. If the caliper is left in the stock location it contacts the radiator when dropped on the deck.
Life on the street is a lonely place. It’s just you, your bike, an empty road and your competitor. The fastest bike is the last one standing.
Even though Shorty’s ZX-14 is good for mid 8s at the strip, the Mazda RX2 in the left lane sports a 500 HP 13B rotary motor with a big turbo. Combined with its 2200-pound weight, big meats and wheelie bar it’s run a best of 9.59 @ 135 MPH and will give even a dragbike a run for its money.
02.13.12, 6:13 PM
As the sun set on the high desert we drove into the distance without a soul in sight, just a lonely road cut through an expansive landscape. Then, nearly 50 miles outside the nearest town the road rolled through an arbitrarily placed intersection–the remains of an ill-fated oasis that died on the vine. For most it’s now an intersecting grid to nowhere, but to a select group of gearheads this road leads to destiny, a place where everything is won or lost in a matter of seconds–this is known in the underground world of street racing as, “the spot.”
The desolate stretch of pavement, void of life only moments before, was now lined with a handful of trailers carrying racecars and dragbikes. A dozen people were milling about, some walking the starting line, others inspecting their vehicles.
The underlying energy slowly intensified as the last ounces of daylight faded into the night sky. Aside from the sound of spinning wrenches and low murmurs, it was all but silent–nobody was there to make friends.
As the moon began its ascent into the night’s sky the weather grew cold and blustery, typical for “the spot.” The layers of molten rubber adhered to the pavement glimmered under the glow of the moon and the wisps of clouds cast an unsettling backdrop indicative of the lawless acts that would soon follow.
Countless burnouts and endless amounts of VHT (a liquid that’s applied to the tires for better traction) tattooed the street for the first 50 feet of the track. The tarmac was so sticky it would easily remove a shoe from anyone who accidentally stepped in the black goo.
While the rest of the population is fast asleep, there’s an underground world of racers who take to the streets and risk life, limb, fortune and jail time in hopes of gaining enough race cred to be crowned, the “King of the Street.” Tonight wasn’t a friendly light-to-light street race, but a high-stakes battle between two vehicles with $10,000 on the line. This was as real as it gets and SSB went deep inside the world of street racing to see if a new king was to be crowned.
02.13.12, 7:02 PM Meet Shorty
Although our day in the life of a street racer started a few minutes past 6:00 PM on a winter day, the task of permeating the underground community began months earlier. During an Internet binge the SSB staff stumbled on some videos of fast cars and trucks racing a drag-prepped Kawasaki ZX-14. Oftentimes the Kawi took an easy victory, but in some cases it was only by a nose. In astonishment we felt it was our duty to uncover the full story. After many broken leads we finally made contact with the midnight man, a rider known as “Shorty,” who was only seen in black leathers aboard a murdered-out ZX-14. Was it true that even a mildly-modded sportbike couldn’t hang on the street? Was a prepped drag beast really necessary to run with the big dogs? We weren’t sure, but after months of tracking down the illustrious street racer we finally got the chance to meet him at “the spot.”
Despite our apprehensions, Shorty was just like most gearheads, a down-to-earth adrenaline junkie who differed from the norm only because he was willing to risk it all for a win.
“I’ve been street racing for over 15 years and made more than 150 passes out here, it’s been one crazy ride and there’s nothing like it,” Shorty said.
Throughout his many years in the streets he’s seen some crazy crashes and even hit the pavement himself.
“I’ve witnessed a few cars roll many times, but thankfully the drivers were always OK,” Shorty said. “Due to some bad weather one night I low-sided after riding through my burnout, thankfully I didn’t get hurt.”
But more than just mechanical mayhem, Shorty went onto explain that he’s seen many heated arguments explode into a brawl and in some cases, guns were drawn.
“Thankfully nobody was shot, but at times it can be a scary place. It’s all part of what makes it so exciting.”
Life here is like the wild; it’s a game of cat and mouse with the police during the wee hours of the morning.
“We have designated tracks all over the place and it’s a guessing game trying to stay one step ahead of the police,” he explained. It can take hours for a street race to be agreed upon but the actual race can be over in a matter of seconds. We don’t want to attract unnecessary attention so the vehicles are left on the trailers until the very last moment–they’re then unloaded, the burnouts are completed and the race is decided,” he said.
But racing on the street has little resemblance to a prepped track and many accomplished racers can’t conform outside the walls of a drag strip.
Thankfully nobody was shot, but at times it can be a scary place. It’s all part of what makes it so exciting.
“Just because you’re good at the track doesn’t mean you’re fast on the street and vice versa. The street is a whole different game where traction is rarely consistent and you never truly know how fast your competitor is until you run them,” he said.
Shorty explained that his chassis and motor setups differ depending on the street or strip. As proof that life on the street is anything but ordinary, Shorty mentioned that unlike a drag strip where the longer wheelbase bikes have the advantage because they’re less likely to wheelie, on the street a lowered and strapped stock wheelbase bike has a better chance of winning.
“Shorter (wheelbase) bikes can take a lot of money from the many stretched ones that aren’t properly setup for the street. The stock-length bikes can put the power down much better,” he said.
Some have said street racing is more about the rider’s skill than at the track. “You have to have your mind right and remember not to crumble under the pressure. You only have one shot at the prize so you better make it count, I’ve seen too many people crumble under the pressure or forget what it’s like to ride on an unprepped track,” he said.
In order to win big it has to be the perfect combo of man and machine, Shorty has proven year in and year out that he has what it takes to stay on top.
“You have to keep the big guys on their toes, never let them know what you’re working with and always step-up to a challenge.”
02.13.12, 8:11 PM Doc Holliday
After earning Shorty’s trust he decided to give SSB an inside look at his infamous 2007 Kawasaki ZX-14, “Doc Holliday.”
“I call him Doc Holliday because he was the fastest and deadliest shooter of his time– and this ZX-14 is fast and deadly,” Shorty laughingly admitted.
From day one Shorty knew his ZX-14 was destined for a life of drag racing.
“I didn’t have it a month and I already lowered and strapped it, added a Brock’s Alien Head pipe, BMC air filter, a Power Commander and custom tune along with extensions–the bike went 9.0s @ 151 MPH and that’s how I began making a name for me and Doc,” he said.
Since a street race can take place on a variety of surfaces and locations a rear strut was out of the question, instead a BMC re-valved rear shock was called to handle the suspension duties.
“Chassis setup is a huge part of winning on the street and a good tire along with the right suspension pieces goes a long way,” he mentioned.
Removing weight was the next big endeavor and anything unneeded was ditched. Less heft and more seat time eventually lead to faster track times.
“I cut unnecessary plugs off the harness and removed everything I could, the bike ran 8.80s with the stock clutch,” he said.
Slowly the midnight ZX-14 slid into the 8.60s, 8.50s and eventually a best of 8.43 @ 156 MPH in its current state. Additional go-fast mods included an Adams Performance swingarm, MTC Gen. 2 clutch, BST carbon wheels, Brock’s TiWinder pipe, VP MR12 race gas, a custom FCS subframe and a Catalysts Racing Composites low profile tank and tail that relocated the gas tank under the seat for a lower center of gravity. As for traction duties, a Michelin Power-One is used at the strip while a Mickey Thompson slick is used on the street where grip can be unpredictable.
In total Shorty claims to have shaved nearly 90-pounds out of the big bike, but wouldn’t disclose its actual weight since it would give his competitors an advantage. Other trick bits include a Herrera Racing airshifter along with a reversed front brake setup with EBC parts and a low-profile TWW oil pan that help the ZX-14 achieve its slammed stance.
Despite a sinister style and a proven track record of kills, the Kawi still sports functioning headlights, taillights and gauge cluster as proof that it’s still a streetbike. The combination is simple yet effective and ultimately it’s not the total parts count, but rather the way in which everything works in unison. And with 8.40s ETs on a stock-motor it’s proof in the pudding.
02.13.12, 9:41 PM Hustle or be Hustled
Shortly after arriving at the spot and getting acquainted with Shorty’s entourage we were given the briefing on the basics of this underground world.
“Street racers are all about hustling and you can’t be caught slipping for one second or they’ll take your money,” Shorty said.
He explained that the entire system is a complicated form of gambling that starts with two competitors sizing up each other’s vehicles in hopes of understanding what they’re up against.
“You’re responsible for looking over the other person’s car or bike, you check to see what tire they’re on, do they have a turbo, are they hiding nitrous, what kind of transmission–it’s your job to know what they have even when they don’t want you to look,” Shorty explained. “If you miss a hidden nitrous system and you get beat because of it, you didn’t do your homework,” he added.
After each party takes inventory of their competitor a starting orientation is decided. A fair race is called a “heads-up race,” this is where both competitors line up side-by-side and leave at the same time. To help even the playing field, a slower vehicle can ask for such handicaps as “the move” or “several lengths.” Getting the move means that the faster vehicle will leave the line only after the slower vehicle begins to move, giving the slower racer a slight advantage from the hit. Giving someone lengths means the slower vehicle is allowed to start a predetermined amount of car- or bike-lengths in front of the other competitor. A combination of the two is also used on occasion.
Once a handicap has been established the next order of business is the purse.
“We usually race for a minimum of $1,000 and we’ve seen some races fetch over $20,000,” Shorty said. “When you’re racing at this level you have to cover your costs like fuel, broken parts and anything else, so racing for money makes sense–you gotta make it worth your while when you have everything to lose,” he added.
To make matters more interesting, bystanders can fatten the pot by betting their own money on a selected vehicle. As with any bet though, it isn’t without an associated cost, as Shorty takes 20 percent of the winnings from all parties who bet on him–call it a racer’s fee.
With all of the housekeeping items sorted it’s time to do business. But not before insuring all parties are on board with the same rules since in some cases a false start means forfeiting the prize while in other instances it simply means lining up once more. Many racers have been known to go double-or-nothing after losing the first race if they think they’ve got an ace in their pocket.
As for the actual start of the race, it’s usually accomplished with a “flagger” and this person is responsible for starting the race during a heads-up run. After the competitors line up, the flagger begins by pointing at the racers one at a time. When the racers are ready they either nod or flash their headlights. With that the flagger either raises his arms and the racers go when the hands drop or in some cases the flagger turns on a flashlight and the racers leave on the light beam.
02.14.12, 12:32 AM The Contender
After the brief Street Racing: 101 it was time to get racing, but this night wasn’t just another street race. The crown was being challenged by a lightweight drag car, a 1973 Mazda RX2 to be specific, driven by Cris. The newcomer was hungry for the top spot and decided a run might grant him the gold.
The challenger offered little in form, but what it lacked in show it made up for in shock. For beneath its flat-black skin was a full tube chassis wrapped in a lightweight two-door skin. It weighed a mere 2200 pounds and packed over 500 HP thanks to a 13B rotary motor from a newer Mazda RX7. Gone were the factory twins and in place a single turbo huffs 20+ psi while sipping on boost-friendly E85 fuel. The power is transferred through a C4 automatic transmission with a trans-brake and a 7,000-RPM stall. The combination is hooked through a big pair of slicks that put the wheelie bar to the test whenever traction is abundant. It’s best ET at the track was 9.59 @ 135 MPH, which means even the mighty 2012 ZX-14R would have a hard time hanging with this dedicated drag car.
Forget the thought of flogging your streetbike at the underground races and winning money: to run with the big dogs you’ll need a dedicated drag bike and an accomplished rider. In this case the lightweight Mazda was notorious for cutting sub 1.4 second 60-foot times with a jaw dropping best of 1.24. The lightweight chassis and big tires meant the feathery Mazda could hole-shot with the best of them. Shorty had to nail the perfect launch on his ZX-14 or he would see nothing but this Mazda’s taillights.
02.14.12, 3:34 AM The Race for the Title
Nearly an hour of negotiations brought the simmer to a boil, both parties were hot and neither was willing to budge. At the track the ZX-14 was faster by a good margin but tonight Shorty opted for a street tire, a decision that would cost him precious traction. The Mazda was on slicks, which meant that despite being slower than the Kawasaki, it could potentially cut a better time because of traction. Since the faster bike was handicapped by a street tire they decided on a heads-up race–the only way to truly see who’s the king!
The opening bids for the race were $1,000 per side, but that figure quickly jumped to $4,000, then $6,000 and finally $10,000. Both sides were all in; it was one run, winner takes all.
In a matter of moments the competitors were suiting up, crew chiefs were unloading the vehicles under the veil of darkness and the desolate silence was finally broken with the crack of the ZX-14–brap! As the Kawi nervously idled a scant few ounces of race gas was added to the under-seat tank–not too much or it’ll add weight, but not too little or it’ll run out mid track.
The Mazda then quickly fired into a truly sinister idle, a ported rotary has a knack of sounding like a big block V8. With both rider and driver mounted and ready, each made several smoky burnouts to get the tires hot. Members of each team directed their pilots into the puddles of VHT before hazing the tires into massive clouds. The energy was on the verge of exploding. Cris and Shorty each made a few test launches to make sure their tires were hot enough for good grip.
In a hail of RPM the flagger pointed at each pilot looking to see if they were ready. Shorty brought the RPM up to 5,500 RPM and crotched into position. The flagger then pointed to Cris, who answered by bringing the Mazda up to 7,000 RPM where the turbo began to spool. With the flash of their lights each pilot signified they were ready and in an instant both competitors left heads up. Just 60 feet out and both vehicles were fighting for traction. Instead of a wheels-up launch, the Mazda swayed side to side as the boost began to climb. Shorty could be heard playing with the throttle in search of traction. First gear they were side-by-side, second and third were much of the same as neither the car nor bike could put the power down. Well into fourth gear the audible change in tone revealed that Shorty had finally hit WOT and towards the top of the track the Kawasaki began to walk away from the boosted Mazda. Despite loads of boost the RX2 just didn’t have enough power to catch Shorty at the line. When the bike crossed the finish it had beaten the Mazda by three bike lengths–enough for the win, but not an utter killing.
Both teams waited at the start in anticipation as the finish line bystanders radioed back that Shorty had won the battle. While one side cheered and congratulated the other hung their heads and began to pack up for the night.
Back at the starting line both racers met up and shook hands. There’s no shame in a loss, maybe on another day it’ll be a different result, then again maybe not–that’s street racing. Both competitors had serious problems with traction and compared the street surface to ice. Neither could put the power down, but Shorty was still able to steal the win.
Not wanting to press our luck we too ran back to our vehicles and packed up for the night. Much like the hierarchy in the wild, the big dogs raced first, but as we headed back to civilization the racing was just getting started. There were plenty of racers trying to climb the latter, but that night Shorty was still king.
02.14.12, 8:48 AM
Just another night…or was it?
Nearly four hours later we arrived back to the SSB HQ and were rekindling the night’s drama over a hot cup of Joe. Just as we ended the night a call came across the wire from Shorty. After we left there had been a terrible crash and two cars lost control on the slippery surface. One car survived unscathed, but the other was a total loss. Although the driver survived, he was rushed to the hospital.
In all the frenzy a 911 call was placed before the bystanders could right the overturned car, load it on the trailer and leave the scene. Everyone was so concerned with the situation that nobody noticed the drove of police cars that silently swarmed the scene. With the road blocked at all corners the racers were trapped. Their cover had been blown, tickets were issued, vehicles were impounded and there were even a few arrests. The night went from good to bad in a heartbeat and Shorty didn’t take it lightly.
“I don’t know man, it all kinda changed for me when I saw how busted up that guy got,” he quietly said over the phone. “It made me realize other things are more important than all of this, I seriously think I might take a break–the track is a lot safer,” he added.
As we hung up with Shorty there was an air of uncertainty whether or not he would return to the underground world of street racing. In the flurry to finish this issue we didn’t catch up with Shorty until days before press and we were happy to hear that he had stuck with his decision to back off street racing. Instead of risking it all on public roads he now takes it to the grudge races at his local track. Shorty went on to say that he went so far as to setup another street race, but when he couldn’t shake the images of the tumbling car he knew it was time to walk away.
Only time will tell what happens with Shorty and the other street racers, but for now he’s retired as the “King of the Street.” As dangerous and foolish as it is, for the few that are willing to risk it all, there’s a magnetic attraction most will never understand. Will the hungry new contenders bait Shorty back into the game, we suppose it’s anybody’s guess.
It all kinda changed for me when I saw how busted up that guy got. It made me realize other things are more important than all of this.
** Take it to the track**
SSB does not support or condone street racing in anyway. In fact, it’s plain stupid. You not only risk life and limb, but other innocent people’s lives as well. If you want to ride fast, take it to the track.
Drag strips all across the country are open for weekly test nights and some cutting-edge establishments are even letting people grudge race like on the street. Competitors can race for money, leave off a flagger (instead of the tree) and the ETs aren’t posted so it’s all still a guessing game. Some tracks are even letting racers run the track backwards so the surface is unprepped–each team is responsible for track prep, just like street racing.
With so many safe options it’s foolish not to race at the strip. As gearheads it’s our duty to support the local tracks because without them, the sport of drag racing will quickly be left with nothing.
** 2007 Kawasaki ZX-14**
Front end: BST carbon-fiber wheel with ceramic bearings, Brock’s Performance lowering strap, EBC rotor and pads, reversed brake caliper, Pirelli tire
Rear end: BST carbon-fiber wheel with ceramic bearings, Brock’s Performance lowering link, EBC pads, water jet cut stock rear rotor, Adams Racing swingarm, RK chain, Driven sprockets, Michelin Pilot Power-One tire, FCS custom swingarm, BMC re-valved shock
Motor: Brock’s Performance TiWinder full exhaust, Power Commander IIIR, TWW low profile oil pan, DoItDyno map on VP Racing Fuels MR12, MTC Gen II clutch tuned by Herrera Racing
Body: Catalysts Racing Composites low profile tank and tail
Accessories: FCS side stand, Herrera Racing air shifter
Supporters: Brock’s Performance, Herrera Racing, Sims Performance, MotoWheels, DoItDyno, Guhl Motors, Team Madness, friends and family