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How to win the $2000 Challenge? You have to be there to find out. | Articles

How to win the $2000 Challenge? You have to be there to find out. | Articles

What’s the recipe for winning the Grassroots Motorsports $2000 Challenge Presented by Tire Rack?”

That question, or one just like it, is posted on the GRM Forum every week or two now. But while the question’s been the same for 25 years now, I’d argue that the answer has changed drastically.

As the legend goes, the $1500 Challenge was started by the staff of GRM in 1999, when Tim, David and JG got tired of people complaining about the high cost of racing and decided to prove you could race on a budget. The Challenge was born, and because they didn’t think anybody else would show up, they each built cars themselves. Their goal? Win an autocross, drag race and concours without spending more than $1500. At the time this was an inconceivable task.

Sounds quaint, right? The world of amateur motorsports was far different 25 years ago. There was no 24 Hours of Lemons, no ChampCar, no Lucky Dog, no SCCA Track Night in America, and barely any NASA HPDE. The internet barely existed, and Sloppy Mechanics was something you’d find written on a VCR tape behind the curtain. At the time, the perception was this: If you wanted to compete in motorsports, you had to be rich.

The staff assumed they’d be alone at that first Challenge. Instead, a crowd of readers joined them, building a few dozen cars and proving an appetite for low-buck racing. After a year off to regroup, the Challenge returned in 2001 with a $500 higher budget and the now-familiar name. It’s received national attention, too, with Tire Rack now presenting the event.

Early on, the recipe was simple: Find a screaming deal on a used car with some sporting aspirations, clean it up and add some bolt-on parts, then stand on the Challenge podium. Top entries included Mike Guido’s nitrous-fueled, impeccably detailed MG midget as well as my father’s own SVO Mustang (the turbocharged, four-cylinder Fox-body), which was a mostly stock car that had the boost turned up with an aquarium valve. A turbo Dodge minivan, fielded by the now-infamous Shelby Dodge Auto Club, was also on the podium.

And from an editorial perspective, this is exactly the story the event was intended to tell: “Anybody, with a little money and a little spare time, can go racing. Even you!” The fastest quarter-mile time at that first event was a 14.122.

But racers will be racers. With no rules beyond simple safety requirements and a budget cap, Challenge competitors soon realized that an…

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