Editor’s Note: Nathan Popp, 17, is the son of champion autocrosser and road racer Danny Popp. In his second OnAllCylinders story, Nathan recounts his experience at the SCCA’s 2017 CAM Challenge East. We’ll look forward to sharing more of Nathan’s autocross experiences and car setup tips in the future.

BUNKER HILL, IN — The 2017 CAM Challenge East—an autocross event for SCCA’s CAM class, which stands for Classic American Muscle cars—was nothing short of awesome.

Competition was fierce. Comradery was strong.

There were 126 competitors split up among SCCA’s three CAM classes, CAM-C, CAM-T, and CAM-S:

  • CAM-C62 participants — The “C” stands for Contemporary. Class includes car and truck body styles form 1990-on, as well as CAM-T cars with ABS, and traction and stability control.
  • CAM-T 30 participants — The “T” stands for Traditional. Class includes car and truck body styles from 1954-’89.
  • CAM-S 34 participants — The “S” stands for Sport. Class includes sports cars, sedans, coupes, and trucks with seating for two or more adults.

As people hauled their American muscle cars toward the autocross course at Grissom Air Reserve Base in Peru, IN, we all knew it wasn’t going to be an easy task in the upper ranks of each class. The list of competitors was a who’s-who of the autocross world.

My dad, Danny Popp, along with Mike Dusold and Brian Reggaine were running CAM-S. Keith Lamming, Alex Doss and Danny Kao were competing in CAM-C. And Matthew Braun, Courtney Cormier, and Tony Grzelakowski were signed up for CAM-T.

Competitors in every class knew that they’d have to perform throughout the whole weekend to do well. We were given the chance to make runs in Friday’s test and tune, which allowed us to figure out what type of setup we needed dial in on the high-grip concrete.

While the veteran autocrossers knew the demands of the concrete and car setup, one curveball was thrown their way—200-treadwear street tires. Some of the 200tw street tires demanded greater tire pressure on the concrete due to shoulder roll on the turns.

As the test and tune came to an end, competitors made car adjustments they believed would help going into Day 1 such as:

  • Shock adjustments in rebound/compression
  • Stiffer or softer sway bars
  • Higher or lower spring rates

Getting to Know the Course

While the competitors made their adjustments, SCCA crew members set up the course for Saturday and Sunday.

The course was open to walk. Many competitors walked the course over and over again. We could tell it would be challenging. The course featured a slalom, many high-speed transitional sweeping corners, and a tight 90-degree corner to the finish.

Day 1 – Saturday

Danny Popp Corvette Z06 2017 CAM Challenge

Danny Popp in his Z06 Corvette. (Image/Nathan Popp)

The weather was perfect and we had perfect running conditions.

As my co-driver, Wayne Furr, and I prepared for the first-heat battle of CAM-C, the CAM-S and CAM-T competitors headed out to their worker assignments on course.

We were given three runs in the morning.

Wayne and I suffered with our runs due to the car being loose in the rear and not putting down the kind of power we’d like. After the first heat, I sat in 30th of the 62-driver CAM-C field. Wayne was 29th.

It was our turn to work the course and watch the CAM-S and CAM-T competition unfold.

When the dust settled, Danny Popp was first in CAM-S and Matthew Braun sat atop CAM-T.

Before the final heat of the day, Wayne and I, along with many other CAM-C competitors, made a few adjustments in an effort to end Day 1 on a high note. We made shock adjustments to stiffen the rebound. It made the car quicker. Wayne moved from 29th to 27th, and I moved from 30th to 25th.

Later, under the white dinner tent trophies were handed out to my dad in CAM-S, Braun in CAM-T, and Jimmy Vajdak in our class-CAM-C. 

Day 2 – Sunday


Red Pontiac Firebird autocross 2017 SCCA CAM Challenge

(Image/Nathan Popp)

On Day 2 of the CAM Challenge, all of the drivers knew we’d have to be on our game to make the shootout in our individual classes.

CAM-C ran first again. Drivers were finding 0.2-0.5 seconds. I managed to find an entire second on my second run, which bumped me up to 16th place—good enough to make the shootout. Wayne’s runs put him in 21st—also in the shootout.

Alex Doss was the top qualifier. So we knew success in the shootout wouldn’t come easy, but we weren’t going to give up either.

Drivers were making big changes at the start of the second heat in an effort to find more time.

The CAM-S and CAM-T drivers were awesome. Dad and Braun, once again, emerged as the top qualifiers in their classes.

The Shootout

The CAM-S class—dad’s class—ran first in the shootout. Danny Popp, Mike Dusold, Mike Losert, and Brian Reggaine weren’t playing around. All-business.

And then there were two. Dad and Reggaine, both of them driving a Chevy Corvette C5Z. Popp edged him out for the CAM-S crown.

CAM-T’s shootout featured a battle between traditional American muscle cars. Courtney Cormier and Matthew Braun were both out for blood. Braun advanced.

Finally, CAM-C—our class—was up. Wayne and I got edged out early. The finals came down to Keith Lamming in his 2011 SS Camaro and Alex Doss in the GM Careers 2017 SS Camaro. Lamming coned in the slalom, moving Doss into the next round.

Last Man Standing

Danny Popp (CAM-S), Matthew Braun (CAM-T), and Alex Doss (CAM-C) were the last men standing in their CAM Challenge categories. (Image/Nathan Popp)

My dad, Danny Popp; Matthew Braun, and Alex Doss were sent into the final round where the winner would be crowned by the fastest time with PAX multiplier (a multiplier that evens the playing field).

Dad and Braun both ran their fastest times of the day.

Factoring the PAX multiplier, dad’s fastest run wasn’t enough to overcome Braun’s final run in his Chevelle, making Matthew Braun the overall winner of the 2017 CAM Challenge East.

Matthew Braun and his Chevy Chevelle at the SCCA 2017 CAM Challenge

CAM-T winner Matthew Braun and his Chevrolet Chevelle was crowned the overall event champ at the SCCA 2017 CAM Challenge.

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When Nathan Popp was 15, he earned his temporary driver’s license and attended his first autocross event with his father. In his first OnAllCylinders contribution, he told that story and tossed in a few pro tips along the way. Check it out.