The Scarlett Lady: Forrest Kennedy’s Small-Tire ’71 Z28 Camaro

Many of us that grew up at the racetrack most likely at one point in time had a favorite driver or car. Most probably could only dream of owning that very car we idolized as a child. This is all part of the American dream, believing and achieving. It was that very determination and vision that inspired Forrest Kennedy to work hard and achieve his dreams.

The Beginning

Photo by Lee Soles

“I watched my dad run NMCA EZ Street in the late 1990’s but he struggled to be competitive for numerous reasons. I remember my dad telling me when I grew up to position myself to “spend until you win.” Although that’s not possible and certainly doesn’t guarantee success, it was a motivator for me to go to school. There is certainly truth when people say that racecars will keep you out of trouble! When I graduated from school, I was able to purchase this car five years ago. I’m a prime example of how sitting in a classroom forever does not yield you life skills. When I purchased this car I had no idea how to load it or strap it down on a trailer. Needless to say, I have learned a lot in my few years racing, but I have a very long way to go.”

As a child, Forrest would watch his father race his “butternut yellow” 1967 Chevrolet Camaro RS/SS at the local tracks in North Carolina. Ironically enough, the then-owner of Forrest’s Camaro was a good friend of the family and a fierce competitor.” I remember growing up watching my dad race against that car on a weekly basis. Little did I know at such a young age that I would eventually own both of the Camaros.”

Now both of the cars sit Forrest’s shop, and he is lucky enough to drive them both.

Photos by Lee Soles

Scarlett Fever

This car is named after Forrests’ mother, Scarlett Kennedy. “My mom loved drag racing and I wish she were here to see what we are doing now but unfortunately, she passed some time ago,” Forrest explains “One of the biggest goals in building the red car was to make it modern and competitive but keep its looks as close as possible to how I remember it as a child.”

When Forrest bought this car in 2015 it was a small-block nitrous street car. The car was very reliable and was perfect for someone learning to drive.

Photo by Spoold Media

“My wife and I enjoyed racing the nitrous setup locally and running shootouts around our house.” But after a year or so of ‘playing’, they were ready to step up. They made some various upgrades throughout the car, which was then running a 406 cubic-inch small-block Chevy with a single stage fogger system. The car would run low fives at virtually any track, but was never quite fast enough to win these open-rule type shootouts. As they increased the nitrous, the car got much more sensitive to tuning. After a trip to Donald Long’s No Mercy and having nitrous issues all week, they knew it was time for a change.

“I decided leaving SGMP to switch to a turbocharged combination simply so we would not have to cut the car up as much to go fast.”

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The plan was to go with a Smith Racecraft front end, turbo system, and a Holley EFI setup. “Our plan was to make these changes over the offseason and get back to racing ASAP,” Forrest explains. “As many offseason updates go, the to-do list got longer by the day. We ended up cutting out the majority of the roll cage, changing to the LS-style engine, changing the rearend, and various other things. The whole process took about a year and a half and was no easy task.” The Camaro came out much lighter and safer while utilizing its all steel body and real glass, currently weighing around 2,780 pounds with driver.

Photos by Lee Soles

So let’s take a look at what makes Scarlett Fever tick!

The car is an original 1971 RS/Z28 split bumper with Smith Racecraft front subframe. Chassis work and the turbo system were fabricated by Brazzel Performance Fabrication (BPF). “When I bought this car it was a typical small-block nitrous, street-style car and Jason (BPF) completely rebuilt it front to back.” More recent upgrades include a safer roll cage and upgraded rear suspension components. The heart and soul of this machine is a 440-inch Dart LS NXT block with LSX-DR 11-degree raised runner heads.

The engine was built and is maintained by Scott Sublet with PIG motorsports. “We refer to this motor as Scott’s child because he is very meticulous about how it runs and how it is maintained. The big-inch LSX small-block is running on methanol with Billet Atomizer 850 injectors. For extra boost, the Camaro is currently running a Precision Turbo Gen 2 Pro Mod 106mm turbo, and is swapped to a class-legal Precision 85mm for X275 races.  The engine is all controlled by a Holley Dominator system that was wired by Devin Vanderhoof with HCR Innovations. Harnessed to the LSX powerplant is a near-bulletproof Turbo 400 built by Cameron’s Torque Converter Services.

Photo by Lee Soles

“I built this car to fit a number of different classes. We mostly run Lance Stanford’s Carolina No Time Series in the Small Block Boost category and also plan to run some x275 races this year.  I do occasionally jump in some outlaw street car stuff because the car is all steel and all real glass except the hood.  The car does have tags and is registered in NC although we rarely drive it off my road.”

The Camaro features stock-style front suspension with Smith racecraft control arms and rack and pinion, with a ladder bar rear suspension setup featuring Menscer Shocks. TBM Brakes are located all around. The body was painted by the previous owner, Dean Brooks about 30 years ago. Kennedy notes, “we did have to change the hood and the color match is perfect. This work was done by my body-work guy, Mike Taylor.” Mickey Thompson tires ride on RC Components Torx wheels, and Kennedy generally runs a 28×10.5 Pro Bracket Radial, noting it seems to be more forgiving on marginal surfaces.

“We have only had the car to a racetrack four times, as it is a new build but it has run some promising numbers: mid fours on relatively low boost. We’re hoping the car will run 4.20s to be competitive in x275.

Photos by Lee Soles

Kennedy is quick to thank a number of key individuals and companies who have helped his racing endeavors, from his family to industry talents who have become like family.

“There are so many people who help me with this car I am almost afraid to try to name them all,” he says. “My wife, Krystal Kennedy, loves this car and drag racing just as much as me, and we are a team in everything we do! My father, Bruce Kennedy helps me in any way possible and got me into the sport of drag racing to start with.

Photo by Spoold Media

He continues, “Devin Vanderhoof does our tuning and has sort of my mentor in drag racing; Scott Sublet provides me with more horsepower than I can use and does an inspection on the car from front to back each time it is loaded to go to a race track.  I wouldn’t be racing if it wasn’t for Scott; Jason Brazzel built me this car, dealing with my constant nagging, and doing all the chassis and shock tuning; John Dougthery does a lot for me behind the scenes particularly with getting parts and media exposure; Landon Schertzinger of Landon’s Performance Diesel is a childhood friend who supports this team in many ways; Byron Rabon of Camerons Torque Converter Services builds us the best converters in drag racing and is an awesome friend; Kenny and Heidi Barker come to every race and even come to my house and work on this car while I’m at work.  They never expect anything in return and are a very important part of this team; Les and Melissa Gray, Terrell Cherry (polishing), Ron Rhodes, Corey Stamper (Spooled Media), Keith Jessee (Holley EFI), Doug Cook (Motion Raceworks) are also integral to our success.”

Dragzine we would like to give a special thanks to Spooled Media and Lee Soles for supplying us with photos of this beauty!

About the author

Eddie Maloney

A resident of Las Vegas, Eddie has been involved in drag racing most of his life. Currently an NHRA tech and photographer, he has served 17 years in the military.
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