Would-be racers often dream of making a vocation from their hobby; for Scotty Guadagno, the track and the shop have been the only life he's ever known. Starting as a teenager, he's made racing his profession and his pastime, finding that success at the dragstrip takes a combination of smart decisions, passion, and the help of his friends.
Veteran racer and shop owner Scotty Guadagno has never been one to shy away from a challenge. “I was one of the first guys in the early 90s to start messing around with Hondas and other foreign cars in terms of machine work,” he says. While Scotty’s Racing Engines in Spring Hill, Florida, has a reputation for building some seriously potent GM high performance engines, they’ve always been willing take on just about anything. “A lot of guys thought I was crazy because nobody knew what that scene was going to turn into.”
But to talk to Scotty, and it quickly becomes clear that this outspoken competitor relishes a chance to put his money where his mouth is, whether that’s in the shop or at the drag strip. “Personally, I’m a nitrous guy, pretty much always have been – I’m known for making fun of the turbo guys!” he jests.
Guadagno says his obsession with all things automotive started early. “My dad was always into cars, and that’s what got me started,” he explains. “He was doing engine rebuilds at home and stuff like that, and I think I was about 12 years old when I really started getting involved. Once I got out of high school I opened up my shop – you know, small scale stuff at that point – and worked my way up to where we are today, messing with 900 cubic-inch Pro Mod motors.”
By the late 80s, Guadagno was racing with the NHRA. “There were maybe 15 to 20 of us there for the start of the Super Gas class,” he recalls. “I was racing with a ’68 Camaro that my dad had owned since the 70s, and we just worked our way up the ranks, eventually moving over to Outlaw 10.5 with my blue fourth-gen F-Body.”
These days Pro Mod grudge racing is Guadagno’s primary stomping ground. “You know Street Outlaws?” he asks. “It’s like that – only this stuff is real. Of course we’re running on tracks – I ain’t stupid anymore! I used to run like that back in the old days, but you know, you get older and you get smarter. This stuff is really getting big now. It’s a lot of fun and the fans really dig it. Class racing just isn’t as exciting.”
Scotty’s weapon of choice is a Jerry Bickel-built tube chassis racer outfitted with a ’68 Camaro body shell. “The engine is one of a kind – I basically built it from scratch,” he says. “That’s not to say it’s better or worse than anyone else’s, it’s just my own.”
The mill is a Dart billet block that displaces a whopping 943 cubic inches and is outfitted with a Callies crankshaft, GRP connecting rods, Diamond pistons, a custom-grind Bullet camshaft, Jesel rockers, Trend pushrods, Manley valves, and Dart cylinder heads. “With these types of engines they’re really just custom built to spec, so when you order the block you’ve got to give them every dimension and then they build it.”
And of course the nitrous system is the crown jewel of the combination It's a multi-stage dry system that uses both direct-port and plate-style systems to feed the monstrous big block, a setup that Scotty estimates to be good for between 2,700 and 3,000 horsepower. Being a nitrous specialist and dealing with these levels of power regularly, it’s no surprise that Guadagno is well-versed in putting together stout rotating assembly recipes.
“Diamond has been my main piston supplier for a long time,” he tells us. “I deal with all the front runners in the industry, and I use Diamond stuff whenever I can. Quality-wise it’s definitely at the top of the heap. And trust me – if it was garbage, I’d tell you. And what’s cool is that they work so closely with the guys in Pro Stock, Pro Mod, circle track stuff, and other racers as far as development goes. They get all this feedback from these guys and just make better and better designs.”
Power gets routed to the rear wheels of Guadagno’s ’68 Camaro through a Proformance TH400 three-speed gearbox with a ProTorque converter. With the car weighing in at 2,550 pounds wet, the combination makes for a very quick Camaro. “It goes in the 3.70 range, like the rest of ‘em,” Guadagno says coyly.
But make no mistake, Scotty is a force to be reckoned with in competition. “2017 was killer for me,” he says. “I won everything I raced at. The ’68 car didn’t get finished until around August – most of the season was with the blue F-body. But we got to run it in Detroit and won there with it, first time out with a brand new car. Then we went and did the grudge stuff in September and October, and we won everything we ran in there too. 2017 was f'in awesome, man.”
This season hasn’t been quite the repeat Guadagno was hoping for, though. “Not as good as ‘17!” he says. “We’ve only been out twice. Didn’t win those races, but we did good and had some fun. We ran in February and March, then we took a few months off to regroup and get ready for July.”
Guadagno’s busy season is still to come. “We’re going to be back in Detroit again in August and we’re hoping to win that race again,” he tells us. “All the good stuff starts to come around once it cools down in September and October – there’s a bunch of races we’ll be at. We still have some testing to do. I’ve haven’t been running in Pro Mod trim, I’ve been running in Radial trim. So that’ll be kind of new to us – something interesting that’ll be a little different than what we’ve been doing.”
Looking into the future, Guadagno says he has his sights on mixing it up in a new series. “Next year I think we might dabble in PDRA a bit. Not full-time, but I think it’d be fun to hang with the big boys. I used to race with the NHRA, but it’s just not my thing. PDRA looks cool – I like the atmosphere at the races. If we could get to a race just qualify, that would be sweet. Winning a round or two would be cool, too.”