Prep Shop Profile: East Street Racing

Jim Drago’s outfit has a number of championships to its name, including several for its principal

East Street Racing has gone from a dealer in salvage parts to a distinguished prep shop with a host of championships to its name. But while the salvage trade is still a big part of the business, motorsports is making up an increasingly larger part of the pie. “I guess we started racing in 2003 [or] 2004 – I started in Spec Miata and we’ve gone into STL and a couple of other classes,” explains owner Jim Drago. “I started racing, and that has morphed into building cars, building engines, suspension parts and doing trackside support. Since 2006 we’ve managed to win three national points titles, five SCCA National Championship Runoffs and two NASA National championships. We have eight to 10 customers that rotate in and out of our trackside support.”

Drago himself accounts for a couple of those Runoffs wins in Spec Miata, while Preston Pardus is the company’s latest SCCA National Champion, scoring the SM victory at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in one of East Street Racing’s rentals.

“We pride ourselves in renting top cars that can actually win, not run-of-the-mill rental cars,” says Drago. “I’m probably most proud of Preston’s win at Indy – such a big race and the fact that truly was a car we built to rent. That goes to show that any car we build is built to be just as good as the next one. [Pardus] was able to get into that car without winning any Majors or Super Tour races, everything clicked and he was able to win probably the biggest Runoffs to date.”

Aside from Pardus, Drago counts some other well-known names in the SM world as customers, such as Erik Stearns and Todd Buras. And beyond his trackside support customers, there are a lot of racers using East Street engines and transmissions. Drago says he typically does between 75 and 100 engines a year, plus about 125 transmissions. That’s in addition to building between eight and 12 complete cars each year.

In addition to taking care of customers, Drago has also raced in Street Touring Lite and Touring 4 – he finished a hard-fought second in Touring 4 at the Mid-Ohio Runoffs in 2016 – and he’s working on a rather interesting new STL project. The fact that he’s done all the work on the cars himself is extremely gratifying for him.

“The one thing that I’ve personally always liked and I’m proud of is the cars I’ve won National Championships with, I literally have built the entire car here,” he says. “I built the engine here, I built the transmission here, I was the lead engineer, the data coach, the setup coach. Few people can really say that they have won the Runoffs that way – somebody has always done something for them. It’s pretty neat we did everything from the ground up and did it ourselves.”

While East Street use to not buy Miatas for the salvage side of the business, now Miata parts have turned into a mainstay as they go into the racing side – from body parts to many other pieces that Drago rebuilds, it has turned into two complementary sides of his business. “We sell every piece of the car,” he says.

East Street Racing
Memphis, Tenn.