VMP Takes on Ponies in the Smokies 2018 and Tail of the Dragon

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes


Ponies in the Smokies, also known as PITS, held their 2nd-annual event in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, March 21 – 24, 2018. The VMP crew was onsite with the mobile dyno, but Mother Nature had other plans in the form of snow and rain for much of the event. Despite the moody weather, the show nearly doubled its attendance from last year.

Wednesday kicked off the festivities with the Shine Run, a poker-style run where players were given playing cards at different checkpoints.

One of Thursday’s spots brought enthusiasts into Deal’s Gap to conquer the Tail of the Dragon, or US 129, a winding road frequented by motorcycles and sports cars alike boasting 318 curves in just 11 miles.

To give you an idea on just how curvaceous this road is, the state of Tennessee prohibits big rig trucks and all commercial vehicular traffic on this stretch as they cannot possibly navigate this road safely. (Many signs are stating this, but there are some fascinating videos and photos out there of those who did not heed orders.)

The VMP crew took on the Tail of the Dragon in VMP’s SEMA Focus RS build “Triathlete.” Unlike the flat and straight roads in Florida, the Dragon is incredibly windy and carves through the scenic Smoky Mountains. With that said, it leaves no room for error. Those previously mentioned 318 curves are unaided by guardrails, and it features steep drop-offs that have claimed many motorcyclists that have pushed their luck a little too hard.

Justin, Donny, and Rebecca took it on, in the rain no less, with the all-wheel-drive Focus RS that is pushing about 400-ish horsepower. An excited Donny drove first with Justin simmering him down around corners at first. The Dragon, which is often bustling with all kinds of cars and motorcycles, was somewhat empty on the dreary Saturday evening.

With the gift shop closed, the Tree of Shame, or the Tree of Death as Donny calls it, is always open. It’s a tree littered with broken automotive and motorcycle parts from the many wrecks that have taken place on this dangerous stretch of road. According the Deals Gap Motorcycle Resort website, each damaged piece is signed, dated and given to the store’s front counter for placement on the tree. After visiting the Tree of Shame, Justin drove the way back through the turns, and in the process made himself a little nauseated from the constant back and forth. Rebecca opted to sit back, take it all in, and record the Justin and Donny shenanigans from the backseat.

The Sevierville Convention Center played home for Friday’s massive car show and Saturday’s All-Ford Cruise-in. Our VMP booth was inside with the Gen2R, and Gen3 superchargers on display as well as our SEMA Focus RS while our mobile dyno was set up outside trying to make the best of the weather.

Last year at Ponies in the Smokies, VMP installed a few things on Mike Skinner’s Grabber Orange 2008 Shelby GT500; a VMP pulley, idler, custom tune, and intake from JLT Performance. This year, Mike decided to go big with the VMP Gen2R blower kit, Twinjet 67mm throttle body, and 56 lb. injectors that staff installed on the spot.

Inside the convention center, the “Mustang Corral” displayed a Mustang from every year of production ranging from 1964 – 2018. SVT and Ford Performance both setup large displays inside, and the Saleen Club of America brought a massive display with its “34 Years of Saleen.” The man, Steve Saleen, himself was in attendance, walking around, signing autographs, and even put his skills to the test while Go-Karting against enthusiasts Friday night.

All-in-all, it was a great event with a big turnout despite the weather, and much like Mustang Week, it will likely become a staple event in the Mustang and Ford community, especially with the Dragon just stone’s throw away.