Photos Courtesy of NuFormz, Ruben Arteaga and Brandon Burrell
Shaun Carlson died on October 4, 2009. He was 35. Shaun had been diagnosed with Brugada syndrome, also known as Sudden Unexpected Death Syndrome (SUDS), a genetic disease that is characterized by abnormal electrocardiogram findings and an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. A pacemaker had been installed earlier in the year to help curb this condition.
Shaun, a talented fabricator who was the car owner for former world drifting champion Samuel Hübinette, in the Formula Drift series, had been ill the last few years yet continued to field his team. As owner of NuFormz Engineering in Ontario, California, he had been racing since 1999, but first came to national prominence on the sport compact scene, where his front-wheel drive machines were strong and innovative runners. He built the first sport compact drag car with a tube chassis.
Shaun was a race car fabricator and driver with mini-truck roots. He may have made a name for himself in the import drag racing and drifting scene, but his heritage came from innovating and covering mini-trucks. He got more involved in the performance side of customizing, which opened the doors to the turbo and sport compact car scene, where he became a legend even at his young age.
Back in the ‘90s, Shaun was a mini-truck magazine editor and photographer covering the wild mini-truck scene. His best-known mini creation was the Wooden Runner, a body-dropped 4Runner that was ahead of its time. The wild, wood-based paint job by Kal Koncepts and Air Syndicate really set the mini apart. Shaun never finished the, but someone else bought it up and finished it in a fashion that did justice to Shaun’s original vision. Unfortunately, it flipped over last year and was totaled. He also had his part in the iconic Last Look Toyota on which he performed the body drop and installed the airbag system. He was forever immortalized in paint on the hood mural. It was also the last mini-truck he photographed before venturing into the sport compact car world.
Firsts were common to Shaun. He was on there for the birth of the sport compact car scene after his mini-truck adventures. Carlson was the first front-wheel drive builder to run in the nine-second and eight-second classes, and he built the first sport compact drag car with a tube chassis. Carlson set NHRA Sport Compact Racing Series Pro FWD records for E.T. and speed in May 2003 in Gainesville, where he also captured his first NHRA victory. He finished third in the standings on the strength of four semifinal finishes. He also scored a victory at the inaugural Palm Beach NHRA Sport Compact Nationals in Florida in 2005 and drove to a final-round appearance at the 2004 NHRA Sport Compact Fall Nationals in Englishtown. He also was the number one qualifier at Texas Motorplex in August 2004, finishing fourth that season. Outside of NHRA, he was the 2002 Xbox Cup champion in the Pro Outlaw class.
Carlson got his first taste of NHRA Professional racing in 2004 when he subbed for an injured Darrell Alderman in Pro Stock at the season opener, where he grabbed a first-round win and nearly advanced to the semifinals in his debut.
Two years later, he piloted the Team Mopar/SRT Dodge Stratus R/T for Don Schumacher Racing in the NHRA Pro Stock class for the 2006 season. He competed at 15 events but only qualified at one, in Las Vegas in the spring, and finished 25th in the standings. Carlson used his mechanical skills to assist Allen and Roy Johnson, owners of J&J Racing, in tuning friend Richie Stevens Jr.’s Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T during the latter part of the season, helping Stevens earn two late-season wins in 2006.
After leaving drag racing, Carlson became involved in professional drifting. NuFormz Racing maintained the Mopar Viper Competition Coupe that Hübinette piloted to the 2004 inaugural Need for Speed Underground Formula D Drift Series championship. Hübinette earned two wins for NuFormz Racing in 2005 and scored a runner-up finish in the Formula Drift standings, then won the 2006 Formula D championship on the strength of three wins. Hübinette captured a fifth place finish in the final 2007 Formula Drift points standings and finished second again in 2008 after three podium finishes in his NuFormz Racing-prepped Mopar Dodge Viper SRT10.
Even though Shaun had a broken heart (due to Brugada Syndrome) he had the biggest heart in the world. He always made sure that his crew and their families were taken care of first. He also always went out of his way to make sure he said hi to everyone he knew. When he was at the race track he was at home. He would always have the biggest smile, tallest mohawk, and the most bling on. Shaun was loved by many and will be very truly missed.
Services were held on October 12 at Calvary Chapel Chino Valley in Chino, California. Donations can be made payable to The Shaun Carlson Memorial Fund, 1943 N. Campus Ave. B-148, Upland, CA 91784, and visit www.nuformz.com.