I never thought I would be saying that someone who holds a race with only two classes managed to have one of the best races in the history of door slammer racing, but that is exactly what Donald Long pulled off last weekend.
Donald Long has been known to do things a little different over the last ten years, whether it be bucking the trend of having big tire cars as the feature or having an event that only has two classes in it. Last weekend was the second annual Sweet Sixteen race at South Georgia Motorsports Park, and in typical fashion it featured jaw dropping passes, records broken, and more than a total of $175,000.00 in cold hard cash given away.
It was only a couple of years ago that people started rumbling online about Radial vs The World being on its last leg. That is when Donald said, “watch this” and offered up a single race with a $2000 entry for a $101,000.00 winner payday. Not only did it prove that the class wasn’t dead, it caused even more people to build cars for the class. Since then we have been seeing some of the most beautiful race cars ever built come out, and we have seen numbers that no one ever thought obtainable.
Just a decade ago David Wolfe showed up at SGMP and started dropping mid 4.40’s and resetting every radial record we had ever seen. Slowly the ET’s were chipped away at until we finally saw the three second barrier broken by Brad Edwards and his stock style suspension Mustang. This was a barrier that none of us thought in 2010 was even imageable, much less obtainable. Once Brad accomplished that though, it seemed as if the flood gates were open and everyone was shooting for the three second zone.
Fast forward to the spring of 2018 and a full three second field was something that we expected to see, but certainly not low 60’s and MPH in excess of 220. Mark Mickie proved in 2018 that you don’t have to be a pro mod, and you don’t have to have a Hemi to win. He took home the inaugural Sweet Sixteen class win and put up numbers that we couldn’t even comprehend.
Throughout the 2018 season all the talk was whether we would see someone run quicker than Mark, and whether or not that MPH could be topped. Would we see someone run in the 3.50’s? Was Mark the only one that could break that barrier? Well, neither happened during the rest of the 2018 season. It was a great season of radial racing, but most records were safe. That all changed when the calendar swapped from 2018 to 2019.
There was still talk when the new year came around about who would be the first to the 50’s. Another big announcement was that GALOT and Kevin Rivenbark procured the Camaro that Eric Dillard and Proline Racing built last year and runner-up with at the Elite 16 on big tires. This is a ProCharged powerplant, so there were also questions on if it could top-end charge like the twin turbos. Kevin proved at the U.S. Street Nationals that he was going to be a player with the car though.
Once we wrapped up at Bradenton’s U.S. Street Nationals, the radial cars were off to SGMP for the tenth annual Lights Out race. The racing was amazing, and we saw NHRA star Alex Laughlin take home the win against Daniel Pharris, but we still didn’t see that .50 come up on the board. That meant we were going to have about five weeks to talk about what will and could happen at the Sweet Sixteen.
Five weeks is entirely too much time for these men and women to come up with a plan, much less a plan where they and only one other class would be competing. A plan that they knew would include a tremendous number of qualifying runs as well. This was going to be a homerun derby in Disneyland style conditions. Wade Rich would have the track surface on kill and mother nature would give us conditions that would be absolutely perfect for not only the Radial vs. The World cars, but also the X275 cars.
Almost 100 X275 cars rolled onto the property last week for their chance at the biggest payday in the class’ history. Up for grabs was a suitcase loaded with $50,000.00 in cash, as well as a $15,000.00 payday for the winner of an all-run second chance class. These drivers weren’t just racing for cash, they were going out there to prove who was the baddest X275 legal driver/car/combo on the face of the round Earth.
Previously the record for X275 was held by the infamous Bruder Brothers at a 4.29, which was set last year at Tyler Crossnoe’s Outlaw Street Car Reunion. It wouldn’t take all that long for that record to be obliterated over the weekend, yet the Bruders managed to still walk away with the record. So, let me set the stage for you. The Bruder Brothers have been and continue to be one of the fiercest teams in all of drag racing. It doesn’t seem to matter the combo, the track surface, or the money on the line. Rich, Nick, and Pops are going to take it directly to their competition and make whoever is in the other lane work for it. This year they made the switch to a centrifugal ProCharger and ditched the roots blower that they set the record with.
X275 was not going to be a field that anyone was going to run away with though. Imagine this, more than 16 cars run quicker than what the number #1 qualifier ran just five weeks ago at Lights Out. You’d think I was insane for saying that aloud, but that is exactly what happened. Not only did the entire sixteen car field run quicker than the previous events number one qualifier, but six of those sixteen cars ran quicker than the previous class world record. You didn’t read that wrong folks, there were six drivers that went quicker than the previous record. Ryan Milliken’s diesel-powered Nova, Brain Brooks LS powered Mustang, Dean Marinis nitrous powered Mustang, Manny Buginga’s 2003 turbo Cobra, Rich Bruder’s small block ProCharged Ford Mustang, and Rob Goss with his 2009 ProCharger powered HEMI Challenger, all ran a quicker ET than had ever been run in X275 legal trim.
A 4.340 was the bump spot in X275 for the top 16 cars. As a note, Charles Hull did run a 4.314 but did engine damage and was not able to compete. That left another 66 cars to compete in the second chance race. When the second chance race was all done, it was none other then last years X275 World Champion Shane Heckel from Texas that took home the win in the second chance portion.
In the main event of X275, it was once again the Bruders that came to take everyone’s lunch money and put themselves back on top. They ran the field and made it down the track that wasn’t forgiving to most in the sunlight on Saturday. And yet again they proved why they are a top tier team, as they managed to drop a Thor Hammer in the finals and reset the record yet again. A 4.23 came up on the board, along with the win light against Craig Walls, who had qualified in the #13 spot out of Delaware.
Forty-seven, that is the number of cars that ponied up the $2000 to shoot for $101,000.00 in cold hard cash. While I had to eat some crow on my predictions, we did in fact see the milestone that everyone was waiting for. Kevin Rivenbark and the GALOT Camaro with Pro Line Racing engine and a big ProCharger hanging off the front was the first car to break the 3.50 mark. He also had the most consistent car of the entire weekend. There was rarely a time that the car didn’t make a stellar pass down the track. Though Kevin did become the first to the 50’s, it was another Pro Line powered car that took home the record when the weekend was done. Daniel Pharris and his 2017 Mustang, with a PLR 548 in it too home the overall ET record.
Records are great for everyone in attendance. The old adage that “Chicks dig the long ball” fits perfectly here. We all love to see the homeruns, but this time it was Kevin that played smallball and took home that case full of cash. Chipping away, round after round, Kevin was just going about his business and doing what needed to be done. Kevin faced off against Marty Stinnett in the first round, Ken “Cereal Killer” Quartuccio in round number two, the nitrous powered beast of Little Country/Big Country driven by Mike Stavrinos was the next in line to fall to Kevin during the semi-finals. And in the finals, it was a surprise pairing of Norman Bryson, with his nitrous powered Camaro, who qualified #13 facing off against Kevin. Norman in the right lane knocked the tires at the hit, and Kevin drive straight down Broadway for the win. A huge congratulations to Kevin and his entire team on the win!!
In the RvW second chance race, it again was an all run field and the most unlikely of winners. The final of the second chance race saw Steven Fereday take the win after a two-year hiatus from racing. Now here is what happened. Steven and Mark Woodruff were facing each other in the semi-finals and Mike Decker Jr. was to have a single. Mike broke the car the pass before the semi’s and was unable to repair. That meant whoever won the match between Steven and Mark would be the winner of the second chance event. It was Steven, in his turbo Camaro from Texas, with Josh Ledford tuning that took the win. The great thing about that is Steven didn’t even enter the race until last week. The car has been collecting dust since a fire a couple years ago at SGMP. Steven pulled the car out, loaded up and came to Georgia, where he proceeded to run new personal bests, and take home a cool $10,000.00. Not bad for a guy that hadn’t had the car out in a couple of years, and up until days before the event didn’t have intentions on even being there. Pretty damn impressive if you ask me.
That’s not all though. I want to talk about a few other things. How about the fact that both main event finals were the #2 qualifier vs the #13 qualifier. And what about all the records that were broken? Here is a short list of the records and accomplishments that occurred at Sweet Sixteen
Marty Stinnett-Quickest Small Block Car in the World
Ryan Milliken- Quickest Diesel Car in the World
Marcus Birt- Quickest Nitrous powered passes in History
Terry Parks- Quickest Leaf Spring car in the World
Daniel Pharris- Quickest Radial Car in the World
Bruder Brothers- Quickest X275 Pass in History
J.D. Campbell- Quickest Small Block Nitrous in X275 History
Sweet Sixteen broke every record for every combo on a radials in the history of the class.
We have all heard by now via social media that Donald will be moving his events to a different location for the future. I know everyone is wondering what is going on with that. In the meantime, let’s take a moment to reflect on the sheer awesomeness that happened at South Georgia Motorsports Park last weekend. The overall records, the storylines, the personal bests, and what turned into one of the best door slammer events that I have not only ever covered but have ever witnessed. There are so many side stories that came out of this event, and I’d be typing for days to touch on them all. What I will tell you though, is you’d better watch out for some of those records at Tyler’s OSCR race April 10-13. I think you will see the first ever nitrous car on radials go in the 3.50’s, and you could see some other records fall. Congratulations to Donald, Stephanie, Papa Sapp, Wade, Ozzy, Keith Wilkerson, Jamie Luke, Jeff Howell, Lenco Jim, Mama Duck, Papa Duck, Jerome Barrows, Kay Blevins, and so many others that made this event such a historic one.