Everyone can talk about their races, but unless you were actually inside the gates at South Georgia Motorsports Park last weekend for Donald Long’s Sweet Sixteen event, you missed the best door slammer race in history.
I know that’s a bold statement to make, the “best ever” of anything is always going to stir the pot of emotions given the fact that our sport has been around for more than six decades. The best ever is usually over used, and never truly fits what it is describing. Usually it’s used in the heat of the moment to describe something without taking a step back to process the past as also.
There is a reason that this took two days to write after the event and not two hours. I wanted to process everything. Having been around drag racing for over twenty-five years, I have seen a lot of things come and go. Whether it be trends in rules, cars, power adders, promoters, etc. The one constant has been that the best shows are put on by people who love what they are doing and who “get it”.
For a decade now, Donald has had his finger on the pulse of the sport, along with his mouth on the internet. Love him or hate him, he is one of the best promoters of the last 20 years. He will tell ya how it is, he will create controversy, and he will get all up in those feelings if you let him. On the flipside of all that though, are events that continue to amaze and entertain, along with a guy that loves putting on a show.
The hype surrounding this event was at a level I haven’t seen in quite some time. The names that were planning on racing, the excuses that were given why they couldn’t make it, the last-minute drama of getting their cars together for some people. All the chaos just kept adding to it. And this was all before a single car rolled through the gates last week.
When we rolled in on Wednesday though, there was a very relaxed feeling in the pits. These guys were going to be running for $101,000.00 and yet it was almost like you had rolled into a private test and tune party. Come Thursday though, everyone had their game faces on for that four seconds or less. That was the time that you strapped in and sent that rocket ship down track hoping you had enough to even get in the field.
So, what about the competition? Well, the ET record was broken six times over the weekend, and the previous speed record was surpassed a few times as well. You had to run in the 70’s to even have a shot at getting in. Never had we seen this level off awesomeness before at any event. One had to wonder by the end of the day Thursday if this truly was an event of epic proportions.
There were six cars on the property that ran in the 3.60’s over the weekend. The first to do so was Dewayne Mills. The others were: Stevie Jackson, Daniel Pharris, Jamie Hancock, Jeff Sitton, and the eventual event winner Mark Micke. So that is six cars in one event that all went quicker than the previous world record. Look at this for a second, and then think about almost ten years ago to SGMP when one of the Godfathers of RvW, David Wolfe, was crushing racer’s souls while running 4.40’s round after round. Then, take a look back to when Kevin Mullins was dropping 4.11’s and 4.12’s, we all would lose our minds. And I quote “No one will ever go threes on a radial”, I can’t tell you who that quote is from because the list would be too long. Never did any of us think that 3’s were possible. That was until Brad Edwards dropped that hammer at Huntsville and there went that barrier, which to Brad’s credit is in my mind the most important accomplishment in drag radial 1/8th mile racing history.
Within a decade we’ve seen these cars go from 4.40’s to knocking on the door of 3.50’s. I digress from the history lesson and get back on point here. Thursday, we had three rounds of earth rotating history, and before going to bed that night I knew there were going to be at least four to five more rounds on Friday. All I could wonder is what would happen then too. Friday rolls around and the wind is still there, it’s a touch nicer out and cars are flying down the track.
The last qualifier of any class is always exciting. It’s the last chance for those not in to get in. There were plenty on the outside looking in and looking strong enough to get in the field. Cars like Woodruff’s Vette, Miller’s Camaro, Cannon’s Beast, along with more. It wasn’t meant to be for some though, as we wrapped up qualifying and some huge names were going to have to run in the second chance race.
Everyone knew that Mark had one of the cars to beat, but was it going to stay together for another four rounds of eliminations? By the end of the day Saturday we had the answer and it was a resounding yes. Mark Micke, and car owner Jason Carter, seized the opportunity, and in the process walked away with the single largest payout in door slammer history.
On the flip side, it was Tim Kincaid, who fought his way through an extremely tough second chance field to take home $5k. And it was none other than Phill Bohley taking home the win in N/T 315/29.5 class, which netted him $16,500 I believe.
Really though, why was this the best door slammer race in the history of the sport? It paid more to a single winner than anyone has before. The ET record was broken six times over the course of three days. The previous speed record was eclipsed at least three times, and to go along with that, there was a successful PPV and a limited amount, exclusive access on property.
Brian Lonhes, who is one of the best announcers in the business, along with someone who has a ridiculous amount of knowledge made a statement over the PA on Saturday while talking to his partner in crime Lee TEC Sebring. Brian said something to the nature of “20 years from now when we look back on this event, there will be thousands that said they were there, but the ones that were actually there will really remember what they witnessed”. When I look back on this in 20 years, whether drag racing is a distant memory to me, or whether I am still involved in it, I will have the ability to say that I was at the very first ever Sweet Sixteen race for $101,000.00 cash, and better yet I was able to photograph the event as well. So, to Donald Long, my hats off sir!
And in closing, I want to send a special shout out to Frank Soldridge and his fiancé Amanda May. While we talked about the accomplishments of Mark Micke all weekend, I can’t forget about the terrible wreck that Frank suffered in the other lane when running next to Mark on the 221 mph pass. Frank had a terrible crash that left his with a broken hand, wrist, and three fingers. He is scheduled to go in to see the surgeon today (3/26/18). Frank is one of the best at what his does and is one hell of a tough guy. So, from E3xtreme, we wish Frank a fast and comfortable recovery. And we all know that with Amanda by his side, he should be well taken care of.
Till next year, and another Sweet Sixteen…savor this for the historic moments it gave us and enjoy the historic grandeur of the first ever Sweet Sixteen.