TRADITION VS. THE REAL WORLD - THE EVOLVING FACE OF RADIAL VS. THE WORLD
They roll to the starting line with seemingly as many people standing behind the car as is in the packed grandstands. On one side of the track, a stock looking Fox-bodied Mustang with a supercharged engine standing tall out of the hood, and it's staging alongside a sleek Pro Modified style Camaro with a turbocharged engine.
The light flashes green, and they go every which way but straight and on their 10.5-inch radial tires, and might either wheelstand so high all four tires leave the racing surface, or they graze the wall without cracking the throttle.
It's the rough and tumble world of Radial Vs. The World, the top of the food chain for Drag Radial drag racing.
And no one has made Radial vs. The World more than reputed drag racing promoter and drag radial specialist Donald Long.
The Radial vs. The World designation is a title Long proudly takes credit for, a fitting name for his drag radial cars against various other series with different interpretations of a universal ruleset.
In Long's Radial Vs. The World any chassis, transmission and a power adder are permitted. Wheelie bars, a taboo in some circles of the Radial world, are allowed.
Cars run at different weights depending on the power adder, wheelbase, and suspension. The weights span from 2100 pounds to 2925.
What started out essentially as a battle of stock suspension cars, limited by tire has now morphed into space-age vehicles resembling Pro Modified cars with radial tires.
Watch this style advance with technology and times brings a smile to the often-brash and high spirited Long's face. He thinks the traditional stock appearing cars matching up with the high-tech Pro Modified cars is what the class should be.
"This is what you’ve got to remember - I’ve always argued the point, I don’t think one’s better than the other, and I think my point’s been proven as we have a stock wheelbase, almost completely stock looking car with a small block in it who’s number one qualifier, versus there’s probably eight or 10 Pro Mods out there that swapped over," Long said. "And I love the competition. The whole deal Radial Vs. The World was to allow in any combination of engine, any kind of door car period because I believe the rules are fair enough to where anybody can compete."
Proving Long's declaration to be the gospel truth, Marty Stinnett thundered to a 3.751 elapsed time to pace the Radial vs. The World field at the No Mercy 8.
Stinnett understands there are plenty of reasons he could field a Pro Modified style entry; he prefers to stick to the spirit of the rules.
"It’s personal for me to go out and perform the best that I can perform with what I’ve got to perform with," Stinnett said. "And this is what I’ve got, and this is what we’re going to perform with."
Mark Micke, who reached the quarter-finals of the No Mercy 8, has raced this style of racing and winning dating back to the early 2000s in the old stock suspension class at the World Street Nationals in Orlando, Fla.
He's evolved his stock-looking 1978 Chevelle as much as he can in a class quickly evolving.
Micke doesn't mind doing battle with the Pro Modified style cars.
"It is what it is, you know," Micke said. "We want the fast ass cars over here with the rules, and what the cars are capable of. We’re just kind of outgrowing these cars. Like our car, we run this thing a hundred pounds overweight just because we can’t get it light enough. To me, I’m all for it, bring the Pro Mods in. It’s going to elevate the class and get more guys in here. It is what it is I guess."
Micke admits he's close to giving in to one of the Pro Mod style chassis, and even if he does or many of his counterparts, it shouldn't affect the volatile division adversely.
"The Pro Mods aren’t the doomsday end of it all," Micke said. "It’s just the Pro Mods are easier, and they’re cheaper to build. You go build one of these cars, a ’67 Camaro or a Malibu or any of these, you’re going to have a hundred grand more in building one of these [traditional version], or you can just call up Jerry Bickel and just build a Pro Mod, and just build it for radial. It makes sense to me."
In Micke's assessment, a high tide rises all boats.
"We’re involved with Pro Mod, we’re involved with a lot of stuff with our business," Micke said. "I mean these cars are at the top of the game. I mean these things are animals, bad ass, there ain’t nothing like them, I’m telling you. It’s craziness. So yeah, if we get Pro Mods in here, they’re the top guys that’s what we want. We want the badass cars."
Keith Haney, a drag racing promoter and Pro Modified racer who built one of the first purpose-built Radial Vs. The World cars say the advanced cars are the natural byproduct of smart drag racers working the rulebook to their favor.
"You’ve got a lot of intelligent people just like you have in Pro Mod, Top Fuel," Haney said. "No one wants to come out here and be number two. They're doing everything in their ability, using all the knowledge they have to make their cars go faster."
In the end, Micke says the tires are the great equalizer, and if someone can drive one of these cars, they're perfectly qualified to drive anything. It's definitely a white-knuckle ride regardless of which horse you choose.
"These things are monsters," Micke explained. "I’ve driven Pro Mods, I’ve driven a lot of stuff, and I’m telling you, one of these cars from about 200’ on, they are badass. I mean, they are fast and they are edgy, and they’re a handful. You know, you let off and you’re on the brakes and the chutes and what have you, it’s a handful. It’s not a Sunday drive at all. They’re definitely, they’re exciting."