2018 NO MERCY 9 - EVENT NOTEBOOK
ELIMINATIONS NOTEBOOK - THEY'VE COME FROM AFAR TO RUN THE RADIALS
X275 PINCH HITTER - When Jarrod Wood arrived a week ago from Queensland, Australia, he knew he was heading to promoter Donald Long's No Mercy 9 at South Georgia Motorsports Park and knew he would be crewing for team owner Bill Schurr. He didn't know, however, that he'd be driving Schurr's unique 2007 Jeep Grand Cherokee in X275 competition.
Schurr, who owns Paramount Performance in Charlotte, built the Jeep as a promotional tool and equipped it with a Paramount-built 400 Gen III Hemi breathing through a lone 85-mm Garrett turbo with a Paramount Dominator transmission and converter passing the power along to Mickey Thompson drag radials.
The original plan called for "The" Kevin Mullins, winner in Radial vs. the World (RvW) at No Mercy 4 in 2013, to be behind the wheel, but an unexpected hospital stay for Mullins this week forced Wood into duty.
"I even had to borrow Kevin's firesuit and helmet," he said.
Wood got to know Mullins more than a year ago when he bought the same '97 Mustang that made No Mercy history. He made a little history of his own with it less than a month ago when he ran 3.99 at Willowbank Raceway during the Kenda Radial Riot, marking the first three-second pass on radials in Australia.
After four rounds of X275 qualifying for No Mercy 9, Wood finished with a 4.45 at 162.41 mph, placing the Jeep 10th to start eliminations on Saturday.
He caught a break in round one of racing when the nitrous big block in Reggie Richard's '70 Camaro coughed fire out the scoop upon launching and Richard idled down the track while Wood struck the tires off the launch and recorded a 7.39 at just 129.73 mph to advance.
Round two saw Wood line up beside Charles Hull, but a big wheelstand off the start doomed Wood's run while Hull streaked toward a quarter-finals appearance.
|"We were facing wildly changing conditions, hot track, humidity, rain, changing altitude, and it's a new car with a brand-new combination; it makes things hard so I think we did as well as we could have expected. I wish we had added a little more weight or tightened the front up, but it is what it is," Wood said.
"I loved it, though, some good experience. And when Kevin said to put me in the car it was a pretty big thing for him to say something like that and I want him to know I appreciate it."
Wood also confirmed he'll be back at SGMP next year for Long's Sweet 16 event and he'll have the former No Mercy-winning RvW Mustang in tow.
"We got Donald to get us to run Sweet 16 next year, so the red car’s on its way back here on a ship," he said. "It's March 21st to the 24th, which is on my birthday, so it would make a pretty good birthday present
to win $100 grand."
KILLER CAB' AUTOGRAPH HOUND - He's not picking up any fares at No Mercy 9, but Jamie Otts is still sharing his "Killer Cab" with the fans. The '55 Chevy is scheduled to go in for a new wrap job late this October, just prior to appearing in the Pennzoil booth at the SEMA trade show in Las Vegas.
"Back when I first street raced with it everybody called it the 'Cash Cab,' but I just didn’t like that," Otts explained. "I was trying to think of a name and my little boy, he said he wanted to call it 'Killer Cab' and put a zombie on the side. So right now I've got all these new body parts on it, but soon it'll have zombies on the doors and say 'Killer Cab Company.'
"So yeah, we just let everyone sign their names all over the front end and those signatures will stay there even after we put the new wrap on," he continued. "So I’m going to wrap it right before I go to SEMA.
That way it’ll be nice and fresh and clean. You know, I’m a Mississippi boy and we’re kinda' rough on these things. We put a lot of nicks on 'em. Give me a few races and I’ll be having marks all over it."
Observant fans may recognize the car from a TV appearance earlier this year on the Street Outlaws-Memphis show. There was a nitrous engine in it then, but it now sports a TKM Performance 526 with Brodix Head Hunter heads, FuelTech fuel injection, single Precision 118-mm turbo, AMS-2000 boost controller, and a Rossler transmission.
Originally built in 1987 by Pro Mod pioneer Wally Stroupe and recently reconstructed by Teddy Houser, the main shell of the car continues to carry much of its original sheet metal, right down to the "Body by Fisher" plates on the door sills.
"Yeah, it started life as a real car," Otts confirmed. "I’m kind of an old school car guy. I did a few Mustangs early, but that's just because they were cheaper and easier to build. But now I can have me an old-school car like I want, and man, I love the ’55s!"
CAREER-BEST OUTING FOR AUSSIE WAGSTAFF - After arriving from Brisbane, Australia, and attending Lights Out 9 as a spectator in February, Wade Wagstaff knew he had to return--but this time as a competitor.
A regular in the Kenda Drag Radial series back home, Wagstaff shipped his '57 Chevy stateside as a rolling chassis to Noonan Race Engineering in Spartanburg, SC, where a new blown Hemi was installed this past Wednesday. That night he made a couple of test hits at nearby Darlington Dragway and on Thursday morning the Wagstaff crew rolled through the racer gate at South Georgia Motorsports Park for No Mercy 9.
Heading straight into Radial vs. the World (RvW) qualifying, Wagstaff promptly ran a career-best 3.95 at 192.47 mph, his first-ever three-second pass. That improved to a 3.90 at 193.54 that left him 13th in one of the toughest drag radial fields in the world.
"Yeah, that was good. Back in Australia, the best we ever went was 4.06, so yeah, to step it up to 3.90s was really good," he said.
The good fortune ran out in round one of eliminations against the '69 Camaro of Bryan Markiewicz, however.
"Basically we were sitting on the two-step for too long and the car beside us bumped in, then bumped out, then bumped back in and we were on the two-step for three seconds and it broke the belt," Wagstaff explained.
"Obviously, it built up that much boost and made the engine so crisp that it just created too much power on the initial hit and blew the tires off. So it broke the belt and then took a fuel line out, too, so we’re lucky that I didn’t get back into it."
Regardless of the setback, Wagstaff said he'll be returning for Lights Out 10--just don't look for him in the grandstand.
"On Monday we go back to Noonan’s shop and so does the car. We'll tie up everything and then head back to Australia on Thursday. Hopefully we can leave it up at Noonan’s shop until February and then come back here for Lights Out. We had an awesome time here. It's completely different than back home, so we're already looking forward to coming back and hopefully doing better."
UPSETS PUNCTUATE RvW ELIMINATIONS AT NO MERCY 9 - With heavy rain putting an early stop to all on-track action for the second-straight night, only the premier Radial vs. the World class managed to complete two rounds of eliminations for promoter Donald "Duck" Long's No Mercy 9 at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
Though six of the eight entries remaining on the ladder qualified in the top half of the 32-car RvW field, several pre-race favorites are already loaded up and heading home.
Among those exiting early from the opening round of racing were DeWayne Mills with his "Golden Gorilla" '68 Camaro, Mark Woodruff and his C6 Corvette, and Ken Quartuccio, the highest starting qualifier in sixth with his 2017 Vette.
In round two, second-place starter Mark Micke, $100K winner of Long's Sweet 16 event in March, fell in a huge upset to Australia's Jeremy "Jet" Martin driving his one-of-a-kind, four-door, twin-turboed '79 Holden Commodore. Micke was late off the tree, but it didn't matter after he lost traction off the hit, while Martin posted a 3.93 pass at 196.76 mph, representing the slowest E.T. of all eight entries advancing to the quarter-finals.
The quickest of those advancing was seventh-place qualifier Alex Laughlin, who posted the only 3.70s time of the round at 3.79 and 197.45 mph in a supercharged C7 Corvette, taking down number-10 qualifier Daniel Pharris in the process. Fourth-place qualifier Marty Stinnett also lost in round two.
The second RvW eliminations session also was marred by the top-end crash of Texan Leroy Nabors, whose chutes appeared not to open at the end of a 4.01-seconds pass at 187.89 mph in his blown 2017 Corvette. Running in the right lane against number-three starter Jamie Hancock, Nabors hit the right wall past the eighth-mile finish line, then crossed the track well behind the blossomed chutes of Hancock's nitrous-boosted '68 Firebird before coming to rest beyond the quarter-mile marker. Fortunately, Nabors was uninjured in the wreck.
Also in Outlaw 632 eliminations, Eric Tillman of Moutrie, GA, survived a scary incident when the driveline in his '65 Nova shattered off the launch, sending the rear pinion through the right rear window. Again, fortunately, Tillman was unscathed.
In order of qualifying position, the eight racers advancing to the RvW quarter-finals on Sunday at SGMP are number-one Jeff Naiser, Hancock (3rd), Canadian Paolo Giust (5th), Laughlin (7th), Taylor Lastor (8th), Grant Tuttle (11th), Martin (18th), and Bryan Markiewicz (20th).
QUALIFYING NOTEBOOK -
TRACK PREP ON POINT FOR NO MERCY 9 - Despite demanding conditions this weekend, the all-concrete eighth mile at South Georgia Motorsports Park continues to impress competitors at No Mercy 9. Temperatures on Thursday, the opening day of qualifying, soared well into the mid-90s, with track temps as high as 140 degrees.
"For the conditions, the track is awesome," said Jeff Naiser, who sat on top of the premier Radial vs. the World (RvW) class throughout the day's three rounds of qualifying, finishing with a 3.76 at 190.35 mph. "I mean, with 140-degree track temperatures those cars should not be going down, but obviously, they're doing something right out there."
Jamie Hancock, who sat second in RvW with a 3.78 at 196.36, agreed.
"Even with the heat the track is good. It's been going down every time, no problem," he said. "We haven't spun one time and there's still more in it."
And though his own car is at home in NHRA Pro Mod trim, "Stevie Fast" Jackson is on the SGMP grounds tuning for "Jimbo" in the No Time class, as well as Chad Henderson with his '87 Buick Grand National in Limited Drag Radial.
"It's about 3,600 fee of DA (density altitude) and 130 water grains, so going fast is hard, but that makes this a tuner's race and that's my ballgame, so it's all good," Jackson said after Friday's first qualifying session (Q4), in which Henderson ran a career-best 4.15 at 174.05 mph to sit third behind Justin Martin at 4.14 and leader Daniel Pharris at 4.13 and 188.07 mph.
"This is probably the best I've ever seen this track under these conditions. I mean, it's rained almost every day, the track temps are over 130 and we're still seeing LDR cars going teens and the track's not peeling up at all. Wade (Rich) is doing just a killer job out there," Jackson added.
"We won't see world record runs just because of the weather, but the fans are going to be the real winners this weekend because there's going to be a lot of upsets and a lot of good, side-by-side racing."
DURAMAX CHALLENGED - Enrique Gonzalez explains he has to run Radial vs. the World (RvW) at No Mercy 9 because his 2006 Chevy Colorado has a back-half tube chassis and runs M/T 315 drag radials. He also realizes he's not likely to qualify, but remains at least confident his ride will be remembered.
"I own The Diesel Shop in Miami, where I work on everything diesel--but just on trucks, no cars. I just wanted to build something to promote the business, but also have fun with."
With a 6.6-liter Duramax diesel boosted by a 98-mm Precision turbocharger under the hood and shifting controlled by a Suncoast TH 400 outfitted with a Suncoast lock-up converter, the 4,500-lb truck has run a best of 5.29 at 136 mph over an eighth mile. It's also completely street legal.
"The windows roll up and down, all the lights work, it's licensed, insured, even the stereo works," Gonzalez says. "It's different and people love it."
MAN, WHAT A RIDE - Forgive Vinny Larosa if he considers the biggest and baddest roller coaster in the world is mere child's play. He's been on a more thrilling ride, and one not on rails.
Friday afternoon during Outlaw 632 qualifying, Larosa Plymouth Duster went skyward, groundward and aroundward in one of the more stunning displays of driving ever seen in Drag Radial competition.
"This car seems to want to take off now and again," Larosa explained. "We’ve been setting the car up for radial and keeping it, trying to keep it down, but the power that we have under the hood is Voss power, with Frankenstein Engine Dynamics, the cylinder heads. They make a boatload of power and the balancing act on these tiny tires."
The damage report included the transmission pan, a dimpled oil pan and a few other pieces. Larosa is optimistic he'll make it back to competition this weekend.
"We already got a new tranny pan and literally looking for a manual tie rod end from a 1990 Mustang and that will be our parts list, we’ll be done," Larosa explained. "But we didn’t hit anything, I didn’t knock over a cone. We’re okay."
Larosa said he didn't have time to think during the incident; he just reacted.
"When I was in the air, it felt like I was in the air for an hour," Larosa explained. "Everything seems to happen in slow motion with me when I’m in the car. I don’t know what about it, I have a great focus when I’m driving, when I’m in it. I believe it was beneficial."
Larosa admitted he did have time to think of those things most important in his life once the car came to a stop.
"I just think of my kids, I think of my wife, what would happen," Larosa said. "I literally, I go through, it’s all mechanical when I’m up there. The wheel hand over hand, got my brakes just pedaling it, not standing on the brake so I don’t lock them up and create a big slide. I didn’t want to hit the guy beside me, because I didn’t know where he was on the track. So if he was next to me, I would have put him into the wall.
"I just stay away if I had to. I was trying my best to keep the green on the car, not on the wall. But it can get away from you pretty quick. This isn’t for the faint of heart. If it was that easy, everybody’d be doing it."
EDGY COMBINATION - If you're going to race on the edge, it only makes sense to find someone whose reputation is sterling when it comes to toeing the thin line.
When Alex Laughlin decided he was going to venture into the volatile world of Radial vs. The World competition it made perfect sense to retain a Madman to call the shots.
Not only has Laughlin found a tuner capable of making him go quick and fast, but also has a penchant for being entertaining as well.
"Oh gosh, there’s never a dull moment for sure," Laughlin said with a chuckle. "I absolutely love racing with Frankie. You know, that’s part of it. I love racing alone, but the friendships and camaraderie and how much fun we get to have at the race track and going out to eat at night and what not, it’s just, it’s definitely a good place to be."
Taylor, who has raced and won in virtually every outlaw Pro Modified configuration, admits being outside of the cockpit and in front of the car has required some adjustment.
"It’s a little different, but it’s a lot of fun," Taylor admitted. "We have a good time with Alex. His Dad’s usually here, we get to poke fun at him but he’s not here this weekend, so I get to charge extra."
Usually, when Taylor was driving, he had his brother Paul there to handle the headaches while he sat focused inside of the car. This time, the Madman has had to deal with it all, including an ornery starter for the team's supercharged Corvette.
"We went to start the car [in Q-1], it wouldn’t start," Taylor explained. "We ended up swapping the leads around, and it started. What the heck? The battery, it wouldn’t turn the motor over. Then I was like how did the batteries go dead in a matter of two minutes of it sitting here?"
"So once we swapped the leads over, it started up. Then we were like shocked that it started, I was reaching over to see if the starter was going to work, and I hit the button, and it started right off, now we’re screwed. So it’s kind of different being outside the car, where inside the car you’re just like sitting there like I wonder what that was all about."
Laughlin drove to a conservative, but qualifiable 4.086 elapsed time. And for Taylor's efforts of fighting the fickle starter, Laughlin smiled and described the run as a "turd."
“That was a turd," Taylor said, as he smiled in confirmation.
The stinky run, as the Texans called it, established a baseline which enabled them to step it up later in the day to a 3.966 second elapsed time. It's an impressive feat when you consider Laughlin is racing with essentially a Pro Modified chassis with a Pro Modified engine on radial tires measuring 10.5-inches in width.
"We weren’t going out trying to set the world on fire because we watched several guys yesterday and then today knock the tire off on the starting line," Laughlin said. "Ultimately if you do that you don’t learn anything except that you knocked the tire off. So we needed to make a pass A to B, and so we had it super rich, didn’t have any of the lean outs turned on. We just made kind of a little turd run, to be honest, and it popped up with 4.08 on the board, and I thought well that’s definitely better than I expected.
"It’s a good baseline. It’s going to be hot, and so I’ve got a good tuneup now for a hot track like it will be on Sunday, race day."
In the end, Taylor has been the right one to steer Laughlin's ship.
"He’s unique, but he’s kind of like my dad too because he’s real high strung and talks real fast and waves his hands around a lot, so I’m kind of used to it," Laughlin said.
IN THE HEAT, NITROUS HARD TO BEAT - The bottle rockets were flying on Thursday during Day One qualifying for the No Mercy 9 drag radial event at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Valdosta, Ga. The nitrous-injected cars accounted for the top two spots after three sessions.
Despite not yet running his nitrous-boosted '69 Camaro out the back door at No Mercy 9, Houston, Tex.-based Naiser led the way through all three rounds of Radial vs. the World (RvW) qualifying on Thursday at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
His 3.84 at 182.01 mph from the opening session held up as number one through Q2, and despite shutting down early in the evening session, Naiser improved to 3.76 at 190.35 to lead 36 entries vying for a spot in the 32-car RvW field.
"We would've gone all the way last night," Naiser said. "But it laid over, so I shut it off."
It led to a late night in the Naiser pit, where the team discovered a damaged piston and opted to tear the Naiser Racing Components 954 cubic incher all the way down to a bare block.
"After we discovered one bad hole, we took every piston out to take a look so we didn't have to do it all over again today. But we've got a back-up motor, too, just in case we need it."
Running in the No. 2 provisional position was Jamie Hancock, who stopped the timers with a 3.787, 196.36 miles per hour.
Fox-bodied Mustang superstar Marty Stinnett made a quantum leap into the third spot with a 3.791 elapsed time at 202.48 miles per hour.
Sweet Sixteen champion Mark Micke was fourth with a 3.795, 211.63.
Shane Fisher topped the X275 division, recording a 4.428 elapsed time at 173.99 miles per hour. Former Pro Modified headhunter Thomas Patterson anchors the field with a 5.47. There are 39 cars in competition this weekend.
Other low qualifiers included Daniel Pharris (Limited Drag Radial), Rodney Ragen (Ultra Street), Jason Anderson (DXP 235), and Don Lamana (PRO 275).
Friday qualifying begins at 10 AM, picking up with Ultra Street, with each category expected to receive three more qualifying sessions.