SUNDAY NOTEBOOK - MOTHER NATURE WINS BIG
Persistent rain showers on Sunday (Feb. 26) put a premature end to The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia III, with the event called off by promoter Donald “Duck” Long shortly before 4:30 p.m.
“It sucks; what more can you say?” Long said. “We thought we were going to get the track dried after it stopped raining at 3, but when it started again about an hour ago it became obvious we just weren’t going to be able to get it done.”
Long said prior to announcing the decision he conducted a quick poll in the pits that revealed unanimous agreement among racers to call it a day.
“Nobody wanted to go home early without racing, but everyone agreed they didn’t want to try and wait it out, especially since we were facing a 10 o’clock curfew anyway,” Long said. “I really hated to see this because we had about 300 heads-up cars here, which was a record car count for the February race, record spectator attendance and tons of records and personal bests out on the track. This was an awesome event and I hate that it ended with rain, but what can you do?”
Long said all classes would be paid out in full, with the total purse divided equally among all cars remaining in contention. For instance, the 32-car Radials vs. the World field didn’t get to make even one elimination pass, so the $26,000 total purse was divided by 32, giving each qualifier $812.50 to take home.
“I’m sorry; I wish we could’ve got it in,” Long said repeatedly to racers disappointed by the cancellation, but appreciative of being treated fairly in payout. “Don’t worry, though, we’ll be back here in October and it’ll be a good one. I promise.”
SATURDAY NOTEBOOK - THE CARNAGE PILES UP AT VALDOSTA
IT'S ABOUT THE CREDIBILITY - For Jason Rueckert, going racing is about more than just competition and fun; it’s about credibility.
As Midwest Regional Manager for VP Racing Fuels, Rueckert is a familiar figure at dozens of drag racing events each year, much of the time serving as a track prep consultant on the use of VP’s traction compound. So when he shows up at a race like The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia III with his Procharger-equipped ’82 Cutlass, it can sometimes be difficult to step outside his professional role and strictly into that of a racer.
“I can’t help it, I just want to make sure there’s a good surface for everyone to race on,” Rueckert says. “Even when it’s not our product—which I think is best, by the way—if they ask, I’m happy to offer whatever knowledge or experience I might have that someone might find helpful.”
And though he’s officially “on vacation” while competing at an event like this weekend’s big Radial Rumble at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP), Rueckert also remains open to answering any questions his fellow competitors might have regarding VP’s fuel options.
“I think being out here running my own car does help give me some credibility because these guys see me facing the same conditions and using the same products they do,” Rueckert says.
Rueckert has owned his classic Cutlass since October 1990 when his dad bought it for him as a daily driver. It was plain-Jane white and carried a six banger back then, but that engine expired during his senior year in high school, so Rueckert says he swapped in a 350, “and it’s been a never-ending project ever since.”
Andy Smith at Pro Tree Race Cars in Markleville, IN, recently updated the Olds G-body and it now carries a 565 c.i., big-block Chevy by Knieriem Racing Engines in Louisville, KY, and featuring the brand-new F3-136 Procharger. The engine combo is backed up by a two-speed M&M Turbo 400 transmission.
Rueckert, from Terre Haute, IN, qualified 17th in Outlaw Radial at SGMP with a 4.850 pass at 156.48 mph and made it through round one of eliminations with a win over Paul Naquin.
“This is like the small-tire racer’s Winternationals,” Rueckert declared of promoter Donald “Duck” Long’s season opener, now in its third year and followed up by a similar event promoted by Long in October at SGMP.
“It used to be us racers in the Midwest didn’t have to worry about getting our cars ready until April. Now we have to thrash all winter to get ready by February. But this is such a cool race and so much fun that I don’t think anyone is complaining. I’m not!”
Terry “Show Time” Barkley and crew weren’t about to let a little thing like a crushed oil pan spoil their fun.
“We came all the way from California, so we have to fix it,” said Barkely, who left on Monday for the long haul from Los Angeles. “There’s just no way we’re ready to go home without getting to race. We’ll do whatever it takes to get this thing back out there.”
Barkley launched his Lang Paciulli-built ’70 Nova into a spectacular wheelstand in Friday night’s second round of Outlaw Radial qualifying and the inevitable return to terra firma resulted in the aforementioned oil pan damage and bent the “wheelie protector” bar beneath the front suspension.
“I guess it’s made for wheelies this high,” Barkley said, holding his hand about waist high, “not for wheelies this high,” he added, stretching skyward.
Barkley had to sit out Saturday morning’s third and final qualifying opportunity, but with only 30 Outlaw Radial entries, he was guaranteed a spot in the 32-car field. Still, with a 555 cubic incher built by Pettis Performance in Hisperia, CA, and fitted with four stages of nitrous, Barkley is hopeful of going rounds once racing begins.
“I’ve got friends and family here from all over the country; we’ve got to give them a show,” he said.
ACCEPTING THE BLAME - Without reservation, Kevin Neal accepts the blame for what happened to him during round two of Outlaw 275 vs. 10.5 qualifying on Friday night at South Georgia Motorsports Park.
“I built it; I tune it; I drive it; I wreck it; it was my fault,” said the Lebanon, OH-based racer.
Almost immediately off the launch, Neal’s ’89 Mustang climbed into a giant, bumper-dragging wheelstand that ended a couple of hundred feet out when the car fell on its driver side and slid all the way down track to about the quarter-mile mark, where he quickly climbed out the passenger door to the relief and cheers of everyone present.
“I’ve got a little button on the steering wheel that knocks timing out of it and as soon as it started coming up I hit the button, but it didn’t do anything and the car just kept going and by the time I realized that the button didn’t do anything it was way too late,” Neal recalled.
“All I knew was that I had wrecked it and I was sliding on my side ad I was waiting for it to start barrel rolling, but luckily that never happened. When I get nervous or scared I start making jokes and last night when we were all looking at it I said I knew I had wrecked it but when I hit the wall the first time I realized I was still wrecking it!”
Neal said he just missed on the chassis tune-up, failing to tighten up the front struts enough to prevent the car rising so quickly and so far off the hit.
“I’ve got a brand new BES motor built specifically to go 4.50s on a 275 radial tire and I tuned it up last night to try and figure it out and just missed it,” he said. “I’ve had this car since 2003; we built it with a Harbor Freight welder in my one-and-a-half-car garage, and I’ve got well over a thousand passes on it and literally hundreds of wheelstands, so it’s nothing new to me to drive through a wheelie.”
If there’s a silver lining to this cloud, Neal said it’s been seeing the response of his competitors and sponsors to his setback.
“We don’t start racing until April and all the people who support me—TRZ, PTP, Bradco, BES, VP Race Fuels, Mac-Fab Beadlocks—they’ve already all stepped up and said they’d help me get back on track,” he said. “And I’ve already had a couple of people offer me rolling chassis to put my drivetrain in, so I feel pretty fortunate given what happened.”
FRIDAY NOTEBOOK - A LONG, BUT EXCITING DAY HITS THE CURFEW
MILLS VS. WORLD - On Friday night after two rounds of Radial vs. The World qualifying were in the books for the Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia III, Dewayne Mills and his Sand Springs, OK-based crew were relaxing and enjoying their number-one status. It was a much better scene for them than one year earlier at the Valdosta, Ga-based event..
“Yeah, at least the engine isn’t hanging from a cherry picker this time,” Mills said, referring to the weekend-ending breakage he suffered while attempting to qualify for last year’s event at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP).
After running a Procharger combination in his immaculate ’68 Camaro the last couple of years, Mills decided to make the switch this past off season to a brand-new, twin-turbocharged, 598 c.i. big-block Chevy motor built by Pro Line Race Engines. He also has been benefiting from the tuning—and tutelage—of Pro Line’s resident guru, Steve Petty.
“We couldn’t do any of this without Pro Line and Steve’s help. They’ve been great to work with,” Mills stated. “We loaded up last Friday after everybody got off work and headed straight to Atlanta, and had the engine on a dyno at 10 o’clock Saturday morning. Then we got it in the car and brought it to the track here on Monday and we’ve made 17 passes on this combination, including today’s qualifying.”
Mills ran 4.469 seconds at a career-best and class-leading 181.03 mph to place third after the opening round of qualifying, then improved to a career-best 4.389 elapsed time at 177.91 mph to take the top spot into Saturday’s third and final qualifying session to establish the 32-car field for eliminations.
“The first round today I just didn’t let it spool long enough to get the little extra boost that I needed to leave with and it cost us a little in ET. So we left everything exactly the same for round two, went up there and I did a little bit better job of driving and we got ‘er done,” Mills explained.
“That second pass we had to check up a little early, too, because it was wheelying there about 500 feet, so I had to set it down and we lost a little bit of ET and lost a little bit of mile an hour, but it was still good enough for number one—for right now, at least. But it was driving to the center and fixin’ to take out the cones at the top end, so I had to get out of it before that happened.”
Mills was cautiously optimistic about holding on to the top position, but said he expected a number of competitors to step up with challenges, most notably Steve Jackson with a stated goal of being the first drag radial-shod driver to go into the 3.20s zone.
“Of course we’re going to try and back up what we’ve done, too, so hopefully it’ll work out,” Mills said.
Following Mills on the list heading into Saturday were Ruben T, who recovered with a career-best 4.438 at 177.42 after experiencing a huge, bumper-dragging wheelstand in his first qualifying attempt, and John Kolivas, whose 4.460 at 174.17 was knocked down from his first-place perch in round one.
The track’s 11 p.m. curfew actually cut Friday night’s session a little short for the Radials vs. The World class, so about a dozen teams were yet to make their second runs before round three of qualifying begins, followed by the opening round of eliminations for all seven classes.
THE REST OF THE PACK - Jimmy Marino had the quickest car on the property after first day qualifying at The Night the Lights Went out in Georgia, Radial Rumble 3 event hosted by South Georgia Motorsports Park located outside of Valdosta, Ga.
Jimmy Marino, Brian McGee, Terry Elam, Rich Bruder, Dusty Bradford and Ken Marrow, Jr., also paced their respective fields.
Marino paced the Outlaw 10.5 division with a 4.284-second pass at 165.68 miles per hour by edging Danny Lowry's 4.299. Jeffrey Barker was third with a 4.308. Buck Walker's 6.002 anchors the field with one last qualifying session remaining today.
McGee, of Pelion, SC, topped the Monte Smith Outlaw Radial division with a 4.557, 165.78 behind the wheel of his Gene Fulton-powered entry. Ricky Fox was a distant second with a 4.604 while Tony Ridenour was on his heels with a 4.606. Randy Westmoreland, Chad Henderson, Steve Morris, Chris Tedeschi, Scott Bitzer, Kenny Markwich and Angelo Graham rounded out the top ten.
Elam, was the top runner in the Mac Fab Performance Outlaw 275 division with his 2003 Cobra Mustang. The Prosperity, SC-based runner stopped the clocks with a 4.633, 159.78. Joel Greathouse was second with a 4.654. Daniel Pharris, Brad Medlock, Kevin Scott, Jeff Reed, Cale Lawson and David Pearson [not the NASCAR legend] rounded out the top eight. Justin Harvey, at a 5.711, sits on the bump spot.
Bruder topped the Xtreme 275 division with his Edison, NJ-based Ford to the top spot with a 4.658-second pass at 151.34. Slipping into the second spot was Pat Mungull, whose Mustang ran a 4.722. The top ten runners included Dean Marinis, Ziff Hudson, Barry Mitchell, Brad Medlock, Bobby Flippen, Eric McMillen, Troy Perez and Jason Lee. The bump spot of 5.298 is anchored by Corey Berry.
Bradford topped the Billet Atomizer Ultimate Street division with a 5.213, 137.36 pass behind the wheel of his 2003 Mustang. He was comfortably ahead of Chris Tino's 5.243. The balance of the top ten included Bruce Rentz, Kirk Hatley, Michael Strickland, Ronnie Wilson, Lance "Hookey" Hooks, John Gotera, Robert Riddel and Germine Rooks. Jacob Whitland sits on the bubble with a 6.271.
Marrow topped the sixteen-car field in the Leaf Spring division with a 4.935, 149.93. Tommy Kirk was second with a 4.979 while Robbie Devane ran a 5.062 to land into the third spot. Jeff Plemmons sits on the bubble with a 5.792.
Today's action at SGMP includes one round of qualifying at 10 AM with the first round of eliminations following qualifying.
WITT GOES LONG FOR DRAG RADIAL DRIVER - When Marty Witt finds something he likes, he sticks with it, beginning with the ‘81 Mercury Capri he’s owned since he was a 16-year-old high school kid. This weekend at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP), that same car is entered in the marquee Outlaw vs. The World class at the Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia III (NLWOG).
“I started out as a street racer with this car and who knows how many motors I went through in it,” said Witt, 39, who now owns Patriot Performance in Rainbow City, AL, and provides custom-built engines, heads and other go-fast parts to many of his competitors. “You could say this was my trial-and-error car growing up.”
Witt now has a Patriot-built 632 with a pair of 88-mm Precision Turbo turbochargers under the hood, but he won’t be behind the wheel this weekend. With help from a pillow propping her up in the driver’s seat, that role will be filled by Amanda “Puddin” Long, wife of NLWOG race promoter Donald Long. Turbo specialist Travis Quillen and chassis man Neil Hawkins also are on board as help in the pits.
“I got to know Amanda over the last two or three years, first as a race sponsor and then we got to be friends,” Witt said. “I also saw how she raced her car, so last July I put her in for a race in Steele, Alabama, and we made it to the third round, but even more important, the car went quicker and faster (4.61 at 165 mph) than it ever had before.”
That trend continued in pre-event testing at SGMP on Thursday, as Long ran 4.59 and 4.58 in the night session. She then ran a career-best 4.545 at 175.07 mph in the opening round of qualifying on Friday, placing her seventh on the list of 37 Radials vs. The World entries.
“It’s a good car, good crew, and we have a good time together,” the world’s fastest woman on drag radials said. “And it’s nice to have knowledgeable guys like Marty, Travis and Neil making the decisions, so I don’t have to worry about every little thing.”
Witt said Long will race his car throughout the 2012 season and he feels more time spent together will only improve the team. In the short term, though, he’s looking forward to reaching eliminations on race day.
“I’d like to see us go a few rounds,” he said. “But realistically, we’re out-turboed by quite a few faster people here—for now.”
THURSDAY NOTEBOOK - TESTING AND TUNING
DRAG RADIAL RUMBLE RULES OVER SGMP - It goes by a couple of names, but no matter what you call it, one of the biggest independent door-car events of the year goes off this weekend, at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP) in Cecil, GA.
Already on Wednesday more than 125 heads-up teams were on the SGMP grounds, with about 55 more arriving on Thursday before Lights Out 3, Radial Rumble officially began, and even more were expected to arrive in time for the 10 a.m. start of Friday’s two scheduled rounds of qualifying. Race promoter Donald “Duck” Long said he expects a record-setting turnout of entries—and record-setting performances.
“I’m hoping we’ll be able to break all the records in all the classes, except maybe Outlaw 10.5,” Long said. “We’ve already seen the X275 record drop more than a tenth from 4.78 to 4.66 (in Thursday’s test session), but it would be nice to see it happen in actual qualifying or eliminations this weekend.
“I think a couple of heavy hitters were holding back a little, too, like Stevie Jackson who only ran to the 330 (foot mark) today, but I think we’ll probably see the first ever 4.20 drag radial pass this weekend. Tomorrow night, if the weather holds out, I’m gonna’ say Jackson runs 4.28 and (Kevin) Fiscus runs 4.31.”
Headlined by the $20,000-to-win Radials vs. The World class, which pits drag radial-equipped rides against cars shod with 29.5-inch true 10.5 or 10.5W slicks, the Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia III also includes Outlaw Radial, X275 Drag Radial, 275 Radial vs. 28-inch True 10.5, Ultimate Street, Outlaw 10.5 and a special Leaf Spring Shootout.
“For me this is the most fun race all year,” Long said. “The weather is a lot cooler and whatever these guys run here this weekend they’ll be chasing those numbers all year.”
South Georgia race fans who want to catch the wild, wheelstanding action can buy tickets at the SGMP gate for $15 daily on Friday and Saturday, or $20 for Sunday’s elimination rounds. A three-day, $50 ticket also is available.
CAREER-BEST TIMES IN TESTING FOR STACK - In October 2011, at the last major event presented by promoter Donald Long at South Georgia Motorsports Park, Shane Stack ran a career-best 4.64 seconds at just over 170 miles per hour in his twin-turbocharged Monte Carlo.
On Thursday, during testing for Lights Out 3, Radial Rumble, the Huntsville, AL-based racer went even quicker and faster, opening with a straight-off-the-trailer 4.63 at 170-mph shot, followed by a second run at night that yielded a 4.59 at 175.45-mph pass.
“We started out with exactly the same set-up from October,” said Stack, who was preparing for the Outlaws vs. the World class. “For that second hit we turned up the boost a little from 35 pounds to 39 pounds and brought in in a little more aggressively.
Those are some pretty good gains already, but I think it’ll go even better,” Stack said. “We’ll find out tomorrow (Friday, Feb. 24).”
|PIT GATE (Includes Pit Pass & Pit Parking)|
|Weekend Pass (Racer/Crew/Spectator)||$50.00|
|Friday Feb.24th - Gate Opens @ 8:00 am (Racer/Crew/Spectator)||$15.00|
|Saturday Feb. 25th - Gate Opens @ 8:00 am (Racer/Crew/Spectator)||$20.00|
|Sunday Feb. 26th - Gate Opens @ 8:00 am (Racer/Crew/Spectator)||$25.00|
|Spectator Travel Trailers & Motorhome (Pit Camping/ Parking) if space allows.||$100.00|
|Spectator Travel Trailers & Motorhome (Camping/Parking) outside Pit area.||$50.00|
|All Pit Auxillary||$25.00|
|Kids 10 & under free|
|Saturday Feb. 25th (Gates Open @ 10:00 am)||$15.00|
|Sunday Feb. 26th (Gates Open @ 9:00 am)||$20.00|
|Kids 10 & under free|
Race Schedule for Outlaw Radial Revolution
|Wed. Feb.22nd - Gates Open @ 9:00 am - 10:00 pm for early parking.|
|Open Test & Tune (10:00 am - 6:00 pm)|
|Thurs Feb. 23rd - Gates Open @||8:00 am|
|Open Test & Tune (10:00 am - 6:00 pm)||$100.00|
|Friday Feb 24th - Gates Open at||8:00 am|
|Qualifying (2 rounds only)||10.00am|
|Saturday Feb. 25th - Gates Open at||8:00 am|
|Qualifying (1 round only)||10:00am|
|Eliminations (1st round only) after Qualifying|
|Sundary - Feb. 26th - Gates Open at||8:00 am|