CALAMITY AND CARNAGE STILL CAN'T SLOW STEVIE FAST IN SWEET 16 4.0 WIN
Steve Jackson's run to the RVW crown at Sweet 16 Apr. 1-3, began with a 3.59-seconds qualifying run that placed him fifth behind top qualifier Daniel Pharris, who ran a record-setting and historic 3.49, as it marked the first official radial tire pass in the 3.40s.
In the first pair out for eliminations Jackson opened with a 3.61 at 206.86-mph solo pass after Casey Bushmeyer's '63 Corvette was shut off on the line due to leakage. That set up a second-round clash of teammates as Jackson's screw-blown 2015 Camaro went up against the nitrous-breathing C7 Corvette of fellow Georgian Marcus Birt.
"We went out and just smoked the engine in the first round; I mean, just burned it up bad. Fire-slotted the block and the heads, a head gasket, and caught the car on fire. We had to change engines real quick after that with not a lot of time," Jackson said.
"And then we had to run our teammate with an engine we hadn't run in a long time. But then we went out there and ran a .57 in the middle of the day, which I thought for conditions was a really good run.
"I said in my top-end interview after the first round that I'm taking this shitty motor out and putting in my real motor. Sometimes you gotta' save your best piece for race day and not use your best piece for showing out and qualifying."
The semi-finals saw Jackson meet up with polesitter Pharris and his Procharger-equipped '69 Camaro, where he left with a .007 reaction time that translated to a .043 holeshot and then a .013 margin of victory an eighth of a mile later as Jackson's 3.58 at 212.36 prevailed over a 3.55 at 210.14 in Pharris' lane.
"Pharris is a really good driver and we respect him and that whole Proline team so much that we knew we had to bring our A game. And when the track's 115 degrees and it's a little greasy you know it's gonna' be a tiptoe dancing match out there. So we rolled the dice as much as we thought we could, made a good run, went 3.58 and thankfully won, Jackson said."
The other semi-final saw third-place qualifier Jason Lee and his Procharger-fed '69 Camaro going up against number-seven starter Brad Edwards, racing with a patched-together, Procharger-boosted 2010 Mustang after its entire roof and rear window blew off in a late-Friday qualifying round.
Lee left first by .009, but lost traction halfway down track and Edwards, who also suffered the same problem, recovered to blast past and post a winning 4.53 at 193.77 mph to reach Jackson in the final.
"You know, me and Brad Edwards have been racing each other since 2006, so for a long time and it kind of felt good. It kind of felt like home again," Jackson said. "But when you're racing against a guy who blew the roof off his car, cut a hole in a trailer and put (the panel) on there and then he makes it to the final, that's when it's really hard to defeat that guy. So I told my guys, I want you all to change every part that we can change in 25 minutes: new blower belt, new ignition box, new coil. I said, put anything on it that's going to break or fall off because this is his day."
Running in the left lane for the final, Jackson left with a .034 reaction, just two-thousandths ahead of Edwards. Edwards car soon went into a significant wheelstand that briefly put him up on just one tire, however, forcing him to lift and watch Jackson take the win and Sweet 16 title with a 3.61-seconds blast at 212.03 mph.
"I've raced Stevie a long time and I knew he was going to come out and make a solid run, but I also knew he wouldn't do anything stupid. You know, the track's been tricky all day, he's a smart racer. I've raced him for about 15 years, so I know what to expect. But I also knew that I had to step on it a little bit. So I was in one of those, you know, damned if you do, damned if you don't situations. So I decided to take a swing at it a little bit," Edwards explained later.
Despite his stellar reaction time in the semis, Jackson said a .007 was cutting things a little too close for his liking.
"I really rolled a bunch of time into the delay box for the final. I had 33-thousandths in the delay box for the final to go .034. You got to ease up. You don't want to turn the red light on and give it away," he said.
"And it doesn't matter how you win them; it just matters that you win them. And our job is to win. There wasn't a tremendous amount of fans here because they sell limited spectator tickets, but the people that were here had a good time. It was amazing celebrating with everybody in the winner's circle.
"And that throne is about coolest thing I've ever seen," he added of the assorted regal swag Long had arranged for each Sweet 16 winner, including the throne, a crown, cape and shoes, all in gold, of course, plus a unique winner's trophy featuring a spinning, bowling ball-sized globe magically rotating upon a clear base. "I'm going to put some casters on that thing. That's my new office chair. Any YouTube video that you see on my channel? That throne's going to be in it."