2017 NO MERCY 8 - EVENT NOTEBOOK
MILLS IS YOUR MAN - When the No Mercy 9 event rolls around in October 2018, one would be wise to visit the ATM with a pile of cash and make a beeline for the madness of South Georgia Motorsports Park grandstands for a couple of days filled with gambling.
And when a certain gold first-gen Camaro rolls to the line, it would be even wiser to bet on this car.
Radial Vs. The World standout DeWayne Mills, for the second year in a row, proved to be a sure bet during the No Mercy 8 event, the popular drag race promoted by Donald "Duck" Long.
Make no mistake about Mills victory; he beat the toughest dude on the block in taking out Stevie "Fast" Jackson, a driver who plays the mind games as well as he does a race car.
Jackson was slightly quicker out of the gate, but Mills was able to come around Stevie Fast late in the run when the engine in his Shadow 2.0 expire the engine late in the run.
Mills pocketed $50,000 for winning the 32-car Radial vs. The World division, the top of the food chain for the Drag Radial cars.
"Man, we rolled in here, and you know just went first round of qualifying, it went an .80, and everything was good," Mills said. "Went up for the second round and everything just worked out the way it should. The car responded, kept going faster and faster, and it did everything we asked it to do. We had to freshen it up going into eliminations, we put a set of rods in it, and here we go."
Mills ran a 3.746, 208.36 to stretch out the victory over Jackson's troubled 4.034. In the post-race interview, Mills had nothing but praise for one of drag racing's more colorful personalities and his team.
"He’s a great guy, shoot they’re a great team, competitor," Mills said. "It’s a rivalry, but we’re all friends. We get up there on the starting line; we want to, you know, kill each other, but, you know, just a good weekend."
Mills, who entered eliminations as the No. 4 qualifier, opened Friday's first-round eliminations with a single when Chad Opaleski failed to make the call. He stepped in the second round with a 3.791 to beat Andrew Johnson's radical '57 Chevy.
Mills picked up the pace in the third round with a 3.72 to beat Wednesday's provisional low qualifier Jeff Sitton.
Mills admitted of the four rounds he raced; this third round race gave him the most cause for concern.
"When you make it there you’ve got to run .75 or faster to even continue on," explained Mills, who beat the Scotty Cannon-tuned Firebird to advance to the finals. "Everybody stepped their game up. There are no easy rounds when you get to the quarterfinals, and on up to the finals, you know. If you ran this race again, I mean it’d probably have a different outcome, who knows. But man, it was tight racing."
For his part, Jackson who entered eliminations as No. 3 qualifier, beat Ruben Tetsoshvili, Keith Haney, Tim Slavens and Daniel Pharris to reach the final round.
The No Mercy 8 marks the second Duck Productions race win for Mills in the last three events. Mills hold the trophy in high regard as a badge of honor.
"I don’t know why we waited to so long to start winning," Mills said. "I mean we ran seven years at Lights Out and No Mercy, and we didn’t win anything. Still haven’t won Lights Out yet, but we’ll try to get ‘er done in February."
IDENTITY CRISIS? NOT - If Donald Long has heard the references once, he’s heard it a millions time.
It’s simply Duck’s Race down in Valdosta.
Long, the popular Drag Radial event promoter from Crystal Springs, Fla., has made his events the drag radial version of Woodstock.
The key word in this proclamation is races, the plural of race.
Long has two distinct races, Lights Out each February and No Mercy in October.
In a sense, Long has given the events their own identity by default.
“I always felt like February is more like a balls out deal, we’re going to try to set records, go crazy, whatever,” Long explained. “And I felt like October with the weather being hotter and everything it’s still everybody getting together. But to me it’s more like keeping the field as tight as it was on the one, and then the other one is more like… And you’ve got to remember too, No Mercy has about half the fans that Lights Out does, it always has. Because everybody isn’t snowed in up north. They’re building obviously, October gets bigger and bigger. But the February race is more fans, less cars. The October deal is usually more cars, less fans.”
Unlike a father of two successful children, they are not loved equally. Long’s got a favorite.
“February will always be, I’d always figured as my youngest because it was my first one 2010,” Long said. “You got the perfect weather usually for it as far as setting records and going fast. And I don’t like sweating to death. Plus there’s no gnats here in February.”
Long said he stages the events at South Georgia Motorsports Park at the most aethstetical times of the year.
“You have got to remember Florida and Georgia, you can’t really do anything in June, July, August or September really anyway.” Long explained. “So you’re almost, for everybody to go down on radial tires and all that, you kind of, you’ve got that October to March swing. So basically that’s why we keep it.
“Believe me, I wish it was six months and six months instead. This one from now to the other, you’ve got to remember, you’re October right now, November, December, January, February, you’ve only got four months really.”
Long certainly has the popularity to stage a full series of these events at other locations, but for him, two is plenty.
“Even if the third [also at SGMP], and I don’t consider this a full race anyway, the third race in March, the $101,000, it’s more of, it’s one class, it’s just a little shootout deal, and there’s no money taken at the gate, we don’t have to worry about any of that,” Long said. “We don’t have to worry about all the trash being dumped, the security, it’s just more of a little shootout deal. But I’m not really planning on doing anything else except for the two that I’ve got.”
THE MOTHER OF NECESSITY - Friday was a fast day, but not necessarily on the qualifying and elimination sheets.
The ability to be fluid with one’s schedule, especially when there’s forecasted fluid expected to fall from the sky made for a long day at the Duck X Productions No Mercy 8 Drag Radial event at South Georgia Motorsports.
Impending rain from Hurricane Nate forecast for late Saturday and much of Sunday called for a drastic makeover of the event schedule forcing Q-1 session on Wednesday and three more on Thursday. Friday’s eliminations pared most of the fields down to eight cars, and in the top of the line category Radial Vs. World, four cars.
“Hey we’re on a fly by the seat deal here,” Long admitted. “We do whatever we feel is in the best interest of the racer. And so I mean it’s just like Thursday, we gave up about $16,000 in testing money to be able to start qualifying. Everybody’s here, they come a long way and I’m not going to let them sit here in the rain for two days.”
Long figured that since the whole gang was here, they might as well be productive.
“This is more like radial week anyway,” Long explained. “They’re here already, 90 percent of them are here already, so it’s go ahead and get it on. And I am sure everybody would rather qualify and get into some eliminations than they would to sit here test, test, test and then just sit there in the rain.”
THE QUARTERS POUND OUT RESULTS - In a shocker, Alan Pittman driving the Scotty Cannon-tuned Firebird took out the seemingly unbeatable Marty Stinnett, whose car apparently rocked the beams during the staging process and fouled. Pittman advanced to the semis with a 4.011 and will give up lane choice again DeWayne Mills.
Mills took out Jeff Sitton with a 3.752 elapsed time.
Stevie “Fast” Jackson avenged Sitton’s loss with elapsed time of the round, a 3.750, to eliminate Tim Slavens, who experienced a -.001 foul.
TRADITION VS. THE REAL WORLD - They roll to the starting line with seemingly as many people standing behind the car as is in the packed grandstands. One 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 household 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.
Watching 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 raises 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."
UP, UP AND AWAY - Certain cars fit the profile of efficient wheelstanders, a 1957 Chevrolet isn’t one of them. During Thursday evening's impromptu Q-4 session at No Mercy 8, second-generation fast shoebox racer Andrew Johnson set an unofficial altitude record for the '57 Chevy as at one point in his wheelstand at the hit; all four tires left the racing surface.
In an extreme case of what goes up must come down, Johnson's entry came crashing down to the earth. The damage was anticipated to be much worse than it was in reality.
As a result, he made Friday morning's first-round call.
Oddly enough, Johnson's first-round opponent was Paolo Giust, a driver whose car went as high as his in the same session. Fortunately, neither driver sustained any back injuries in their acrobatic endeavors.
"We were talking about it[in the staging lanes] and decided that we weren’t going to do any more highlight reels this round."
Johnson admitted he was sort of prepared for the absurd to happen when he first rolled through the gates on Tuesday.
"I’ve been told that whenever you go radial racing that the first thing you need to do is unload it out of the trailer and go hit the wall somewhere and get it over with," Johnson said. "And, then go back and fix it. I don’t know. You’ve just got to play it smart and safe, because they’re on edge all the time."
And edgy, Johnson believes, is the best way to describe his 1957 Chevy.
"It was built in 1990 by Jerry Haas, in 1990," Johnson explained. "That’s a Trans Am roof; they chopped it down. But it’s actually a steel car with a VIN, it was an original ’57 Chevy, and Jerry Haas stretched the front end and did all the work. When I bought it, the plan was Top Sportsman, and I’ve just been playing around with different stuff."
The engine is just as radical.
"It’s basically a Top Alcohol Funny Car motor with ProCharger," Johnson said. "It’s a Brad Anderson setup like a screw blower would be with screw in injectors in those lines, it confuses a lot of people. They don’t realize that’s alcohol, but the reason that it’s so tall is because it came out of my Top Dragster car."
STINNETT IS ALL UP IN IT - Before Thursday's Q-2 session, Marty Stinnett might have drawn some sympathy from those looking at his seemingly stock-appearing, Fox-bodied Mustang and it's small block Chevrolet in a class with aerodynamic-enhanced, horsepower-abundant counterparts.
The whole sympathy card flew out the window in the Q-2 session when Stinnett drove to the top with a 3.77 elapsed time. If this was written off as a fluke, his elapsed time at 196.16 miles per hour pass during the Q-3 session provided even more validation.
“Our whole team is riding high just overwhelming with emotion,” Stinnett said. “I’m very excited but humbled as well. I know we are running against some bad boys. There are some really good race teams out here. You cannot take any for granted. The top three are all in the 3.75s. For my small block, my little Jeff Burns small block Chevy, what more can I say? My team is awesome.”
There's no flying under the radar now.
“I think most of the teams out here respected us because we’ve been around here for a little while,” Stinnett said. “We’ve had some pretty good performances, so Praise the Lord, I am sure they know we are out here.”
CAUSE STEVIE FAST SAID SO - Just two days shy of being a month ago, Stevie "Fast" Jackson issued a proclamation. He declared the new Jerry Bickel-built Chevrolet Camaro for team owner Jeff Sitton would not only be quick but in due time be the quickest.
Wednesday during first day PTC Radial V. The World qualifying at No Mercy 8, the popular drag radial event at South Georgia Motorsports Park, Sitton drove the car, still complete with the new car smell, to the top spot with a 3.774 elapsed time at 196.19 miles per hour.
"I felt like there was a good chance this car was going to go to the top in the first session," Sitton confirmed. "We've made some good test runs with the car, so we were pretty confident in what it could do."
Sitton said the car has responded as expected with each pass up until Wednesday's inaugural competition run.
"The car has just worked from Day One," Sitton said. "Not sure if this run will hold through tomorrow's qualifying, in fact, I believe we can run quicker."
When asked if he bought into Jackson's initial confidence in the car, Sitton responded, "If anyone would know, it would be him."
"And I don't lie," Jackson added.