2018 DUCK X PRODUCTIONS SWEET 16 - EVENT NOTEBOOK
MO MONEY, NO PROBLEMS - The absolute best in small-tire racing gathered Mar. 22-24, at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP) to be part of history in the inaugural Sweet 16 promoted by Donald "Duck" Long's Duck X Productions. Under a unique format that saw 16 Radial vs. the World qualifiers going after a $101,000 winner-take-all purse in front of a minimal live audience, it was Mark Micke left standing at the end of a record-setting weekend.
"It's really not about the money; the car's going to eat that up pretty fast anyway. We race for the trophy and the satisfaction of beating the best and that's what it was all about here," Micke insisted in victory lane. "We had a great time, the car worked perfect and it all worked out for us. I really couldn't be any happier right now."
Micke started his twin-turbocharged '78 Malibu from the number-one position in the elite RvW field, qualifying with an outstanding 3.62-seconds pass at 214.79 mph that lowered the previous elapsed time record by nearly a full tenth. In an earlier session, he'd already established a new official RvW speed with a whopping 221.20-mph pass. Meanwhile, Mills became the first-ever RvW racer to run in the 3.60s, with a 3.69 at 212.69 earning the honor in Thursday's third and last qualifying round, but he and his "Golden Gorilla" twin-turboed '68 Camaro eventually started 6th after nine rounds of qualifying were in the books.
Micke posted a solid round-one win over Ty Tutterow competing in his first drag radial race, then advanced past a red-lighting Tim Slavens to reach the semi-finals. On Mills' side of the ladder, he opened with a career-best 3.66 at 213.57--the only 3.60 run by anyone during eliminations--to beat NHRA Pro Stock star Alex Laughlin, then caught a break in round two when he struck the tires off the launch, but Stevie Jackson left way too soon.
"That wasn't a red light, that was me leaving too soon," a dejected Jackson said of his -.136 light. "It was a long tree and I almost left twice before I finally just pulled my finger off the button. It made me sick when I saw him having trouble over there. I guess that's why they call it racing and not winning."
The semi-finals saw Micke run 3.75 at 219.86 to take down Canadian Paolo Giust and his blown '69 Camaro, followed by a lengthy wait while Keith Haney's crew fixed his nitrous-fed '16 Camaro before he could take on Mills. Prior to eliminations starting, Long had made an announcement specifically stating that for the RvW semis and final at Sweet 16 competitors would be allowed "as long as it takes" to make repairs.
Once Haney was ready, he and Mills faced off in an all-Oklahoma semi-final, in which Haney left too soon by just two-thousandths of a second, while Mills ran 3.73 at 211.83 to earn lane choice for the final round.
"Yeah, I knew I had to push it, but I'd rather lose like that than with a .080 light or something," Haney said later. "I want to add that I appreciate Duck and especially DeWayne Mills for waiting on us to get the car ready. Turned out it was sheared off bolts on the flywheel that caused the problem, which was a lot better than burned pistons or broken rods, but it takes a long time to drill the bolts out and remove them."
Anticipation ran high as Mills and Micke lined up to decide the richest round of racing in drag radial history. When the tree flashed green, Mills moved first with just a .006 advantage, but by the time his Camaro reached the 60-foot mark it entered into tire shake that was so sever by 150 feet out that Mills said he "could barely see" and had to pedal the throttle. Simultaneously in the right lane, Micke stayed busy laying down a string-straight run of 3.72 seconds at 214.01 to handily defeat the 4.07 at 205.16 salvaged by Mills.
"I knew I had to be pretty good on the tree because I know DeWayne is and once I got going I kept waiting but I didn't see DeWayne, I didn't see DeWayne, and then the win light came on," Mills stated matter-of-factly. "I wasn't too worked up because I really felt like this was our race to lose. If I just did my job we should be okay.
"I'm speechless now, I don't know how we could do any better, we just came out and kicked ass," the Sweet 16 record setter and inaugural winner concluded. "What else is there to say?"
SECOND CHANCE - Tim Kincaid of Thorn Hill, TN, outlasted 15 challengers Mar. 24, to win the second-chance race for Radial vs. the World non-qualifiers at Donald "Duck" Long's Sweet 16 event at South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP). In a battle of blown '63 Corvettes, Kincaid beat Rodney Whatley in the final round.
"This is really exciting for us. We knew it would be tough to break into the Sweet 16, but didn't think it would be as hard as it turned out, so to get this win really means a lot," Kincaid said.
After nine rounds of qualifying over Thursday and Friday, Kincaid's 3.82 at 195.36 left him 19th of 34 entries overall, but 3rd for the $5,000-to-win consolation event. Whatley, meanwhile, ran a best of 3.850 at 188.96 to place 6th or 22nd overall.
Kincaid made a solo pass in round one of racing when Ed Haddock couldn't answer the call with his '85 Chevy C-10 pickup, then overcame a holeshot by Canadian Enzo Pecchini to advance to the semis and win over Don Lamana. Meanwhile, Whatley, from Sawyer, TX, beat Ken Quartuccio, Alan Pittman, and top starter Mark Woodruff to reach Kincaid in the final.
Once there, Whatley left first with a .026 reaction time in the left lane, while Kincaid posted a .031 light in the right. Whatley's blown small-block equipped Vette actually led to the halfway mark, but Kincaid's big-block power took over in the back half, running 3.86 at 195.14 for a close six-thousandths win over Whatley's 3.87 at 188.38 pass.
"I knew he was right there and I really didn't know who won until looking up at the scoreboard," Kincaid said. "It's a thrill to win here. We had a blast."
QUALIFYING NOTEBOOK -
OH I'M RACING HIM - There was no way Mark Micke was going to lose this race. And the interesting aspect of it all, it wasn't a race, it was qualifying.
After 34 Radial vs. The World Racers hit the track for nine grueling qualifying sessions (originally slated for six), the final match between drivers who had traded the No. 1 qualifying spot multiple times, had all the makings of a final round.
Micke made the quickest run in the history of the Radial vs. The World division, a 3.623 elapsed time at 214.79 miles per hour. Jackson wounded his engine and coasted through, ending the day as third quickest with a 3.666.
"That was the run of our lifetime," Micke said, of his final qualifying match with Stevie "Fast" Jackson. "Stevie Fast, the weather and a track like that it doesn't get any better than that. We put everything we had in that. We were not going to lose that run, period."
The controversy on the final run built when Micke and Jackson were scheduled to run the left lane, and because promoter Donald Long wanted to pair teams close in qualifying for this session, neither driver wanted to switch.
After a few moments where it appeared there would be a pair of singles, Micke acquiesced and chose the right lane to the cheer of the limited spectator attendance.
"Donald was telling us the No. 1 qualifier got lane choice. I thought, 'Cool."
"Then Phil [Shuler, Jackson's tuner didn't like that and wasn't going to run us. I was like bulls***, we want to run them. That's it period. I didn't care what lane I was in. So I said, whatever, we will move over."
Micke had no doubt either lane was capable of delivering a big moment.
"I told the guys when we ran the 3.64 earlier in the day, we were going for a 3.62," Micke explained. "They all thought I was crazy as hell, but it was there. With the track those guys [SGMP team] give us, I wasn't worried at all about not getting all of it.
"It tried to go out and wheelie a bit, but since I was running Stevie Fast, there was no way I was lifting. I rode that thing out. I am so happy for our guys."
IT'S NOT ORTHODOX, BUT IT WORKS - Promoter Donald Long was ready and willing to shame Mark Micke and Stevie Jackson into making them run side-by-side.
"We don't go full professionalism, but we get the point across," Long added.
As for the marathon nine qualifying sessions, Long added, "I didn't want anyone to say if they had one more run they could have made it."
JUST HOW QUICK WAS IT? - The Sweet 16 field was the quickest and fastest in Radial vs. The World history. Lights Out 9 low qualifier Jeff Sitton's 3.787 wouldn't have qualified for the event.
THE UNSUNG HERO - Track prep specialist Wade Rich deserves a lot of credit for the record-setting numbers coming out of the Sweet 16 event at South Georgia Motorsports Park. Rich said he's really enjoying the format with a limited number of cars that lets him spend the time required to create the absolute best racing surface for them.
CONSOLATION PRIZE - There were another 16 alternates who missed the record cut of 3.768, anchored by second-generation drag racer Ty Tutterow. Those sixteen racers will get to race tommorrow in what is being billed as a Second Chance 16 race for $5,000
IT'S ALL ABOUT THE APPLE PIE - As if Stevie "Fast Jackson" needs any motivation.
Earlier in the day, the small-tire and doorslammer icon recorded the quickest lap in radial racing when he stopped the clocks at 3.66 seconds.
"Them boys went out there and slapped my world record around a little bit yesterday," Jackson said. "DeWayne Mills went and got it, and then I got it back, and then Mark Micke got it. I like to let them feel a little bird-chested for a little bit. You know, a lot of times you’ve got to make folks think that they’re getting what they want."
Jackson wanted to send a message to his Radial vs. The World counterparts.
"I wanted to let them boys know that I could go out there with the track as hot as it could possibly get today in the worst conditions and worst air and make a good run," Jackson said. "Everybody can haul butt at night when the DA’s [density altitude] negative thousand and the track’s killer, but it’s a little harder to do that during the day, and we’ve got a car that can do that during the day. So tomorrow when we’re racing for that $101,000, I want to let them know what they’ve got to do.
Jackson said he's confident and sometimes it can bite him, but there are two ways a person can steal someone's apple pie.
"In drag racing, it doesn’t matter how good you are, it is the thing that can humble you most in the world quickly," Jackson admitted. "So although my mouth speaks confidence a lot, success is earned in the hard work and repetition. So I am confident.
"I always feel like I can smash a man up there, but I am humble enough to know it doesn’t matter how good you are, there’s about 200,000 parts that make this race car up, and all of them have to go right to make a good run, and one of them can fail and it sucks. So it’s a right time, right now type of sport and that’s why I like it. We need to put four good runs together and crush them and get on out of here with the cheese.
"There are two ways to steal pie, alright? So right now there’s like a perfectly warm all-American apple pie sitting on the window sill cooling. Two ways, I learned this a long time ago.
Way number one is you can wait until it’s on the window sill, sneak around the back of the kitchen and grab it while nobody’s looking and run away. Way number two is to just kick the front door of the house down, kick the kitchen open and go take it from them. I’m more of a way number two guy. So there’s times to sneak around there and get the pie. This is not one of those times; I’m kicking the door down."
HE KNOWS A THING OR TWO - Six-time Pro Modified champion Scotty Cannon, and an iconic part of doorslammer drag racing history knows a thing about the challenges of racing for big money both in big show shootouts and backwoods, high stakes Quick Eight races.
But racing for $100,000, that's a whole nother story.
"I think I once won $65,000 counting the contingency at Bristol," Cannon recalled. "Nah, not even close."
Never did the driver who made Mohawks and fast-paced Willys coupes famous think he'd be racing for this kind of a payday.
"Not with a bicycle tire on the back, and everybody running in the .60’s," Cannon said, shaking his head.
Racing on those bicycle tires known as Drag Radials with the same Pro Modified car he ran in IHRA has been a challenge. But, he and driver Alan Pittman have adjusted well enough by his standards.
"We’ve run well. We’ve been, every race we’ve been to the semi-finals," Cannon explained. "Getting the car to run hard, run fast ain’t really been no problem. We make power. It’s just kind of like a non-funded budget team now. We kind of run like that. I don’t like that at all, which you’re usually funded. And you don’t race enough to stay sharp and nice and neat. That’s what I told the crew guys and me a while ago; I said, ‘Ain’t none of us worth even being here. ‘It’s getting to be a horse and pony show."
"This is a joke. We’re a joke in our own little pit here, and the car shows. I don’t know what to tell you."
One person who believes Cannon is far from being a joke is his biggest fan - top runner Stevie "Fast" Jackson.
"I know he can walk in my footsteps, so I don’t know what to tell you," Cannon said. "I just take it as a compliment. It makes me feel good when people like Phil Shuler have done well for themselves and you’ve got Stevie out there doing good. I pull for them guys day in and day out. If they win at a National event, I call Phil and tell him. There’s a bunch of love in our camp.
It wasn't long ago when Jackson and Shuler crashed their Shadow Mustang and were on the receiving end of online criticism.
Cannon, clearly not a savvy internet player, quickly came to their defense. He made his point clear.
"As long as Scotty Cannon’s got a car, Phil has got a car ’til he gets his car built," Cannon had someone post on the message board. "Now I’m pretty sure there was a hush, and everybody went dead silence, no more. I called it Keyboard Cowboy crap on everything. If you can’t talk and back it up, just don’t talk it."
And that's how the veteran rolls.
And if the right money comes around, Cannon says he will step up his game. He'll also hit the match racing scene.
"Stevie and I will be getting it on," Cannon mused.
MILLS MAKES HIS MARK - It didn’t last long as number one in Radial vs. the World qualifying, but let the record show that DeWayne Mills of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, was the first to reach the vaunted 3.60s on a drag radial tire.
In the third round of qualifying for Sweet 16 on Thursday night, Mills and his "Golden Gorilla" '68 Camaro combined for a 3.696-seconds run at 212.69 mph over the eighth mile at South Georgia Motorsports Park. He had little time to bask in the glory, however, as Mark Micke in the very next pair down the track clocked in at 3.677 and a whopping 221.20 mph with his '78 Malibu. Then, again as half of the following pair, "Stevie Fast" Jackson lowered the qualifying boom to end the day in the top spot with a 3.666 at 202.58 with his 2015 Camaro.
"Doesn't matter, we were the first to get there," Mills stated in his pits. "But them other guys, they can be second, that's okay."
Mills said he went to the line hoping for a low-3.70, but atmospheric conditions were better than he expected.
"If we had to do it over again, and I knew it was going to run that good, we could have went a skosh quicker," he said. "But we were just trying to get down the track and not tear it up. When we went up there in the morning we had a pedal malfunction and got a piston, so we just decided to freshen the motor up and get ready to go."
After nine (yes, nine!) rounds of qualifying, Mills' 3.69 remained good enough for 6th going into eliminations on Saturday. A total of six cars had run in the 3.60s by the time qualifying finished, led by an otherworldly 3.62 by Micke in the final session. Mills said he's enjoying the unique format for Sweet 16 that brings Radial vs. the World to the line every 90 minutes or so.
"I like it because it’s three days here and done and go home on a Sunday. I hate driving home on Mondays because we’ve got our own construction company and I need to be at work, you know. So yeah, I think Saturday’s a way better deal," he said. "Hopefully Donald (Long) will start running these cars a bunch on Saturdays for No Mercy and Lights Out and then finish up on Sundays, because I’m sure a lot of the fans would like to see these cars run more than twice on a Saturday."
Regardless of when raceday comes, Mills is looking for Sweet 16 eliminations.
"My best runs usually come when I have to step up, whether it's the quarters, the semis or the finals," he stated. "We’re either going to spin or win, one of the two."
AERODYNAMICS ARE WHERE YOU CAN FIND THEM - Bryan Markiewicz admits the moon-style wheel covers on his rear wheels on his car aren't just for show, they are for go.
"It’s an idea from my crew chief," Markiewicz explained. "He did a lot of mud bogging. But we have done some aerodynamic testing on this car, and the rear wheel was the most dramatic air going into the rim as far as air flow. So by covering the rear rim, it allows the air to move through the rim, and it does work. But we don’t know like if it’s setting records or anything like that, it’s just something we’re willing to try."
Additionally, Markiewicz has borrowed a bit of NASCAR technology for safety purposes. His Camaro has air flaps built into the front-end in the unfortunate event his car should become airborne. Racing at a track where flying cars are often promoted. That's not figurative; it's literal.
In the case his car lifts up, the flaps will open up to help relieve the air pressure so that the car will come back down instead of going all the way over.
"You see all these guys, especially in the Radial vs. The World that are flipping and launching into the air," Markiewicz explained. "Common sense will tell you to have some kind of escape for the air, especially when you get up on the front to allow that front end to come back down. No proof in the pudding, it’s just a try factor. But it can’t hurt. Every little bit counts in this division."
Markiewicz has found a home in the rough and tumble world of Radial vs. The World following his days as a pacesetter in the defunct ORSCA street car series.
"I also ran NMCA for a couple years, we won the championship there, and then we ran Outlaw 10.5 for ORSCA for a couple years there too," Markiewicz said. "So we stepped out of the game in ’09 with the fantastic economy, and we’re back. Things are good, business is good, bought a new car, we’re back with Radial vs. The World.
"We talked about Outlaw 632 but man, I want to run with the big dogs. If we’re going to come to the track, I want to run with the best and the baddest in the world."
Markiewicz ended earned a place in the field at 9th with a 3.740, 207.88 lap.
IT’S NOT HOW YOU START - The weekend did not start as planned for Marty Stinnett. Early on Thursday afternoon, about halfway into his first qualifying run for Radial vs. the World at Sweet 16, his small-block-Chevy-powered '93 Mustang suddenly shifted toward the wall in the right lane and he ended up earning a long "Valdosta stripe."
"We went up there with what we thought was a pretty solid tune-up, not too radical," the Kutawa, KY-based driver recalled. "We left the starting line and 2.1 (seconds) into the run the car kind of started going to the right so I started steering to the left, and it was basically doing nothing. Turned out we had a steering linkage failure.
"It honestly felt like it was going to stop before we got to the wall, but it just kept getting closer and closer and it just wouldn’t stop. I squealed the tires a couple times until finally I thought to throw the chutes. Way too late, but I did. Then it ripped the wires out of the transbrake button and it fell, grounded, activated the relay, which activated the transbrake. So we burnt the band out of the transmission in the process."
Upon returning to the pits, Stinnett and crew went into full thrash mode, immediately going over every bar, weld and bracket to make certain it was safe to go forward with repairs.
"I’ve got the crew from Southern Speed here out of Tupelo, Mississippi, Wade Hopkins, Jody, Wesley, Jeff Burns, my engine builder, Brad Pittman, and then just the help here at the track, man. You know, your racer family," Stinnett said.
"They all chipped in and helped with whatever they could. Like Ron Milliken, the dude with the green Nova with the diesel in it from Hardway Diesel, he was over hear and mounted tires, and he had a transbrake button in his backpack. I mean, who has transbrake parts in their backpack?"
Meanwhile, as his crew continued on the car, Stinnett headed down to Florida on Thursday night to meet up with fellow racer Cory Voss to buy new front wheels. However, upon returning to South Georgia Motorsports Park he realized the new wheels wouldn't fit so another new pair were secured right at the track and by the time Friday's third qualifying session (of an eventual six) was starting up, Stinnett was ready to try again.
He ran 3.83 at 192 mph, which was just enough to secure the provisional 16th position, but Stinnett eventually improved to 3.758 at 201.34 to start 12th and face Jamie Hancock in round one of eliminations.
"Not too bad. I go from scuffing the wall and dragging it out to running a 3.75, so that put us in pretty good shape to try and win rounds and hopefully go to the final and win this thing," Stinnett said. "But really, I’m tickled just to be back."
HOLDING HIS OWN - NHRA Pro Stock superstar Alex Laughlin anchored the field after the first day with a 3.869 by Saturday his Frankie Taylor-tuned machine was working its way up the ladder with a 3.748 best.
HEY MICKIE! - Last fall Mark Micke was on the fence about building a Pro Modified style car to keep up with the changing face of the Radial vs. The World class. But in the end, Micke, of Jefferson City, Mo., decided to stick to his guns and keep running his boxy '78 Chevelle Malibu.
Thursday night during the Q-3 session at the Duck X Productions $101,000-to-win Sweet 16 event, Micke ended the first day of qualifying with both guns blazing.
Micke reeled off a 3.677 elapsed time at 221.20 miles per hour to pace the quickest field in the history of the Radial vs. The World program.
"We were watching all of the guys run in front of us, Stevie [Jackson] and Dwayne [Mills] and they showed us the track was definitely there," Micke said. "We've had that run in the back of our mind for a while. We just decided to load it up, and the track was bad ass. It took, it was certainly an awesome run. The thing was hauling out the back."
Micke admits he left a little on the table on the provisional No. 1.
"I think you will see a .64 or a .65," Micke explained. "If we get the kind of conditions we had today, you will see it tomorrow. I know I left two numbers; the track was so tight I had to bump in, and it flickered the bulb, so I had to take another bulb. Looking at the data, I know it did.
"We thought it would go a .64. I think there's more tomorrow if the track is the same."
THE EXCITEMENT IN THE OTHER LANE - Micke's run was virtually overshadowed by Frank Soldridge's violent crash in the other lane.
Soldridge lost control of his Mustang Cobra just shy of the finish line and impacted the left retaining wall and barrel-rolled multiple times. He exited the vehicle under his own power but was taken to a local hospital as a precaution.
Micke had no idea of what had transpired in the opposite lane.
"[My car] blew the breather tube on me, so I had some oil," Micke recalled. "I got slowed down, and then I saw the fire truck. I thought, 'Oh no, I'm on fire."
"Then he went past me, and I went 'uh oh."
"I knew it wasn't good, but luckily he walked away. Thank God for that."
LUTZ LOOKS FORWARD TO “SOUR 16” - For Bill Lutz just being back behind the wheel at Sweet 16 represents a victory in itself. Two years ago a routine gall bladder surgery went sideways and put Lutz in the hospital for a solid six months. Doctors at the time gave him a 10-percent chance of survival after his kidneys shut down and he eventually lost 80 percent of his pancreas.
"Right now it’s good, everything’s working and I’m not on insulin or anything. So I mean we’re very fortunate to be here and enjoying life," the veteran racer from Canal Winchester, OH, said. "Not only did I make it, but I’m back stronger, healthier than ever right now at the moment. So we’re very happy with the outcome of it, obviously, that I’m still around and able to race."
After three rounds of Radial vs. the World qualifying on Thursday, followed by another six sessions on Friday, Lutz finished 30th of 34 entries in Rob Sphar's recently completed ’92 Mustang.
"We've only got about 20 runs on the car and it’s got all the right pieces to run fast, but you just have to run a lot of passes to get these cars to where they’re consistent and running quick down low. We’ve been having a problem this weekend with it going into a power wheelie out about 150 to 200 feet out. That's just because the car isn’t running the first 60 feet quick enough; it wants to power wheelie. If you run the first 60 feet quick, it doesn’t do that," Lutz explained.
"I know it seems odd to most people that you’ve got to get after it harder to make it not wheelie, but it's the truth, that’s what happens. So we’re easing into it and trying a couple of different things with it."
Powered by a Noonan-headed Hemi sporting a pair of 98-millimeter turbos and backed up with a three-speed M&M Transmission, the bright blue Fox body made a best pass of 4.15 at 196.24 mph. Not even close to breaking into an all-3.60s and .70s field for the Sweet 16, but Lutz placed 14th among the 16 non-qualifiers who will take to the SGMP eighth mile in a $5,000-to-win last-chance race on Saturday.
"I call it the Sour 16. Instead of the Sweet 16, the 16 of us that didn’t make it in are sour; we’re the Sour 16," Lutz said, laughing. "But you know what? Even winning that would be nice. If you win that, you’re still going to be pretty special.
"Actually, I knew this race would be special. I didn’t know how special it would end up being, you know seeing multiple 3.60s by some of our competitors, but it’s been way more special than what we thought it would be. We didn’t know if we would have a car good enough to qualify. We know we have the parts and the car to qualify; we just don’t have near enough runs on it. So, if nothing else, this is a great test session for us."
QUICK FIRST DAY - There were some exceptional first day runs with two more drivers joining Mickie in the 3.60s (Steve Jackson, 3.686), DeWayne Mills (3.696) and seven in the 3.70s (Jeff Naiser 3.726), (Keith Haney 3.748), (Jamie Hancock 3.760), (Paulo Guist 3.767), (Tim Slavens 3.783), (Brian Markewiecz 3.787) and Daniel Pharris 3.794) in the historic show.