Donald Long’s buzz machine is roaring in full effect as small-tire racing’s season-opening extravaganza, Duck X Productions’ Lights Out 8, is just a few days away. As the teams are thrashing to complete winter repairs and/or upgrades, we’re taking a look at the favorites to take home the biggest paycheck in radial racing. The radial contingent will begin the pilgrimage to South Georgia Motorsports Park, despite recent tornado damage to the facility, where a who’s-who of drivers and tuners will push their machines to the extreme in an attempt to turn on the win light and secure bragging rights as the baddest man on small tires; at least until No Mercy rolls around in September.
We got it right last fall when when DeWayne Mills took home the $60,000 purse after we placed him at the top of our list, so hopefully we can go 2-for-2 again this go ’round. As before, these odds are meant only for fun and hold no actual gambling merit, so don’t come crying to us if you lose this month’s rent!
50/1 – The Field
It happens almost ever year; somebody new or unexpected shows up and surprises everybody by making waves. Last fall, it was “Nova Joe” Albrecht who damn near took the win over Mills in the finals. Before that, Keith Berry brought a completely new combination – one that hadn’t even been cranked when pre-race testing started – and took home the win. Before that, Stevie Fast made his triumphant return to radial racing after a couple of years away. As before, just based on the numbers, betting the field can prove a very smart play.
40/1 – Ryan Martin
Martin qualified the gorgeous Fireball Camaro solidly in the field a year ago with a 4.05 and went on to dip into the 3.90’s later in the season. With the offseason to make upgrades and refine the tune, the Moore, Oklahoma native could make waves closer to the top of the ladder this time around. The twin-turbo Camaro should have more than enough power to run up front if the team is able to nail down the boost curve. Look for the retina-searing-red hot rod to be gunning for the 3.80’s and beyond.
35/1 – Jamie Hancock
The original Pro Mod on Radials has been shelved and team Hancock has bolted radials onto their gorgeous Pro Nitrous Firebird. Hancock made waves when he took home the Radial vs the World win at No Mercy 5 in his self-described antique Pro Mod Corvette. Hancock displaced his dad James to take over the Firebird and see if the newer chassis will allow them to turn up the wick on their nitrous powerplant and step back into the winner’s circle. They’ve only made a few hits in the new car on radials, but it only took them a handful of runs to get the Corvette up to speed, so don’t count these guys out.
30/1 – Grant McCrary
McCrary runs a fairly limited schedule in the Camaro campaigned by he and business partner Rick Thornton. The pair spends most of their time focused on their thriving business, so play time is limited, but when they do show up, they don’t just come to hang out. One of the quickest small-block cars on the planet, McCrary’s Camaro has been done well in qualifying but seems to run into trouble once eliminations start. Don’t expect the team to be content with just laying down a number in qualifying, though, as they’re certainly looking to stretch the weekend into the late rounds on Sunday.
25/1 – Marty Stinnett
Another heavy-hitter from the small-block camp, Stinnett ripped off the quickest small-tire pass for the mouse motor contingent last year with a 3.88, but ended up taking a wild ride at the top end that sent the car to the chassis shop for a few months. He’s buttoning things back up as we speak and says the car will be even lighter when Lights Out kicks off, so look for Stinnett to be on a mission to put his Mustang solidly in the low 3.80’s and take it deep into eliminations. This may be the best bet to make here, especially if Stinnett and crew pick up where they left off before the crash.
22/1 – Josh Klugger
Klugger’s teammate Kevin Fiscus ignited social media when he piloted the Fiscus/Klugger Racing Mustang to the first 5-second radial quarter mile ET at Orlando Speed World’s World Sport Compact Challenge. The team has competed and qualified well at the last few Duck X events but seem to have a bit of a ’round two curse’ they’re going to be looking to break next week. The Pro Line-powered Fox coupe should once again be near the top of the qualifying sheet, and Klugger and Co. will be looking to dive deeper into eliminations this go ’round.
18/1 – Chris Daniel
Cartersville, Georgia’s Chris Daniel made waves a few “Duck” races back when he first swapped from nitrous to turbos and blasted off some insane mile-per-hour in his sleek late model Trans Am, but has been bitten by reliability issues the past couple of events he attended. He’s got his Pro Line bullet buttoned back up and says he’s looking to pick up where he left off – his low ET of 3.85 is certainly a good starting point – and chip away at the tune, hopefully reaching the vaunted 3.70’s.
15/1 – Jeff Sitton
Sitton will be piloting the Killin’ Time Racing Pro Nitrous Camaro that currently holds the official Radial vs the World elapsed time record at 3.75 (Barry Mitchell and Kyle Huettel have both bettered this number, but their runs were made in testing, and therefore do not count as record runs) and will be looking to parlay that clout into a late-round appearance. With Steve Jackson calling the shots on the tune, expect Sitton to sit near the top of the ladder come race day, and if they can find some consistency, there’s no reason Sitton won’t hang around late in eliminations.
12/1 – Mark “Woody” Woodruff
Missouri native Mark Woodruff is always one of the more consistent cars in a class so often full of one-hit-wonders. He relied on that consistency to reach the finals at Bradenton just a couple of weeks ago, where he was giving Barry Mitchell all he wanted before losing traction and scraping the wall. The damage was relatively light, luckily, and there’s no reason Woody won’t be looking to go rounds at SGMP, as well. Taking the win at one of the biggest races of the year would put a smile on the faces of his many followers, as Woodruff is known as one of the nicest guys in the pits.
10/1 – Daniel Pharris
Daniel Pharris will once again be behind the wheel of Andrew Alepa’s beautiful C7 Corvette, a car that has quickly established itself as a contender at any event for which the team rolls in the gate. As one of the few Radial vs the World cars to dip into the 3.7-second zone, there’s no denying the car has the power to turn on the win light. The Pro Line Hemi-powered hot rod has been plagued by minor parts breakage problems, however, which is why they sit at number seven on this list. If they can keep the swoopy ‘Vette from finding weak links, ten-to-one odds make Pharris a no-brainer bet!
9/1 – Mark Micke
The fan-favorite Malibu of Mark Micke returned to its former front-runner status at the end of last season, stringing together several solid passes to take runner-up honors at SCSN St. Louis. Micke, like teammate, friend, and fellow Missourian Woodruff, is known as much for his consistency as as his performance, which always bodes well on race day. Look for Micke and car owner/crew chief Jason Carter to go deep into eliminations in the trademark G-Body.
7/1 – Steve “Stevie Fast” Jackson
We’d be crazy to have Stevie Fast any lower than fifth, but the fact that he’s bringing a brand new chassis to Lights Out – made necessary by his internet-breaking flight at No Mercy 7 – keeps him from being closer to the top. However, with Jackson behind the wheel and Phil Shuler turning the wrenches and tapping the keys on the laptop, there’s no reason to think this team will need more than a couple of passes to get up to speed. Watch for Killin’ Time Racing’s new-body Camaro to light up the scoreboards with some impressive numbers before eliminations even start.
6/1 – “Nova Joe” Albrecht
“Nova Joe” came out of nowhere and made an immediate splash in the Radial vs the World ranks when he runnered-up to DeWayne Mills at No Mercy 7 in his South Georgia debut. Albrecht, made the long haul from New York and laid down some killer numbers, capped by being one half of the quickest side-by-side radial race of all time in the finals, where his 3.78 came up just short of the 3.76 of Mills. Albrecht has to have as much motivation as anybody, being just inches from taking home the biggest payday in small-tire racing, so expect his gorgeous GTO to be a player again at Lights Out 8.
5/1 – Kyle Huettel
When we started putting this article together, we had Kyle on the list, but a couple of spots further down. While the blown BAD9ER Racing C6 Corvette has always been bracket-car consistent, it seemed they were tapped out in the mid-3.80 range, leaving them a tenth off the pace of the Radial vs the World elite. Then, Kyle went testing last week and all of that changed. Huettel unloaded a would-be-record 3.73 at 200 mph at Northstar Dragway to set the internet ablaze, earning him an automatic bump up the list and putting him as an early favorite to take the win. If the Big Texan can keep the car consistent and lay down numbers like that, everybody else may be playing for second place.
4/1 – DeWayne Mills
How do you put the second quickest car and reigning Duck X champion at number two? Simply put, Mills will roll into SGMP with a huge neon target on the side of his Golden Gorilla Camaro. Besides being the man to beat, the chances of winning ten straight rounds of competition against the toughest small-tire competitors on the planet are astronomical. The twin-turbocharged beast from Sand Springs, Oklahoma took home the win in the fall, and will certainly be looking to back up that performance. We would hardly call Mills an underdog, but winning two of these races in a row would require as much luck as it would horsepower. However, if there is a team to pull it off, it would be this one.
3/1 – Barry Mitchell
The beautiful blown Camaro of Hamptonville, North Carolina’s Barry Mitchell is off to a strong start in 2017 after taking the win at Bradenton a couple of weeks ago. Mitchell also ripped off a 3.74 during pre-race testing at the same event, another would-be record had it taken place in competition. Mitchell has always had a propensity for going rounds – remember, he won both Outlaw Drag Radial and Pro 275 at Lights Out 7 in the same car – and he’s got the power to outrun everybody it would seem. As long as he can keep the nose of his hot rod on the ground, it would be a fools bet to put money on anybody else in the field.
That’s our take on who we think will bring home the payday next weekend. Of course, radial racing is as unpredictable as it is exciting, and with huge crowds ready for some great action, ‘exciting’ doesn’t even touch it. As always, Dragzine will be on the property all week, bringing you everything that happens at Lights Out 8, from testing through the final pair.