The Radial Tire Racing Association held their second major event of the season, June 11-13th at North Star Dragway in Denton, Texas for the TurboBullet.com “Radial Rebellion” presented by Evolution Custom Auto, Quality Air Inc., and Mickey Thompson. This, the freshman year for the new all radial racing series, is making history and showing major signs of interest across the country as expansion plans are already in the works for 2016. But this weekend it was time to do radial racing Texas style and some big names filled the pits as Pro Drag Radial, X275 and Limited 275 were on tap for a full weekend of racing with testing starting on Thursday.
Headliners this weekend included two new names to the Pro Drag Radial class, Jeff Sitton and Marty Robertson. Sitton, a Texas grudge racer wheeling the famed “Hyde” entry with tuning assistance from Stevie Fast Jackson and Billy Stocklin, rocked the boat with his announcement that “Hyde” would be sporting a new pair of shoes, the new size, 315 Mickey Thompson radials. Robertson on the other hand has experience in radial racing but this weekend debuted his brand new 1968 ProCharger-equipped Barracuda, which is a real head turner, with tuning assistance from Patrick Barnhill. This weekend was also the RTRA debut for DeWayne Mills’ new-look, first-gen Camaro, which just made it back on the strip after that hair raising airborne incident we all saw at Lights Out 6 in Georgia.
Jared Johnston was also in the house looking to repeat his dominating performance in X275 action back at the RTRA season opener in March where he set the elapsed time record with a stellar 4.44. A 29-car field of X275 entries aimed to get their name in the headlines as RTRA winners this weekend including Shane Fisher, T.J. Gatlin, Marty Pearcy, and Todd Moyer among many other heavy hitting entries.
The Limited 275 class hosted a 22-car field as points leader Derek Lewis hoped to retain his points lead over Pat McKinney, Brent Gibbs and a tough crop of hungry Limited racers looking for the RTRA winners circle and those precious Championship points.
Friday night hosted three rounds of heads-up qualifying under the lights at North Star Dragway. After the third round, Jeff Sitton had the crowd on their feet with a stellar 4.03 at 186 mph as flames belched from the exhaust through the eighth-mile. This weekend was the first time ever that Sitton was not only class racing, but showing his elapsed time, given his grudge racing history. Marty Robertson was close behind with a 4.08 at 183 mph and DeWayne Mills also posted a 4.08 on Friday to secure a spot in the top half of the field.
The X275 order looked familiar with Jared Johnston sitting atop the standings with his 4.58 at 156 mph, but Texan Tyler Stubbe checked in at the number two spot with a 4.59 at 151, proving he came to play with the big boys. Mike Genovese, Odie Sturgeon and Marty Pearcy rounded out the top five — all with a 4.65 elapsed time. In the Limited 275 class, Clint Davis had a healthy margin over the competition with his 4.90 at 142 mph. Eric Tobar dipped into the fours with a 4.97 at 141 mph while Brent Gibbs, John Mathis and Hubert Jackson rounded out the top five after three of four qualifying sessions.
Saturday welcomed plenty of sunshine and heat to North Texas with the final qualifying session scheduled for 7 p.m.. With track temperatures still well above ideal, no one made a threat at the top spots from Friday night but a few teams stepped up and got a good test hit in before the all-important first round of eliminations. As the grandstands filled and pairings were set up in the tower, anticipation mounted as it was now time to play for keeps.
Pro Drag Radial action got started with a bye run from Sitton where he lit the scoreboards with a 4.05 at 185 mph to advance. Mills bettered that mark with a stout 4.04 at a whopping 197 mph to send Justin Martin packing. Rick Thornton’s beautiful 1965 Corvette tuned by Grant McCrary snuck past Mark Moore as a 4.20 at 185 mph took the win over Moore’s career best 4.28 at 180 mph. Robertson clicked off a 4.11 at 183 mph to take out Mario Gonzales’ 4.55 at 165 as all the higher qualified cars moved into round two.
In round two action, Thornton showed his true potential with a strong 4.06 at 189 mph to take out Sitton, who surprisingly spun the tires early in his run after looking to be the car to beat up to that point. Mills improved yet again to a merciless 4.03 at 199 mph to trailer a red lighting Robertson. Thornton and Mills were final round bound in Pro Drag Radial as both were packing 4.0 time slips heading into the last dance.
After a final track prep from North Star Dragway owner and RTRA creator Gene Nicodemus, the stage was set for this epic final round in Pro Drag Radial. The cars crept to the line and that beautiful noise of boost building filled the air as the ambers dropped and the cars were off the line with almost identical reaction times. At sixty-feet they were side by side and charging hard, but Thornton climbed into a wild power wheelstand and by the 330-foot mark had aborted his run, slamming back to Earth with a shower of sparks. Thornton had the best seat in the house to watch Mills click off a career best 4.02 at 199 mph to secure his first RTRA series win. A truly impressive effort from the “Golden Gorilla” team of Mills and company, who were thrilled with the RTRA program and will surely contend for the inaugural season Championship in the Pro Drag Radial class.
X275 competition was as expected, close side-by-side action with some exciting results. The opening round of eliminations got underway with Jared Johnston posting low elapsed time of the meet with a 4.55 at 156 mph — truly impressive given the weather conditions provided by a mid-summer day in Texas. All of the top five in points heading into competition advanced past first round including Johnston, Jason Brock, Clint Downs, Mike Kelley and Eric Moore. The closest race of the round was between Taylor Lastor and Rodney Whatley. Lastor’s 4.70 at 150 mph was just enough to sneak past Whatley’s blown Camaro who laid down his best pass of the event with a 4.72 at 151 mph.
Number two qualifier Tyler Stubbe used a 4.70 at 151 mph to take out Downs’ 4.79 at 147 mph in the first pair of second round action. Mike Genovese qualified third in his RTRA debut event and his 4.66 at 156 mph ended Kelley’s weekend in round two. Dwayne Barbaree qualified mid-pack but turned it up in eliminations as his 4.66 at 154 mph knocked out Marty Pearcy’s 4.80. Johnston posted low elapsed time of the round with a 4.63 at 156 mph to defeat Chase Driskell and T.J. Gatlin’s 4.69 at 152 mph took out Joe Johnson’s wheelstanding 4.99 at 145 mph as the teams moved into round three of eliminations.
Eight cars remained in the X275 field with a stellar match up starting off the third round. Johnston had a .417 reaction time and got left on by Lastor’s .413 light. At the stripe, Johnston took the win with a 4.56 at 156 mph to Lastor’s close 4.57 at 154 mph. Stubbe continued to look strong in his march through the field as his 4.64 at 151 mph knocked out Gatlin’s 4.68 at 152 mph. Barbaree’s 4.67 at 153 mph was enough to hold off Moore’s 4.69 at 151 mph and Genovese moved into the semi-finals by defeating Keith Hoover, who had a strong outing, also in his RTRA series debut.
The semi-finals in X275 brought two very exciting pairs to the line. First up, Genovese dropped off to a 4.75 but that was enough to take out Stubbe, who went into a wheelstand off the line and was forced to abort his run. In the second half of the semi-final, Johnston lined up with Barbaree. Both cars spun at the hit of the throttle, but Johnston recovered first and his 6.04 at 141 mph amazingly advanced to the final round to face off with Genovese.
In his semi-final run, Genovese blew a head gasket and was unable to make the call for the final round battle with Johnston. Not necessarily the way Johnston wanted to take his second straight RTRA X275 victory, but a win is a win and Johnston ran it through to a 4.60 at 156 mph to finish off yet another dominant performance.
The Limited 275 class hosted some great action, as well. In the opening round of eliminations, top qualifier Clint Davis along with the top three in points Derek Lewis, Pat McKinney and Brent Gibbs all advanced. A plethora of low 5.0 passes were posted by the majority of the first round winners as teams headed into round number two.
In the opening pair of second round, Lewis clicked off a 5.06 at 137 mph to take out Gibbs’ off pace 5.55 at 137 mph, a critical win in the points chase for Lewis. Clint Davis lit the scoreboards with low elapsed time of the event in Limited with a 4.87 at 139 mph in a bye run. John Sheffield used a massive holeshot and 5.03 at 138 mph to defeat Jim Staples’ quicker 4.97 at 140 mph. Steve Barnett moved forward with a 4.98 at 141 mph to defeat Hubert Jackson’s 5.00 at 138 mph and John Mathis advanced with a 4.99 at 138 mph over Curtis Catalon. In the final pair of round two, Eric Tobar and Pat McKinney laid down the quickest side by side pass of the event as McKinney’s quicker 4.951 lost to Tobar’s 4.957.
Six cars remained in the third round of eliminations for Limited 275 with Barnett set to take on Davis, the top qualifier, in the first pair. Davis had mechanical issues with a nitrous activation switch, while Barnett’s 4.99 advanced. Mathis knocked out the points leader Lewis in a close race as Mathis’ 5.03 at 137 mph held off Lewis’ 5.05 at 136 mph. Tobar and Sheffield closed the round as Tobar’s 5.07 at 114 mph took out a tire spinning Sheffield.
Semi-final round action of Limited paired Mathis with Barnett, and Barnett advanced when Mathis spun the tires immediately off the line. Tobar benefitted from the bye run and shut off early to a 5.16 as Barnett and Tobar were headed to the finals. In a great side-by-side final, Barnett used a holeshot and a 4.96 at 141 mph to take out Tobar’s quicker but loosing 4.93 at 141 mph as Barnett and company scored their first RTRA win in the Limited 275 category.
That put a wrap on the action at North Star Dragway for the weekend as the Radial Tire Racing Association concluded another successful event. A special thanks to event sponsors Evolution Custom Auto and Race Development, Quality Air Inc., and Mickey Thompson for their support. Chris “Dinger” Dingman did his thing on the mic and kept the race flowing nicely while Gene Nicodemus yet again delivered a stellar racing surface for the racers who so graciously appreciate the efforts of the NSD and RTRA staff to continuously grow drag radial racing in the southwest.
The RTRA series will invade Tulsa Raceway Park on July 23-25th for the Radial Revolution event where Pro Drag Radial and X275 will compete. Looking at the Championship points after this event, Rick Thornton now holds a 25-point lead over Mario Gonzales in Pro Drag Radial. Mark Moore, Jason Michalak and Dewayne Mills round out the top five. Jared Johnston sits comfortably in number one in X275 with a 71-point lead over Clint Downs and Tyler Stubbe who are tied for second, with Mike Kelley and Jason Brock rounding out the top five. Derek Lewis was able to keep his place atop the points standings in Limited 275 by a narrow nine-point margin over Eric Tubar. Brent Gibbs, Pat McKinney and Roy Kees round up the top five after three of six Limited 275 events this season. For more on the Radial Tire Racing Association.