With inarguably the baddest Big Tire no prep car in the nation under his right foot, Texas’ James “Birdman” Finney puts his twin-turbocharged Firebird in the beams with the betting odds in his favor far more than not. A ruthless trash-talker with a devious grin as wide as the Lonestar state, and with the performance to back it all up, Finney leaves his competition little choice but to reach into their bag of tricks in hopes of outgunning him.
And with a pile of cash on the line, his final round foe at last weekend’s No Prep Kings filming in North Carolina did precisely that, stunning Finney and everyone who was there to witness it.
Chris Poncia, better known in racing circles as Cali Chris, made a $40,000 gamble and ran with it, as he all but guessed at the instant-green christmas tree start and bought himself more real estate than Finney could overcome.
Carrying nearly a full two car lengths at the hit, Poncia’s Chevy II, packing Steve Morris big-block power with a Vortech V-30 supercharger, had just enough steam to hold off the hard-charging Birdman to collect an enviable payday and stamp his name into Street Outlaws lore. As they say, there is no second place, and Poncia took it to heart with a do-or-die mentality on the Galot Motorsports Park starting line. Make no mistake, this was an upset, and some brave trackside betters are likely still kissing their winnings.
But a social media firestorm was brewing, as Finney later took to Facebook to air out his grievances with Poncia’s starting line tactic which, while controversial, is entirely permissible and is but one successful example of a strategy that has been attempted and failed by others. Finney specifically named Street Outlaws star Ryan Martin, one of his fiercest foes, as a key influencer in Poncia’s decision to mentally time and take a shot at the tree. Noted Finney: “We were clearly the fastest on the property but one of the slower cars beat us in the final by guessing on the instant green light. The dude got a huge advantage on the tree and I just couldn’t catch him. The Fireball crew helped the guy with his car and convinced him that he had to guess at the tree to beat us.”
And thus, what ensued was a couple hour’s worth — nearly 2,000 comments — of mud-slinging, name-calling, and comedy relief reading on social media. So enraged was Martin by the accusation that he, famously absent from social media, registered an account solely to get his two cents (or few dollars) worth into the digital melee.
Whether Finney was truly frustrated over the scenario, or is in fact a calculated genius at initiating controversy that plays into his and no prep racing at large’s popularity is something only he knows, but nevertheless, the rivalries, controversies, and the smack-talk of incidents such as this have people glued to this not-so-underground-anymore world unlike anything else in drag racing.
Video credit National No Prep Racing Association