A trip into the 3.50s by a radial-tire car isn’t an outright given at this weekend’s $101,000-to-win Sweet 16 in South Georgia, but it also isn’t merely a remote possibility either.
The more than 45 cars pre-entered in Radial versus The World will compete under similar atmospheric conditions to what they had at Lights Out 10 last month, but will benefit from the advantage of not only more cracks at the South Georgia Motorsports Park surface, but reduced turnaround times, thus giving tuners more adequate means of chipping away the performance ceiling.
Racing is slated to begin Thursday morning with a corrected altitude forecasted at 34-feet below sea level, rising to just under 1,300-feet at 5 p.m. local time before dipping back just above sea level at midnight when the temperature is expected to be 54 degrees. Conditions will be prime on Friday, with an expected high temperature of 68-degrees and humidity falling from near 80-percent at sunrise to as low as 32-percent by late afternoon. Saturday is expected to be more of the same, with a forecasted high of 70-degrees and partly cloudy skies.
In other words, it’ll be horsepower-making weather, with just enough heat in the racing surface at nightfall to make magic happen.
Radial-tire newcomer Kevin Rivenbark figures as the most likely candidate to get to the 50s first — his ProCharger-boosted Camaro never failed to make a complete run under power in its debut on radials at Lights Out 10, resetting the world record in the process as he qualified atop the record-setting field with a 3.613.
Tim Slavens, the reserved Missouri runner whose steel-bodied Camaro does all his talking, arguably stole the show at Lights Out, marching to a 3.621-second record before being unseated by Rivenbark. Nevertheless, he established himself as a top-tier threat to put up big numbers and do so consistently. Fellow Missourian Mark Micke, who stunned the drag racing world at the Sweet 16 a year ago with his 3.62-second blast and subsequent six-figure payday, returned to form at Lights Out with a 3.641-second best, and he and car owner Jason Carter have all the data and talent necessary to get to the 50s.
Lights Out winner Alex Laughlin, with Pro Modified world record holder Frankie Taylor in his corner, rocked his way to a 3.65 in Lights Out qualifying and a best of 3.66 in eliminations on his way to the title. Another Missourian, Mark Woodruff, jumped from relative obscurity right into contention with a stout 3.657 and was closely followed by Daniel Pharris in the radial-tire debut of his twin-twin-turbo GT350 Mustang at 3.67 and Jeff Sitton’s supercharged Camaro at 3.69.
Of course, Steve Jackson and DeWayne Mills, neither of whom have been quicker than 3.66 in competition, have the cars and the power to get to the 50s, but are surprisingly not incoming favorites as are the names noted above given their recent performance.
Will the 3.50s happen? And if so, who does it first?
For bonus points: quickest nitrous E.T. and by whom?