Every year there’s a new group added to the baddest of the bad when it comes to drag racing. Since the beginning of automotive time someone had to wear the crown and in today’s field it’s no different. The mid-south region is where racers have joined for years to duke it out, and Memphis became the hot spot with the Fastest Street Car Shootout days when Hot Rod Magazine wanted to see who really had the fastest street cars in the nation in the early 1990’s.
A lot has changed since those days but the allure of being the ‘top dog’ and gaining those bragging rights of having the fastest car in your class still remains. On the heels of one of the biggest races of the year, Memphis is looking to be put on the map as a place to knock the record-setting door down once again. The bounds leaped by the racers of today’s most popular door car classes have been huge. Outlaw Drag Radial, X275, and Ultra Street already had records broken and we were less than three months into the year. But race promoter Tyler Crossnoe and the Memphis International Raceway were not put down by this at all, seeing it as a challenge to do what said couldn’t be done. The prepping and testing of the track started several weeks ago with anticipation for the Outlaw Street Car Reunion, to see what could be accomplished, and with every drag the track got better.
Crossnoe, Memphis International Raceway’s new track manager, wanted to call on the spirit of racers past by proving that MIR was still that facility to go to and earn those exclusive titles. For some time it was questioned if this facility had what it takes to set the bar as high as it could go, and that was answered with a resounding YES last weekend.
Getting some serious traction meter readings put a smile on Tyler ear-to-ear. It was at this point where the confidence level was sky-high and Tyler made a huge call out backed by some just-as-eager sponsors: drag your radial car to Memphis, we’ll give you a track you can’t beat, and if you post up the first legal 4.0X pass in radial history, you take home an extra $2,500, as well as $1,500 in certificates to Wicked Graphixx and Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels. With that in the back of everybody’s mind, you knew it was going to be a battle to end.
All the buzz leading up to the event was who had the power to push into the 4.0’s. Keith Berry had been the first car in the teens, with a 4.19 last year, but since that time Mark Micke, DeWayne Mills, and the new record holder, Kevin Mullins, had all laid it down with a 4.18, 4.17, and a 4.11, respectively, during the new year. This created quite a stir and there were a handful of prospects banging on that low 4.2X door looking to bust out some ‘teens’. On this premise it was set up that former record holder, Berry, would meet the current record holder, Mullins, in round three of qualifying to lay it out there and see who had the big power. Unfortunately Mullins started to wheel stand during that grudge match and Berry got out of it early so we didn’t get to see the great matchup.
Though Outlaw Drag Radial had gobbled up much of the anticipation and the internet trash-talking, the action was plenty hot in Ultra Street, X275, and the 28 versus 275 No Time Shootout. In Ultra there were two cars in the four-second zone, and rumors were out there that one was looking to go 4.80’s. Shawn Pevlor tried tuning his car up but had broken a valve spring earlier and just couldn’t get that record he wanted. Despite that, the competition was tough in Ultra, and with only two tenths separating the top 10 cars, it was anyone’s win to take.
It was the overall winner that was one of the most impressive though, as John Snyder had his big body naturally-aspirated, Pontiac-powered ’65 GTO on deck doing battle with likes of set and nitrous-fed Mustangs and F-bodies. He paired up with Eric Kenward’s Mustang in the final round and got the holeshot win with a 5.034 at 137 MPH to Kenward’s quicker 5.030 139.
The big shocker was in X275 where there were six cars in the 4.5-second range and nine in the 4.60’s when qualifying was over. With the record going into the race sitting at a 4.52, there were two very close runs that clipped that time — the first being the Bruder Brothers and their turbocharged Mustang with a 4.52 at 158, followed only moments later by Shane Fisher and his boosted Mustang, which laid down a 4.519 for the new class record. With 45 cars trying to qualify, the field filled up quick and the decision was made to hold a second-chance race for the remaining 13 cars outside the quick 4.92 bump spot.
There was some major carnage going on and the thrashing between rounds was intense. Though the cars were tuned up and the track was on-point, Fishers’ 4.51 couldn’t be topped and he left with the record but fell short of the hardware on race day. The final round eventually paired up former record holders Rich Bruder and Dean Marinis in their Mustangs — one a turbo car, one huffing nitrous. Just like the Ultra Street class final, this was a super-tight race that was won on the tree. Bruder got out of the gate on Marinis .01-second quicker, which was enough for his 4.535 to edge Marinis 4.530.
The draw everyone had come to see were the big boys in Outlaw Drag Radial and their quest for 4.0’s. With four cars on the grounds holding four-teen timeslips already, it was looking to be a battle before it even began. All eyes were on Kevin Mullins, who busted the door down at Lights Out V in Georgia just last month with the quickest pass in history, each and every pass, and the tension of being there to see that first ‘four-oh’ was insanely exciting. After all was said and done, the field fell short of the magic number, but the bar was we raised by the slimmest of margins to a 4.110 by Mullins and his twin-turbo beast.
Mullins marched through eliminations and eventually met up with Berry in the semifinals for a rematch of their earlier bout, and the result was the quickest side-by-side Drag Radial pass in history. Out the back, Mullins took the victory with a 4.136 at 191 MPH, with just .01-seconds separating he and Berry, who posted a 4.146 at 182 in the opposing lane. That run bumped Berry further up the ladder as the quickest LS-powered car on radials on the planet,, as well as fastest small block on radials.
Not to be out done, the team of Andrew Alepa and Rob Valden tuned up their twin-turbo, 481X-powered Mustang out of Texas and laid down a pair of 4.16’s early on to let everyone know they were more than just some class fillers. Then they went for the throat and shot out a 4.127 at 193 which made them instant contenders for the title. They ran down the competition all the way to the final round where they faced off with Mullins. Valden put it all out there but spun a couple hundred feet out and fell short to the crushing 4.11 in the other lane by the bracket car-like Mullins in the other lane.
Another racer to note that made a huge splash in Memphis and is a newcomer to radial racing is Jamie Hancock, in his 870 cubic inch former ADRL Pro Nitrous Corvette. Jamie took the big tires off a month ago and tried out the “small” 315 radials on the former Pro Mod car and made huge strides in a short time, getting into the 4.30 range.
With only one race under his belt with this setup, Memphis was going to be a tough field to compete in and that couldn’t be truer for this group. Hancock’s team ended up tearing the motor down twice during the weekend and made all but one call to the lanes during the weekend. But he definitely had everyone’s attention when he slapped a 4.167 at 177 MPH on the board during qualifying, making him the quickest nitrous-fed radial car on the planet and giving Memphis one more notch on it’s record-holding belt.
It’s safe to say that the Memphis International Raceway is indeed back on the outlaw doorslammer map and is quickly becoming one of the hottest, can’t-miss stops in all of radial and small-tire racing. With Crossnoe’s track prep wizardry learned over the past couple of years and with the growing support from many of the biggest manufacturers in the industry, the Outlaw Street Car Reunion is sure to be a regular part of the drag racing landscape for years to come.