With just two weeks to prepare for NMCA’s Inaugural Mickey Thompson Radial Wars class at the 6th Annual NMCA/NMRA Nitto Tire All Star Nationals, a nice showing of eleven cars rolled into Atlanta Dragway for the action, including locals Keith Berry and Kevin Scott out of Gainesville, Georgia, just up the road from the Commerce facility.
The buzz about the class was in full swing running up to the race with positive comments coming from many fans and racers. The stock appearing body rule received a very positive reaction, especially considering the recent 4.16-second elapsed time performance of Jamie Hancock’s nitrous Pro Mod in Memphis just a couple of weeks earlier. The NMCA is certainly filling a need for a stable points series for this type of racing and the added bonus of a Wally trophy as part of the Aerospace Components NHRA Unleashed program is the icing on the cake for many outlaw radial racers that would otherwise never get such an opportunity.
Atlanta Dragway is not known for being the friendliest radial track around and several teams made the decision to run the 29.5W slicks rather than the 315 radial tire, with the exception of Scott, who was on the Mickey Thompson 275 Pro, both for the current conditions and gathering data for the summer months. Several racers had no runs on slicks with their cars and needed the data. Going from a slick to a radial is a steep learning curve and the opposite is also true — shock settings and power management is a very different game between the two tires.
It was a tuners race, rather than a swing for the stands contest, and a full five cars would land in the 4.50 range in Friday’s qualifying session, with Mark Woodruff earning the top spot, running a respectable 4.451 at 184.02 MPH. The reigning Super Street 10.5W champion, Mark Micke, struggled and sat on the bottom of the field after the round. The teams would have overnight to make changes and consider options for Saturday’s round two afternoon session in the heat.
The second round of qualifying saw Berry advance his Proline Racing LS-powered Corvette ahead of Woodruff with a 4.440 at 177 MPH. The little 468 cubic inch small block can run a number but doesn’t make the steam out the back that the big block twin-turbo combos do. Micke moved all the way to number four in the session, earning top speed with a 4.485 at 184.98 MPH blast. Jeff Harrington Jr. also figured it out, landing fifth with a 4.487 at 177.
The normal class inversion in qualifying didn’t apply to Radial Wars, as the NMCA was working to have the best conditions possible for all classes on the track. Radial Wars would run last and close out qualifying Saturday night, giving the fans incentive to stick around.
The final session saw several racers improve their times, if not their position, with Woodruff taking back the top qualifying spot from Berry with a 4.388 at 184.60 in the M&M Transmission and converter-equipped Corvette. Woodruff took home a $1,000 bonus for being the number one qualifier from Pro Line Racing, and was certainly happy with the performance, given this was only the third time out since purchasing the 2010 Corvette from Tim Lynch. Brad Edwards also improved significantly in the final session, advancing three positions to fourth in his HED-powered 1997 Mustang Cobra fed by a pair of Garrett GTX 94 mm turbos. Micke and Harrington were unable to improve in this session, while ageless wonder Willard Kinzer moved ahead of Paul Major in the order.
RADIAL WARS FINAL QUALIFYING RESULTS
- Mark Woodruff (Arnold, MO) – 4.388 @ 184.60
- Keith Berry (Gainseville, GA) – 4.417 @ 180.09
- Frank Meshaw (Palm Bay, FL) – 4.454 @ 181.20
- Brad Edwards (Asheville,NC) – 4.476 @ 181.20
- Mark Micke (Jefferson City, MO) – 4.485 @ 184.98
- Jeff Harrington Jr. (Swartz Creek, MI) – 4.487 @ 177.51
- Willard Kinzer (Allen, KY) – 4.495 @ 184.93
- Paul Major (Fort Salanga, NY) – 4.505 @ 176.12
- Kevin Scott (Dallas, GA) – 4.546 @ 167.34
- Keith Szabo (Gainesville, GA) – 4.574 @ 176.07
- Michael Hupp (Eleettsville, TN) – 4.762 @ 160.67
On Sunday it was Jeff Harrington Jr. and Willard Kinzer as the first pair in Radial Wars out from under the tower, with Kinzer leaving before the green and Harrington clocking a 4.74 at 179 to advance. Micke had a single as Paul Major was not able to make eliminations. Micke got after it but shook the tires a bit and saved it for round two, running a 5.71 at just 118 MPH. Edwards struck the tires at the hit in his match with Scott, allowing him to get out front after nearly identical reaction times. Scott would take the round with a 4.80 at 157 to Edwards’ 5.21 at 164. Frank Meshaw managed a 4.51 at 178 in his Nelson Competition powered 1988 Trans Am to take out Keith Szabo’s 4.60 at 174. Berry, meanwhile, put up a 4.49 a4 177 over Mike Hupp’s built Procharged Malibu. Hupp’s 4.71 at 161 was his best run of the weekend and the team was still working out the new combo with the small blower. He has a large F3R-136 on the shelf ready for when they feel they are ready for the added power, and that should make them a clear-cut player.
Woodruff closed out the round, taking his earned single, scoring a 4.417 at 183.67, good enough to back up the 4.388 in qualifying for the class record.
For round two the six remaining cars were all paired with Scott’s gorgeous small block twin turbo Chevy II facing off with Frank Mewshaw. Scott left first with an .048 light and ran closer to his qualifying time with a 4.605 at 159, earning the win over Mewshaw’s 4.648 at 176. Micke and Berry were up next in a titanic matchup, with Micke taking the starting line advantage with an .017 reaction time to Berry’s .039. At the stripe, however, it was Berry and the Wooo! machine that tracked down the Malibu, taking the round with a 4.434 to Micke’s 4.457 in a match decided by just one thousandth of a second. Harrington and Woodruff were the remaining pair, Harrington went red at the tree, handing Woody the win with his 4.433 at 183.77. Despite the loss, Harrington put up his best run of the weekend, carding a 4.476 at 180 MPH.
Based on the ladder, Berry was awarded a competition bye in the semifinals, automatically placing him into the money round. There, he slowed to a 4.560 at 176 on the pass. In the other pairing, Woodruff was again off pace on the startling line against Scott with a .114 light to Scott’s .035. At the stripe, just .006-seconds separated the two, with Woodruff squeaking by to earn his shot at Keith Berry in the Radial Wars final.
Fittingly, the top two qualifiers met in the final round of Mickey Thompson Radial Wars, making it an all Corvette/Proline Racing affair. Woodruff again gave up the starting line edge, getting a .057 light to Berry’s .048. That wasn’t the whole story though, as the team had found a bad wastegate on the car before the final. They changed the offending part which then changed the boost curve as it was no longer leaking. Woodruff shook the tires and slowed to a 4.79 at 161 through the lights, while Berry saved the best for last, recording his best run of the weekend and low elapsed time of eliminations with a 4.401 at 180.98 MPH to earn the win in the NMCA’s inaugural Radial Wars event.
Said Berry on his triumphant weekend: “it was unbelievable! I think it showed our ability to compete and win on a totally different level. The first round of qualifying was our first pass ever on those tires. We had to get data and get it fast. Racing against guys like Woody and Micke on their turf leaves no room for mistakes. To win the inaugural race at my home track and raise that Wally — my first one — in front of my family, friends, competitors, and sponsors was incredible. Our sights are set on the championship and we’re going to fight for every point along the way.”
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