We could not have asked for better weather this week here in Georgia to have this amazing event with records smashed and simply stellar performances from many of the racers this weekend. Looking over the sheets even down to thirty two cars in Radial vs The World we find Scotty G’s ‘G Unit’ with a 3.80 at 196 and in X275 we see Kenny Rodriguez sitting with a 4.42 at 149. Round one will be off the chain here shortly as the racers fight hard for the win and earn bragging rights as the Sweet 16 2.0 winner. Oh and the money, though for many that is certainly a secondary concern to the prestige of victory in such a competitive environment.
Brad Edwards put himself in the PTC Radial vs the World field with a 3.69 last night at number 14 as one of four entries that started out as factory-built cars and the only one still maintaining the stock-style suspension. We asked him what he had to say on the feat.
“It’s in one piece … I’ll take it,” Brad said, “It went .964 to 60-feet, that’s probably the coolest thing ever. We have been pecking away at it for the last two years just working with what we have and working on the transmission and converter program with Dave at Proformance and Cameron at Torque Converter Services. You know Pete and I finally got the engine happy and these guys, my crew have been a huge help. The biggest thing for me this weekend is these guys being here, my family at home took care of the business and my parents have got my daughter, it’s meant a whole lot and allowed me to focus and work with the crew to get the car to do what it’s supposed to do.”
Brad uses Precision 102 mm turbos feeding an HED 4.84 bore space Chevy. The crew from left to right is Jeff Stapleton, Justin Harris, Brad Edwards and Cord Collins.
Mike Stavrinos and Justin Swanstrom got to talking last year about working together for the 2019 season to keep costs down for both teams with travel and expenses. The result gave Alcatraz a new look and an opportunity for Mike to drive here this weekend. The teams plan to field two cars, this one, and Mike’s Outlaw 632 Camaro which will soon receive a new Pat Musi 632. The team struggled in qualifying to even make a pass, with Mike telling us, “We struggled twelve runs with it and that was my actual first full pass in the car in the final session to get us in. That was a hail-mary pass in the Super Bowl and I gotta’ give that to Justin because when we came back from our previous run we were ready to throw in the towel … that’s how frustrated we were.”
They put the car on the jacks and Justin made the call to undo everything and reset it back to what he knows, and the way it’s run before. It was a high-risk move that paid off, getting them in at number 11. It nearly wasn’t even that as the car coughed on the starting line going on the brake. Mike had to re-fire it in the beams and it was on a rail as soon as he let go of the button, scoring a 3.68 at 202 on the run. “We made the top 16 in the quickest field in the world … we can’t complain about that, you know, and I am really confident we are going to pick up some numbers tomorrow,” Stavrinos said.
Pictured from left to right: Justin Swanstrom, Chris Stavrinos, Miek Stavrinos, Ricky Johnson, Brian Geisler, Tyler Swanstrom and “Big Country” Corey Swanstrom.
Round One Results
Tom Blincoe and Daniel Pharris were the first pair out in PTC Radial vs the World this morning with Blincoe first away with a .065 reaction. Both cars were running strong towards the stripe and it would be Pharris with the twin turbo top end charge with the win as Blincoe scored his best run of the week in a game effort, 3.680 at 201, facing off with the top qualifier. Pharris’ 3.62 will have lane choice next round with Paolo Guist, who scored a win over Alex Laughlin’s Speed Society sponsored Corvette. That team has struggled keeping the front end down and he was wheels-up early while played a role in his off-pace 3.74 at 202.
Gary White is running strong representing Titan Motorsports this weekend in X275. His last run was a 1.11, 2.92, 4.34 at 173. The car runs a 2JZ backed by a Liberty transmission and a multi-disc clutch. We spoke with Titan’s owner Nero Deliwala about the X275 program.
“The car basically sat since 2012 while we focused on other things and racing our full chassis cars. We converted the car to a sold rear axle last year, because the X275 rules are the strictest and we have options to race in several venues that have adopted the X275 rules package. We did not have time to run the car between July and October because it was in the container going to and from Australia.”
They were not quite ready to come here for Lights Out 10 but they were able to purchase a tech card for Sweet 16 2.0 from another racer and made the trip up to play on the big stage here this week.
“There are a lot of familiar faces here from when we raced with the ADRL so it’s pretty awesome to be here and running so well,” Nero added.
Titan was founded in 1999 as a side venture to fund the Supra, by mainly selling parts but it quickly grew into a full service shop. “I never expected it to get to this level — we literally started doing this part-time as a way to make some money and go racing and put back into the race car. Team Titan from left to right are: Gary White, Nero Deliwala, Eric Luzinski, Adil Adams and Alexis Barrios.
Kevin Rivenbark was the first to the 3.50’s on Thursday night and he and his team never looked back, using quick, consistent performances to advance through the quickest radial-tire field in history. We asked him to tell us a little about the run.
“Well, the first ‘fifty’ run it kind of carried the front end and drove to the wall some and so I saw the .58 and I couldn’t believe it because I probably had to drive an extra 400 feet it seemed like. We tried to improve on it Friday night and go a few thousandths quicker,” Rivenbark said.
The team swung hard for the fence the rest of qualifying and struggled some before settling in to competition mode and running a 3.62 at 205 to get by Marty Stinnett in round one. He was the only car that went down clean in round three running a 3.664 at 203 to down Mike Stavrinos. “We were swinging hard when we probably shouldn’t have been,” Kevin said. “You know just hoping that the track would come around for it and try to grab that number one qualifier back. But I think everything happened for a reason. I think we ended up number two and that was a good spot to be in. It was weighing on me going red at Lights Out because I went red in qualifying plenty of times trying to find a spot to leave on the tree, so that was in the back of my mind the whole time. In the first round, there were plenty of big upsets and that could happen to anybody at any time. I don’t think anybody that qualified you could take lightly. I never drove on radials up until Lights Out, and I have always heard the horror stories, the wheelies and stuff like that, but I think they have got that pretty under control. I have had very good luck with ProLine and Steve Petty and the Galots — they give me a car you can count on and that I feel comfortable with.”
Rivenbark went .048 on the tree in the final versus Norman Bryson, whose team knew they needed to be faster than they had run here all weekend. Bryson lost the tire before the tree with the Galot car scoring a 3.63 at 204 to seal the deal and bring home the giant $101,000 payday and the bragging rights like no one has ever seen after such a spectacle as Sweet 16 2.0.
After this race the car will be set up back on the big tires for PDRA in a couple of weeks with the team campaigning two cars with John Strickland in the other seat. “I have to thank Mr. and Mrs. Wells for supporting us for everything. Earl and Peggy Wells, they own Galot Motorsports Park and they do well in tractor pulling and are very, very generous to give us the chance to do this. John has been the NTPA national champ three years in a row now driving for them. Of course ProLine and all of the people there, Steve Petty … he gives me a wonderful car. I mean the man is astronomical. Brandon Stroud and Chris Foster and Eric Dillard, the whole crew at ProLine are just unbelievable. Amazing. I mean undeniably I enjoy working with them. They are committed to bringing out a durable, high-performance product. Tyler Van Lant works with us closely but the whole team there at ProCharger has been behind us all of the way.”
The PTC Radial vs the World Sweet 16 2.0 runner up was Mr. Norman Bryson representing for the nitrous racers and coming from the 13th qualifying position. “We threw the sink at it.” he said. “We had to. Rivenbark had been running good all weekend. We didn’t know what it was going to do but we had to try something big to go for the win. I didn’t have a chance on this one, he was gone, so hats off to him for the win. I have to thank Jesus Christ my savior first, my wife Tonya, my family. I have eight children: Lee, Mercedes, Alex, Kaitlen, Tyson, Jonathon, Brendan and Mason. My son-in-law, Brent Rainer, Josh Anderson, Bud, Jack and Joey Greene, Tony, all those guys that are part of our family and we all been together for a year. Robert Bone, who is my life long friend, Pat Bennett Race Cars, Billy Albert Race Engines, Mark Micke transmission, everybody has worked so hard to get us here. We came up short. I’d like to win but I’m thankful and honored to be here.”
“It was a tough competition. You know the whole field was a .35 to a .23 spread. Every car that went up there, you put a tune-up in there, you had to be on your game,” Rich Bruder told us after collecting the $50,000 payday and the X275 national record in the final. “Any little mistake, you were getting driven by, so the whole team, the whole crew, everybody put their effort into it. On Nick’s birthday we couldn’t do it better,” Rich said. Bruder also faced a tough round two pedal fest round with James Lawrence to make his way to the winners circle. “I tried to get back in it, because you know you want to win but Nick, he was on his game and ready, said I got it over the radio, so I just coasted to the finish and we won that round. That was our toughest round.” The crew this weekend is my brother Nick, my father, Marty Robertson’s guy Jeremy. Marty was there too. We couldn’t get his car finished so they came out and hung out with us and crewed on the car.
“You know so if you want to be on top, you better stay on top of your game. So we pushed through it. ProCharger stepped up their game and we talked to them PRI and they said we’d like to have us back on board, so we put it on there and it was the second race and look where we’re at.” The Bruders use Proformance Transmission and Neal Chance converters, Procharger and DiSomma Racing Engines.
“Awesome, just awesome. I never expected to go to the finals,” X275 runner-up Craig Walls told us. “We are underdogs wherever we go, and yes, I mean to get to the finals, it was great. And to put together A-to-B passes and all that you know it’s proud, proud, unexpected and proud to be here today. We were expecting to try to go a little bit quicker, like a low .30 in the final, but we ended up going a .35. But we’re just tickled to death.”
Craig hails from southern Delaware and uses engines from Mark Benson, with Mark and his son here helping out this week. “ I have to thank Mark and Lance at Vortech Superchargers … we are running the V30-102 on the car. Patrick Barnhill, I can’t say enough about him, he is a huge part of it. Charles Short, he and I built the car at our shop.”
We asked about his toughest round today and he said it was Brian Brooks in round two.
“Besides the final, I was worried the most about running Brian Brooks. We took out Dean Marinis first round. I guess something wasn’t cooperating right on his car, but following that, we had Brian Brooks, I was kind of worried about him the most. He runs the same exact blower combination as us, so I know what the power capability is because we run the same type of deal, but that round ended up being a pedal-fest. It was kind of like whoever pedaled the best.”
They had matching .015 reaction times with Walls recovering traction and scoring the round with a 6.40 at 140 mph. He got lucky in the next round with Goss shearing the bolts off the balancer to end his weekend then put up a .011 reaction in the final against Bruder. “I don’t really like taking it that way,” he told us, “but you know if he’s broke, he’s broke. But, I mean I’m just tickled like I said. We don’t get out very much with the car, kind of pick and choose where we go, but the biggest thing is to be competitive wherever we do go and we’ve done that since last fall and so we can’t really ask for anything more.”
“We haven’t been here since we had a little fire incident, I think Lights Out VIII two years ago,” Radial vs the World Second Chance winner Steven Fereday told us. “We sent the car to RK Racecraft and it took them a couple of months to get it fixed. We got it back after the hurricane and we have been rebuilding our house that was damaged and not worrying about racing so the car has been collecting cobwebs since then. So on Tuesday we wiped it off and Dave Lewis, the car owner, said he already booked plane tickets so we have to go now.”
The car is powered by a ProLine 481X displacing 582 cubic inches with Alan Johnson billet block and heads. Fereday faced a tough first round with Scotty G, getting beat on the tree but powering by with a 3.80 at 204 to a 3.87 at 190 for Scotty’s G Unit which was running hurt this weekend. “After that we just started rolling and picking away at it and going faster and faster until we met with Woody in the final and made our best run, a 3.74 at 209.”
Mark Woodruff took runner-up honors in the RVW Second Chance race after struggling in qualifying and eating up a pushrod during the final qualifying session, ending his hopes of making the Sweet 16. He sat 17th overall.
“Here our best run was a s7-flat, we went into the final qualifier and had a bad pushrod and that was our chance to get in and we missed it. We had it loaded up and probably would have made it in on a clean run, but things happen … that’s why it’s racing. We got lucky on that side of the ladder and met Fereday in the final.”
Mark was unsure of what the track was going to be like because he had not raced at that time of day here this week, so he swung some weight around but the car wheelied and moved to the center and he was forced to lift. “Congratulations to those guys … they are a great team. They’re good friends of ours, and it’s good to see a FuelTech car taking the win. It’s real good for the companies that support us, it was a good race.” The Woody Mart crew includes Crew Chief Brent Sansoucie, Chris Gherardini, Joe Oplawski, Mark Menscer, ProLine and a host of others too numerous to list here.
Shane Heckel is the KBX/Precision X275 second chance winner today after six rounds of grueling competition. Heckel hails from Baytown, Texas and has been running X275 for three years now after competing for 25 years in the NHRA Comp Eliminator class and some dabbling in Pro Stock. He and the crew are having a great time on radials and he told us, “It beats the hell out of NHRA — it’s much more laid back over here without the time constraints and getting rushed so much.” Shane qualified 18th which played out very well for him as the nitrous cars look to be disadvantaged under the current ruleset.
“John is fair minded and everybody showed their cards this weekend so I think he will take care of it.” The team is fresh off a win at North Star so this makes two in a row for them now and they are hungry for more. He had a tough fourth round pedal-fest against John Pryor, overcoming a .136 reaction to earn the round with a 4.40 at 166 to Pryor’s 4.53 at 157. He learned from that and cut the tree down in the semifinals with Baptista with a .001 reaction to earn the spot in the final as Baptista rode out a wheelstand and slowed to a 4.45 at 161.
“I have a lot of people to thank: my wife Angie, my daughter Brooke, for all of the support. David DuPriest pours his heart into this car. He is my crew chief, my best friend. TRE, Taylor and I grew up together, we are best friends. You know all of my help around here, I couldn’t do it without any of them. I had really good help today from Curtis Hightower and Blaine Hightower, they came in from home to help us because we knew these last rounds, if we got this lucky, were going to be tough to make it through. We were ready in 10 minutes with this car. To turn it around and get back up there and run it. I want to thank Donald Long for putting on a race like this. It is amazing. I want to thank John Sears for putting up with all of the bitching that goes on in this class. To keep this deal in check as he does is amazing. I want to thank all of our competitors for pushing us, because you’ve got to get pushed to do what we do and that is a real deal. You know we have a lot of people that are behind us. I have to thank my mother, the people that work for me and my company, my employees, if wasn’t for them, I couldn’t be here. I also want to dedicate this win to my dad, Mike, who passed on three years ago today … everything is for him today.” Shane owns Triple H Structural Steel Covers and has been in business 22 years now.
We spoke to David DuPriest, Shane’s crew chief, and he had stories to tell after many years racing together. “We have been working together probably close to 15 years,” he said. “Our daughters raced juniors together, and we traveled all over the country running them together out of the same trailer and he taught me a lot. I didn’t know anything about drag racing when I started and then he bought this car and called me. I live five doors down and he called me and said, “hey, you want to get off the couch?” I said, “what are you talking about?” He said, “I bought a nitrous car.” I said, “I don’t know squat about nitrous.” He said, “Me either, we’re going to learn together.”