Donald Long’s Sweet 16 started out four years ago as a high-paying event for the premier Radial vs The World eliminator, but now it has morphed into a race that showcases several of the fastest radial tire classes in the world. The Sweet 16 4.0 brought the big guns of Radial vs The World (RVW), Pro 275, Limited Drag Radial (LDR), and X275 to South Georgia Motorsports Park (SGMP) for one enormous homerun derby event.
The big question coming into the Sweet 16 4.0 was if we would see the first pass in the 3.40s on a radial tire and who would do it. Well, Daniel Pharris answered that question, as he returned from a long hiatus from driving to record a 3.49 during qualifying to set the class record and take the number one qualifying spot. Pharris seemed to be the odds-on favorite to win the event after his barrier-breaking performance, but he was sent home by the one and only Stevie “Fast” Jackson in the semi-final round. The finale saw a matchup between Jackson and surprised finalist Brad Edwards — Edwards struck the tires and Jackson pulled off the victory.
The Pro 275 16-car field was packed with a variety of cars and power-adders at the Sweet 16 4.0. Shawn Ayers piloted the Fletcher Cox-owned roots supercharged Camaro tuned by Jon Salemi to the number one spot with a record-setting 3.667-second pass. Adam Preston used every bit of racer’s luck he had to make the final round against small-tire veteran Mo Hall, who was looking to repeat his victory at Lights Out 12 just a few weeks ago. In the finals, Hall drove around Preston in his nitrous-fed Corvette to pick up the win.
LDR has proven to be one of the most competitive radial-tire classes of late, and the Sweet 16 highlighted this fact. Steve Summers used the outstanding atmospheric conditions to reset the class record with a booming 3.93 pass at 192 mph in Justin Cyrnek’s twin-turbo Mustang in qualifying. Raceday, though, showed why consistent performances will win more races, as former LDR champion Shane Stack navigated his way to the final round to face class newcomer D.J. McCain. Stack ran a 4.03 to best McCain’s 4.13 in the final to pick up the LDR victory.
The X275 field featured past Duck X Production event winners and X275 world champions. Ron Rhodes punched his ticket to the number one qualifying spot with a 4.16-second, pass just in front of Gary White and Rob Goss. Eliminations for X275 turned into a shootout, as Goss resetting the class record by recording a 4.14 elapsed time (one of a number of 4-teen runs in round one). Rhodes, who won Lights Out 12 and was looking to continue his streak, found himself in the final round against Gary White, driver of the Titan Motorsports 2JZ-powered Toyota Supra. White picked up the win with a 4.19 after Rhodes had to pedal his Camaro when it began to wheelstand.