They are flying at the $101,000-winner-take-all Sweet 16, where the quickest Radial vs. The World field in history is led by Daniel Pharris and his ProCharger-boosted 2017 Mustang.
After five rounds of qualifying on Thursday, GALOT Racing’s Kevin Rivenbark led the way with a 3.587 over the eighth mile at South Georgia Motorsports Park, but in Friday’s first of an additional six qualifying sessions, Pharris stepped up with an outstanding 3.578-seconds pass at 214.11 mph.
“We’re just getting going. We haven’t even started baking the cake yet, man, we’ve just got the ingredients together,” said Pharris, who just last month reached the final round for Lights Out 10, the preceding event for Sweet 16 promoter Donald “Duck” Long at the same track.
“We’ve got high hopes for tomorrow and we’re going to do exactly what we did at Lights Out and just go round by round,” the Sikeston, MO-based driver added.
Rivenbark later improved slightly to start second with a 3.582 run at 205.79 in his ProCharger-equipped ’69 Camaro, followed by surprise third-place man Marcus Birt with the quickest eighth-mile pass by a nitrous car in drag racing history at 3.604 and 204.76 mph.
“We ran a .60 with a 4 and it seems like there’s still more in it, so we may step on it a little,” Birt said. “I think honestly it can go a low .59 if we hit it right.”
Jeff Sitton and his screw-blown 2017 Camaro placed fourth with a 3.624-seconds pass at 205.01 mph, closely followed by former teammate “Stevie Fast” Jackson at 3.630 and 210.14 in a similarly powered ’15 Camaro.
Other notables in the field include Mark Micke, winner of last year’s inaugural Sweet 16 event with a 3.633 to start sixth, NHRA star Alex Laughlin, who beat Pharris with a holeshot in the Lights Out 10 final, at 3.657 in eighth, and nitrous racing star Jamie Hancock, who broke into the field in the 11th and final round of qualifying with a 3.686 to place 12th.
Remarkably, the record-setting 3.694-second Sweet 16 bump spot secured by Tom Blincoe and his ProCharger-driven ’63 Corvette would’ve placed him fifth at Lights Out 10; whereas the 3.793 of LO10 16th-place man DeWayne Mills (who broke and had to withdraw this weekend), would have been good enough only for 31st place at Sweet 16 this year.
“Yeah, going into eliminations, you’ve got to be ready,” Pharris declared. “I mean, just like last year’s race, there’s no easy rounds. I mean, us being number one, we’ve still got to go up against a car that’s on the bump at 3.69, so he’s fast, too. Last year they were talking about how no one had even run a 3.60 before qualifying started and now we’ve got one on the bump. This really could be anyone’s race.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019