Georgia native Marcus Birt stamped one final exclamation point on one of the most impressive seasons in recent memory at this weekend’s World Street Nationals in Orlando, Florida, clocking the quickest elapsed time in history by a drag radial-equipped doorslammer. Birt, driving his nitrous oxide-assisted Houston Auto Auction C7 Corvette, stormed into the darkness at Orlando Speed World Dragway, lighting the scoreboard with a 3.553 at 207.18 MPH, bettering his own radial-tire world record lap.
“It felt real good,” Birt told us after his stunning pass. “Stevie [tuner, Jackson] told me if it takes what I’m putting in it then hang on, it’s gonna’ haul ass. I knew it was gonna’ run — it was on a pass and when I got down there and saw the 60-foot I was saying, ‘Lord have mercy.’ They pretty much pick and say what it’s gonna’ run and it runs the number.”
Birt and Jackson provided a glimpse of what was to come in March when, during testing at Orlando, Birt carded a 3.690 and, in the process, clocked the first 5-second run ever by a nitrous-aided radial car without even trying to do so. With the help of Jackson, a former Pro Nitrous champion, Birt then stunned the small-tire racing world with an out-of-nowhere 3.60 at the Sweet 16 — the quickest run in history at the time by any nitrous car, regardless of tire type. The pair sat out the hot summer months but returned with a vengeance at the Shakedown Nationals in late September, as Birt blasted to a 3.575 — the first pass in the .50’s by a nitrous car and the quickest radial-tire run in history.
After a weekend the pair would just as soon forget at Duck X Productions’ No Mercy 10 in South Georgia last month — a race during which Birt failed to qualify for the 32-car field — they more than made up for it with the stunning 3.55 on Saturday evening in Orlando to reset both the nitrous and radial-tire records going into the offseason.
Birt’s monumental lap came compliments of a .909 short time and a 2.372 to 330-feet. While he was quicker early on a subsequent lap — .899 in the final qualifier on a run he believes may have netted a 3.53 — he was unable to improve on the 3.55. Nevertheless, he and Jackson utilized the sub-3.60 performance of their respective machines to put on a show, as in the semifinal round of eliminations they clocked the quickest side-by-side radial-tire race ever: Jackson’s 3.587 beating out Birt’s quicker 3.572 (the second quickest pass all-time) on a holeshot.
“This weekend was incredible — I couldn’t have asked for anything else but to beat Stevie,” Marcus says. “People can say what they want but he’s tuned my car to outrun him every time, because my car has been quicker than him both times we’ve run. I went up there with the intent to cut a .020 light, and he goes up there and is .009 on me. He told everyone before that run that they better get their cameras ready, because they were about to see something. Wade [Rich, Orlando track manager and track prep specialist] had that track perfect — I’ve been doing this for 20 years and that’s the best track surface I have ever seen, hands down.”
As Jackson and Birt both hail from the peach state and ran in similar doorslammer racing circles, their paths crossed a number of times in competition prior to the 2019 season. However, it wasn’t until Jeffrey Barker, a mutual party to the two, brought them together last offseason that Birt says they struck up a friendship.
“I raced him all the time and he’d always beat me,” Birt says. “Jeffrey was a good buddy of both of ours, and when everyone was saying last winter that the nitrous cars couldn’t compete, we put the whole deal together. When we started running together, I never thought we’d end the season with a 3.55 — I felt like we could go a .58 or .59 on its best day, but Stevie said with the numbers he was looking at, he felt it could go quicker. He’s just a badass, and he has it figured out.”
“The great part about this is we’ve become not just teammates, but we’ve got a great friendship, a great bond,” he continues. “I’ve been around a lot of people and been doing this a long time, but he’s awesome. You take him, Billy Stocklin, Jeffrey, Phil Shuler — they’re off the charts. They’re making me look good.”
At this time a season ago, the radial-tire record stood at 3.62, the nitrous mark 3.63, and no radial-tire nitrous car had been quicker than 3.68 — and in a matter of months, the collective group of Birt and Killin Time Racing turned every one of those marks upside down.
“There have been guys that don’t even get along with me that have called me up and said we really stepped the bar up,” Birt says. “Me and Jay Cox go at each other’s throat all the time, and he called me Monday and said, ‘I’ve got to give you credit, you’ve got it figured out.’ I said, ‘sh*t, Stevie has got it figured out, I just get to sit in the seat and hold the steering wheel and try not to do stupid sh*t.’ “
“There are a lot of great nitrous tuners out there, but Stevie is two years ahead of everybody else. The moves he makes are amazing.”
Perhaps as impressive — if not more impressive — than the numbers is the fast that Birt hurt nary a single piston all season long, erasing not only the myth that nitrous cars can no longer compete with forced-induction power adders, but that they’re costly and maintenance-intense.
“We leak the motor down after every pass, and that tells us where we are with our tune-up. The only thing we did, when we got the new motor from Pat [Musi], was we didn’t go back and re-torque one of the heads and it lifted a sleeve. But we didn’t hurt a piston all season. I’ve never seen a motor this happy. When Pat opened it up he told us whatever we’re doing, it’s loving it. We haven’t been on the edge of hurting anything, and Stevie said, ‘we don’t want to hurt the motor, but I don’t even know its limit because it’s so happy.’ ”
Birt and company are already making preparations for next season with the intent of continuing their momentum — that is, unless Marcus can procure extra funding to tackle his ultimate goal of competing on the NHRA Pro Mod trail.
“We’ll play it by ear. They changed the cubic-inch limitation over there, so I’d like to have Stevie tune my car and go over there and run 1/4-mile — I think he could make it haul ass. If we can just get a little bit of help, I feel we could go over there and rock the world,” Birt says.
“I’m working on some proposals to send out to some people and see what we can come up with,” he adds. “It just costs so much to change everything over, and the testing is a big part of the cost, but if I have my choice, I’m definitely going to do it. I think we have the piece to do it. I guarantee if we went to Gainesville we’d be in the top four qualifiers, because that’s just how good Stevie is.”