He always runs fast and has come close a few times, so it was sweet relief for Radials vs. The World veteran Marcus Birt to finally steer his Houston Auto Auction 2016 Corvette into the winner’s circle.
“They say the first one is always the hardest one to win, so hopefully now it’ll just start to fall into place,” Birt said after defeating Shawn Ayers in the Covid 8 RVW final May 23, at Orlando Speed World Dragway.
Birt dominated the weekend, qualifying number one with a 3.57-seconds blast at 205.41 mph in the third of five qualifying rounds for the eight-car RVW field. Following him on the list were Florida’s own Bryan Markiewicz, David Reese, Stevie Jackson, Jamie Hancock, Melanie Salemi, Ayers and Jeff Miller.
A 3.59 at 203.95 easily propelled Birt past Miller and his blown ‘Bumblebee” Camaro in the opening round, but waiting for him in the semis was Killin’ Time Racing teammate Jackson, who also calls the shots on Birt’s nitrous tune-up while crew chief Billy Stocklin combines with Jackson on their screw-blown ’15 Camaro.
In what turned out to be an epic race, Jackson left with a tiny one-thousandth-of-a-second advantage off the start, but a 3.60 at 205.82 gave Birt the nod an eighth mile later by just eight thousandths over Jackson’s 3.60 at 210.34-mph combo.
“We should’ve run a little faster, but when we got back we found one of the (nitrous) bottles was real light. What had happened was a solenoid got stuck under the manifold and when it messed up it wasn’t letting the nitrous get to the right side of the motor,” Birt explained.
“It’s a good thing we caught it (in the pits) because if we had found it after we got up there for the final there’s no way we could’ve made the pass. That was a bullet that got dodged, for sure.”
That set up the final-round pairing against Ayers in just his second race with a brand-new Bickel-built 2019 Camaro owned by NFL star Fletcher Cox, who also participates as an active crew member at the track.
A huge .144 holeshot earned the win for Ayers in round one after Markiewicz was unusually late on the tree. A quick reaction did it again for the Mississippi-based driver in the semis as a .059 advantage at the start allowed his 3.63 to get past the 3.60 posted by Salemi.
“I’ve been struggling with my lights, but I thought for sure I’d hit the tree on that one so we must have something else going on in the thousands of pieces we’re trying to make work together here,” Salemi said.
“Just the fact that we’re out here is pretty amazing,” she added, referring to the extensive damage to the underside of her supercharged ’19 Camaro. “I have to give full props to everyone on my team. We’ve been working non-stop since 8 o’clock last night just trying to get everything back together and to even get as far as we did is a true testament to their effort.
In the final, Ayers again took the lead off the start with a .034 holeshot, but almost immediately lost traction while Birt set low ET for the meet with a 3.56 effort at 205.19 mph to secure the race win.
“The car is new, it’s first outing was at Darlington last weekend and we made some good laps there. And then to come down here to Donald’s race and make the finals? It’s been a good weekend,” Ayers said.
“We knew Marcus was fast, he’d been running .57s, .58s, but we really don’t have any .50 tune-up yet, so we just kinda’ took a shot in the dark,” he admitted. “So we pretty much just broke loose right away and from then on all I saw was flames going away from me.”
After a spirited victory lane celebration, Birt thanked Jackson for the tune-up and emphasized his first RVW win was the result of ongoing backing from Houston Auto Auctions, Mike Adams Towing, JB&L Auto Sales, Rock-n-Roll Sushi, 180Herbal.com, UPR Products, Pat Musi Racing Engines, Mark Micke and David Reese.
“We couldn’t even be out here without the support of all those people and I’m dedicating this first win to all of them,” Birt declared. “And hopefully this will be just the first time for more to come.”