The World’s Greatest Radial Racers Rock The House In Memphis

The radial tire revolution continued this past weekend in Memphis, Tennesee, with the fourth running of Southern Speed Promotions’ Outlaw Street Car Reunion – a gathering of some of the nation’s quickest and fastest cars raced on a drag radial tire. Despite a forecast which showed a high chance of heavy rain on Saturday, the racers showed up en masse to take their shot at the stiff competition on the fabled Memphis International Raceway surface, which has been home to some of the most legendary street car races in drag racing history.

Chad Henderson’s former crew chief, Monte Smith, recently passed away, making this a bittersweet weekend for the nitrous racer. So Henderson hired none other than noted radial racer Stevie Jackson, who was just one week removed from his first time competing in the NHRA’s Pro Mod class, where he qualified at the top of the heap.

It’s been a long month for Radial Vs. The World car owner Andrew Alepa, shown here guiding his Corvette to the starting line. Back at the Lights Out 8 race in February, the car nearly burned to the ground, and needed to be completely repaired. But with the help of Chase Driskell, Josh Ledford, and too many other folks to name, the car was fixed and ready to go for the Outlaw Street Car Reunion. Here, Daniel Pharris was behind the wheel of the twin-turbo monster, and promptly took the car to the top qualified spot with an insane 3.799 – half a tenth quicker than number-two qualifier Barry Mitchell’s blown Camaro. Pharris then motored through the field on Sunday before meeting up with Mitchell in the final round. Unfortunately for Mitchell, he spun the tires not far out of the hole while Pharris cruised to the win.

So far, Rich and Nick Bruder have taken the X275 rulebook and tried just about every combination in it. These days they are cruising to top qualifier spots with the blown Mustang – setting the X275 world record down to 4.36 during the qualifying sessions. Bruder jumped the gun way too early in the first round of competition, ending his race day much sooner than planned.

It’s only fitting that the Philadelphia Eagles beast defensive lineman – and Limited Drag Radial car owner – Fletcher Cox would have Golddust airbrushed on the flanks of his car, driven by longtime racer Shawn Ayers. The turbocharged small-block Ford qualified well with a 4.23 but later fell to Andy Essary’s LSX machine in a Ford Vs. Chevy second-round battle.

“We spun the tires, and later found a broken belt in one of them,” says Ayers.

Despite showing up to the race late, Shawn Pevlor went right to the top of the qualifying ladder in Ultra Street. Then, on elimination day, he simply powered through the entire field, taking the easy win in the final round when fellow competitor Joel Greathouse couldn’t make the lane call. Pevlor recently switched to a Haltech EFI engine management system atop his nitrous small-block.

“I thought the whole event was very well organized, and the track prep was phenomenal. For once, everything was pretty smooth for us,” says Pevlor.

When I popped by the Greathouse pit, he was in search of more power from tuners John Kolivas and Justin McChesney. Greathouse suffered a disastrous engine failure in the semifinal round. So do you think Kolivas put the screws to the supercharged machine? Or was it just time for this particular engine to give up? I think we’ll never know.

Longtime street car racer – and Hot Rod Drag Week competitor – Jeff Lutz finally achieved something he’s been after for a long time: a three-second eighth-mile pass on drag radial tires from his Max Max Camaro in the Radial Vs. The World class. This is the same car he takes on the 1,000-mile Drag Week tour, and it ran a 3.98 at nearly 189 mph during qualifying? Now that’s dedication.

Speaking of Drag Week, followers will know Tom Bailey, who was driving the legendary Skinny Kid Race Cars blown Oldsmobile in search of his own 3-second pass from the Pro Mod machine. Skinny Kid proprietor Keith Engling tapped Bailey to drive the car recently, and they strapped on the 315 radial tires for the weekend. Despite their best efforts, the three-second pass eluded them. Bailey did qualify with a 4.04, but when I dropped by their pits, Engling had the valve covers off the engine and simply said “I hate Hemis” when I asked how the weekend was going.

Matt Bell awaiting his chance at a shot down the track in Limited Drag Radial. Bell, who showed up to the race with a car and an engine in two separate places, overcame a ton of obstacles during the weekend. He struggled to put together a clean pass in qualifying, landing in the number 26 spot with a shutdown 4.91 at only 121 mph from his Mustang. On elimination day, however, the car rocketed past the competition, running like a bracket car on its way to the win. Bell’s best pass on elimination day was a 4.171 and his worst was a 4.216. That’s solid consistency from a turbocharged car on a radial tire.

“My other car broke on Thursday, so Thursday we installed the motor into the LDR car and took apart the motor in the MX235 car. It wasn’t fixable, so we concentrated on the LDR car. We had issues getting down the track in qualifying and then made a chassis change for the first round and worked on it from there. I was consistent on the tree and got the job done. It was five of the closest races I have ever had. LDR has such great competitors and it is going to be a tight year of racing,” says Bell.

Lyle Barnett, driving Jason Digby’s Dart, had the one of the cars to beat in Limited Drag Radial at the end of qualifying, scoring a new world record from a leaf-spring-equipped car with a 4.193 on his way to the second qualifier spot. On Sunday, Barnett reset the record again down to a 4.18, but lost the round on a holeshot by his competitor.

DeWayne Mills had a super rough weekend in Radial Vs. The World competition. Mills qualified in the fourth spot behind Pharris, Mitchell, and Mark Micke, but then his luck went downhill. When I stopped by the pits the engine was apart and he was discussing putting in the backup, which took place after I left. Mills put down a 3.88 in a first-round bye, but didn’t make the call for round two against Isaac Preston.

And how about the Preston brothers team? Driver Isaac and brother Adam debuted a brand-new car in RvW competition. Equipped with a 540-inch Bischoff Engine Service twin-turbocharged big-block, the pair squeezed out a 4.014 elapsed time in qualifying – so close to the 3-second zone on the first weekend out with the car. Preston went down to Jeff Lutz in the quarterfinals with a 4.10 to Lutz’s 4-flat.

After his big win in Georgia at Lights Out 8, Dean Marinis made the trip from New York with his nitroused big-block Chevy-powered Mustang – and went all the way to the final round before losing to Clint Downs.

It’s been forever since I’ve seen Tim Hendricks at a drag race – but he hasn’t forgotten his winning ways. The former NMCA Street Race champion came into MX235 competition this weekend and ran his Nitrous Outlaw-Pontiac through the entire class before outrunning Vince Franks to the finish line by five hundredths of a second.

Sheriff Marty Dunn was tasked with keeping the starting line and burnout box area clean all weekend long to ensure the program didn’t become overwhelmed with spectators in the way of the cars trying to get to the starting line. Here he gives fellow photographer Camren Bowling tips on where he can and can’t be. Dunn knows a thing or two about drag racing, too, which is pretty neat. He and I stood and had a conversation on Sunday afternoon and he was incredibly appreciative of the opportunity to have a front-row seat for the event.

This was the scene Saturday morning – thousands of gallons of water on the track surface. It was an all-hands-on-deck situation, and even Front Street contributor Damon Steinke of E3xtreme Motorsports Media pitched in to help. Eventually they called off the festivities for the day and rolled all of the remaining action into Sunday.

In lieu of shooting race action all day – which wasn’t possible due to the weather – I cornered Tony Alm instead to shoot a feature on his amazing Ultra Street Mustang, which you can see in an upcoming article right here on Front Street.

Mark Micke and car owner Jason Carter made a bunch of changes to their fan-favorite big blue ‘Bu over the offseason, and they all paid off at the team qualified in the third spot and ran 3s with ease – during qualifying. Once eliminations began all bets were off, and they fell to teammate Mark Woodruff in round 2.

If you’ve been reading my event coverage for any length of time, you know I can’t pass a furry face without pointing my camera – so enjoy. Each of these pups was full of personality.

Nicky Notch – and Nicky Notch’s crew chief – put their car into the 4.40s for the first time this weekend in X275 competition.

I simply love Jimmy Plimpton’s fearless Fairmont. Plimpton made a bunch of changes over the winter to his big-block Ford X275 machine and came out swinging this year. Unfortunately for him, he ran into semifinal Brian Brooks in round one and couldn’t get to the line first.

John Urist and VP Racing Fuels’ Jason “Pooch” Rueckert. The two Limited Drag Radial racers entertained a cadre of fans in the staging lanes while awaiting their first-round pairings.

Off to the left there is the quickest eighth-mile 4×4 vehicle in the world – Bobby Dodrill’s Miss Misery blown Chevrolet pick-em-up truck, which put up this 4.30 blast during RvW action. It was great to see Bobby at the track trying to make this machine run the number in Radial Vs. The World. Most of the equipment on this vehicle is one-off, and it’s a personal challenge for Dodrill to make the truck run the numbers he’s looking for. Dodrill and crew chief Chris Webber think they can squeeze a 4-teen out of the truck and have already taken it apart to try to pull some weight out of the portly machine.

Jeff Kyle made the long haul from California to Memphis to run in the Limited Drag Radial class with the help of KBX Performance. Kyle, who is the class of the field at home, ran solid 4.30s but went down to Anthony Manna in round two.

Larry Jeffers Race Cars is better known for their Pro Mod exploits, but with Justin Cyrnek’s MX235 car they’ve demonstrated a remarkable aptitude for what it takes to get a small-tire turbocharged, Modular-engined Mustang down the racetrack. Cyrnek showed up, qualified at the top of the field and reset the record with an insane 4.58 blast. Anyone remember when everyone went insane when the Bruder Brothers went 4.50’s on a 275?! Cyrnek went through a teardown to prove his legality and was on pace to win the event – until he snoozed on the tree in the third round and let Eric Stubbs sneak by him by .025-second.

All in all, it was a fantastic weekend of racing even with the weather hiccups. The Southern Speed promotions team came together to make it happen – even arriving at the track in the wee hours of the day on Saturday and Sunday to prepare the surface – and my hat is off to them for running an event which drew a great crowd and great competition from the racers on the property.