Photos by Ainsley Jacobs
Donald “Duck” Long’s races are notorious for featuring some of the toughest radial competition on the planet, with the quickest and fastest small tire cars battling it out for the ultimate in bragging rights and massive cash prizes. For the third iteration of the elite Sweet 16 event held at South Georgia Motorsports Park just outside of Valdosta, Georgia, over the weekend of October 10-12, 2020 (after being postponed due to Covid-19) many NMRA and NMCA drivers tried their luck with impressive results.
In the prestigious Radial vs the World headliner category, the top qualifying spot was occupied by David Reese with his small block-powered and screw blown ’19 Camaro thanks to a 3.531 at 211.33 mph rip, but Jason Lee of PTP Racing driving 2020 NMCA VP Racing Lubricants Xtreme Pro Mod champion Eric Gustafson’s Pro Mod ’69 Camaro sat in ninth. Ultimately, it was J.R. Gray who took home the huge $70,000 payout for the overall win in the category on a hole shot over Reese with his new “Head Shot” nitrous-assisted Camaro, showing the world that his grudge racing success easily translates into the world of high-dollar heads-up racing.
Meanwhile, in Pro 275 competition, Pro Line Racing’s Eric Dillard took the wheel of multi-time NMRA champion Manny Buginga’s entry and went 3.777 at 194.80 mph to capture the coveted number one position, with NMRA/NMCA regular Marty “McFlyin” Stinnett putting his Fox body Mustang into the number three spot when he ran 3.814 at 198.09 mph. When it came time to run the finals, the win went to Tim Slavens while Mark Micke, winner of the first-ever Sweet 16 event for $101,000, headed home as the runner up.
The X275 group brought the heat with some of the fiercest and most surprising competition of the entire weekend as the top 16 qualifiers were separated by less than a tenth of a second. Buginga qualified number one on a 4.235-second pass with tuner Jamie Miller calling the shots while Charles Hull wound up second. Alan Felts put down an impressive new personal best of 4.279 at 168.96 mph during qualifying to wind up seventh with NMCA champion Jessie Coulter managing the tune up, Rob Goss was eighth, John Urist was eleventh, and 2020 NMRA VP Racing Madditives Street Outlaw champion Dom DiDonato took the number twelve spot.
DiDonato’s work didn’t end there, as his Modular-powered turbocharged ‘08 Mustang GT500 rose to the occasion once eliminations began. With three round wins in a row, DiDonato faced off against Justin Curry in the finals. DiDonato gave it his best shot, but his 4.265 at 171.77 mph trip just wasn’t enough to inch past Curry’s 4.259 at 166.56 mph blast. Regardless, DiDonato’s runner up performance was still an incredibly impressive way to cap off what had already proven to be a tremendous year for the man from Delaware.
Congratulations to all who raced and qualified at the DXP Sweet 16 3.0 event, and to all of the NMRA/NMCA racers on outstanding performances.