UNDERDOG STINNETT SEEKS RECORD-SETTING REPEAT AT LIGHTS OUT 9
After qualifying number one in Radial vs. the World (RvW) a few months back at No Mercy 8, Marty Stinnett returns to South Georgia Motorsports Park this week as somewhat of an underdog for promoter Donald Long’s Lights Out 9 event. That may be hard to believe, but in a class dominated by full-tube-chassis, big-cubic-inch, Pro Mod-style entries, Stinnett’s 1993 Fox-body Mustang once resided in an actual Ford dealership and is now motivated by a twin-turbocharged, small-block Chevy. He concedes the car “is a bit of a dinosaur” with its stock wheelbase and largely metal body, but it remains competitive and for now at least, it’s one he can afford to race.
“It is a little different and maybe not what you’d expect to run so good, but a smart man named Keith Berry once asked me, ‘If you did the same thing as everybody else was doing, what would be your advantage?’ We’ve kind of taken that to heart,” says Stinnett, who set the eighth-mile record for small-block radial tire cars to 3.75 seconds with that qualifying run last fall.
Stinnett says he and teammates Wade Hopkins of Southern Speed Racing and engine builder Jeff Burns knew the car was going to be fast at No Mercy, but admits it caught them all off guard to run that deep into the .70s. “I expected that we might clip off some low .80s or something, but when our very first pass off the trailer was a 3.82 I knew we were on to something. That whole week was like a story book for us; we could do no wrong.”
That he even still has the car on the track is a testament to Stinnett’s perseverance and faith in the combination after experiencing a spectacular and scary blowover accident with it late in 2016 during No Mercy 7 at SGMP. Just after crossing the eighth-mile finish line in the right lane, the jet-black Mustang got light in the rear end and spun around backwards toward the left wall where it impacted roof first before sliding to a stop in a hail of parts and cloud of smoke well down the shutdown area.
Originally built as a Skinny Kid Race Cars kit, the main cage held up remarkably well, Stinnett says, protecting him from injury (“I walked away without a scratch”) and allowing Hopkins and his Southern Speed crew to put everything back together in time for the 2017 racing season.
“From the firewall back it's the exact same car,” Stinnett proudly declares. “Other than the body, of course. We cut the A-pillars right at the top of the firewall and then cut the rocker panels at what would be the back, and then cut it all loose from the cage and threw it off and stuck another body on it. The chassis was dead square from the firewall all the way back to the upper shock mounts. Once you got past the rear shock mounts there was a bar that was down a quarter of an inch on the right rear, but it just held sheet metal so it wasn't that big a deal anyway.”
Stinnett eventually drove his rebuilt ride to a very close runner-up finish in the 2017 NMCA Radial Wars championship shortly before his No Mercy qualifying heroics that led to a quarter-finals finish after losing traction off the line. Regardless, Stinnett fully understands the competition will be even stiffer this time around and expects the RvW low qualifier will break into the 3.60s if the right track and weather conditions exist. He also predicts it will take a run in the 3.80s just to break into the top half of the 32-car field.
“I'd be tickled to death to get in the 3.60s. I mean, it's going to happen but I’d love it if we could be the first regular car in the competition to do it before the Pro Mods get there, because they're coming,” Stinnett realizes. And though he ran 201 mph at Memphis with the NMCA last year, the Kuttawa, KY-based towing company owner says he’s also looking for a double-century speed at Lights Out 9.
“I haven't really done the math. Our back split in Memphis was definitely pretty good on that run; you know, harder than what we ran at the front of the track, so yeah, I'd like to see us break 200 at South Georgia, too. But I'd really like to see us improve on that .75 and be the first regular car in the .60s. But that’s not all. I'm not showing up to not win,” he insists. “I'm showing up to do my best and try to win it all.”
To that end, Stinnett reveals his car will unload at SGMP with new 98-mm Garrett turbochargers (four millimeters larger than last year’s versions) forcing air through a Wilson manifold and new “Stage Two” cylinder heads into the cast-aluminum, 470-cubic-inch block.
“We're just going to see if we can't just go ahead and blow the heads slap off,” he jokes. “We're leaving with a lot of RPMs already, so there's no telling what'll happen! We've made some changes on the chassis, too. We're hoping to be able to better our short time (to 60 feet) and our 330 (feet to half track), and if we can get our back split down just a couple of numbers, that would be outstanding.”
Fans of the little Mustang that could may want to pay attention, though, as despite his obvious love for the combo Stinnett hints a change may be inevitable.
“Eventually this (RvW) will be a Pro Mod class, so we're hoping to take advantage of the situation we're in right now,” he says. “If I had the money, eventually I would probably step it up like that, too, because they are the future of the class. But at the same time, I don't; this car is what I’ve got and I love racing it, so that's what we're going to do. It's just about working your combination, working your advantage and trying to get the best out of it that you can, you know?”
Stinnett’s fans most definitely know. And meanwhile, his competition will cautiously continue looking out for the “underdog.”